Posted in supplementary material

Footnotes to Episode 19

(Written by Martha S.)

At some point in the episode I remarked that I thought it was interesting that we all picked genre media – what I mean by that is that we all picked media that falls outside of “realistic fiction.” “Genre” books or film is typically a term applied to science fiction, fantasy, horror, anything that has a distinct genre other than literary fiction, drama, comedy, etc. And I think it’s worth noting that music and sound potentially has a larger role to play in these kinds of narratives, because they do more work to indicate the intended tone or mood of a piece of media.

For example: picture the opening sequence of Jaws.

Without the iconic music, it’s a woman swimming in the ocean (until she gets eaten by the shark, obviously). We as the audience don’t know to be anxious about her nighttime swim without the music; that’s what causes our deep-seated dread. The camera work does a lot of heavy lifting, especially once Chrissie Watkins (played by Susan Blacklinie) starts getting yanked under the water and the camera forces us uncomfortably close to her panic. But it’s those iconic musical beats that underscore the danger and sear the scene into our minds.

Keep those beats in mind. Because genre film can also be more easily changed by the musical undercurrent. Remember the scene in Jurassic Park when Grant and Sadler get to see dinosaurs for the first time?

The music is grand, sweeping, majestic. It makes me cry with wonderment, even as an adult woman. Now mute that clip and play it again, with the Jaws theme underneath it instead. Giant dinosaurs, giant shark – it’s not hard to reimagine the scene as a scary one, when we’re not being told aurally that this is a moment of wonder and awe.

 

Posted in classroom connections, episodes

Episode 19: Sound & Music

The homework for the episode:
Pete: Blade Runner, 1982 film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Harrison Ford
Martha: American Horror Story: Asylum, season 2, episode 10, “The Name Game”
Dan: Mulholland Dr., 2001 film directed by David Lynch and starring Naomi Watts

We get technical this week as we examine the ways that sound, music, and silence are used in various forms of visual media. Our guest for the episode is Dan Karlin, of SOOL Radio fame, who joins our discussion as we get into, amongst the other things, diegetic music, creating tone with sound, and how Martha gets anxious when a movie doesn’t have any score at all. It’s no accident that we’re talking about yet another Ryan Murphy joint, or that all of our media happens to be surreal in nature – truly, sound is the thread that weaves a visual story together.

Your podcasters’ credentials:

Pete: 2017 LCD Soundsystem album, American Dream
Martha: “Love Nikki Dress Up Queen” mobile game
Dan: “Always on Time” by Ashanti and Ja Rule

Welcome, Dan!

If we had recorded a mere hour earlier, Martha could have impressed everyone with some super awesome podcast she was listening to on her commute home – instead, you get to hear her try and describe the ridiculously addictive (and just pretty ridiculous) mobile dress-up game, “Love Nikki.” Dan and Pete both share their recent musical adventures, which are on very opposite ends of the sound spectrum while also both managing to be completely rad.

We have fun getting both more technical and more interpretive than ever before, as we struggle to decipher the aural stylings of a David Lynch film (spoiler alert: not even Lynch knew exactly what he was talking about), a cult cyberpunk classic, and a moment of gothic absurdity. Some things we discuss: how music can be used to underscore or indicate tone, utilizing silence and the absence of music (not always the same thing!) as a cinematic device, and how to bring aural literacy (in addition to visual literacy) into the classroom as a teaching tool.

The quote on David Lynch’s relationship to sound design is taken from an interview with John Neff, and can be found here.

On November 8, we will be joined by none other than Pete’s brother Mark to discuss Masks. Here’s your homework:

Pete: Mother Night, novel by Kurt Vonnegut
Martha: Hannibal, episodes 1.01 (“Aperitif”), 1.07 (“Sorbet”), and 1.10 (“Buffet Froid”)
Mark: Enigma, graphic novel by Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo

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