Thinking about the aesthetics of music and sound in relation to visual narratives, I focus on what sort of experience I want the listener to have. I’m interested when music, sound and visuals become so altered and blurred from the form of its own reality, but at the same time draws us closer to the very core of it. When music and sound is composed and presented in a way that is unfamiliar to our everyday life, yet at the same time reflects the very same experience. From this a deeper consciousness of a story can be unearthed and the psyche of a narrative conjured out. This then creates a new perspective looking into the narratives presentation, and most importantly to the director’s vision. Thinking about the musical experience and treating music and sound as one orchestration and one sonic entity, we can use the infinite combinations to access the atmosphere, emotion and history of the narrative, fusing the sonic experience in a symbiosis with the visuals.
Researching and having broader conversations with the artist/director about the types of music, sound and recordings being used early on in the process is a way to align the narrative’s intentions with the sonic experience . For example, field recordings and samples are like sonic relics that can emotionally connect a listener to a different space and time. The combination of these with original composition, allows you to reimagine these relics in a new light, conveying a new perspective with new moods. Shifting the focus away from its origination, but at the same time transmitting the essence of the recording in a new sonic world which fosters an intentional ambiguity and allows a listener to be drawn further into the experience. The same way a piece of art installed in a new space can transform its experience, reimagining music and sound in new contexts transforms it sonically. There is interest when things feel off centre and unpredictable, for example the piece made for Kahlil Joseph’s ‘Fly Paper’ installation:
When music and sound is imperfect and fragmented, with sonic artefacts lingering in, it can hold a closer truth. A lazily performed piano piece recorded on an iPhone contextually says as much as any Debussy piece performed in concert when put up onto picture. Being conscious of these decisions and possibilities allows for a richer and more meaningful soundtrack, and when to use that concert performance and when an iPhone recording will actually work best.
The aesthetic of music and sound is about experience, whether we enjoy it consciously or unconsciously, the anatomy of harmony and timbre is what draws you deeper to that experience, and understanding the possibilities of the sonic world allows you to control that experience, and within film, extract an emotional response from the audience. When music is set to a visual, it is almost every time the aspect of the experience that defines the spirit of what we are seeing. To gain a better sense of all of this, and to make better choices, my approach to music and sound is always rooted in research, for example this recent project with Grace Wales Bonner:
The respect and research towards a subject and the broader conversations with the artist or director leading a project, creates parameters that centre the work, focussing the conversations towards an authentic sonic ecosystem.