Showing posts with label Motion Picture Sound. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Motion Picture Sound. Show all posts

Sunday, July 27, 2008


Ambient music is generally defined as music in which the sounds are as equally important as the notes, its purpose being to invoke an “atmosphere” or to enhance an “environment.” It was Brian Eno who named this kind of music ambient (from the Latin ambire, "to go around") saying it consisted of sounds poised on “the cusp between melody and texture.” While there are any number of artists one could name who contributed to the development of ambient music (what Erik Satie in an earlier age called musique d’ameublement, “furniture music”), for Eno the major contributor to the development of ambient music is that “grand new musical instrument, the recording studio” (30). Eric Tamm, in Brian Eno: His Music and the Vertical Color of Sound, writes:

Eno has singled out a number of musicians who . . . consciously tried to realize the potential of . . . the recording studio: Glenn Gould (whose technique of recording many performances and editing them together Eno greatly admired); Jimi Hendrix (who would fill as many as twenty-six separate tracks on a thirty-two-track tape recorder with guitar solos, then begin the real creative process of blending, mixing, and deleting); Phil Spector (who “understood better than anybody that a recording could do things that could never actually happen”); the Beach Boys, the Jefferson Airplane, and the Byrds (whose experimental and psychedelic approach Eno appreciated); the Beatles (whose 1966 album Revolver, recorded on four-track with George Martin at the controls, Eno described as “my favourite Beatles album”); and Simon and Garfunkel (“The song ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ [1970] is perfection in its way. I’m told it took 370 hours of studio time to record—that’s longer than most albums, but it is such an incredible tour de force....” (30-31)

Eno’s remark about Phil Spector—he “understood better than anybody that a recording could do things that could never actually happen”—is an insight shared by the very best filmmakers, those who will sacrifice narrative logic for the sake of a powerful image (e.g., Andrei Tarkovsky, pictured) and also invent not mere sound tracks, but audio tracks (e.g., David Lynch), that is, use the grand musical instrument of the recording studio to the same degree as the motion picture camera.

Representative Films Featuring Masterful Audio/Vision:
Chris Marker/Trevor Duncan, La Jetée (1962)
Michelangelo Antonioni/Giovanni Fusco and Vittorio Gelmetti, Red Desert (1964)
Stanley Kubrick/H.L. Bird and Winston Ryder, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
George Lucas/Walter Murch, American Graffiti (1973)
Terrence Malick/George Tipton, Badlands (1973)
David Lynch/Alan R. Splet, Eraserhead (1977)
Andrei Tarkovsky/Eduard Artemev, Stalker (1979)
Francis Ford Coppola/Walter Murch and Carmine Coppola, Apocalypse Now (1979)
Brian Eno, Thursday Afternoon (1984)
Michael Mann/Elliot Goldenthal, Heat (1995)
Terrence Malick/Craig Berkey and James Horner, The New World (2005)