On the Relationship between Film Director and Composer, Part 1.
Mr. Kubrick, is it right for a director to use preexisting music on his soundtrack -- not as source music
, but as underscoring?
This is a question I have been thinking about for a long time. If you had asked me two years ago, I would have answered, no. If you had asked me one year ago, I would have answered, yes. Now I consider the answer to be a little more complicated.
Stanley Kubrick is, without doubt, the best example. Most of his films are not only famous for the unique Kubrickian quality of their iconic images, but also for their soundtracks; Kubrick usually sets his films to classical music, occasionally seasoned with an original score. Using this way of assembling a score can be quite unfair for both the composer of the preexisting and the composer of the original music. On the one hand, the composer of the preexisting music might not agree with his works being ripped off and out of their usual context and used in a scene which has nothing at all to do with them. On the other hand, the composer of the orginal music has to endure the often thankless experience of, in the words of composer John Adams
, "sharing the bed with one of the Large Guys". Alexandre Desplat
, for example, is a truly wonderful composer. But even the most wonderful contemporary music usually loses much of its splendour when it is combined with Beethoven's Emperor Concerto and 7th symphony. (I use "The King's Speech" as an example because it is mentioned again below.)And directors have a habit of being unfair towards their composers. This is understandable if you consider the average director of today. Can a guy like He-Who-Likes-To-Blow-Up-Stuff
have appreciation for the fine arts? Of course not.
I could go into the depths of difficult director-composer relationships, but as I am composer myself, that would be too painful for me. As Jörg Widmann has remarked
about showing your compositions to someone else: "This moment is a very intimate moment, a moment of great vulnerability, when you sit there together with someone and show the innermost you feel inside yourself." I believe that no artform shows the inner self of the artist as openly as music, because in literature, cinema and painting and all the other arts, the artist essentially shows something from the outside
, an arrangement of objects from the real world, the world inhabited and perceived by everyone. Of course, it is always the composer's decision what
he shows of his inner side, and, like Stravinsky, I believe that music is essentially completely abstract in nature. But why should the human soul not be of a completely abstract nature?
"Fibonacci's Dream" by Martina Schettina
Fortunately, the respect for film composers has grown over the years. Directors now speak of them with great admiration. Composers like Hans Zimmer (who is one cool cat!) are popstars; and becoming the next Zimmer or the next Elfman is the dream of many young musicians who would have dreamed of rock'n'roll and drugs only thirty years ago. Look at Elfman. A man with a fascinating life story, having started as a Heavy Metal guitarist and matured to become the composer of this great, great work of art called "Serenada Schizophrana".
Part II soon to come.
Hate the Sherlock Holmes film, though.
I dedicate a short piece of music written for two sopranos, cello and timpani, and somehow inspired by his beautiful short film "In the Morning", in a neverending state of limitless artistic admiration to Indian filmmaker Krishna Shenoi. In spite of having never met him, I wish him a long life and incessant access to the boundless pool of creativity he seems to effortlessly draw from.
I sadly have not had the chance to record a performance of the piece and can therefore only offer a humble computer-generated sample. If the piece is performed in the course of the next month or so, I will post a recording on this site.
I will not submit the piece to anyone who is not a professional before Mr Shenoi himself has heard it.
I hope that he will read this one day, and mercifully accept the temporarily inferior quality of this gift.
for Shenoi's own website.
(NOTE (2012/04/12): The contact form will not have worked for the past couple of days. I apologize for any inconvenience. It should work now.)
"In The Morning" by Krishna Shenoi: Possibly the most beautiful film I have ever seen.
Some days ago, I was asked by a friend what my favourite number was. Since I have been intensively studying mathematics for a long time now (more intensive than most people anyway), I thought, Come on! That must be easy for someone like you!
It wasn't. My mind was completely blank.
Years ago, this question would have been incredibly easy for me; I guess that me studying mathematics rather made me lose my ability to connect numbers with emotions or other non-mathematical things. There is no special mathematical connection between any number and any emotion (at least none known today), and maybe my mind had to accept this fact in order to grasp the numbers' real essence. (I don't really know if I have yet reached this essence, but I am at the least a lot closer to it than I was before my mathematical studies.) Since mathematics opened before my eyes and mind the most beautiful world I have ever known (except music, maybe), I am not so very sad about me losing this ability.
When I was a child, I was a synesthete. 1 was black for me, 2 was yellow, three was red ... I still remember, but I have lost the ability itself. During my childhood, someone could have said "four", and I would immediately have seen a green four inside my head. It worked with letters. It worked with words.
At that time, I thought that was perfectly normal. I thought everybody saw these colors. I didn't know it is a special ability, nor did I know it is a medical term (not in the negative sense). If I had, I would have protected this gift. Now I have lost it. That I am sad about, because I could have done such wonderful things with it, especially since I have become an artist.
But I digress, as I always do. The question was: What is my favourite number. I have thought about that, and two numbers whose incredible or at the very least interesting properties I have discovered in the course of my mathematical research have come to my mind:
What is so special about two? A lot. Check out this Wikipedia article
if you want to know everything. (Although I doubt that every special property of 2 can be found on Wikipedia.) But what never ceases too fill me with delight is the fact that
2 is the only number for which this is true. I guess that readers will understand the first three terms, but what about the fourth? Well, as you know, the basic operator in algebra is addition. Multiplication is an extension of addition: a * b simply means that a is added (b - 1) times to itself. It's the same with exponentation: a ^ b is a multiplied (b - 1) times by itself.It didn't take mathematicians long to figure out that one can continue this game forever; let's define an operator a ^^ b, which simply means that the operation ^ a is applied (b - 1) times to a, etc.:
a * b means: The operation + a is applied (b - 1) times to a.
a ^ b means: The operation * a is applied (b - 1) times to a.
a ^^ b means: The operation ^ a is applied (b - 1) times to a.
a ^^^ b means: The operation ^^ a is applied (b - 1) times to a....This is exactly what the arrow notation means: Our symbol ^ is simply replaced with an arrow, whereas the n indicates the number of arrows. Therefore,
the equation 2 + 2 = 2 * 2 = 2 ^ 2 = 2 ^^ 2 = ... is true. Pretty amazing, come to think of it. There is no natural number except 2 with this property.(By the way: These non-standard operators are called hyperoperators.
German mathematician Wilhelm Ackermann used hyperoperators in a famous and truly amazing function named after him. Read about it here
. Maybe I'll write a blog entry on it sometime.)
I like the 144 because it is one out of only three numbers which are both Fibonacci numbers and square numbers. The other two are 0 and 1, and they are kind of boring in context with this property because it is so obvious for them. Fibonacci numbers are a quite well-known concept, as are square numbers. I'll just briefly explain them; square numbers are simply the sequence zero squared, one squared, two squared, etc.: 0, 1, 4, 9, 16, 25, 36, 49, 64, 81, 100, 121, 144, ...
Fibonacci numbers are generated like this:
1. The first two Fibonacci numbers are 0 and then 1.
2. The next Fibonacci number is generated from the predecessing Fibonacci number by adding it to its own Fibonacci predecessor.
The generated sequence is 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, ...
Fibonacci numbers are amazingly often prime numbers (numbers divisible only by one and the number itself):
0, 1, 2 is prime, 3 is prime, 5 is prime, 8, 13 is prime, 21, 34, 55, 89 is prime, ...
(By the way, it is one of those famous unsolved problems in mathematics if there are infinitely many Fibonacci primes. If you have the time and want your name to become immortal, go for it.)
Because there are so many Fibonacci primes, it is very improbable that there is a large quantity of "Fibonacci squares". This was probably the first question I investigated in a serious mathematical way. It took me some time, and in the end I just used a formula known for almost 300 years, but it kept me interested and made me go deeper into the subject. And I am very, very glad I did that. Mathematics is a world of infinite beauty.
NOTE: This is a post analyzing some aspects of Steven Soderbergh's 2009 film "The Informant!" It contains lots of spoilers. I don't want to spoil the experience for anyone who has not yet seen the movie, and therefore suggest to read this only if you know the film. I don't think this text would make much sense to you if you don't, anyway
"The Informant!" is quite a great film. In my opinion, it is a perfect film. This doesn't necessarily imply that it is one of the best films ever made, for I believe that a film with minor flaws can be a better film than a perfect one. But nevertheless, there is nothing bad about it. Everything is well-done, filmmaking at its best. And it has a merit that is rare in the field of good films: It benefits from additional viewings.
Of course, watching it for the second time isn't that much fun anymore. But you start appreciating the details. And there are a lot of details in the film.
- The lighting. In all the scenes that show Mark lying, scheming or protecting his secret life as a criminal, the setting is well-lit. In all the scenes that show Mark (reluctantly) telling the truth, the setting is dimly lit: The scene at the beginning, when Mark tells Agent Shepard about the price-fixinig conspiracy the first time, is set at night. Both the scenes that show Mark confessing he a) invented the story of the bug in the lysine and b) told some ADM employees about his work with the FBI are set at night. The scene in the Chinese restaurant where Mark confesses his money laundering is quite murky, too. One could interpret this light-vs-shade constellation of the film as a a metaphor for Mark's two lives, his being a white-collar criminal and succesful businessman and a secret agent for the FBI at the same time. Maybe it also represents his manic-depressive disorder.
- Mark's stream of consciousness narration, in my opinion a great stylistic device, because it shows Mark as a character thinking about more than the stuff the plot requires him to think about. We see that this is a guy with whom you could talk about more than lysine, lysine, price fixing, lysine. It makes him more authentic as a person. One should also note that his narration becomes more and more disconnected to the plot of the film as he himself becomes more and more the target of the FBI investigation; it shows that his mind becomes increasingly detached from reality, regarding the whole operation rather as a game than a criminal investigation. My favourite scene in the movie is probably the climatic scene when his whole fairy tale suddenly collapses: Agent Shepard has noticed that Mark forged his doctor's report, and in a desperate effort to elude his questions, Mark invents one lie after another to explain the paper's odnesses. His narration and the actual plot are suddenly completely in synchronization, as his answers form in his mind and are first told to the viewer in voice-over, and then in the "real" scene to Agent Shepard. After a while of playing cat-and-mouse, Mark is asked by Shepard: "Why are you doing this? Why do you keep on lying?" Silence. Then Mark's voice says, wearily, sadly, desperate, but very calm: "I don't know." There is such suspense in the silence following this simple remark that it is a perfect climax to a crime film, better than all of Hollywood's car chases and shoot-outs and whatever put together, and now one also realizes how important it is that Soderbergh uses no music whatsovever in his dialogue scenes. Humans have a natural aversion against silence. We often call it "awkward". It leaves us helplessly dangling in a vacuum, desperately clinging to the next spoken word for safety, regardless of what it may be. We like to talk, just to prevent silence.
- The comedy. The film is intended as a comedy. I didn't even notive this when I saw it for the first time. Then I read it on the internet, and I shook my head. The film does work as a a tragicomedy. Tragicomedy is a great genre, because life itself is a tragicomedy. I don't like the genre of comedy very much, because, let's face it, it is just a lot of fun that doesn't tell us anything about life whatsoever. It isn't real. It is staged. It is obvious that it is staged. But The Informant! has such realism. It is the most real comedy I've ever seen. It is based on a true story, and one notices it. It has an odd documentary quality. Scenes from it could be shown in any real documentary about the ADM price-fixing conspiracy. How many other "biopics" this would work with do you know?
You will have noticed how, in the apologist clip, the host says: "We interview the world's leading apologists to provide credible
answers to curious questions." The answers are very credible
, indeed. If they are true, or reasonable, is of course another matter entirely.
A rather Freudian slip.(Here is the link to the actual article "Musings on Metamathematics".)
Klezmer. There is almost noting I love as much, it is like an angel put on this earth by god to remind me that life is always worth living. (Just a metaphor.)
Notice something? Every one of these potential future presidents of the United States has the same lofty American Dream look on his face, a mix between forced greatness and pride and determination, that godawful holy "natural leader" look, dreamily tragically dramatically turning his face to the almighty Lord above.
It makes me sick! Why does the American election campaign always have to be such a silly melodramatic self-adulation? What century do we live in? Do you know who invented this pose of the great faithful patriotic man whom a historic task is being thrust upon and who will undoubtedly turn the holy holy holy United States into a better place once elected?
Of course, for him it was the holy holy holy Germany. But the pose and facial expression is very much the same, or at least strikingly similar. It is the widely known latent fascism in US politics.
If you want to be a US president too, use this free downloadable sketch on how to pose if photographed:
And here are a few people who do it beautifully:
Which book is read to the music?
a) "Also sprach Zarathustra" (Thus Spoke Zarathustra) by Friedrich Nietzsche
b) "Die Leiden des jungen Werther" (The Sorrows of young Werther) by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
c) "Der Steppenwolf" by Hermann Hesse
d) "Der Hauptmann von Köpenick" (The Captain of Köpenick) by Carl Zuckmayer
Although I love this piece, I have a feeling that the author himself would not have approved of this work, because he expresses his contempt for jazz in the very same work that is quoted here.
The correct solution will be given in the next blog entry, which, to honour the author, will be in German.