Slooterdam Nation

This is the web log of Mike Christianson- musician, who lives in an area near NYC that was once referred to (by the Dutch, no surprise) as "Slooterdam".

Monday, March 06, 2006

Music As A Weapon

I did stay home to watch the Oscars last night, being a John Stewart fan. I immediately noticed that, this year, at the VERY SECOND the award recipient got to the mic, the orchestra started a very soft ballad. At first I thought it was residual sound from some other source (an unusually well-orchestrated cell phone? inside my failing brain?). But when Tom Hanks came out to "help demonstrate this year's new tactic for shortening speeches", my initial suspicion was confirmed: They were using music to frighten people into shutting up! (for those of you who missed it, the Hanks bit had him start to blab too long, causing a 10-member mobile tactical orchestral strike force to ascend from the pit and surroung Hanks, threatening him. The climax was when Hanks was literally smashed over the head with, Stewart later pointed out, a viola. (I did enjoy Stewart's acknowleding of the live orchestra. He pointed out that they had been "down there" for two weeks, offered them a candy bar and surmised that they "must have eaten the 3rd trombone player" out of desperation!)

This brought to mind a recent news item in our own Bergen Record. It said that yet another town (in the US somewhere) was going to try piping Mozart and Beethoven into their city park to try to stop the drug dealing going on there. The article stated that this method had been used before by numerous towns with, it was implied, some success. Hmmmm...

This caused thought about the nominees for Best Original Score, a medley of which Itzhak Perlman was made to play. Mr. Perlman is capable of making the phone book sound like music and he nearly did the same for this medley of droning background fluff. When heard in comparison with what they allowed the orchestra to play behind the montage of great, sweeping epics (Copland, with actual tension, swells, crashes, melody, etc that made the segment MOVE!) it made me think that Hollywood, too, must view much of art music as a dangerous weapon. The "Best Original Score" was, even among unremarkable contenders, hands-down the most banal and cloying. I guess what I mean is that it seems as if soundtrack composers of Hollywood movies (and I suspect, others as well) are not encouraged to write music that actually registers on screen the way any other element of the production does.

So, in the interest of trying not to sound like an old crackpot, here are some exceptions: "Koyaanisqatsi/Powaqqatsi", "The Red Pony", "The Red Violin", "Amadeus", "Anatomy of a Murder" (where the sizzling soundtrack probably overwhelms the movie), "The Manchurian Candidate"(original), "Good Night and Good Luck", "The Man Who Knew Too Much"(original), "Romance With A DoubleBass".

Enjoy! Other candidates?


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