Tunes

(Audio - MIDI - FIVE.5 - CD -)

Tunes or to be more specific, sounds, is probably one of the most fleeting and often not even consciously recognized elements of a complete image. The first time I realized how powerful sound is in creating a statement was when I dubbed to a cassette audio tape some parts of the soundtrack of a documentary video about a music group. There was a point where a song tailed off into an interview with the business manager of the group and when watched in the context of the video it was very evident that the person appeared to be extremely anxious. He was shifting around, almost squirming in his chair as he answered the interviewer’s questions. The real impact of the uneasy nervousness of that interview came to light when listening to only the audio and I realized the sound of squirming around in the big leather chair had been bumped up many, many times louder than it really was. When watching the video interview with the sound turned off, the person seemed to be only casually shifting his weight around in the chair.

Another similar situation is a story Warren Beatty tells of a technique used on his sound track for the movie Bonnie and Clyde. He had learned that one of the elements that made the gunfight scenes in the movie Shane so horrific was that the sounds of the gun shots were so much more pronounced and even louder than the rest of the sound. There are stories of actually dubbing in the audio recordings of cannons shot into metal garbage cans for the Shane gunshot sounds. The six-guns fired by Alan Ladd (Shane – the good guy gunslinger) and Jack Palance (the bad guy hired gun to scare away the sodbusters from the cattle country) are extraordinarily frightful and intense in that movie. Warren Beatty wanted a similar effect for the Bonnie and Clyde shoot outs. At the premiere screening of Bonnie and Clyde (at Cannes or someplace like that) Mr. Beatty could not understand why the soundtrack he had worked so hard to emphasize the visuals did not seem to be coming through. He went up to the projection booth and the projectionist was very pleased to see him. He eagerly showed Mr. Beatty all of the painstaking notes he had compiled and tagged in a time line across the wall of the projection booth. He was manually, very quickly, turning down the sound whenever the guns were fired. He said he had not encountered such a soundtrack since they had shown the movie Shane in that theatre.

A complete soundtrack is usually enhanced with music. I have heard it stated that the music tells us what we are seeing or at least how to feel or even what to expect and anticipate in the story. A series of random movie clips even a slideshow becomes much more interesting or at least ostensibly coherent with a song or musical score playing in the background. If you play a musical instrument you have most likely discovered that mesmerizing place where the world disappears and the instant, the moment, the emotion of that song or riff is all that exists. There is no need to contemplate the next note or even consider what the previous one was; there is simply a state of being part of a river of rhythms and melody. Fingers will find their position and patterns on the instrument seemingly all on their own. When dancing or playing in a band, at the pinnacle of perception, two or more individuals become one in complete harmony with the mood and pulse. Music has to be one of the most immersive and profoundly personal states a human being can achieve either all alone or within a crowd filled stadium. Music is magic until you get an ear worm or part of a song stuck in your head, particularly one that you did not care for that much in the first place.

The main idea around here is to have the sound blend with the visual to such a degree as to become one in the same, and vice versa.