Michael B's Response to Tarkovsky

Michael Berger's Response to "Music and Noise" from "Tarkovsky" by Andrei Tarkovsky.

I really dug reading this gentleman's thoughts about music and cinema; I would like to read the rest of the book as soon as I work my way down through my ever-growing book-pile. 

He made two or so very interesting points:

1) That music is (or should not be) merely "an appendage to the visual image. It must be an essential element of the realisation of the concept as a while." This is in stark contrast to the common useage for music in early silent films where a score (on a piano) would accompany the images in order to highten the narrative through doubling of the material only.

2) Concerning a paradox between acoustically and electronically produced music and sounds: that with the former the audience is automatically placed at an abstract-distance from the material of the media (visual + sonic + time) but that the sounds themselve "fit" more readily into the texture of things because of their real-world origin than did electronically produced sounds, but that the latter was more immediately able to bring the observer into a closer, more direct vantage to the material by way of this same unnaturalness.  The risk with electronic music is higher than with acoustic music of breaking this immersion depending how subtle the music is able to be.  This seems to depend on the observers' ability to identify/notice the music as a separate entity.  Electronically produced music has greater potential to hide its origins, with its very otherworldliness.  At the time of the book's publishing in 1987 electronic sounds had not yet developed much passed the rough corniness that was endemic of the 1980's pop synthesizer (i.e. they were still by and large "electronic sounding"), and Tarkovsky felt that acoustically produced music's history of autonomy betrayed its ability to work well with visuals in cinema.  This may be even more the case in the present day where electronic sounds are of increasingly high quality such that it may be increasingly difficult to immediately identify their origin to the average observer.  Though it may also be said that in the present, electronic music has more of its own autonamous history to contend with.  Fun to think about.

3) An offshoot of the above point, Tarkovsky comments that he does not "believe films need music at all," and carefully adds that, "music has always had a rightful place in [his] films, it is important and precious."  This is an interesting thing to say, and I see his point very clearly.  He would rather deal only with sounds (higher on the umbrella of meaning and so therefore potentially including "music").  He illustrates this with a scene from a movie where a body is discovered washed up along a creek and the only sound one is able to hear is that of the creek itself, above the other environmental sounds, above even the dialog of the characters in the scene.  This is his ideal use of sound with visuals.  I have to say I agree... to limit oneself's sound to only "music" as an abstract sonic construct in the circumstance of collaboration with visual time art, is just plain mad.

4) there is no number four.

He does not however deal with the prime matter of both music and cinema, time; at least not in this chapter.  This is of too great importance for him not to have considered here.  I hope that he has written about it elsewhere.

Comments

Thoughts

I agree with your comment that film composers should not limit themselves only to music when scoring a film. I am reminded of your example of the scene in "The Dark Knight" using the microtonal buzz noise to instill a sense of suspense -- you're right, it's very effective. My question for you is, in your mind does the sound in that scene constitute music?

And I also agree with your fourth point.

I think the use of music as

I think the use of music as noise can be very powerful in cinema. In particular, if music is coming from somewhere in the scene, the audience is more aware of it and can more consciously incorporate it into their artistic view of the film. This subverts music's typical role as a subconscious emotional manipulator. It also has more artistic potential in my view. It is rare for a film to have anything besides music that abandons the realistic portrayal of the drama. It is a too common mistake to provide music that is not a part of the drama of a film.
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