Archive for the ‘Music & Sound Design’ Category

night living deadToday is the day — Halloween!  Did you know that Night of the Living Dead is being brought back to life?  A 4K restoration orchestrated by the Museum of Modern Art and supported by the Film Foundation will premiere at MoMA in a week in their “Save and Project” series!

Here is a fun activity for post-Trick or Treat recuperation: an interactive quiz called The Sounds of Horror from the New York Times.  Try it if you dare!

annex-grant-cary-arsenic-and-old-lace_09And if you just want to feel all autumnal and Halloweenish in a warm and comfy way, this old classic really has held up very well: Arsenic and Old LaceTry it out as the days start to get shorter and the last leaves are hanging on.  Frank Capra and his collaborators created quite a lively movie with this classic starring Cary Grant, Priscilla Lane, Raymond Massey, Peter Lorre, and an incredible cast of golden age character actors.  Or of course, there is animated fun to be had with the classic It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or the more recent ParaNorman.  

Read Full Post »

Maria Schneider and Orchestra Jeff Redel / NYTimes

Maria Schneider and Orchestra
Jeff Redel / NYTimes

In earlier posts such as Fair Use Resources and Guidelines, issues of copyright laws and fair use guidelines for students and media creators have been addressed on mediateacher.net’s pages.  In a recent open letter addressed to YouTube as “pushers of piracy,” the renowned composer and five-time Grammy winner Maria Schneider has written a scathing indictment of the practices of YouTube and current popular perceptions of music and other creative content as fair game for use to the general public.  It is particularly striking and inspiring that this letter is coming not from a pop songwriter or performer but from one of the most respected and exceptional American composers of the past few decades — and a woman who leads an orchestra that is one of the finest ensembles of musicians of our time.  She writes, “…YouTube has substantially influenced the behavior of hundreds of millions of its users toward infringement, fermenting a veritable pirate orgy.   YouTube goes way beyond turning a blind eye to the marauding masses; it actively seduces its users into illegal behavior, and has even managed to make its users believe pirate behavior is beneficial to creators…  The vast majority of music on YouTube is uploaded by people with no legal right to do so – users whom YouTube has carefully molded and brainwashed.”

The attitudes Schneider describes in her letter accurately reflect behavior that I observe day in and out in schools: not only do young people not even think twice about downloading music illegally for projects, most do not even consider arriving prepared with music or other audio for their movies at various stages from pre- to post-production unless they are forced to do so.  They do what they constantly do to play and acquire music: they go online, search around — primarily on YouTube — and pull up or rip the music that they find.  And which in all likelihood has been posted illegally.


Maria Schneider testifies in Washington, D.C. (Paul Morigi/WireImage for NARAS)

I highly recommend reading Schneider’s letter, which provides an excellent resource for classroom discussion and further investigation for mediamakers.  It can be quite an eye-opener for 21st century digital citizens, who typically feel very savvy about issues related to the Internet but may not have considered all of the angles and may regularly brush off particular behaviors into the column of “everybody does it.”  (And one more thing: check out her album The Thompson Fields.  In a career of stellar releases, it is exceptional, a jaw-droppingly beautiful musical statement.  It’s a masterpiece.  And her Grammy for working on David Bowie’s Blackstar is certainly deserved as well.)

Read Full Post »

Can you already hear it?

Can you already hear it?

In earlier posts, we have immersed ourselves in the work of creating soundscapes for movies, from Sinking into Sound with sound designers to the work of foley artists and voice specialists.  Here are some more great videos from filmmakeriq.com to review these fields: Foley and Sound Effects, ADR and dubbing, or a number of links here for sound design.  And in less than three weeks, we will be hearing what the new (and old) pings, buzzes, crunches, and whooshes and all else of the Star Wars universe sound like in The Force Awakens, directed by J.J. Abrams — with veteran sound masters Gary Rydstrom, Matt Wood, and the legendary Ben Burtt returning to this key franchise in movie sound history.

Read Full Post »

Jeff Beal conducting string ensemble for House of Cards

Jeff Beal conducting House of Cards string ensemble

In earlier posts, mediateacher.net has shared profiles of such classic composers as Henry Mancini and contemporary masters like Cliff Martinez.  One of the most interesting current examples of an extremely successful and acclaimed musician and composer making the transition to scoring music for television and film is Emmy Award winner Jeff Beal.  At the outset of his career, he began forging an identity as one of the most talented young trumpeters in contemporary jazz who could also compose in a wide range of idioms for projects ranging from solo piano to orchestral suites.

Like many musical artists with his range of talents and interests, Beal began composing for motion pictures, and as part of a trend with some of the most acclaimed composers of the past decade or so, his primary source of exposure has been through composing for television.  In series such as Monk, Carnivàle, Ugly Betty, Rome, and The Newsroom, and movies like Blackfish and Appaloosa, he has established himself as one of the most expressive and compelling creators of music for motion pictures.  Most recently, his work on Netflix’s House of Cards has brought him even further into the spotlight.  This recent article on Jeff Beal (and family members) at work on the musical accompaniment to the most recent season of House of Cards is highly informative both for its artistic insights as well as for practical details on the work of contemporary composers, such as how contracting works.

Jeff Beal StudioI also highly recommend Jeff Beal’s recently redesigned personal web site, which includes his own selections of movie sequences that highlight the importance of his work on the outcome of dramatic scenes.  It is no surprise that there are two examples from his lauded score for Ed Harris’s feature Pollock about painter Jackson Pollock.  These clips can be very useful in media literacy, music technology, and video production courses.

Finally, for those with further interest in the work of Jeff Beal as a composer, I highly recommend his albums Alternate Route and Red Shift which both feature large ensembles as well as the more intimate Contemplations.  

2017 Update: Here is an excellent news report featuring an interview with Jeff Beal as he discusses the powerfully autobiographical elements of his recent piece “The Salvage Men” and his work for film and television.

Read Full Post »

stromae tous les memesPerhaps your school year has already wound down or maybe you’re just about there.  Here’s a brief post to share an artist with whom you may already be familiar — and if not, I think you are in for a treat because I believe he is one of the most dynamic multi-media presences of the past few years: Stromae.  He is first and foremost a musical artist, but the place of visual expression in his output is key to his message and to his success, like many performers today.  I recommend these videos because of their extremely high degree of thematic force and visual impact.  There is a total command of motion picture language throughout the work he creates with his collaborators, from the animation of Carmen (by Triplettes de Belleville director Sylvain Chomet) to the art direction of Papaoutai to the cinéma vérité tour-de-force of Formidable (with a song that is profoundly reminiscent of Belgian icon Jacques Brel, who was also a multi-media giant) to Tous les Mêmeswhich brings most of thèse qualities together in its eye-popping, thought-provoking glory.  And like many artists today, Stromae needs to be pretty good at self-deprecation, which is quite apparent in his very funny (for those who understand French) video alongside French comic Jamel demonstrating the mock creation of his first mega-hit Alors on Danse.  And the original video to that one too — Alors on Danse — is stunningly original, particularly alongside standard music videos, rap or otherwise.

Read Full Post »

Pioneer director Alice Guy directing a Chronophone sound film in France

Pioneer director Alice Guy directing a Chronophone sound film in France

Looking for further resources on the invention and development of sound recording?  Here is an excellent half-hour video by John P. Hess on that subject (covering such topics as optical sound and Vitaphone and pioneers like Lee DeForest) by filmmakeriq.com, which is an exceptional resource for film students and developing filmmakers.  For additional info on sound, here are earlier posts on Sound Design, Foley Effects, and the fine art of Dubbing.

Read Full Post »

gunfoleyThere are few things more fun to watch in the filmmaking process than observing a skilled foley artist at work.  As we explore the various elements that make up the tools at the disposal of the sound designer, foley effects can be among the most expressive and vital components of the contemporary sound mix.  The history of this type of sound effect is another enlightening window into the development of communicative techniques in motion pictures, going back to the powerfully inventive sound mixes of the films of director René Clair (such as Le Million, À Nous la Libertéand Under the Rooftops of Paris) and to the source of this title, sound innovator Jack Foley, whose legendary boots and keychain were the hidden secrets of many of the most famous walks in Westerns, and whose work on his final film, Stanley Kubrick’s Spartacus, was transformative.


For a brief introduction to the craft of foley artists, this Los Angeles Times short is excellent.   There are also two revealing portraits available that highlight the work of foley artist Gary Hecker (and his mixer Nerses Gezalyan) – this one that starts with his work on Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood (with sound design by Ann Scibelli) and breaks down the elements of a sound effect mix very well – and an even more inspiring piece produced by the LA Times for their Working Hollywood series, in which Hecker demonstrates exceptional foley work for Hunger Games (with sound design by Lon Bender and the creation of a wolf growl for Twilight: New Moon that is quite jaw-dropping.

I’d like to add thanks to Frank Baker for pointing out the LATimes piece on Gary Hecker during our panel presentation at the NCTE Convention in Boston; it was a perfect complement to the other review materials for Moving Images Chapter 3, Sound and Image, that I have been exploring with my media literacy classes this month.  Along with my earlier post titled Sinking Into Sound, I also recommend this piece for PBSs Art Beat and this documentary on the history of the integration of recorded sound with motion pictures (included on the second DVD of the Jazz Singer set).

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »