Sound on Film Roundup

Masaki Kobayashi’s Kwaidan (1964)
Masaki Kobayashi’s Kwaidan (1964)
By Frances Morgan

A number of new pieces are underway for Sound on Film this month, delving into music and sound from monster movies, a newly rediscovered John Sangster documentary soundtrack from the early 1970s and the unique sound design of Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, the award-winning Thai film, directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, that was one of 2010’s independent cinema success stories.

Elsewhere, critics and columnists are listing the upcoming cinema releases of 2011, predicting trends, remakes and sequels, and potential prizewinners. One of the most highly publicised mainstream films right now is Tom Hooper’s costume drama The King’s Speech, about the early reign of King George VI. It’s not a film I’d immediately be drawn to, but this week’s Guardian film podcast presented it in a different light by interviewing the composer of its soundtrack, Alexandre Desplat.

According to Desplat, during the recording of the film’s orchestral score, engineers at Abbey Road unearthed the very microphones that had been specially made for and used by the Royal Family when making their famous radio speeches; these mics were then used for the orchestral recording. The same mics were used for the speech-making scenes in the film, perhaps making The King’s Speech something of a potential niche hit among vintage audiophiles. French composer Desplat, whose music has featured in both Hollywood fare and European films such as Jacques Audiard’s Un Prophete, talks at some length at the beginning and end of the podcast about working with orchestras, and his relationship with directors including Terence Mallick.

You can listen to excerpts from a classic film score via this MUBI Lost Sound and Soundtracks blog about Toru Takemitsu’s music for Masaki Kobayashi’s Kwaidan (1964). Based on a series of Japanese supernatural folktales, Kwaidan is a genuinely haunting film, and its eerie quality is due in no small part to Takemitsu’s score, which uses concrete music techniques, unearthly voices and Japanese traditional instruments to great effect. MUBI’s Lost Sounds and Soundtracks series contains some unexpected and eclectic entries – check out the rest here. You have to click on an individual entry to get to the audio.

Horse Glue (Stephen Irwin)

An appropriately dark tale for winter is currently on show as part of Animate Projects’ online exhibition series. Stephen Irwin’s animation Horse Glue is a collaboration with composer Sorenious Bonke, who contributes a fractured, melancholy instrumental score interspersed with samples and sounds of distortion and decay that mirror the atmosphere of the film.

On 22 January, Nottingham Contemporary begins a two-month season devoted to Jack Goldstein, whose work throughout the 1970s and 80s encompassed painting, performance, film and recorded sound. Much of Goldstein’s work drew upon the conventions and techniques of Hollywood film (like the iconic MGM (1975)); in a slightly more roundabout example of a meeting of sound and film, his series of 7-inch records of sound effects can also be heard on Ubuweb.

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