Bumps and Segues



DIY Music

artsmith's picture

I don't think most people are aware of the possibilities of DIY music, as opposed to all the woes of copyright and the restrictions of 'Copyright Free'. At the age of six, my parents lined me up for two hours or more of violin lessons, once a week with a relative who was also a music teacher. Needless to say, I loathed it, every minute of it, and wished to be out-of-doors playing, as other 'normal' kids were allowed to do. The payback came years later. I developed into a passable violinist, but by High School leaving age, I had developed a lifetime 'affair' with the musical classics, especially the 'Romantic' and early 20th century composers. What you need to succeed in writing your own music, is not a University Degree, (although in some instances it may help), but a critical ear for what is going-on within the music classics, how threads come into-being, 'do their stuff' and then fade away, and especially how mood is enhanced by using the right notes, in the right combinations and at the right times. It's a biggish 'ask', as are also the other pre-requisites for writing-your-own, eg patience and persistence. I am currently, right-now scoring music for a documentary feature spanning 18 minutes, which includes a sequence where a sealion is seen to capture a large fish (I think a Pacific salmon), not far from my camera position, but finds that it cannot eat it in one piece, (hardly surprising, in view of the fact that my estimate of its weight would have been in excess of twenty pounds). I have condensed an hour of 'action' into eight minutes of screen-time, and there's never a dull moment as the salmon thrashes the fish around on the ocean's surface in its endeavours to break it into bite-size chunks, all the time, having to retrieve the fish after it has been allowed to sink, and fighting-off the inevitable gulls.


Another sequence, which will involve 'to-the-frame' cutting of similar action, is a series of skirmishes between young male sealions of a group of about eight on a local beach during the mating season, when so many 'mock' battles, (for a start), are in imminent danger of becoming the 'real-thing'. Generally, tightly edited action, calls for tightly edited music, but in confused situations, music which continuously surprises because of discontinuity of broken rythms, etc. is frequently more effective than 'playing a tune', which is easy. Although it is tempting to edit the visual content into a 'match' for bars of music, that is the way to make your content repetitive, and very quickly boring. Editing the visuals according to context, instead of sacrificing the content to a 'beat', is very necessary, otherwise the tail wags the dog, in that the music becomes predominant, instead of the content of the story you are attempting to tell. And, if on the showing of your masterpiece, feet begin to tap in the audience.......... you've failed on all counts.


Ian Smith Dunedin - New Zealand.