Monthly Archives: August 2009

When does a film not need music? Sometimes, the lack of music explicitly helps the story.The Office’s pretend-documentary format is more convincing without music. And the humor depends on rapid dialogue punctuated by awkward pauses. Music fits concept and style.

No Country for Old Men is practically without music (very light music creeps in only occasionally). Anton is evil and remorseless. He doesn’t feel anything, so why would we need music to underscore his feelings? Meanwhile, the Sheriff is so humble he thinks his dreams are boring to hear about. He’d be embarrassed to have an orchestra soundtrack his emotions.

Here’s one example – “Bleach” is a short film by Brand Tangonen which won a peer review award on We talked about possibly adding music on his story, but he decided against it.

Here it is :

You could argue that the flashback scene could have used some dreamy guitar, or some punk rock on the credits.

But the lack of music supports the story. It complements the scene’s dry humor. And the hero is clearly holding a grudge and doesn’t want to talk about it. We look at him differently if there is no music in his memory.

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello

So as a disclosure of sorts, my wife and I chose Moon River as our first dance at our wedding. We actually picked it from a CD of waltz music as we were taking dancing lessons for the wedding.

I hadn’t really known that the song was from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. We just happened to pick it out from a stack of DVDs at my parents’ place.

  • Nearly the entire score is built on the Moon River theme. You really don’t need a lot of material to win the Oscar for Best Score. The theme returns at different tempos, with different arrangements (including a wicked bossa nova on a record player). Audrey Hepburn even sings it on her fire escape.
  • Moon River is nearly perfectly constructed for Holly Golightly’s character. The title music begins with opulent strings, harp, and vibraphone. We see 5th avenue at dawn. Then melody enters…on harmonica. The contrast expresses Holly’s character – a New York society girl who came from humble roots in Texas (it also happens to be very sad, very romantic, and a real masterpiece of a song). Instrumentation can be a useful tool when planning a score – these kinds of choices can support the story and give the movie a unique sound.
  • As I’m watching more classic films I’m continually amazed at the borrowings and influences. Don Draper and Carrie Bradshaw are obvious examples of Holly Golightly characters. Reese Witherspoon’s Sweet Home Alabama is more explicit in its homage, with a marriage proposal inside Tiffany’s. Even 9 1/2 weeks borrows – you see shades of Holly and Paul’s shoplifting adventure when Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke are fool around in department stores and smoke shops.

Here’s the title sequence. What an opening shot.

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello

This has been making the rounds on Facebook. Bobby McFarren demonstrating how audiences intuitively can sing the pentatonic scale:.

What’s being shown in the video is really the reason why music is universal to all cultures. The audience knows what notes McFarren is jumping to because they can literally feel them.

Here’s the brief bit of physics behind it:

The major pentatonic scale is formed by taking the 5 “fifths” in succession. If you start on C, you get the notes C, G, D, A, and E. Put those into a single octave and you get the scale of C, D, E, G, A. (In solfege, this is “Do, So, Re, La, Mi”, rearranged to “Do, Re, Mi, So, La”).

These “fifths” are formed by a fundamental ratio in nature of 3:2. (If middle C rings at 291 Hz, then the fifth above it, a G, rings at 392 Hz). The notes’ waveforms will literally line up in space.

That lining up is felt in our bodies. That’s why the audience can sing those notes.

It’s also choirs will nearly always go out of tune only on the 2 notes *not* in the pentatonic scale – in C major, that’s F and B (or Fa and Ti).

McFarren knows this well, it should come as no surprise that the melody to “Don’t Worry Be Happy” is pentatonic. Which is why it’s so catchy and memorable.

If you want the pentatonic scale to make you feel happy today, just visit here:

Posted 9 years ago by John Piscitello