Tags: 1960s, background music, electronic music, film music, music documentaries, popular music, production music, radio, radiophonic, soundtracks, sound effects, stock music |
Categories: TheIM Radio Show
Posted by Laura
4/25/2012 1:16 PM |
I've been mulling over this show for awhile now. How can you hear this and not get hooked? So, in a probably futile attempt to sate this latest obsession, tonight I'll be exploring the BBC Radiophonic Workshop (Daphne Oram, Delia Derbyshire, John Baker), electronic music (musique concréte, elektronische musik), stock music, as well as rock band crossovers and hybrids. And this is only the tip of the iceberg for these topics...
Tune in to CIUT 89.5FM tonight at midnight (EST) to listen to an array of this music, along with the usual diverse sampling. If you're outside the station's terrestrial range, you can stream the show live online, or listen to the podcast on the Playlists page starting sometime tomorrow.
If you like what you hear, be sure to check out future episodes as there will definitely be more exploration in these areas to come.
In the meantime, here are some videos, documentaries, and other goodies about some of tonight's musicians:
BBC documentary Alchemists of Sound (2003) (pt1; look in YouTube sidebar for subsequent parts)
BBC Radio 3 radio documentary on Daphne Oram Wee Also Have Sound-Houses (2008)
The original theme music and title sequence for Dr. Who (1963). Listen to all the Dr. Who theme versions here.
Delia explains how to make sounds.
A good overview of the Worksop's history and individual composer biographies.
Play around in a virtual radiophonic workshop here.
A friend recently asked me to recommend to him some new (to him) music. He'd been trying to find some on his own, but felt he wasn't getting very far with the method he was using. Being almost completely unfamiliar with popular music, he chose as his entry point the soundtrack of Sofia Coppola films. Why her films? I guess because he liked the music he heard in them? And that's all fine and good, but after looking at the track listings, I can see why he hit a bit of a dead end: not a lot of breadth there if you're looking to really branch out into a variety of popular music genres.
While I've got plans for my friend's popular music education, I got thinking about learning about music, or rather getting introduced to new music, through film. Song placement in film, TV, and even advertising is now more common than ever as a way for artists to ramp up and even begin their careers; but looking at that practice from the musician's perspective is something to write about another time.
For today, my friend's auto-didactic attempts got me wondering about finding new music by picking soundtracks you like knowing nothing of the individual tracks' historical context versus finding new music by watching music documentaries (which could include both the sound track or music/artists mentioned in the doc). I've done both myself, but before today I've never compared the two methods – maybe I didn't even see them as two separate methods? So, is one inherently better than the other? Is there even a difference?
Soundtracks: you hear a song in a movie and love it. Maybe it's what made that final scene so powerful, or maybe a string of good tunes is the only thing that kept you watching an otherwise abysmal movie. There's even a chance you got so distracted by the music you lost focus on the movie. Whatever happened, you must now get that soundtrack. And then you do, but how does it go? It's more or less a mix tape that's held together only by your experience of the film. If you have no other context for these pieces, is your subsequent listening to the soundtrack forever informed by your reception of the film? Or are you able to separate the two, even if it takes awhile? If you've discovered an entirely new-to-you artist, how does listening to their music first through a soundtrack affect your reception of the rest of the artist's off-soundtrack work? Do you now associate totally unrelated artists and genres with each other due to their co-existence on a sound track thrown together by whomever? In short, is your perception of music history at the mercy of movie music supervisors (because you know you should never trust them) – and is it potentially completely messed up as a result?
Music Docs: A number of the same things can happen here as with the above, but the obvious difference is that you're ostensibly being informed about some aspect of music – a genre, a band, a national tradition, an instrument. Pieces of music, for the most part, aren't being presented in a context so unrelated to themselves that you're left wondering just what the hell THAT was all about. Instead, you are told – but what are you told? Perhaps stories of artistic inspiration and origins, near-misses and setbacks, musical meaning and development, but almost without fail a music doc will tell you that THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER!!! You might even get told why, and that there's been nothing like it before or since or anywhere else, nor will there ever be again, and that this was THE most influential thing to have ever happened; every song, album, and band to come after owes their very existence to this, and blah blah blah.... Of course, this excessive aggrandising of one component of the musical landscape occurs in many places other than music docs, but it doesn't change my perception that these types of films are often predicated not on critical review, but on grandiosity at all costs -- even the cost of accuracy. In order to accomplish this, there usually has to be a concomitant lack of thorough, in-depth research – preferably, filmmakers just find a bunch of people who really, really like the featured band/genre or had something to do with it, get them to talk about and then say “SEE?! IT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING EVER!”
So, music fan, what does this mean for you when you lust after that soundtrack and/or the music mentioned during a music doc (assuming that it's music that's completely or fairly new to you)? Do you have a distorted sense of the significance of that music? Have you unwittingly swallowed and thus will perpetuate an incorrect history of a genre/band? Will you possibly skip over other bands due to their absence from or negative portrayal in a doc? Do you get caught up in the fanatic, uncritical, and celebratory spirit present in most music docs and initially “love” the music more than you would if you “just” heard it on the radio? And has this ever led to a serious re-evaluation of your initial opinion once you've had a listen in the cold air of your living room?
Of course, there's probably no way to discover new music in a semiotic vacuum free from the baggage attached to it by others or your own biases and experiences. And not all, or maybe even any, of the pitfalls that could happen with finding new music through films will happen, but....man, there are a lot of terrible music docs out there.