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> Respecting The Silence, When Music is Unwelcome
Ben Higgins
post Nov 5 2014, 10:32 AM
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I nearly called this post 'Enjoy the Silence' but then thought people would assume it's about Depeche Mode. But no, it's not about the synth pop band but about times where music is not needed. 'Are there such times ?' I hear you ask. Surely not, what blasphemy !

What made me think about this is Hollywood movies. Some of you may already know where I'm going with this.

Think of the last time you overheard somebody else watching a typical modern Hollywood movie. The reason I say 'overheard' is because it's much more noticeable when you're not watching it yourself. Now, I'll tell you my main observation:

To me, it's like listening to a recording of Last Night of the Proms. (To non UK residents, that is a televised orchestral performance. Full of pomp, drama and OTT all the way.) In short, it's like listening to somebody watching a Disney movie. Lots of whooping and piercing reed instruments and shrieking brass underpinning some sort of action sequence. But even during the moments of inaction it's still there. Brooding cellos and violins to fill every other space.

Why does it never end ? It's not a musical so why can we not be spared from the orchestral onslaught of Hollywood ? Hanz Zimmer is a genius but I don't need farting brass sections to tell me that Batman is fighting for his life against Bane. I don't blame the composers, I blame... well, whoever is to blame.

Now let's cast our minds back to gritty action films of the early 70's. Dirty Harry, Get Carter etc... you know the type. Yes they did have music (some dodgy jazz during some chase sequences) but they also had a lot of silence. In some of the older films you'd have a chase sequence and all you could hear was the ragged breathing of the guys on screen. This is how it would be. 2 people locked into a desperate race for survival, their lungs burning, the blood pounding in their head. There wouldn't be a travelling ensemble following them around, whacking out some dramatic symphony in the back of a truck. Less is more, right ? The car chase in Bullit ? The only music needed was the V8 in the Mustang. Try doing that today, Hollywood wouldn't allow it. "Uuuuh, I know the Ferrari 458 has one of the best European V8 sounds around but we still need some strings in there..."

There's enough music in the real sounds of human interaction and the ambient noises of life to tell a story so why spoil it by chucking a Disney level soundtrack over what is supposed to be a serious film ?

So what am I getting at ultimately ? Well, I guess I'm saying that there are times when music enhances and lifts things up but there are also times when it actually detracts from a situation.

This can be applied to guitar playing and composing in general. Know when to fill a space and know when to leave it empty. How do you know ? You don't.. you just do what you think is right and if it feels right, it probably is.


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klasaine
post Nov 5 2014, 03:21 PM
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In 1944 Alfred Hitchcock made a movie called 'Lifeboat'.
Originally he didn't want any background music during the bulk of the plot (folks at sea in a lifeboat). One of the prospective music composers for the film (David Raksin) asked him, "why no music?". Alfred answered, "they're at sea adrift in a lifeboat, no scenery other than water. It needs to be very desolate and besides, where's the orchestra?" Raksin answers, "where's the camera?". Alas, the the film has plenty of music while they're in the boat (though not scored by Raksin).

I would agree that these days there seems to be the need for music ALL THE TIME in films.
The producers are to blame. They think that the audience does in fact need the constant, added stimulus.

On the other hand check out how lame this sequence is sans the music. The soundtrack cuts out at 0:14 ...



This post has been edited by klasaine: Nov 5 2014, 03:23 PM


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Mudbone
post Nov 6 2014, 06:13 AM
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This is an observant post, Ben. The placement of silence in any piece is critical. It's special because it draws you in, and subconsciously forces you to pay attention. It probably has something to do with the way we have evolved as a species.

Think of this scenario. You're in a noisy environment, be it a factory or a nightclub, and all of a sudden your environment is overcome with silence. Without a thought, your ears perk up, and your eyes dart around - you have immediately become aware of your surroundings. The slightest creak will draw your attention. Your level of consciousness has been raised. Any event that follows the silence will draw your immediate attention.

Think of when you're next to two people talking at a normal volume. Unless you're a nosy Nancy, their conversation will be nothing more than background noise. They'll blabber on at an average volume, and you won't even distract your attention from what you're doing. But then their conversation takes a different tone, and they begin to whisper. You now stop what you're doing, and your ears perk up - your attention has been hijacked.

The same is true with music. A song that hammers on without reprieve will either blend into the background or just irritate you. This is a critical difference I have noticed between bands that make it really big, and bands that just dwell in the shadows. Many small time bands I see at shows (mostly metal) don't have any clue what dynamics are. They just pound away, full throttle, and blast through the intro/verse/chorus. Many are very technically proficient. However, all that is lost, because we as humans do not have the capacity to follow that pace of notes for extended periods of time.

I think one of the most important aspects of silence is anticipation. Whenever our environment is struck with silence, we dwell in a state on anticipation. We sit at the edge of our seat, and yearn for the next event. Resolution is a must.




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Ben Higgins
post Nov 6 2014, 11:32 AM
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QUOTE (klasaine @ Nov 5 2014, 03:21 PM) *
On the other hand check out how lame this sequence is sans the music. The soundtrack cuts out at 0:14 ...



Haha, that's an interesting contrast. Goes to show how out of place laughing would be in an official ceremony without background music.

QUOTE (Mudbone @ Nov 6 2014, 06:13 AM) *
This is an observant post, Ben. The placement of silence in any piece is critical. It's special because it draws you in, and subconsciously forces you to pay attention. It probably has something to do with the way we have evolved as a species.

Think of this scenario. You're in a noisy environment, be it a factory or a nightclub, and all of a sudden your environment is overcome with silence. Without a thought, your ears perk up, and your eyes dart around - you have immediately become aware of your surroundings. The slightest creak will draw your attention. Your level of consciousness has been raised. Any event that follows the silence will draw your immediate attention.

Think of when you're next to two people talking at a normal volume. Unless you're a nosy Nancy, their conversation will be nothing more than background noise. They'll blabber on at an average volume, and you won't even distract your attention from what you're doing. But then their conversation takes a different tone, and they begin to whisper. You now stop what you're doing, and your ears perk up - your attention has been hijacked.

The same is true with music. A song that hammers on without reprieve will either blend into the background or just irritate you. This is a critical difference I have noticed between bands that make it really big, and bands that just dwell in the shadows. Many small time bands I see at shows (mostly metal) don't have any clue what dynamics are. They just pound away, full throttle, and blast through the intro/verse/chorus. Many are very technically proficient. However, all that is lost, because we as humans do not have the capacity to follow that pace of notes for extended periods of time.

I think one of the most important aspects of silence is anticipation. Whenever our environment is struck with silence, we dwell in a state on anticipation. We sit at the edge of our seat, and yearn for the next event. Resolution is a must.


You nailed it, man. You've reminded me of something that Derren Brown said once... during live shows he'd hate it if he thought the audience was getting bored and he could hear people coughing or see them nodding off. So he started deliberately lowering his voice, forcing people to pay attention. It worked.

You're totally right. Constant battering with no let up is just going to dull the senses and lose interest.


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