MD5317: Music for Moving Image Critical Evaluation

Commercial Project Brief: ‘Restrict’

I chose to work on the soundtrack for the film ‘Restrict’ as I felt there was a lot of room to be creative with found sounds and unconventional methods of composing music. Before starting my composition, I watched through the film, noting down considerable moments and stimulus using a storyboard. This helped me visualise where the areas of light and shade were going to be within my composition.

For the first chunk of the composition (00:00 – 04:21) I wanted there to be layers of manipulated vocal sounds and instruments with a lot of reverb to represent the dark environment the girl found herself in. This would then contrast with the dryer sounds in the bathroom scene (04:21 – 07:22) to reflect the shift in environment, back into reality.

I started the composition with a stream of white noise which would lay underneath the other instrumentation up until 04:21 and the shift in environment. This was to create an underlying tension and for moments of space in the composition, there was still a quiet sound running through which helped the various instrumentation work more coherently.

Electric piano and cello were the two instruments I chose to create a motif for the film. I wanted this motif to have a minor feel as naturally we equate minor sounds with more emotion and sadness. One piece of music that inspired the theme of my composition and utilises similar instrumentation to build suspense is in Our Girl (Wheeler, 2017).

The vibrato of the low cello sound also helped achieve a build in tension and I added reverb and a tremolo effect onto the electric piano to create an unnerving, quivering sound. This was to appear at the beginning of the composition and then appear again towards the end as the girl was about to take her life to create a strong narrative to the composition.

Throughout the composition I used various techniques to create the Foley, for example, using the voice recorder on my phone to create a crying sound and recording myself dropping pebbles on the floor to recreate the sound of the pills in the bathroom. As we received the film with no audio and therefore no diegetic sound, I felt these Foley sounds would be some of the most important elements to elevate the composition into being more impactful, effective and real.

To replicate the sound of a heartbeat throughout the piece, I used various bass sounds such as a kick drum and pitched down vocal synth sample. I didn’t want it to exactly replicate the girl’s heartbeat, but I wanted to add a more human element into the piece.

Within the film there were areas of transition which were important to mark with significant sounds or changes in the music to build excitement and tension and to resemble the movement of the visual. For example, I used some warped vocal synth samples to portray the movement of the light in the dark room. I also wanted to emphasise the dramatic shift in the film when another character appears (02:51) using a high pitched ‘horror’ sound similar to the famous Psycho shower scene sound (1).

If I had more time to work on this composition, I would have utilised live recording more for achieving some eerie layered vocal harmonies to make a more continuous sound from 01:19 to 04:22. I would also take more time over the Foley sounds, experimenting more with found sounds and making sure they were more in sync with the visual.

 

Audio Visual Composition: ‘Alone’

The main inspiration for my audio visual composition, was the concept of loneliness. I wanted to explore and contrast the differences of enjoying times of solitude, with the depressing feeling of being lonely.

When creating the video for this brief, I was inspired by the documentaries and short fundraising films large charities release in order to fundraise and gain attention for their cause. The instrumentation is mostly very simple, following repetitive sad melodies (2) and any empathy or sadness created by the visual is only emphasised further by the use of certain instrumentation. I knew this was going to be a simple piece of music, where silence would be utilised.

I chose the tempo of 94bmp in response to the slow moving visuals in my video. I started the piece by playing some piano with light reverb on and soon decided this was going to be the only instrument. I felt this was quite a bold move, but intrigues the audience into paying more attention to the visuals.

I wanted my music to naturally respond to the visual so I recorded a few takes of me improvising along to the visual without planning. I felt this was more successful than meticulously planning and overcomplicating things as it meant I was putting more emotion into what I was playing.

Inspired by Einaudi’s ‘Nuvole Bianche’ (3), to start my piece, on the left hand I alternated between simple chords F and C, whilst on the right hand, I created a repetitive melody from just three notes, C, G and F.  As I progressed further, I used chords such as Fmaj9 and Fmaj13 as a basis for my improvisation to elaborate on the initial melody and provoke a deeper sadness through some of the higher notes.

For the last 8 bars, I used the Am (left hand) to start a descending chord progression which would end on the F chord and purposefully not resolve back to the key root chord (C) to leave the audience in a place of reflection.

I also wanted to use varying octaves for different sections of the composition. I naturally started the piece using the higher octaves of the piano and as the piece progressed, I added more depth and strength to the piece by using some of the lower octaves in the left hand. I stopped using the lower octaves when I got to the ending of the piece where I used the same range of the piano I had at the beginning to bring continuity and prepare the audience for the end of the film.

I had thought about writing a spoken word to compliment the piano, however, my main focus was to let the visuals speak for themselves and leave a sense of mystery for the audience so they could interpret the short film in whatever way they wanted.

I would definitely record the piano live if I had more time, to achieve a much stronger, fuller sound, especially as it’s the only instrument in the composition.

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