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Re: [sound-article-list] Functions Of Music

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  • Barry Salmon
    Randy, What an amazing can of worms you open with this series of questions. A can we wrestle with a lot here at the New School. It s difficult to be very
    Message 1 of 9 , Mar 5, 2001
      Randy,

      What an amazing can of worms you open with this series of questions. A
      can we wrestle with a lot
      here at the New School.

      It's difficult to be very specific because music functions so
      differently within a film from cue to cue and so so differently from
      film to film.

      Of course there is the need presented by simple historical precedent,
      of the music a surrogate for absent production sound, dialog and
      effects. And the masking of the projector sound.

      Also there is ample precedent in melodrama and opera music greek
      theater etc.

      Then there is that tricky diegetic and no diegetic usage and flux
      between the two.

      It's an amazing series of questions though, seeking to move from
      phenomenon to a sort of phenomenology.

      One might invert the question and ask what the image is doing in our
      music? I recently asserted that all music is film music in one of my
      classes. Of course we are currently absent the context and there was
      considerable disagreement.

      Did you see Dancer in the Dark? Pretty extraordinary collaboration of
      film sound and film music.

      Barry Salmon
      New School for Social Research

      >>> RandyThom@... 03/04/01 08:13PM >>>
      Here's a series of questions for the group. I think about them fairly

      often myself.

      What functions does music serve in film? What motivates us to put
      music into a given place in a movie? How do we decide where a cue
      should begin and end? When we say "that music worked well" or "that
      music doesn't work" what do we mean?

      I have to admit that when I hear someone say, as I often do, "I hated
      the music," I almost never know what the hell they're talking about,
      but I'm too shy to ask.

      Not suggesting for a second that I don't think music has a place in
      movies. It's just that I think each of us tends to assume we know
      what others mean when they make value judgements about music in
      movies. But do we know what they mean? Do they?

      RT

      PS.....I'd like to get more specific than "because it makes you feel a

      certa




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    • Barry Salmon
      Gustavo, Just a couple of quick points. First off the Film Music Project was nearly entirely Eisler s work Adorno just worked on the book. And in fact sought
      Message 2 of 9 , Mar 5, 2001
        Gustavo,

        Just a couple of quick points. First off the Film Music Project was nearly entirely Eisler's work Adorno just worked on the book. And in fact sought to distant himself from the text when it was published. There are those who assert he did so in the face of the "red scare" as Eisler was in the process of being deported as a communist/sympathizer when he left. In any case Eisler was far to optimistic for Adorno. The project was carried on at the New School in 1940-41, funded at $20,000 by the Rockefeller Foundation and an eighty two minute film of examples of "New Musica Resources, Function and Dramaturgy" was scored and edited. Eisler Collaborated with Jolhn Steinbeck, Joris Ivens, Joe Losey, Schoenberg, Charles Chaplin, Brecht and rescored cues of three studfio films, Grapes of Wrath, the Long Voyage Home, and news reels among other shorts.
        Experiments included small ensembles and even some electronic instruments. The wherabouts of the work remains a mystery...... Berndt Heller in Germany has recorded Eisler's score to Rain (a part of the project) according to his notes etc. and there is a copy in some museum in Germany. Anyway an amazing project.

        Barrry

        >>> cgustavo@... 03/05/01 10:10AM >>>
        The first approach to explain why there is something called "Film Music" was
        Kurt London's in the late 30's. He said music was necessary to avoid the
        noise from projector. Even when we agree of the noisy shows from early days,
        that explanation seem a little bit simple. However, it's interesting to
        remember the point.
        Theodor Adorno and Hans Eisler, both working in the 50's in a research
        project on social aspects of film and tv reception, pointed out - against
        London - music was there to avoid the horror of see ourselves (human beings)
        into the cinema machinery. For Adorno, very close to Marxist philosopher
        Gyorgy Lukacs, human beings became objects of the market, under the logic of
        the Marx idea of "fetishism of the commodities". Human being is part of the
        market, his/her work is under the logic of exchange value, so, his/her
        condition of "subject" dissolves becoming a mere "object" that circulates in
        the market as another commodity. For Adorno, culture of industrial society
        adopted the form of cultural industry. This is not only related to the
        "industry of entertainment" but a form of industry of cultural things that
        addresses to all levels of the society (the same way different kind of
        production is intended for different type of budget). So, if human being is
        now an object of the market, and art has adopted an industrial form (cinema,
        gramophone records, art reproduction books, etc), therefore the image of
        human beings in cinema is the clearest proof of the human transformation
        into machinery. When human beings see movies, they see themselves as robots
        or machines without life (silent films are the most "lifeless"). In order to
        avoid what Freud called uncanny - the horror produced by the "double" of
        familiar things that became unknown - romantic music is included in
        projections. The well accepted codes of Romanticism - a supposedly
        representation of the self's sensibility and emotions - are telling us
        "remember you are human, despite you are now part of the machine". Chaplin's
        Modern Times is the clearest example of being conscious of that.
        Sound does not have to deal with "representation" in the way images do. In
        short, when you see an image of something, image is always seen through a
        device, a canvas, a frame, a "continent". Image is always the
        re-presentation of an object. Image is always "not-the object". Meanwhile,
        sound of any source has no representation. It could be reproduced - images
        too - but even lots of transfers don't affect its status (maybe the quality
        of the sound, but not the way it is conceived by our ears in the hearing
        process). That is to say sounds reach our ears as the original source,
        without an instance of being transformed. While image is different in size,
        color, focus, two dimensional, and ever in some type of frame (it functions
        as a limit: we know the world continues beyond the frame; therefore image is
        not the actual or "original" object). Image could never be confused with the
        object itself. Sounds can, precisely of this absence of representation. A
        lot of times we suppose phone is ringing, but later we discover it's not our
        phone. We never try to kill an insect on the TV screen, though (if so, call
        immediately a doctor!).
        This possibility of sound to be directly addressed to our senses is what
        does sounds so powerful. Music has the same quality, but not as direct as
        sounds. Schopenhauer wrote music is able to reach our senses without
        mediation of any kind. It directly addressed to our Unconscious (he wrote
        about it before Freud), and produces meanings and emotional responses by
        skipping representation. This condition makes music more ambiguous,
        depending a lot on conventions and even cliches. But, does anybody suspect
        film music is beyond cliches?
        Romantic music entered cinema since the early days of silent films. And
        entered there to stay. While image, narrative aspects, color, character
        status, types of editing, complexity of language, etc, changed again and
        again, music stayed if not in Romanticism, surely in tonal code. Major/minor
        scales, Greek scales, exotic scales, etc, there's always a tonal center. I
        mean, a note to resolve all tensions, returning to a known place. Musicians
        enhanced film music including more complex timbres, elements taken from
        popular music, exotic instruments, but film music is romantic, impressionist
        or at least presents a kind of expanded tonal code. I know, I forgot a lot
        of examples that denies this situation. Not exactly.
        When a director includes some contemporary music stuff, avant-garde from the
        20th Century, for example, this material is associated with a few types of
        situations that avoid the differences music presents. I mean, all atonalism
        (early atonalism, organized atonalism, twelve notes system, serialism) is
        always accompanying terror/horror/uncanny feelings and so on, giving us the
        impression that music is simpler, presenting no big differences between the
        huge number of exponents of the style or period.
        Kubrick's use of Ligeti is a good example. In 2001, Ligeti's Requiem, Lux
        Aeterna and Atmospheres are heard more or less the same way. First is a mass
        of dead written for orchestra and choir, second is for solo choir, and last
        one is for large orchestra without percussion. The so-called micro-polyphony
        technique unifies the three, but yet there are differences of character and
        intention that is impossible to perceive in soundtrack. In Eyes Wide Shut,
        the piano piece taken from Musica Ricercata, is a wonderful and simple study
        on unison and 8º intervals through repetition. If you listen the piece the
        way it was written, you wouldn't perceive the suspense and the tension the
        scene provides. So to speak, with some types of music, the process of giving
        a type of addressing is inverted: if romantic music "explains" us what
        feeling we have to feel regarding the scene, with 20th Century music it's
        the scene that provides the key to "feel" the music. Then, Ligeti's unisons
        and 8ºs become tension. In the film, we will pay more attention to certain
        aspects that in fact are there, of course, but maybe not in the way it
        supposed to be.
        What to say about other types of avant-garde composers? Philip Glass'
        minimalism and Mychael Nyman's repetitive baroque patterns share not only
        the presence of tonal center but also the calming presence of repetition.
        Tonal patterns repeated again and again are almost a literally equivalent of
        Adorno's idea.
        Even Godard uses tonal music. Most of his films of last twenty years include
        classical music and contemporary elegant music form ECM (!). When he
        includes some truly contemporary stuff like the double-bass ultra-slow
        amplified notes in Nouvelle Vague, it's used as a thunder noise than an
        instrumental piece.
        I'm not saying all those uses of music are bad. I like film music. I simply
        try to point out what we are not able to expect.
        Sound Design has more opportunities to produce meaning, sensations,
        emotional responses, all due to way sound reaches our hearing. Timbre
        associations, volume, sound evolution through time, musique concrete-type of
        articulation of sounds, though, enhance soundtrack and expand sound design
        possibilities beyond the lack of representation. SD has received permanent
        updates along the century, demanding new ears every time. SD reflects the
        fact we don't hear the same sounds as we did in the past: we now hear for
        the first time a lot of frequencies and timbres that we never achieved
        before. Film Music presents a language well known before, or at least
        reflects tendencies presented in nowadays, but in popular music or
        crossover/ethnic/fusion styles. Film Music stayed somehow more traditional,
        and I guess that's why Randy feels problems regarding the integration of SD
        with the score.
        Saying all that, I find very interesting some scores like Toru Takemitsus's.
        In Masaki Kobayashi's Kwaidan, or in Kurosawa's Ran (very different from the
        former), Takemitsu wrote a score faithful to his aesthetics in contemporary
        not-intended-for-films music. The complex structure of Kwaidan, its
        impressive frame compositions, its perfect timing in editing, etc are
        demanding a viewer able to receive a complex soundtrack. David Cronenberg's
        Crash, lets Howard Shore to write a score using an unusual ensamble of
        instruments, like three electric guitars playing a kind of tense camera
        music related to the metallic and crashed elements like the ones in the
        title sequence. Mychael Danna's soundtrack for Atom Egoyan's The Sweet
        Hereafter presents an eclecticism and ductility that challenges the viewers:
        exotic flute sound as leitmotif of schoolbus - and subtlety related to the
        figure of Pied Piper of Hamelin at the same time - electric guitar feedback
        as ambience sound, overlapped to sound design and the rest of the score in
        an interesting integration, Renaissance music representing the presence of
        the lawyer (the old figure of the Burgermeister in mind) and, at the same
        time, giving the film a sense of eternal tragedy, like Greek tragedies.
        Jürgen Knieper's score for Wim Wenders' Wings of Desire is maybe a good
        example of Expressionism stuff in a film that inherits some Expressionist
        imagery. And talking of Expressionism we cannot forget the glorious Bernard
        Herrmann's score for Psycho.
        After this insane amount of words, I hope to have added some ideas to keep
        us thinking about the subject.

        Gustavo Costantini






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      • cgustavo@fibertel.com.ar
        Dear friend: Thank you very much for all the information. You are right. I simple used Adorno s ideas for the book - I guess that melancholic idea is a typical
        Message 3 of 9 , Mar 5, 2001
          Dear friend:

          Thank you very much for all the information. You are right. I simple used Adorno's ideas for the book - I guess that melancholic idea is a typical Adorno statement - as one extreme to think of film music, giving London the other one.
          As an e-mail, I guess mine is in Guinness. As a paper, it lacks logical developments and argumentation.

          Kind regards,

          Gustavo
        • RandyThom@aol.com
          It s not that I think there are correct answers to any of the questions I posed about music in films. But I do think that most Directors and Composers avoid
          Message 4 of 9 , Mar 5, 2001
            It's not that I think there are "correct" answers to any of the
            questions I posed about music in films. But I do think that most
            Directors and Composers avoid asking those kinds of questions to the
            degree possible, which strikes me as a little odd.

            I often find myself lost somewhere between, on the one hand, those
            Directors and Composers, and on the other hand, the academics who seem
            to over-analize everything about movies. It's been my experience,
            having worked with lots of Directors, that they mostly go on pure
            feeling, on intuition and gut reaction; certainly the best of them do.
            Most academic criticism of films seems to assume that Directors are
            super-logical people who construct their films using mountains of
            rational decisions as building blocks, as if every frame had a clearly
            identifiable set of reasons for its existence. I know for a fact that
            isn't usually the case.

            Nearly every film has many sounds that the Director has never even
            noticed; in fact, many that the sound crew have never noticed.

            There is an enormous amount of trial and error in the best film
            making. In a sense the best directors are actually great editors.
            It's not that they know in advance what will work. (I've always been
            skeptical about Hitchcock's supposed ability to know exactly how long
            every shot would be in advance of making it.) But the best of them do
            have excellent instincts about how to eventually arrive at a place
            where they will know what works. There's a huge difference between
            the two.

            So, knowing well as I do that what is wonderful about a work of art
            usually owes alot to serendipity, I still would like to be able to
            understand a little more than I do about what the serendipity is
            doing......which leads me to questions like the ones I asked about
            music in movies.

            RT

            --- In sound-article-list@y..., "Barry Salmon" <SalmonB@n...> wrote:
            > Randy,
            >
            > What an amazing can of worms you open with this series of questions.
            A
            > can we wrestle with a lot
            > here at the New School.
            >
            > It's difficult to be very specific because music functions so
            > differently within a film from cue to cue and so so differently from
            > film to film.
            >
            > Of course there is the need presented by simple historical
            precedent,
            > of the music a surrogate for absent production sound, dialog and
            > effects. And the masking of the projector sound.
            >
            > Also there is ample precedent in melodrama and opera music greek
            > theater etc.
            >
            > Then there is that tricky diegetic and no diegetic usage and flux
            > between the two.
            >
            > It's an amazing series of questions though, seeking to move from
            > phenomenon to a sort of phenomenology.
            >
            > One might invert the question and ask what the image is doing in our
            > music? I recently asserted that all music is film music in one of
            my
            > classes. Of course we are currently absent the context and there
            was
            > considerable disagreement.
            >
            > Did you see Dancer in the Dark? Pretty extraordinary collaboration
            of
            > film sound and film music.
            >
            > Barry Salmon
            > New School for Social Research
            >
            > >>> RandyThom@a... 03/04/01 08:13PM >>>
            > Here's a series of questions for the group. I think about them
            fairly
            >
            > often myself.
            >
            > What functions does music serve in film? What motivates us to put
            > music into a given place in a movie? How do we decide where a cue
            > should begin and end? When we say "that music worked well" or "that
            > music doesn't work" what do we mean?
            >
            > I have to admit that when I hear someone say, as I often do, "I
            hated
            > the music," I almost never know what the hell they're talking about,
            > but I'm too shy to ask.
            >
            > Not suggesting for a second that I don't think music has a place in
            > movies. It's just that I think each of us tends to assume we know
            > what others mean when they make value judgements about music in
            > movies. But do we know what they mean? Do they?
            >
            > RT
            >
            > PS.....I'd like to get more specific than "because it makes you feel
            a
            >
            > certa
            >
            >
            >
            >
            > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to
            > h
          • Barry Salmon
            Randy, I couldn t agree more that directors and those of us in the sound tradition (music, editors, designers) seldom speak the same language. Sometimes its a
            Message 5 of 9 , Mar 6, 2001
              Randy,

              I couldn't agree more that directors and those of us in the sound
              tradition (music, editors, designers) seldom speak the same language.
              Sometimes its a wonder that anything works! As you say, a great debt to
              serendipity. I think much of it has to do with a grounding in the
              visual on one hand and the aural on the other.

              Barry

              >>> RandyThom@... 03/06/01 01:17AM >>>
              It's not that I think there are "correct" answers to any of the
              questions I posed about music in films. But I do think that most
              Directors and Composers avoid asking those kinds of questions to the
              degree possible, which strikes me as a little odd.

              I often find myself lost somewhere between, on the one hand, those
              Directors and Composers, and on the other hand, the academics who seem

              to over-analize everything about movies. It's been my experience,
              having worked with lots of Directors, that they mostly go on pure
              feeling, on intuition and gut reaction; certainly the best of them do.

              Most academic criticism of films seems to assume that Directors are
              super-logical people who construct their films using mountains of
              rational decisions as building blocks, as if every frame had a clearly

              identifiable set of reasons for its existence. I know for a fact that

              isn't usually the case.

              Nearly every film has many sounds that the Director has never even
              noticed; in fact, many that the sound crew have never noticed.

              There is an enormous amount of trial and error in the best film
              making. In a sense the best directors are actually great editors.
              It's not that they know in advance what will work. (I've always been
              skeptical about Hitchcock's supposed ability to know exactly how long
              every shot would be in advance of making it.) But the best of them do

              have excellent instincts about how to eventually arrive at a place
              where they will know what works. There's a huge difference between
              the two.

              So, knowing well as I do that what is wonderful about a work of art
              usually owes alot to serendipity, I still would like to be able to
              understand a little more than I do about what the serendipity is
              doing......which leads me to questions like the ones I asked about
              music in movies.

              RT

              --- In sound-article-list@y..., "Barry Salmon" <SalmonB@n...> wrote:
              > Randy,
              >
              > What an amazing can of worms you open with this series of questions.

              A
              > can we wrestle with a lot
              > here at the New School.
              >
              > It's difficult to be very specific because music functions so
              > differently within a film from cue to cue and so so differently from
              > film to film.
              >
              > Of course there is the need presented by simple historical
              precedent,
              > of the music a surrogate for absent production sound, dialog and
              > effects. And the masking of the projector sound.
              >
              > Also there is ample precedent in melodrama and opera music greek
              > theater etc.
              >
              > Then there is that tricky diegetic and no diegetic usage and flux
              > between the two.
              >
              > It's an amazing series of questions though, seeking to move from
              > phenomenon to a sort of phenomenology.
              >
              > One might invert the question and ask what the image is doing in our
              > music? I recently asserted that all music is film music in one of
              my
              > classes. Of course we are currently absent the context and there
              was
              > considerable disagreement.
              >
              > Did you see Dancer in the Dark? Pretty extraordinary collaboration
              of
              > film sound and film music.
              >
              > Barry Salmon
              > New School for Social Research
              >
              > >>> RandyThom@a... 03/04/01 08:13PM >>>
              > Here's a series of questions for the group. I think about them
              fairly
              >
              > often myself.
              >
              > What functions does music serve in film? What motivates us to put
              > music into a given place in a movie? How do we decide where a cue
              > should begin and end? When we say "that music worked well" or "that

              > music doesn't work" what do we mean?
              >
              > I have to admit that when I hear someone say, as I often do, "I
              hated
              > the music," I almost never know what the hell they're talking about,

              > but I'm too shy to ask.
              >
              > Not suggesting for a second that I don't think music has a place in
              > movies. It's just that I think each of us tends to assume we know
              > what others mean when they make value judgements about music in
              > movies. But do we know what they mean? Do they?
              >
              > RT
              >
              > PS.....I'd like to get more specific than "because it makes you feel

              a
              >
              > certa
              >
              >
              >
              >
              > Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to
              > h




              Your use of Yahoo! Groups is subject to
              http://docs.yahoo.com/info/terms/
            • Jonathan Cronin
              ... When I say that the music doesn t work I think I mean that it jarred - it distracted me. In my opinion a scene that is well written, well acted, well cut
              Message 6 of 9 , Mar 6, 2001
                 

                RandyThom@... wrote:

                Here's a series of questions for the group.  I think about them fairly
                often myself.

                What functions does music serve in film?  What motivates us to put
                music into a given place in a movie?  How do we decide where a cue
                should begin and end?  When we say "that music worked well" or "that
                music doesn't work" what do we mean?
                 

                When I say that the "music doesn't work" I think I mean that it jarred - it distracted me. In my opinion a scene that is well written, well acted, well cut will say all it needs to say without music. Often I find that a great scene actually loses some of its power when a big music cue swells up to 'tell us what to feel', puncturing what the film makers had just spent much effort inflating. Less is more.
                 
                I have to admit that when I hear someone say, as I often do, "I hated
                the music," I almost never know what the hell they're talking about,
                but I'm too shy to ask.

                Not suggesting for a second that I don't think music has a place in
                movies.


                Nor am I. I like the way we can use the associations that music has. Not just with the 'Accordion = France', but also, say, how each character has a music theme associated with him/her, and the theme can grow and change with that character.

                It's just that I think each of us tends to assume we know
                what others mean when they make value judgements about music in
                movies.  But do we know what they mean?  Do they?
                 
                We probably don't really know what we mean. One problem for the crew is that we get very used to the film without music while cutting, so when we hear it for the first time (probably in the mix) it doesn't seem right, it covers up our foley/atmos/crowd tracks, it's too loud.......

                -JC
                --
                Watch Jonathan's film STEP on the web:
                http://www.virtuetv.com/film/independent/step/step.html

                 the people who own the media are the same people who need to be reported on
                 

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