13 Mar 2008

music in films

A fellow blogger sent me this link about the sound design in No Country For Old Men - how the sound editor Skip Livesay and the Coen Brothers' regular composer Carter Burwell ended up producing a sound track that had minimal or no music to speak of. The effect is actually quite the opposite - the silences drive the plot. But good sound or music is never appreciated. As Skip Livesay himself puts it:

The better we do our job, the less people realize what’s going on...

Most of Hindi film music is wall to wall music with little time for aural relief. Single instrument pieces or silences do not get the respect they deserve except in a film like Sholay. Last night I was watching A Few Dollars More and it struck me how the main theme music of the hand watch is used cleverly.

The first time you hear it is when the villain Gian Maria Volonte challenges an informer to a gun fight. When the hand watch is opened, the music starts playing and this runs or some time. As soon as the music stops, you are supposed to fire your gun. What the music director does is that first he starts the watch music and then after some time he introduces a louder piece of music that overpowers the watch music. Then you hear the watch music again, this time about to come an end. The effect is that the scene is stretched out and the tension keeps building.

This use of a louder piece of music to drown another piece is rare in the sense that you still are left with the sound of the hand watch at the end of the scene. It draws our attention to the watch since it is important to the story. In the end it builds up to a huge climax where the three main characters are left standing.

Just see this last scene and how the music builds the tension.

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