Composing the Music

EVERYBODY KNOWS that music can make or break a film. Imagine Jaws, Psycho or Gone with the Wind without music. You can't! For the full year that I had a rough cut without any final soundtrack, with skeptical viewers watching it and saying "It's too quiet, it's too slow," I had to tell them constantly that this film couldn't possibly be fully appreciated until music was added. That it was meant to have a rich, orchestral score. Finally, in the fall of 1998, I found composer Christopher Farrell, and could at last prove my point.

Chris at the PianoThere were many talented artisans - artists, even - working on ForCor, but working with Chris Farrell was the one true artistic collaboration I was lucky to experience during the making of the film. At first I was shocked to think that I would have to give up some control to another creative individual who was interpreting the film his own way, but eventually I realized how important this was. Chris's music not only gave the film everything it needed, it constantly surprised me by revealing old scenes and characters in a new light, making me re-examine the film as if I were watching it for the first time. It was an exciting experience and the results are spectacular. Audience members consistently single out Chris's score as one of the greatest things about Foreign Correspondents.


It was important to both Chris and me to have definite themes in the score, not just tuneless "underscoring" like so many films have these days. We wanted recognizable melodies that stayed consistent throughout the film, giving a cohesive feel between the two stories and the two main characters.

Click here to hear the main theme to Foreign Correspondents.

Of course, we had to follow through on our promise, so here are a couple of examples of that central theme being used in different ways throughout the film.

Click here to hear the first example.

Click here to hear the second example.

See if you can make out the central melody, reworked a bit, in this beautiful little passage.

Click here to hear the third example.

We reworked the first part of the main theme too, in segments where it was appropriate.

Click here to hear the fourth example.


At the beginning, as Chris and I slowly concocted a general feel for the score, I wanted to emphasize the mystery inherent in both stories, but mainly the first one. At Chris's house, he playfully struck some chords on his keyboard, saying "Well maybe we could try something like this, kind of Bernard Herrmann-esque." That was it: with those two simple chords, he found the film's emotional center.

Click here for some music from the film that grew directly out of that first attempt.

Mark stares over Chris's shoulderARTISTIC DIFFERENCES

Part of the joy of working with Chris was the way he challenged my sometimes stubborn notions of what music would work for the various scenes. Occasionally my original ideas got thrown out of the window, and occasionally I got Chris to compromise a bit. Still, all the way up until we were recording with the musicians, we congenially disagreed on a few passages of music. I generally wanted a darker feeling to much of the music, whereas Chris felt it was important to inject lighter moments from time to time. Chris wound up writing two different versions of the music for some scenes: the end results would decide which worked best.

Here is one example, for music that was to be played under the scene where Melody (Melanie Lynskey) reads the first postcard from France. Both pieces begin identically, but change dramatically half-way through. Listen.

Click here to listen to Chris's preferred interpretation of the scene.

Click here to listen to my preferred interpretation of the scene.

Each piece has its own emotional pull, its own attitude, and gives the contents of that first postcard a different characteristic. I've included a Quicktime clip of the finished scene. Can you guess which piece of music was finally used?

Click here to view the finished scene from the film.

Mark, Chris, Don, NickENDING ON A HAPPY NOTE

Chris, of course, created much more music than what you have heard here. For various scenes he also composed a bossa nova, a sad jazz tune, some airhead car radio disco, and a Mozartesque sonata. Don't forget to watch the current trailer in the video section which includes another portion of Chris's score. I would also like to acknowledge two gentlemen who enriched the music substantially: Don Hahn, our recording engineer, who made sure each note from the violinists and harpists and such came through the microphones crystal clear and landed on the tape gracefully. And our brilliant music editor Dick Bernstein, who tweaked and cut and pasted Chris's finished score to fit the film's visuals perfectly - to the frame. He single-handedly redefined my beliefs of the importance of music editing.

Click here to hear some music from one of the rare happy moments in the film.

All music on this page is copyright © Silver Strand Music. Any unauthorized duplication and/or distribution is strictly prohibited.

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© Mark Tapio Kines 2016Melanie Lynskey, Wil Wheaton, Corin Nemec, Corky Nemec, Yelena Danova, Steve Valentine, Blaire Baron, Douglas Coler, Lisa Lo Cicero, James Michael Tyler, Richard Moll, Mark Tapio Kines, Mark Kines