Masterclass by Kostis Maraveyas

Beloved musician and singer Kostis Maraveyas returned to Evia Film Project for a masterclass on music for the screen, explaining the terms in which cinema can give a helping hand to the narrative and visual world, while he also spoke about the musical score he wrote for the hit TV series Milky Way by Vasilis Kekatos.

Kostis Maraveyas analyzed the way he teams up with film and stage directors, from the moment of identifying the scenes that call out for a musical touch up until the final selection of sounds and composition. Kicking off the discussion, he said that he doesn’t speak as a musician, but rather as a cinephile to emerging filmmakers. He stressed that he considers it essential for every filmmaker to know music, to understand the methods of musical composition in order to be able to seamlessly communicate with each composer.

“Music, in contrast with cinema, painting, or photography isn’t a visual art, and as such lacks objective references in terms of image. We don’t have objective reference points for something in particular. Thus, an issue arises as to how music is involved in a visual universe: it certainly should not be done in a manner that is rushed, intruding, interfering," he noted.

Next, he posed the question of whether music is ultimately necessary in cinema, remarking humorously: “In every situation there exists a musicality, let's not ruin everything by inserting music!" He divided the musical genres in cinema into two major categories: narrative music, that is, music that comes from the film’s universe itself (a character singing in the bathroom, a passing vehicle playing the radio loudly) and non-narrative music, that is, external music that enters the film’s universe with the composers’ assistance.

Kostis Maraveyas emphasized that what defines the aesthetic framework of the film, its character and its identity is not the music in general, but its clever use. Music is one of the characters of the film and it must have character and identity, just like the protagonist. Simultaneously, it retains the power to bridge dissimilar things and render the transition between scenes very smooth.

He referred to the most important pillars in music:

  1. Timbre
  2. Rhythm
  3. Melody
  4. Intensity

“No other artform except music can influence emotions so directly and to such an extent,” he declared. Next, in regards to melody, he noted that one of its manifestations is minimal, discreet, and a very popular choice in cinema. This is what Vasilis Kekatos asked of him for Milky Way, a musical score that may not even be heard, or noticed by the viewer: "This music subconsciously creates a state, it expands time, it is not even recorded in the conscious mind. The image and the dialogue are recorded in the consciousness because they require a mental process. If you don't want to distract the viewer from what is happening on the screen, but to cause a subconscious change, then use music."

Then, on the subject of the music’s intensity, he stated that it is important because it aids a scene in reaching its crescendo, as does its absence. At this point, he played some musical scores - from Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita and Yorgos Lanthimos' Poor Things (which he loves), to Todd Phillips' Joker and Giuseppe Tornatore's Cinema Paradiso. He expressed his absolute admiration for the quality of Morricone's melodic compositions: "It astonishes me, it leaves me speechless, every time I listen to his music, I convince myself that I should not compose music ever again," he said.

In the middle of the ‘90s, Kostis Maraveyas attended a one-month long summer workshop by Ennio Morricone. It was the first contact he had with cinema music. The great composer presented them with two black and white scenes and had them write music to complement them. "I composed a score, which I thought was genius," Kostis Maraveyas said. “I believed he would suggest a collaboration between us, that was how good I thought it was. But he reads it and asks me ‘what have you done here? This is not music by Mr. Maravetza. It has no melody. When you compose, be it for cinema, or advertisements, or your wife, viewer and listener must hum along after it ends,” he divulged to the audience. And he added that Morricone was a true advocate for melody which rarely happens nowadays.

As for Bella Baxter’s musical score from Yorgos Lanthimos’ Poor Things, he stated he has a particularly soft spot for it and loves it far more than the music in Oppenheimer, which features music in abundance: “The musical theme becomes louder and louder, until it reaches a point that makes us really uncomfortable. Suddenly, the theme leads to a symphony. The composer seems to be telling us that this bizarre girl (Emma Stone as Bella Baxter) ultimately hides a sensibility. She conveys it without words. But you, my viewer, know that somewhere behind this dissonance hides a harmony. Bella, like the music, becomes more and more human, and touching. This musical theme doesn’t embellish anything at all, just like life itself, and just like the situation here in Evia. But when the harmonious moment finally comes, it is magnified tenfold," he commented.

Then, he referred to two different kinds of musical development, parallel and non-parallel music. The former follows the conventions of the cinematic medium, a music reflecting what is happening on screen and follows it. The latter raises profound questions, subconsciously making the viewers wonder what is happening. He also advised the audience to examine a film from many different approaches, as viewers, as filmmakers, as photographers, as musicians: "It's all in the film; nothing is hidden. Anyone who is genuinely looking for the answers can find them."

At this point, he went on to discuss the leitmotif, which is of pivotal importance for the music in films; a short, musical motif that is fully associated with a character, a location, or a condition. He referred to Steven Spielberg's masterpiece Jaws, screened at Ciné Apollon in Edipsos, and to John Williams’ lovely music with its characteristic, emblematic leitmotif, embodying the shark, an invisible yet ever present threat throughout the film.

Kostis Maraveyas spoke in the warmest terms about his collaboration with Vasilis Kekatos, pointing out that he was constantly present in the process of composing Milky Way's soundtrack, so much so that they reached a cohabitation situation, filled with a lot of love for music: "When I asked him what the show meant to him, he said; for me, Kostis, it means Christmas and freedom. If you listen to the Milky Way musical score carefully, it includes two bars from The Little Drummer," he mentioned. He emphasized how important it is to serve the director's vision in a production without becoming a dictator. He said that for him, "cinema encompasses communal principles."

“Music is a lonely sport, but cinema isn’t,” he said, when speaking about the collaboration between Vasilis Kekatos, his editor, Lambis Haralambidis, and himself. He characterized Vasilis Kekatos as astute and able to bring out the best in his partners. He stated we can expect the release of Vasilis Kekatos’ first feature film, titled Our Wildest Days, soon. Maraveyas composed the music of the film and, as he said, he did so in just 26 days. When asked how he managed that, he replied: “I was absorbed by cinema. That's the only way to do it: you have to go to bed with your heroes and wake up with their struggles. Cinema requires dedication. If you can't, do something else."