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Listening to art. Playing with audio. Sounding out technology. Composing in code. Rewinding the soundscape.

The Score Before the Film (MP3)

To listen to a score to a film before one witnesses the film for which it was composed is to experience a kind of unintentional program music. It’s to listen to music that follows a story but that doesn’t express it verbally or visually — that is, it is to hear music that relates to a story, but that doesn’t relate the story.

If you have a favorite film-music composer, this can be a great way to experience a new film: listen to Cliff Martinez’s scores before going to the recently released Drive or Contagion, for example, and the music will be just that much more present during the viewing. It won’t be so present as to overwhelm the film, but it will bring the sonic elements more into focus, not just the elements within the score, but the sometimes enticingly ambiguous places where the score ends and the rest of the film’s sound environment begins.

In the case of Sun Hammer‘s score to the short film Forgiveness, by director David Meiklejohn, which the composer just posted for free (actually pay-what-you-want, so do feel free to pay something) at bandcamp.com, it means an opportunity to experience a greater-than-usual distance between score and film. This is because the film is a small production, and its imagery doesn’t precede it, in contrast with the massive promotional campaigns that serve Hollywood films as advance scouts into the consciousness of future viewers. Forgiveness is reportedly a tale of revenge. According to its production company, at damnationland.com, the story goes as follows: “A vengeful spy survives an assasination attempt and takes revenge on the man that tried to kill her.” It certainly sounds like a taut thriller, and the score matches the bare logline with a spartan approach: wells of sound, percussive anticipation, stretches of static-laden noise. It never has the music-by-the-yard pulsing of standard thriller scores, and stretches at times into a psychedelic realm that raises one’s expectations for the film. The various cues are separated by momentary pauses across one single track, breaking the program music into an enjoyably sequential experience.

Track originally posted at sunhammer.bandcamp.com. More on Sun Hammer, aka Virginia-based Jay Bodley, at twitter.com/sunhammer and soundcloud.com/sunhammer. (Music found via twitter.com/falsereactions.)

By Marc Weidenbaum

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  • about

  • Marc Weidenbaum founded the website Disquiet.com in 1996 at the intersection of sound, art, and technology, and since 2012 has moderated the Disquiet Junto, an active online community of weekly music/sonic projects. He has written for Nature, Boing Boing, The Wire, Pitchfork, and NewMusicBox, among other periodicals. He is the author of the 33 1⁄3 book on Aphex Twin’s classic album Selected Ambient Works Volume II. Read more about his sonic consultancy, teaching, sound art, and work in film, comics, and other media

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