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tag: science-fiction

I’m Talking About Sound + Film at the Disposable Film Festival

That's April 8 in San Francisco at the Bay Area Video Coalition

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“Eyes are forgiving, ears less so. Eyes want to be seduced. Ears are sensitive to incongruity, discontinuity, artifice. How can sound reinforce narrative? How can sound be narrative? How can sound design serve as score? We’ll explore the past and the technologically enabled promise of film sound.”

That’s the opening of — and abstract for — a talk I’ve been invited to give at the Disposable Film Festival this coming April 8 in San Francisco from 4pm to 5:30pm. The title of the talk is “Sound + Vision: A Master Class with Marc Weidenbaum.” It’ll be at Bay Area Video Coalition, whose address is 2727 Mariposa Street, San Francisco, CA 94110.

I’ll be talking about usefully adventurous examples of creative employment of sound in film and about new technologically mediated opportunities. The audience is likely to include a higher than average percentage of people interested in making films, so I’ll also be outlining a variety of creative prompts to spur original sonic experimentation in the service of narrative.

As examples I’ll be drawing on work I’ve done in music supervision and sound design on the new science fiction film Youth, directed by Brett Marty, and on the documentary The Children Next Door, directed by Doug Block.

You can register to attend the talk here: attendease.com.

The full festival lineup is here: disposablefilm.com.

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This Is the Starship Ambience You’ve Been Looking For

"Another Carefree Day On The Nostromo" by Boson Spin of Brisbane

If the hotel you’re staying in doesn’t have quite the spaceship-quality, hermetic, time-slowing HVAC system you’re accustomed to, you still have the option to augment your sonic reality. In most hyper-developed cities, temporary stay means submitting to climate control so optimized for depersonalization that it serves to emphasize just how much you are a visitor, just how much you are not part of the place you call, for a brief spell, something akin to home. If the building lacks that welcome, saturating drone, you could do worse than to pipe “Another Carefree Day on the Nostromo” by Boson Spin into your capsule. At 20 minutes in length, it is packed with a fearful stasis, a forbidding hollowness that moans with the exhaust of some massive engine whose traveling velocity approaches the speed of light while, in a literally cosmic sense, it is barely moving at all.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/boson_spin, in all its Alien glory. Boson Spin is Stan Magendanz of Brisbane, Australia. More at bosonspin.bandcamp.com.

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Rimbaud Scores Ryman

Music by Scanner for radio science fiction drama about the future of gender

As mentioned here back in early February, upon the death of Denise Duval, the electronic musician Scanner is an especially apt choice for scoring radio dramas. Much of his early electronic music involved lending scores to real-life conversations plucked — well, sampled, really — from the ether. Commissioned scores allow him to apply that experience and those techniques to more formalized narratives. That February entry was about Scanner’s take on the Cocteau play La Voix Humaine, the opera of which starred Duval in its first incarnation. More recently, Scanner provided the score to a BBC Radio 4 story by science fiction author Geoff Ryman. The Ryman story, “No Point Talking,” isn’t currently online (bbc.co.uk), but Scanner (aka Robin Rimbaud) has posted nearly 11 minutes of the score, a cooly atmospheric outing, with plenty of echoing synthesizers, though the main thread is a sequence of what sounds like electric guitar. Around the seven-minute mark, unintelligible voices intrude, passing as if by the window of the studio where Scanner is recording. The voices play an interesting third-party role. They are neither speaking parts from Ryman’s story, nor are they score. They are human presence as score, voices as sound design. And after they fade, the guitar proceeds forward, bending until it comes to resemble another voice of sorts: the call of seagulls.

Here’s the BBC’s description of Ryman’s tale:

Award-winning sci-fi writer Geoff Ryman’s new story for the BBC, imagining a future world where California has been split in two, each half with very different political outlooks.

His conservative hero finds himself in a place he doesn’t like or understand, where everything he holds dear is challenged: relations between men and women, and even the very definitions of ‘he’ and ‘her’.

This story was written as Geoff was investigating the portrayal of gender in utopian science fiction, as part of BBC Radio 4’s Utopia season. That documentary which accompanies ‘No Point Talking’ is called ‘Herland’.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/scanner. More from Scanner, who is based in London, at scannerdot.com.

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A Broker Tour of Clint Mansell’s High-Rise Score

One track in advance of the J.G. Ballard adaptation

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“The night passed noisily, with constant movement through the corridors, the sounds of shouts and breaking glass in the elevator shafts, the blare of music falling across the dark air.” —J.G. Ballard’s High Rise

Among the many promising aspects of the forthcoming wide-screen adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s classic novel High-Rise is that it’s set as a period piece. The film unfolds in the fabulous, wide-collar, garishly colored 1970s, the same era during which the book, a 1975 publication, was released. That is unlike recent filmed versions of, say, Planet of the Apes, or The Fantastic Four, or Jason Statham’s take on one of Richard Stark’s Parker novels, just to list a few examples, all of which original works were endemic to the era in which they were produced, and then yanked into the future when filmed.

With the new High-Rise, there’s no adjusting to today’s surveillance-media reality, no evocation of how 9/11 rewired America’s brain, no consumer-grade Internet, and no smartphones — all of which could easily lend themselves to Ballard’s urban fable of consumer convenience. The book is a characteristically harrowing Ballardian story in which the violence that humans do to each other, this time in a concrete and steel vertical manifestation of class differences, somehow manages to mask an even darker and deeper potential for violence. The more we play dress up, the more the animal in us, the animal that we are, comes alive.

Clint Mansell (Black Swan, Stoker, Requiem for a Dream) has provided the score to the adaptation, directed by Ben Wheatley and starring Tom Hiddleston, and judging by the first public track, “Cine-Camera Cinema,” it may be a willfully anachronistic act of underscoring — or maybe not. (One of the characters, played here by Luke Evans, is a documentary filmmaker, and “cine-camera” is the term in the novel for his equipment.) The piece is deeply subdued, chanting heard behind an enticing scrim of undulating drones. It has none of the symphonic grandeur of 1970s movie scores, nor the swagger of rock music at the time, though what sound like whistling does bring to mind Ennio Morricone’s westerns. Then again, the post of the track on SoundCloud quotes the Hollywood Reporter’s description: “a lustrous retro-classical score.” So, perhaps the music will be as era-specific as Tom Hiddleston’s lapel. Either way, this excellent first taste of Mansell’s work sets expectations high.

Track originally posted at soundcloud.com/silvascreen.

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Miéville’s Ear

"Listen the Birds," from his collection Three Moments of an Explosion

I finished reading the excellent recent collection of China Miéville’s short stories. It’s an ice cream sundae made of climate dread and narrative ellipses. It’s titled Three Moments of an Explosion, and much of the work is new to the book. Among the new pieces is a series of scripts for movie trailers, each one treating the form of a trailer much as Miéville does the form of a short story, as a cloudy mason jar filled with ambiguous portent: You know something’s in there, but you don’t know quite what it is.

“Listen to Birds” is the third and final of those trailer-stories. In it a person identified as P records birds, and his interlocutor, D, prods him on the undertaking. Eventually the act of recording the birds seems to trigger something in the birds. There may be cross-species contagion. Simple technology may itself be reshaping reality, or at least P’s perception of reality. The result, fractured and deliberate, mundane and otherworldly, comes across like a muted tone poem by Shane Carruth or a willfully bad trip from Terrence Davies.

Here’s one snippet:

P in a café, talking to a young woman. We hear the noise around them. P’s words sound distorted. They are not in synch with his lips.

He says, “There’s a problem with playback.”

Here’s another:

P walking down a crowded city street.

Voice-over, P: “There’s a signal and I can’t tell if it’s going out or coming in.”

Unseen by P, one person, then two people behind him raise their heads and open their mouths skyward as if shrieking. They make no sound.

The whole things lasts under a minute and 20 seconds. It’s a little surprising that a search on YouTube doesn’t yet bring up a fan film version of it.

This first appeared, in slightly different form, in the February 17, 2016 (it went out a day late), edition of the free Disquiet “This Week in Sound” email newsletter: tinyletter.com/disquiet.

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