Friday, February 20, 2009

Pat O'Neill



The Pat O'Neill films at the Walker were really great tonight. Intellectually stimulating, layered, beautiful, challenging, and entertaining... he's a filmmaker who clearly thinks a lot about the arbitrary linkage between images, and between image and sound, and about how these relationships can work or break down.

Some very funny moments too-- lots of hilarious excerpts from educational films and the like. Not sure if the source here was original or lifted from another piece, but one of my favorite elements was audio of someone reading excerpts of a screenplay aloud. What a compelling device, and a fertile form of cinematic appropriation: quoting the language that generated a piece of cinema in the first place. Interesting...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Workflow productivity

Here's something I've thought about doing a million times, but never actually did till today...

For every music composition and/ or sound design project I work on, I wind up with pretty much the same division of data on my hard drive: one folder containing the entire project, and several sub-folders for 1) admin (schedules, correspondence, etc), 2) sequencing sessions, 3) multitrack sessions, 4) assorted soundfiles that I'll be using as raw material, 5) various iterations of mixes, from rough to "final" (heh heh), 6) a folder for client video, if applicable, and of course, 7) a "discard" folder for stuff I know I won't need when I'm done, but that I don't want to get rid of before then.

So what? Well, I've long thought that it'd save me a lot of time if I created a dummy folder with each of these folders already inside it, and just made a duplicate of the master folder and re-named it for each project, ready to go, rather than creating each folder from scratch for every project. Not the hugest thing, but definitely a time-saver in the long run. And I've never actually done it till today.

So I've saved a lot of time for myself in the future. But wait... I might have just traded that time by writing this blog post. You people owe me now, I hope you realize...

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Play in a Day, The Steve Jones Way


I was teaching my friend Brian how to play "Anarchy in the UK" on guitar yesterday. This led (as it often does) to geeking out on a documentary about the band we'd been discussing, since Brian is the Keeper of All Media and we can both watch stuff like that all day.


A section entitled "Play in a Day, The Steve Jones Way", proved I was basically teaching the song correctly-- how often does that happen? And this movie, Never Mind the Bollocks, features lots of footage where we get to hear discrete instrumental tracks faded up and down in the studio, always a magic opportunity in my book. After all this time I still didn't realize guitarist Steve Jones actually played bass on these songs as well (according to this movie, anyway). I always wondered how Sid could have laid down such buoyant bass lines, not really being a musician of Jones and drummer Paul Cook's caliber.

It's always refreshing to hear tracks from the "Never Mind the Bollocks" album-- despite what might have been going on culturally, attitude-wise, etc., the Pistols' music holds up as tight, solid, spare, aggressive rock music. Still some of the finest ever made, I daresay.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Walker week!


Very excited about Walker Art Center's upcoming Expanding the Frame film programming: an evening with Pat O'Neill on Feb 19th, and the Derek Jarman films as well. Yay!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A / V Connection: Knopfler / Morricone ?


Tonight, while preparing and cooking a pizza, I listened to Morricone's soundtrack to "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly". The piece entitled "Padre Ramirez" (Track 11) struck me as having a chord progression and general sensibility that might have influenced Mark Knopfler's early compositions for Dire Straits. Never thought about that before. Then it struck me that the first track on DS's "Communique" album is called "Once Upon a Time in the West", so Knopfler might indeed be a spaghetti Western fan, which would tie it all up. To my knowledge, he doesn't appear on the Morricone tribute album anywhere-- which is too bad.

Recent listening


Some things I've enjoyed lately:

Animal Collective- "Strawberry Jam"
Luc Ferrari- "Visages V"
Legendary Pink Dots- "All the King's Men"
Amanda Palmer- "Who Killed Amanda Palmer?"
Toru Takemitsu- "Water Music"
Robert Wyatt- "Cuckooland"

Blurring (Kwaidan, Saw)


I've been watching Kwadian (1964, d. Masaki Kobayashi) lately; the 20-minute spurts while I eat lunch haven't been ideal viewing intervals, but it's quickly becoming one of my favorite films. As far as I can tell, it's entirely shot on a soundstage, even though most of the action takes place outdoors, and Kobayashi exploits this staged quality to give the film a mannered, presentational atmosphere. I've read that shooting averaged about three takes per day on set. The soundscape is heavy on the silence, and Toru Takemitsu's haunting score often blurs the line between whether or not the music is "in the scene" or a psychological/ artistic occurence. Highly recommended.

I've also been watching the Saw movies, 'cause why not, and I like the score for these as well but it's more of a kitchen-sink industrial/ electronica approach. I've read a couple interviews with composer Charlie Clouser (formerly one of Trent Reznor's Nine Inch Nails worker bees) where he talks about how these scores fly in the face of the usual scoring philosophy (keep it simple, and don't get in the way of what's happening onscreen). I noticed this as I was watching the movies: the music often introduces sounds of pounding, scraping, sizzling, etc endemic to the world we're in but not what we're seeing at present, as if we're hearing more action through the wall or something. Clouser says he was pushed to increase the density in that manner, so it's good to know it's a case of giving the director what he wants rather than mere self-indulgence. And again, it's interesting that the score blurs the line between action in the scene and psychological atmosphere. Nice to see these "rules" broken effectively.


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