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October 2013

The Sound Design of Star Wars

To say the original Star Wars (that is, Episode IV: A New Hope) is iconic is to say that the sky is blue.  But as a kid swept up by its bold newness, two things always really captivated me most: the stellar (ha!) soundtrack by John Williams and the vivid sound world created by legendary sound designer Ben Burtt.

FilmSound, a site "dedicated the art of film sound design and film sound theory," features this great page on Burtt's work in the original film. Check it out.

(Seriously, have you never wondered how, exactly, that great blaster sound was made in 1977? Or that TIE Fighter screech?)

Visualizing music: animations can help us hear better

I love the current trend of music animations.  We posted the superlative Rite of Spring animation below, but this simple one I especially love, because it not only helps the aural patterns make more sense (we are visually dominant in our perceptions, after all), but reveals a little bit of the actual compositional process, too.

Anyone who has studied tonal counterpoint knows that the all-time undisputed master craftsman is J. S. Bach, and The Musical Offering (BWV 1079) is a pretty clear example why.  Here its most essential idea is presented in way that helps one hear and understand the nature of a so-called 'crab canon':

Now here is the music in context--try and notice if the little animation above helped you better hear the process Bach is putting the thematic material through:

Canon 1 a2 (Canon Cancricans)

(played by the superb Ensemble Sonnerie)

Pretty neat, right?  A few more interesting animations below the break:


Continue reading "Visualizing music: animations can help us hear better" »

Postcard pieces

The London Sinfonietta had a composition contest recently, except that each piece had to fit on the back of a postcard.  Seriously.  And the results are are fantastic.  From their blog:

On Sunday, 15 September, the London Sinfonietta will be performing a selection of composer James Tenney’s Postal Pieces as part of Kings Place Festival.

Inspired by Tenney’s innovative work, we held an open call asking for compositions written on the back of a postcard and the response was phenomenal. A total of 355 RSVP compositions from 170 composers were sent in from 20 countries on 5 continents.
Also be sure to check out the brochure for their new season.  So much good programming and terrific, innovative presentation modes.  "This is not a museum" indeed.