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Hulu Summer Film School Week 4: Soundtrack, Score, and Sound Design

August 8th, 2014 by Kelly Lin

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Dear Students,
It’s hard to believe but we’re already halfway through the Hulu Summer Film School semester. This week, we’re exploring the role of the Soundtrack, Score, and Sound Design in the development of the film.
The job of the composer, music supervisor, or foley artist is to use sound to breathe life into the story. Through tinkering with the sounds of the film, they can make the hairs on our neck stand up at the surprise arrival of a villain or our hearts swell over a first kiss. When these auditory artists are able to pair the right song with the right scene, it’s a moment of pure movie magic.
Enjoy the following selections and if you have any suggestions on specific content you’d love to see us feature, shoot us a comment below. Happy Learning!
— The Hulu Summer Film School team

Required Viewing:

1) A Hard Day’s Night

Setting the Score with Source by Jonathan Katz (an analysis of the use of sound in A Hard Day’s Night)

2) Black Orpheus

Composers: Antônio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfá
Recently featured in the music video for Arcade Fire’s “Afterlife,” Marcel Camus’ Black Orpheus celebrates the carnaval atmosphere of Brazil and radiates energy and visual spectacle through every frame. Composers Antonio Carlos Jobim and Luiz Bonfa score this Grecian tragedy with the music of their homeland, inspiring a generation of music lovers across the world to fall in love with the infectious beats and rhythmic guitar stylings of the bossa nova genre. Of special note is the movie’s closing scene in which a young boy serenades the rising sun with Orpheus’ signature tune “Samba de Orfeu” while a little girl dances beside him. By revisiting this song in the final scene, the composers encourage a nostalgia towards the start of the movie and create one of the purest exclamations on the cycle of life in cinematic history.
Extra Credit: Watch Black Orpheus and That Bossa Nova Soundan 18 minute feature from the Criterion Collection exploring the history of bossa nova and the film’s influence on the genre.

3) M

Sound Designer/Director: Fritz Lang
Released at the dawn of film’s conversion from silent to sound, Fritz Lang’s M is a master class on using sound to reflect a character’s internal state. In this case the character whose mind we’re entering is Hans Beckert, a child killer who whistles “In the Hall of the Mountain King” whenever he’s hunting for his next victim. In one memorable scene, the sounds of a bustling city street encompass the soundscape as Beckert prowls the neighborhood. Suddenly all goes silent as our villain notices a child from the reflection of the shop window and is overcome with desire. It’s as if the sight of prey has caused his whole world to come to a standstill. When the child begins to wander off, the sound is abruptly un-muted and we are sonically tossed back into the honking horns and footsteps of the city. Although M is a sound film, it’s these pockets of silence in which it draws its strength.

4) Eraserhead 

Location Sound and Re-Recording: Alan R. Splet
Sound Editing: Alan R. Splet
Sound Effects: David Lynch and Alan R. Splet
Lady in the Radiator Song Composed and Sung by: Peter Ivers
David Lynch’s obsessive attentiveness to sound is apparent in all of his work, and that’s especially true of his debut feature film, Eraserhead. To Lynch, a film’s sounds are as important as its images. Sounds include everything from music to diegetic noises to surreal embellishments and canvases of abstract soundscapes. Eraserhead’s sounds paint a portrait of its vaguely dystopic world. Henry’s jaunts across a barren exterior landscape are supplemented by wind and groans that suggest an alien industrial wasteland. As Henry unravels psychologically, Lynch’s sound design builds to an unsettling crescendo, a technique often used in subsequent films (see: Laura Palmer’s descent in Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me or the final sequence of Mulholland Drive). Eraserhead also introduces the seamless integration of song with narrative as a psychologically-illuminating device. When the Lady in the Radiator sings “In Heaven,” it’s a great, cathartic musical number whose strange beauty seems to bridge the surreal visuals of the film with its very real emotional states.

Supplemental Viewing:

5) Waste Land 

Composer: Moby

6) Gimme Shelter 

Composers: The Rolling Stones

7) The Pianist 

Composer: Wojciech Kilar

8) The Coal Miner’s Daughter 

Composer: Loretta Lynn

Extracurricular Links:

1) The Soundworks Collection – This video series profiles the composers and foley artists behind some of Hollywood’s most popular hits. Be sure to watch the episodes about The Sound of Wall-E and the spotlight on Gary Hecker, foley artist behind iconic films such as the Star Wars and Spiderman trilogy.

2) How to Compose a Killer Film Score by Michael Giacchino – The composer behind beloved features such as Up, Star Trek, and Lost walks us through his filmmography and explains his creative choices and where he finds inspiration for his scores.

3) How Wes Anderson Soundtracks his Movies – Wes Anderson’s music supervisor Randall Poster talks about working with Wes and his process selecting and licensing songs.

Visit the Hulu Summer Film School page to view A Hard Day’s Night and learn more about Lighting and Color Theory. 

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