Sunday, January 31, 2010

Chapter 2 Examples

Here's a list of the examples I used in class to illustrate chapter 2. I have two meetings a week, each for 75 minutes.

  • Big Sleep—The introduction of Casino scene to illustrate footsteps. They increase in volume and then decrease as Bogart moves by camera. Crickets start out loud and decrease in volume, while the music from the casino starts out soft and increases in volume.

  • The Matrix—beginning of the Lobby Shootout sequence. I played this up through the very beginning of shootout, so students can hear and comment on the change of music. Initially, a recurring metallic clank is synchronized with Neo's footdrops. As the sequence progresses, the clank is treated as music, and it begins to drift out of synchronization. In addition, a more naturalistic sounding footstep can be heard under the clank.

  • Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse—The titles and opening sequence offer a good example of sound effects being treated musically, with an incessant, triple meter machine sound being used much like a silent film sound track. The titles open with highly dissonant music that prepare the machine noise for the sequence proper. The music is carried over into the scene briefly, where the machine noise seems to pick up the rhythm of the music. (This example is also discussed in chapter 3, pp. 67-68.)

  • Shall We Dance—"Slap That Bass" begins with the metrical sound of the ship's engines, which the black engine room crew interprets musically, much to the amusement of Pete Peters aka Petrov (Fred Astaire), who soon joins in. Part of Astaire's extended solo dance sequence involves him tapping in counterpoint to various engine sounds. The opening of Love Me Tonight, which is a beautiful sequence of city sounds that come together as an extended prelude to "That's the Song of Paree," and the prison camp sequence from Captain Blood are two other excellent examples that explore the relationship of rhythm, meter, sound and music. (The sequences from Shall We Dance and Love Me Tonight are also discussed in chapter 3, p. 67.)

  • Das Boot—The submarine crew attempts to evade a destroyer that is in pursuit. This sequence is good for illustrating the use of the crescendo on the sound track to build suspense. The destroyer passes over numerous times dropping depth charge, and each time we can hear the ship get gradually closer, generally culminating in the detonation of the depth charges.

  • There's Something About Mary—I used the transition to the first date to illustrate the fade in and fade out. In both cases the fade is somewhat awkward, which is pedagogically useful because the relative clumsiness makes it easy for the students to recognize.

  • Sleepless in Seattle—The introduction to the first botched meeting (discussed in chapter 1), where Annie talks to Becky on the phone, makes prominent use of a filter to give Becky's voice the impression of coming over the phone. For specifically musical timbre, I contrasted the difference between the sound of the solo trumpet (NB: it may actually be a bugle) in the opening of Glory to that of the orchestral trumpet section in theme to Star Wars.
Those examples, along with lectures on the various associated topics, took up the first meeting of the week.
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The second meeting was devoted primarily to texture, with time reserved at the end of class for showing the two scene analyses (White, the Shooting; Atonement, Main Title and first sequence). After a quick review of the material from the first meeting of the week, I introduced and defined the various textures. I then showed the following clips as examples:
  • Catch Me If You Can—I find the main title sequence to be an excellent example for illustrating all of the textures. It has extended passages using each texture except a-melodic.

  • Patton—The opening speech shows speech used as monophony. Once Patton starts speaking, we hear no other sound, particularly no sound from the crowd, which had been reasonably prominent before Patton appeared. As a second example, I used the telephone conversation from Bleu discussed in the text.

  • Star Wars: A New Hope IV—The opening sequence features a barrage of sound effects placed in sharp counterpoint to the music. I selected the initial portion of the boarding through Leia giving the plans to R2D2. In the first part the sound effects dominant, often completely drowning out the music, particularly in the 2-channel stereo mix that is available in my class room. The second part of the sequence (with Leia and R2), by contrast, foregrounds the music, with sound effects more distant. In addition, I also used the example of the overlapping dialogue by Radar and Colonel Blake from M*A*S*H and the opening prologue from Fellowship of the Ring, with Galadriel's overlapping Elvish and English, against the backdrop of the score.

  • The example from Fellowship of the Ring also served as an effective introduction to the Melody and Accompaniment texture, as it shows how even thematically rich music can serve the function of accompaniment to the voice at the level of the sound track as a whole. I used the title sequence from The Magnificent Seven as a musical example of melody and accompaniment. Pretty much any broad theme could serve just as well. The opening sequence of Rashômon, discussed in the text, is particularly good for showing that a melody and accompaniment texture does not require the presence of music at all. Here rain serves as the accompaniment to the dialogue.

  • For a-melodic texture, I used the prison camp scene from Captain Blood, which I had also used to illustrate the rhythm of the machine earlier in the week, the opening sequence from Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes, and the beginning of the New York City sequence from Brigadoon, the latter two of which are discussed in the text.