Archive for the ‘Music & Sound Design’ Category


Motion pictures set directly to songs or scored music are one of the most essential forms of media creation, from early silent films to the emergence of shorts crafted to pop songs that fed into the rise of MTV .  Music videos remain one of the most popular and accessible modes of creation for young media creators. (And check out earlier posts such as those about Michel Gondry or Stromae or Janelle Monáe.)

Well, in a first for the Academy Awards, the Best Director award has gone to a pair of filmmakers who first emerged as music video directors.  Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert – or The Daniels – won Oscars for screenwriting, directing, and Best Picture for Everything Everywhere All at Once this past Sunday night, and it is very instructive to check out their earlier work to recognize the stylistic approaches in their music videos as they relate to the visual communication, storytelling techniques, and directorial touches in their award-winning feature film.  While a number of their most notable and infamous videos are not typically appropriate for in-school viewing, here are some recommended ones: Houdini and Don’t Stop by Foster the People, Simple Math by Manchester Orchestra, or Simple Song by The Shins.  And as a final note about this pair: viewing their acceptance speeches in media classrooms can provide some nice inspiration for students — and for teachers too, with the heartfelt thanks by Daniel Scheinert.  Certainly very appreciated.


As was pointed out a number of times during their speeches, these awards were the result of work by many people, and there were a number of other winners for this movie up on that stage, including actors Michelle Yeoh, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Ke Huy Quan and editor Paul Rodgers.  As a final note, Harrison Ford giving the award for Best Picture was quite the touch on a night of many heartfelt moments.

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David James Rosen guitar

One of most fun and versatile formats to utilize for prompts with video projects is that of the movie trailer. Over the years, I have found that using the vehicle of the movie trailer as a starting place for students can provide very fruitful and engaging options for source material and assignments related to various topics or skills, whether exploring cinematography, establishing particular storytelling values, or working as a team to communicate promotional messages.*

In ongoing discussions of sound design and music in media creation, earlier this month there was a very interesting piece on current trends in creating music and soundscapes for movie trailers. Ever notice that the song or instruments you are hearing in that new movie trailer isn’t quite what you remember from the original recording but it’s also sort of like it?  It very well might be the result of work from people like composer, musician, and producer David James Rosen (seen above with guitar).

Want to find out more about why some of those sounds you are hearing in trailers sound kind of familiar but then again also not, such as for M3gan, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, or Black Panther: Wakanda ForeverThis artist’s work and that of re-imaginers (and re-shapers) of sound like him are discussed in the article Movie Trailers Keep Tweaking Well-Known Songs. The Tactic is Working(by Eric Ducker for the New York Times). The issues and media creation concepts addressed in the article could be fertile ground for classroom discussion, while the creative outlets it describes can also provide some interesting areas for students to explore in assignments involving sound design and use of music in video production.

“*P.S.: I have to add that I often provide options to using strictly a movie trailer as the model or inspiration for projects, and in recent years I have found that when title sequences for episodic series (along with openings to scenes) are offered as alternatives to feature trailers as reference points in assignments, students pretty consistently opt for episodic series’ title sequences.  Episodic series tend to be where they’re at.

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Dolby In the ever-evolving landscapes of education for the era of digital-streaming-and-all-in-between with music, sound design, and current audio evolutions, here are some pieces featuring sound pioneer Thomas Dolby and his current work and perspectives on sound in media — a program at the Peabody Institute and an interview with Mr. Dolby talking about this work and his synth adventures.

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Wishing everyone some solid fresh tones in this world with the New Year. Here’s to 2021!

In the meantime, here’s a nice piece on room tone with a neat video, a holiday gift from the folks at Criterion. Cheers!

And yes, the classic.

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In earlier posts, we have discussed documentaries about film and TV scoring; contemporary composers such as Jeff Beal, Cliff Martinez, and Bear McCreary; current uses of popular music with moving images such as in the work of the performer Stromae; and a wide variety of topics related to sound design.

Composer Ramin Djawadi conducting

Along with editing exercises that one can complete to develop an idea of the impact of music with scenes, here is an related video (by the YouTube channel Every Frame a Painting) that explores the use of music in a variety of Marvel superhero movies.  Many of the observations and questions raised here can be applied to a wide range of recent action movies, and the lessons about contemporary media creation have wide-ranging impacts on viewers and the messages being produced for viewers. And for students, they might want to explore the views of the actual composers of some of the movies referenced here, such as Ramin Djawadi (Iron Man, Westworld, Game of Thrones) or Alan Silvestri (Avengers, Captain America).  


And if you find this interesting, check out this response to the Marvel Symphonic Universe video essay by Dan Golding: A Theory of Film Music(And it is critical to add that this essay is ripe for a rebuttal by anyone interested in exploring the long history of originality in film scoring — Golding’s approach is undoubtedly to use only lowest common denominator examples from throughout film history.) 

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