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While the Band Played On
November 15, 2012 7:55 AM   Subscribe

I have always been fascinated by the way music can completely change the way you watch film - and how you feel as you watch the images. Adam Curtis

Hopefully the videos will work outside the UK - I know Curtis gets them cleared as much as possible. Personally, I prefer the Neu! version, but maybe that's because I'm shallow.
posted by Grangousier (25 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Personally, I have always been fascinated by how music and random BBC clips can give conspiracy theories depth and the aura of respectability. Hey Adam Curtis?
posted by zoo at 8:01 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Videos work for me in the US.)
posted by koeselitz at 8:09 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


My very favorite example of this power has always been the first four minutes of Chris Marker's masterful documentary "Le fond de l'air est Rouge," released in English as "Grin without a Cat." (Click "cc" right under the video for subtitles.) It's a documentary about the rise of the Left in the 1960s in France and around the world, and every time I watch it this opening montage moves me nearly to tears and almost remakes me into an ardent socialist ready to take up arms and join the international struggle. I think that's Marker's aim – not that he's a propagandist – there are many rather dry parts of the ensuing documentary, and he himself has expressed his own mixed feelings about the Left – but that he wants to engage the viewer in seeing what is longed for in that struggle.
posted by koeselitz at 8:25 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I remember grocery shopping in the eighties with Sinead O'Conner playing on my walkman. The choice of cereals was a strangely transcendent moment that I still remember to this day even though I chose Corn Flakes.

Music can change anything if the conditions are right and you are listening.
posted by srboisvert at 8:42 AM on November 15, 2012 [6 favorites]


This sort of thing absolutely fascinates me.

I distinctly recall when I first started thinking about it - when I saw the end of Dr. Strangelove when I was a kid. It stuck me how Kubrick used music in that scene; there is a certain dissonance that makes it more powerful.

Weirdly enough, I just finished watching this scene, for the sole purpose at marveling at the perfection of the music.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:45 AM on November 15, 2012


This phenomenon's known as the Kuleshov Effect, after a short film demonstrating the Expressionist aspects of montage sequences.

Interestingly, TV Tropes only notes a short list of examples, which center more on the audience's anthropomorphism of inanimate details due to synced audio's role within [non-random] contuniuty editing. As editable moving images are composed of "frames" of time, a enormous number of tangents could be exploited and explored in post-production.
posted by Smart Dalek at 8:50 AM on November 15, 2012


Wow I could watch Twiggy dance forever.

LOL Nelson Rockefeller.
posted by charlie don't surf at 8:52 AM on November 15, 2012


As a VJ, I kind of try to do it backwards, or rather, think about it backwards - to use images to give a different dimension and context to music. Sometimes people want to soundtrack something I am showing, or worry that the music won't fit the images, , and I explain to them, no, this is about your performance. I am sighttracking you.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:53 AM on November 15, 2012


I just watched a movie (Bonnie and Clyde) with a lot of completely silent parts, and for about the first half, kept thinking there was something wrong with the DVD. It made me realize that there's almost never silence in movies/TV while nothing's going on. There's always music.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 8:55 AM on November 15, 2012


But why should we be surprised by this? The music is not just an incidental add-on to the totality of a film, but an intrinsic part of it, every bit as important as the images. You might as well marvel that keeping the shapes of a painting but changing all its colours makes you view the picture differently.

Also, someone really needs to write a book about the changed experience we have of music in the world of portable devices and ear-buds. Sit in a room with music playing on speakers, and you feel as if you're swimming within the music. Listen to the same piece on ear-buds and it feels as if the music is taking place - actually playing - inside your own head.

This movement from exterior music to interior music makes it feel much more intimate, I think, and the fact that we now listen to music while moving through so many everyday tasks makes it far more common to find those tasks and the music itself stirring themselves into a single experience.

For me, it's Nick Cave's No More Shall We Part album and the Texas town of Frederickburg which have become intertwined. It was a brand new tape I'd never listened to when I arrived there, I had no other music to last me the week, and I played it again and again on my Walkman as I explored the town. I found images there to match every song in those few days, and they're still the ones this album conjures in my mind 11 years later.
posted by Paul Slade at 9:06 AM on November 15, 2012


It can be powerful, but it's best when it's subtle. A number of movies have been flat out ruined for me when the music cues, and tells me how to feel. It destroys the point of the narrative, the idea that I've come to understand something on my own, or in collaboration with the filmmaker. Imagine if a comedian explained the punch line of every joke he told, and threw in a "haha - get it?" to boot.

Here's a good example. This recently was sort of popular, and it was pretty cool until it just went waaaay over the top and the music helped push it there. (The Armageddon - AT&T commercial style camera work doesn't help either. Ugh, I hate this scene for so many more reasons.)

Music is fascinating to me. It's amazing how combinations of harmonic sounds and pulsing rhythms can evoke a specific emotional response.

Here's one posted in a recent Reddit thread; the commentors are making fun of the OP, who posted a rant against Activision; there was some subtle music in his video that people picked up on. One pundit, ProlapsedPineal, suggested he use this one. Of course, my all time favorite sad music, is Berber's Adagio for Strings, but it's getting a little over exposed.

On a completely different track, the thought struck me while watching the first video in our OP's link - that if we wanted to give some insight into who we are as human beings to an alien race, that would be a good video to send them. No explanation, just people dancing. Sure, they might not get it - they probably wouldn't - but who cares? It's music!
posted by Xoebe at 9:22 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's as if he's never heard that people listen to DSotM while watching the Wizard of Oz.
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:46 AM on November 15, 2012


Here's an example that has worked very well in two under-appreciated films; the 1971 film "Addio Zio Tom" by Gualtiero Jacopetti & Franco Prosperi; and, also featured in the 2011 film Drive (a highly underrated film). In the youtube example, both scenes run in parallel ("Addio Zio Tom" is in the top frame). The music was composed by Riz Ortolani. Both films come highly recommended, especially "Drive", which should have taken an Academy Award if the Academy wasn't so lame.
posted by Vibrissae at 10:13 AM on November 15, 2012


It can be powerful, but it's best when it's subtle.

On the whole I'd agree, although David Lynch has a tendency to overdo this effect in a very idiosyncratic and wonderfully self-conscious way, I think. Two examples that stand out for me are:

1. In Wild at Heart there's a scene (unfortunately I can't find a clip), which is simply a still shot of a house with ridiculously over-the-top, frenetic and ominous orchestral music playing. The implication is that the house (which we haven't seen before) or the inhabitants are somehow implicated in the plot, in a dreadful way. The way it's communicated is so extreme, though, that it's like the director put his foot through the fourth wall.

2. In this well known scene in Blue Velvet, the swelling church organ music adds greatly to the pathos of Sandy's dream description. When at the end their car pulls away it is revealed they were in fact parked in front of a church - leaving the audience to wonder if the music is actually coming from inside. It's an almost Airplane-like filmic joke, but it's deliciously well judged.
posted by iotic at 11:16 AM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


John Williams made me cry in Phantom Menace. Seriously. Probably says more about music's affect on me than on the populace in general, but there it is.
posted by Doleful Creature at 12:11 PM on November 15, 2012


I am generally peeved by music in movies and on TV. It's as if they don't trust the actors to do a good enough job on their own without a bump.

Save me from soaring violins, and sappy poignant cry-now music. Save me from uplifting brave patriotic clap-trap.

I enjoyed the parts "Million Dollar Baby" where there was no music and the actors got to act.
posted by cccorlew at 12:24 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have a suspicion that it would be fun to get high as fuck with Adam Curtis.
posted by b1tr0t at 12:33 PM on November 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Right up until the part where he proved that a vast global conspiracy was destroying society with clips from The Adventure Game.
posted by fullerine at 2:21 PM on November 15, 2012


I was helping my son find music to go with a movie he had created. At one point we both started crying and decided to choose a different song. Music is seriously powerful stuff.
posted by haunted by Leonard Cohen at 2:56 PM on November 15, 2012


> I remember grocery shopping in the eighties with Sinead O'Conner playing on my walkman. The choice of cereals was a strangely transcendent moment that I still remember to this day even though I chose Corn Flakes.

Was it anything like this?

A few years before we met, my wife was in a grocery store late one night while "My Heart Will Go On" was playing. It was late and there was hardly anyone in the store, so the song seemed louder than music usually does in a grocery store. Right at the climax of the song, she happened to look up and sideways as she picked something off the shelf, and made uncomfortably intense eye contact with a guy her age a little way down the aisle who had apparently done the same thing at the same time. They both blushed and continued their shopping.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:13 PM on November 15, 2012


I am generally peeved by music in movies and on TV. It's as if they don't trust the actors

That most likely means they didn't budget for a quality composer and mix. The better music and sound effects generally the more invisible. A true film mixing studio is just a mind boggling sophisticated tool.

As great as John Williams music is, you're going to a film, not a concert. The recent historical drama War Horse was incredible, amazing score, intense, and a bit boring.
posted by sammyo at 4:02 PM on November 15, 2012


"I have always been fascinated by the way music can completely change the way you watch film - and how you feel as you watch the images."

Shining!
posted by markkraft at 4:15 PM on November 15, 2012


I love both Neu! and This Mortal Coil (and the other melange of melancholy music) on the other video -- but I found the Neu! one wonderful to watch, and the other one almost unbearably sad & jarring. Hmmm. Thesis confirmed here. Of course to me, Neu!'s Hallo Gallo is one of the best jams ever.
posted by dylanjames at 8:55 PM on November 15, 2012


I just watched a movie (Bonnie and Clyde) with a lot of completely silent parts, and for about the first half, kept thinking there was something wrong with the DVD. It made me realize that there's almost never silence in movies/TV while nothing's going on. There's always music.

Well, that's true of newer product. But go back and watch a lot of movies from the late 60s and early 70s, and there wasn't much music happening during a lot of the movie.

I actually prefer it that way. I would rather have a scene give me an emotional response because of what is happening in it rather than what the music is telling me I should feel. I get the feeling that a lot of modern films are actually pretty mediocre as far as acting and craft goes compared to 40 years ago, but because of the music response thing, we end up FEELING them and thus think they're brilliant.

(Not to say that movies aren't the sum of their parts, but reliance on a crutch really only indicates that something wouldn't be able to stand on its own.)
posted by hippybear at 9:22 PM on November 15, 2012


I just watched a movie (Bonnie and Clyde) with a lot of completely silent parts, and for about the first half, kept thinking there was something wrong with the DVD. It made me realize that there's almost never silence in movies/TV while nothing's going on. There's always music.

You might like Rififi.
posted by bongo_x at 11:06 AM on November 18, 2012


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