Stylistic Adaptations in Film Scoring


Authored by Richard Davis


Course Code: OCOMP-662

Next semester
starts April 1

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


One of the important skills for the modern film composer to master is the ability to incorporate music from different cultures and countries into a feature film, television show, or documentary film score. Whether the location of the film or program is a certain country, or the characters are from a particular part of the world, a director may want to reflect the culture being shown to varying degrees. This course will present a framework by which you will learn to perform research and make appropriate choices. During the course, you will employ research techniques to develop a deep understanding of different musical styles, systems, instruments, melodic and harmonic structures, and societal functions. This work will prepare you for professional endeavors and collaborations with directors and producers that require music of a different culture.

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By the end of the course, you will be able to:

  • Analyze a film for places where music from another country or culture is appropriate 
  • Determine if this music should be literal, or just referred to
  • Use scales, instruments, and rhythmic patterns in various non-Western music systems in a film score
  • Develop original themes and musical textures using the results of this research
  • Incorporate and fuse this material with Western instruments or ensembles
  • Use sample libraries to recreate the sounds of world instruments that are not available as a live recording option
  • Work with musicians who come from another system of music
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Lesson 1: Composing in a Multicultural Landscape

  • Foundational Concepts and Questions
  • The Emotion of Musical Gestures, and Consonance/Dissonance in Differing Cultures
  • Temperament and Tuning
  • A Case Study of Traditional Mexican Music and Cultural Appropriation
  • Assignment 1: Cultural Music Scene Example and Mexican Music Analysis 

Lesson 2: Understanding Cultural Respect

  • Cultural Respect in Films and Music
  • Cultural Appropriation
  • Continuing the Case Study of Mexican Music in Films
  • Other Adaptations of Mexican Music
  • Assignment 2: PBS Viewing Guide Essay

Lesson 3: The Music of India

  • An Overview of Indian Music
  • Hindustani Music for this Course
  • Melody and Pitch—Or Raga
  • The Instruments of Indian Classical Music
  • Different Styles of Hindustani Classical and Light Classical Music
  • Assignment 3: Researching and Composing a Raga Melody

Lesson 4: Rhythm in Indian Music; Music in Bollywood - Part 1

  • Percussion Instruments
  • Bollywood from 1935 to 1950
  • Bollywood from 1950 to 2000
  • Seminal Artist: Satyajit Ray
  • Seminal Artist: A.R. Rahman
  • Assignment 4: Indian Raga Melody Cue

Lesson 5: Indian Film Music in the Twenty-First Century; Bollywood and Hollywood

  • Lagaan, Music by A.R. Rahman
  • Hybrid Ragas
  • Combining Ragas
  • Life of Pi Score by Mychael Danna
  • Assignment 5.1: Hybrid Indian Composition Final Version
  • Assignment 5.2: Final Project: Part 1 Delivery

Lesson 6: The Origins of Americana Music

  • Definition of Americana Music 
  • Americana in Film
  • Origins in the Scots-Irish Migrations
  • Scots-Irish Music
  • New Influence on Mountain Music
  • Music of the African Diaspora
  • Minstrel Shows
  • Assignment 6.1: He Got Game Analysis
  • Assignment 6.2: Final Project: Part 2 Research Sources

Lesson 7: Synthesis of Scots-Irish and African Music

  • Black Music in the Post-Civil War Era
  • The Birth of the Blues
  • Types of Blues
  • Blues in Film
  • Scots-Irish and African-American Traditions Merge
  • Country Music and Bluegrass
  • Roots Country Music in Films
  • Assignment 7.1: Deadwood Cue Draft
  • Assignment 7.2: Project, Part 3: Sources Report

Lesson 8: Adapting Jazz to a Film Score

  • The Birth of Jazz
  • Jazz in the ’20s and ’30s
  • Big Band and Swing Era
  • Jazz in Animated Films
  • Jazz of the 1940s
  • Jazz of the 1950s
  • Jazz in Films of the 1960s and '70s
  • Assignment 8: Deadwood Cue Final Version

Lesson 9: Native American Music in Hollywood 

  • The Perception of Native American Culture in America
  • The Myth of “Indians”
  • Depiction of Native Americans in Hollywood
  • The Portrayal of Native Americans in Film in the Late Twentieth Century
  • Native American Music
  • Native American Instruments
  • Native American Music in Hollywood Films
  • Assignment 9: Project, Part 4: Audio Cue Draft

Lesson 10: Early Western European Music

  • Overview of the Broad Categories of European Classical Music
  • Gregorian Chant and Early Polyphony
  • Organum
  • Medieval Instruments
  • The Kingdom of Heaven
  • The Name of the Rose
  • Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves
  • Becket
  • Assignment 10: Project, Part 5: Score Mock-Up

Lesson 11: Music of the Renaissance 

  • The Music of the Renaissance
  • Musical Forms of the Renaissance
  • Important Composers of the Renaissance
  • Instruments of the Renaissance
  • Film Scores Using Music of the Renaissance
  • Shakespeare in Love
  • Elizabeth
  • Music of the Baroque
  • Instruments in the Baroque
  • Film Scores Using Music of the Baroque
  • Music of the Classical Era
  • Film Scores Using Music of the Classical Era
  • Assignment 11.1: Gregorian Chant Melody Cue Composition
  • Assignment 11.2: Project, Part 6: Mock-up and Full Score Due

Lesson 12: Wrap Up

  • Communication
  • Budget Considerations
  • Musical and Technical Considerations
  • Studio Considerations
  • Adapting Today’s Music for the Future
  • Electronic Sound in Film


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Completion of OCOMP-507: Orchestral Mockups in Film Scoring, OCOMP-525: Film Score AnalysisOCOMP-577: Professional Film Scoring Skills 1: Collaboration and CommunicationOCOMP-588: Mixing the Film Score, and OCOMP-690: Compositional Voice Development in Film Scoring or equivalent knowledge and experience is required.


  • No textbooks required


  • Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), one of the following:
    • Cubase Pro (recommended option)
    • Logic Pro (recommended option)
    • Reaper
    • Digital Performer (limited support)
    • Pro Tools 2018.12 or higher (First, Intro, and Artist editions are not sufficient)
      • Note: While Pro Tools is required in certain Film Scoring Master's courses and can serve as your single primary DAW for the program, we recommend using Cubase or Logic for sequencing.
  • Notation software, one of the following:
  •  High-quality algorithmic reverb, such as:
    • LiquidSonics Cinematic Rooms
    • iZotope Exponential Audio R4, Symphony, or Stratus
    • ValhallaDSP Room
    • Lexicon Native PCM Reverb Bundle
    • Note: Altiverb (industry-standard convolution reverb) can be used in lieu of an algorithmic reverb. 
  • Orchestral sample libraries (click here for list of approved options)
    • Note: Orchestral Tools' Berlin Orchestra Created with Berklee is strongly recommended.
  • Additional sample libraries covering a wide range of instruments from around the world beyond those typically found in a standard Western orchestra, such as one of the following: 
    • East West RA, Silk, and Stormdrum 2 or 3 (all included in the EW Composer Cloud)
    • UVI World Suite
    • Best Service Ethno World 6


  • MIDI keyboard controller with at least 49 keys, mod wheel, and additional MIDI CC knobs/faders, such as Novation Launchkey 49
  • Audio interface
  • Studio monitors (pair), such as JBL 305Ps or better, as well as necessary cables. Monitors with 8-inch woofers are recommended, such as JBL 308Ps or better.
  • Professional over-ear studio headphones, such as Sennheiser HD 600, beyerdynamic DT 770 PRO, etc.

Important Technical/System Considerations

  • Your computer must be powerful enough to run large film scoring sessions smoothly. You should consider:
    • At least 32 GB memory. 64 GB or more recommended.
    • Recent Apple M-series Pro (e.g. M2 Pro), Intel Core i7, AMD Ryzen 7, or better processor.
      • Note: The entry-level M-series Apple Silicon (e.g. just M1 or M2) is not sufficient, but we highly recommended a Mac equipped with an M-series Max or Ultra chip for this program.
    • NVME M.2 SSD primary internal drive (or Apple Silicon)
  • We recommend storing sample library content in a secondary internal or external SSD with 1 GB/s or higher read rates. Alternatively, you may opt for a Gigabit network solution, such as Vienna Ensemble Pro and secondary computer.

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Richard Davis


Richard Davis is a performer and composer in classical, jazz, popular, country, and East Indian music. He has performed with greats like Phylicia Rashād, Betty Buckley, John Denver, and Illinois Jacquet. His film and television credits include Robin Hood: Prince of ThievesThe Last Boy ScoutThe Fall Guy, and others. Davis earned his bachelor of music degree from California State University at Northridge. 

Ruth Mendelson


A New York Times Critics' Pick and Emmy nominee, composer/producer/arranger Ruth Mendelson
has been writing award-winning scores for documentaries, HBO, National Geographic, Discovery
Channel, Disney, Animal Planet, The Learning Channel, A&E, PBS, CBS, and NBC (among others),
as well as creating innovative multi-media surround-scapes for over 25 years.
Ruth was the first woman in the history of Berklee College of Music (Boston, MA) to teach in the Film
Scoring Department, where she designs and teaches master classes in documentary and dramatic

Recent film scores include The Prison Within (Apple/iTunes), The Hope (Disney Plus/National
Geographic). Ruth is currently producing a series of audio books for Dr. Jane Goodall (first release:
My Life with The Chimpanzees, Hatchett Press) and composed the soundtrack for Dr. Goodall’s
podcast series, Hopecast.

An active studio musician, Ruth has been featured playing a number of instruments in a wide variety
of genres with artists in LA, New York, Boston, Europe and India. She has also served as location
sound recordist for the U.S. and international documentaries, most recently in spring 2017 when
recording location sound on the high plains of Mongolia for the documentary film series "Mongolian

Ruth is a keynote speaker, music director and author. Her novel, The Water Tree Way, is quickly becoming a favorite for children of all ages around the world

She has performed at the United Nations, in Geneva, Switzerland, as bassist for the One Human
Family Gospel Choir and is founder and president of Eagle Vision Initiatives, a non-profit
organization dedicated to serving society through communications and the arts. Eagle Vision's
premier initiative, the WELL WISHES Project, is now successfully establishing unprecedented lines
of communication and resources between the world's youth. Her deepest commitment is to be of
service and assist in bringing love, compassion and positive change to society via a wide range of
creative projects and programs.

What's Next?

When taken for credit, Stylistic Adaptations in Film Scoring can be applied towards the completion of these related programs:

Related Degree Major


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at

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