MOORS is Keith Stanfield with Production by HH and this is their first video release. Director David M Helman has created a simple but effective visual accompaniment to claustrophobic tale of sexual frustration and isolation in ‘Asphyxiated’.
Film director Michel Gondry (‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ & ‘Be Kind Rewind’) was called upon to create this latest commercial for Gillette. Based on a track by Phil Mossman from LCD Soundsystem, NFL players create a soundtrack by pumping iron, skipping rope, hitting the heavy bag and running on the treadmill. It’s not the first time that a commercial has been based upon the idea of using sound effects to create a piece of music, but this one is definitely a cut above the others in its execution.
Check out this eye-popping music video for London-based duo We Are Shining. Director Carl Addy has used a montage of stills and video footage to create one of the most exciting videos we’ve seen in quite a while. The track ‘Wheel’ sounds like a blend Jimi Hendrix, tribal drums and 1970s Soul and this multi-layered approach to the music’s creation is flawlessly matched by the psychedelic cut-and-paste style visuals.
Following on from a previous post Hitchock’s Ear, in which we looked at Alfred Hitchcock’s use of music in his films, this time we thought we’d share this short documentary on Hitchcock’s remarkable use of sound. William Friedkin, Gary Rydstrom & Randy Thom (Spielberg’s sound designers) and Hitchcock biographer Donald Spoto, all share some fascinating insights.
Along with an analysis on Hitchcock’s brave choice not to use any music in The Birds, the contributors also discuss Rear Window and how it could possibly be one of the greatest masterpieces of sound design in all film. With many of the director’s films you can turn off the sound and follow only the imagery. However with Rear Window even if you turned off the picture and main dialogue, you could still get a strong sense of mood from just the sound design.
This gorgeous animated music video to Savages song ‘Marshal Dear’ (taken from their fantastic debut album ‘Silence Yourself’) is designed and animated by Gergely Wootsch. The animator’s Gothic sensibilities skillfully compliment Savages sound, as the band’s shades of sonic grey are hauntingly captured in this anit-war animation.
The makers of this new TV commercial for Baileys Chocolate Luxe (some new blend of Baileys & Belgian Chocolate apparently) have made a somewhat surprising music choice when they selected this track from German producer/musician Apparat. The Galaxy Chocolate-inspired visuals have an ethereal dream-like feel to them, which the music track ‘Black Water’ matches perfectly.
Sounding like My Bloody Valentine, the track is built upon layers of dense loops and shimmering vocals, each layer intertwining and folding back on one other to create the intended luxurious effect. The ad isn’t ground-breaking by any means, but it is a perfect match of music and visuals, something you don’t see too often on TV.
Fans of the television show Homeland may have caught the Official Season 3 trailer last month. In it, we are presented with some beautifully edited shots of the main characters as they wrestle with inner turmoils. Underpinning these emotional images, is the song ‘To Build A Home’ by The Cinematic Orchestra, co-written and sung by guest singer Patrick Watson, whose plaintive vocals float above the melancholic piano chords as it builds to an emotional crescendo.
“I’ve heard this somewhere before”, you may say….”wasn’t this music used in the latest Guinness ad, or was it the Sky Atlantic commercial from last year…or maybe it was the Children In Need campaign?” Actually it was all three. In fact ‘To Build A Home’ and it’s alternative version ‘Home’, has been used by both advertiser and broadcasters at least 16 times (see below) since its release in 2007 – from Chivas to Hollyoaks! “So what?” you may say.
Well…while the song is undeniably both beautifully crafted and recorded, it has now become the ‘go to’ music track for those wishing to enhance their images with some emotive power. Brands and broadcasters have long understood how using an emotionally-charged music track can tap into our subconscious and create the desired response that images alone cannot. There’s no doubt that ‘To Build A Home’ has certainly managed to connect with visual story-tellers when it comes to soundtracking their images, however there is a certain air of laziness when we see the same piece of music used over-and-over again.
So who should we blame for this lack of imagination when it comes to selecting music for visuals? We can’t necessarily point the finger at The Cinematic Orchestra, since there is now little money to be made from music sales anymore and the only substantial fees generated is in licensing for Film and TV use. Even if the band were more selective in allowing the track’s use, inevitably it music would be ‘reinterpreted’ by others and the band wouldn’t earn anything at all – as was the case with the band Sigur Ros and the plagiarising of their track ‘Hoppípolla’.
The balance of sound and image is a very delicate one and selecting the correct music to support (or even enhance) the visuals cannot be taken too lightly. Choosing suitable music with the right emotional tone is just the first step in the process of music synchronisation, however users of music: filmmakers, advertisers, broadcasters, brands etc, need to be aware of how and when a piece of music has previously been used, otherwise they not only run the risk appearing lazy and lacking originality, but they could also end up alienating the viewer – the very person they are trying to connect with.
From acclaimed filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón comes ‘Gravity’, a space thriller starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. While there has been much praise for the visual effects in this film, from this short feature above, we can see the sound design also plays a crucial role in bringing this story to life. Sound designer Skip Lievsay speaks to SoundWorks about the creating the balance between authenticity and creativity, when creating sound where no one can here you scream.
Having recently re-watched Paul Thomas Anderson’s film There Will Be Blood (2007) I thought I’d take a look back at this film’s unique marriage of sound and image. This a tale of a misanthropic oil man Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) in California at the turn of the last century. Underscoring this powerful film is a soundtrack composed by Radiohead’s, Jonny Greenwood. The music is often abrasive, dissonant, disturbing and always VERY loud. Although this was Greenwood’s first feature film score he had previously composed music for an experimental documentary called ‘Bodysong’ and had also been commissioned by the BBC to compose a piece called ‘Popcorn Superhet Receiver’. It was this piece that helped get him this commission an excerpt of which can also be hear excerpted in There Will Be Blood. Along with Greenwood’s score there are selections from the works of Arvo Part, as well as Johannes Brahms’ ‘Concerto in D Major’.
There are strong similarities in both music and theme to another film, Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey‘. In the pre-credit opening sequence to 2001, ‘Atmospheres’ by Gyorgy Ligeti rings out just before apes discover a monolith set in a vast prehistoric landscape, signifing the next step in their evolution. Similarly in the opening of There Will Be Blood, we are presented with the lands of California – lands that hide a resource that signifies the next major step in industrialisation and wealth. Compare Ligeti’s pre-credit opening sequence from 2001 with Greenwood’s track, ‘Henry Plainview’.
Probably the most innovative use of music in the film, is its use as a narrative device. In one particular scene when Plainview first speaks to the people of Little Boston, he employs standard political rhetoric (“the children are the future”) and promises to bring wealth and prosperity to their town. Underscoring this scene, the music is filled with a sense of imminent dread and fear, keeping you on edge the entire time and seems to jar somewhat with the images of renewal and promise of that we are witnessing. Here the score is being used to indicate the unsurprisingly disastrous outcome of Plainview failing to follow through on his promises. Through this unconventional use of sound and image, Anderson is providing the viewer with a complete story arc and therefore eliminating the need to even shoot the later scene. Such a brave implementation of music as this and other such scenes in ‘There Will Be Blood’ makes this film a true landmark in the marriage of sound and image in cinema.
‘Let Down’ is the latest release from Melbourne-based Bored Nothing – also know to his friends as Fergus Miller. This slice of late 80s/early 90s Indie Rock sounds like a cross between My Bloody Valentine and Dinosaur Jr, with just a dash of 60s Motown thrown in for good measure.
The song has a sound of nostalgia about it and video director Abteen Bagheri perfectly captures the feeling in this story of unrequited love. Bagheri’s washed-out and slowed-down images lend a perfect backdrop to Miller’s plaintive vocals, while the reverb-drenched guitars and drums, seem to echo from the past like a hazy half-forgotten childhood memory.
MGMT release a good song again shock! ‘Cool Song No.2′ is trippy and dense track which is visually brought to life by Isaiah Seret, as he directs actor Michael K. Williams (star of The Wire and Boardwalk Empire) through a series of surreal scenes.
The video feels like we’re watching an episode of ‘Breaking Bad’ on acid (I don’t recommend that by the way), as the track’s pounding nocturnal drums underpin scenes of a futuristic neon-lit meth lab. A perfect marriage of music and visuals occurs about 2:30 seconds in, as MGMT’s early Pink Floyd-inspired sounds combine with the psychedelic visuals to create one of the best music videos of the year so far.
Directed by Saman Kesh, Controller is one of the best short films we’ve seen in quite a while – an ambient supernatural Si-Fi thriller, with a dash of live action Pac-Man thrown in for good measure. Kesh, who has in the past directed music videos for artists such as Calvin Harris and Vitalic, here brings his talents to the narrative form.
The music was composed by Russ Davies who creates a wall-to-wall soundtrack that sometimes evokes the music from Drive, or even Angelo Badalamenti’s haunting chords for David Lynch. However, Davies still manages to create a perfect tonal accompaniment to Kesh’s visuals. What really needs be commended here is Matthew Wilcock’s sound design, his futuristic tones, drones and effects create an unsettling, yet thrilling sonic environment. Watch, listen and enjoy.
The BBC begins a month-long celebration on the fine art of the film composing and reminding us that the sometimes the thing which helps secure a film’s legacy is the collaboration between director and composer. Beginning with Sound of Cinema, a series fronted by silent film composer Neil Brand, who explores the work of the great movie composers and demonstrates their techniques. As part of the season, you can also vote for your favourite film score from this list. Updates to come.
Having recently finished reading the book ‘Hitchcock’s Ear:Music and the Director’s Art’, I thought I’d muse on Alfred Hitchcock’s use of music in his films. For a director who’s career began in the silent film era, his uncanny ability to select the perfect music for his images was almost unparalleled. Obviously we can’t ignore the formidable contribution of his composers, such as Bernard Hermann (Psycho, Vertigo, North by Northwest) and Miklos Rozsa (Spellbound), both of whom created some of the most memorable scores of all time, but it seems respect was mutual. Herrmann, who collaborated with Hitchcock on seven films, once said there were only “a handful of directors like Hitchcock who really know the score and fully realize the importance of its relationship to a film.”
Hailed as the master of suspense, Hitchcock knew that music can convey emotion in ways images cannot. Probably the most famous pairing of Hitchcock’s suspenseful images and Herrmann’s emotional music, is in “Psycho”. Hitchcock shot the film in black-and-white to save money, while Herrmann responded by writing a psychological score exclusively for strings, as the composer put it – a “black-and-white score for a black-and-white film”. The film’s now famous shower scene is still regarded as one of cinema’s perfect marriages of sound and image, however on this occasion the director’s initial instincts weren’t fully attuned. In a pre-production meeting Hitchcock’s instructed Herrmann, “Do what you like, but only one thing I ask of you: please write nothing for the murder in the shower. That must be without music.”
Hermann scored the scene anyway and after seeing it with music, Hitchcock changed his mind and said, “Improper suggestion, my boy, improper suggestion.” Though Hitchcock was notorious for his reluctance to share credit, he admitted that Herrmann’s music was central to the appeal of these remarkable films. He said that Psycho owed “33%” of its power to the music, while Herrmann remarked that the director “only finishes a picture 60%, I have to finish it for him.”
Despite the 7% discrepancy of credit for the film’s success, it’s undisputed that Hitchcock had an understanding of how music and visuals can work together. “I have the feeling I am an orchestra conductor,” Hitchcock once told François Truffaut…..“a trumpet sound corresponding to a close shot and a distant shot suggesting an entire orchestra performing muted accompaniment. Varying tones and textures, light with persons and objects clearly visible in the foreground, and fading into darker tones further back”. This correlation between music and images is perhaps why his films (and accompanying scores) have endured so well. Hitchcock’s ability to think in both visual and sonic terms at the same time (almost as a mild form of synesthesia) has probably contributed greatly to his reputation as one of the great filmmakers.
The influence of David Lynch looms large in this video for Beach House’s song ‘Wishes’. Singer Victoria Legrand sounding very like Julie Cruise singing the Twin Peaks theme, while actor Ray Wise takes centre stage as he embodies Leland Palmer once again.
Wise creates a surreal and unsettling atmosphere as he lip-synchs to Legrand’s Tannoy-sounding voice as it bounces around the football stadium. The slow motion acrobats seems to waltz in time to the track’s lazy tempo, walking a moving and humorous tightrope. As the song builds we see shots of the audience lost in their evangelical zeal, while the fireworks perfectly mirror emotional crescendo. Eric Wareheim’s direction manages to both support the emotional and sonic content of the song, while providing a unique visual setting.
French techno artist Gesaffelstein, has commissioned director Fleur & Manu to create a video for his new track, ‘Pursuit.’ Visual metaphors abound through a series of beautifully composed set of visual vignettes – each one delivering an even darker message about society than the one before. It manages to be both visually lush and emotionally hard at the same time.
Fleur & Manu have selected a perfect setting for the music track. Drenched in reverb, Gesaffelstein’s digital synths seem to echo around the cavernous white aircraft hangers creating the feeling you’re listening to the track unfold within these surroundings. The relentless motion of the bass line seems to propel the dark unfolding narrative in front of us. Very nice indeed.
Directed by Zeitguised for the launch of Absolut Amber by Absolut Vodka, this piece is part of a commissioned Art Series that features artist impressions of the products. Sound designer Michael Fakesch brings a subtle use of fluid electronic elements, that twist, turn and invert in upon themselves – perfectly matching the Sven Hauth’s beautiful bubbling animation.