Storydoc – Music in Documentaries

Sanna Salmenkallio, Finnish composer, working both in film and theatre, talked to the participants about music in documentaries stating from the start of her lecture that for her there is actually no difference in making music for documentaries and for feature films. By showing clips from three films, two Finnish and one Danish, Salmenkallio opened eyes and ears for all of us in the auditorium.

It is hard to summarize such a clever presentation so let me just quote the Finnish composer through the notes I made:

It is about what the audience feels… film music is like ritual music… we see things better through music… you have to think when composing that those are actually real people… film music should support the film… much less important is giving information… each musical theme has to be like a character… music is changing our sense of time… music is creating memories…the colour of music is very important…

Salmenkallio explained how she had been working with Danish director Phie Ambo on the film ”Mechanical Love” (2007), where the two of them went for music that has the atmosphere of a fairy tale. No techno, she said, which could maybe have been a more obvious solution for a film on this subject. I have seen ”Mechanical Love” before but never seen it like this time where I could see how the music score binds the beginning of the film together in a beautiful way. Ambo and Salmenkallio met before the rough cut of the film – please come to a composer before the picture side is closed, she said – the composer improvised on a piano while watching the material, they discussed and made the decisions on ”the colour” of the music and listed where music should appear. Salmenkallio also showed clips from the masterpiece of Pirjo Honkasalo, ”Three Rooms of Melancholia” (2004). Magnificent music, contra-tenor singing.

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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