Monday, 8 July 2013


Film scores are an integral part of any film. A score may serve to underscore the solemnity of a particular scene, emphasise the resolution of a conflict and generally provide the emotional backdrop on which a film scene is based on. Think of the last time you watched a film scene with no narration, or actors for that matter. It was the film score that established the tone of the scene, and linked it to the next one to form a cohesive whole.

Since its inception, film has been inexorably linked with music. The emotional quality of the film is determined almost solely by its music. Music pulls the strings necessary to immerse the audience fully into the film, allowing them to partake in the same emotional journey as the main characters and thus ensuring that a bond is formed between the viewers and the film.
Being a great musician does not necessarily translate to being a great film composer.  A film composer must not only know the art of music, but must also understand visual subtlety and tone, to accentuate a scene rather than overpower it. The music is not tacked onto the film, it is a part of it. A great example would be the iconic shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s classic,Psycho. The screeching violins would end up becoming as famous as the scene itself, and are instantly identified even today.
Music may even transcend the film it was composed for, to be used in other works of art. Continuing with the Psycho example, most people today probably haven’t ever watched Psycho in their lives, or might not even have heard of it, but would definitely have heard its theme before. The same holds true for almost all of John Williams’s compositions, which end up becoming iconic in their own right. Regardless of whether you’ve watched Star Wars or not, I guarantee you’ll be humming along when you hear its theme playing.

While music does shape the film and underscores its defining moments, the reverse is true as well. Apocalypse Now, Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam epic, famously used Ride of the Valkyries in its opening scene where the American soldiers attack a Vietcong base sheltered in a tiny village. No other composition has been as closely identified with war as Ride of the Valkyries has. However, it was originally used as an overture in plays, to get the audience excited for the show. The music would build up to a crescendo until the curtains would be pulled back to reveal a meeting of the Valkyries. No bullets, no Apache helicopters. Not even some friendly stabbings. Just a meeting. And a fairly boring one at that.
Most films that use classical music end up shaping the way our minds interpret the music when we listen to it later on. We always associate certain emotions with certain compositions (think Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony or Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro), which certainly becomes helpful when we have no idea what the song is about. The Marriage of Figaro was written as an opera buffa, or a comic opera. While it may have been intended to be interpreted as something comedic, nobody who watched the Shawshank Redemption will be laughing.

Film compositions have been created in various ways. The films may be handed to the composers after the primary shooting is complete, allowing the composer to watch the scenes and add what they feel is required. Another way, which many directors such as Christopher Nolan and Steven Spielberg prefer, is to provide the composer with a vague idea of the script (major themes involved in scenes, major character development, plot twists etc.) and allow them to create a series of motifs which can be inserted whenever required into the film. This provides the composers with a lot more freedom, as it allows them to break away from sticking to a highly rigid structure. These motifs also tend to be associated with a certain character or a certain emotion in the film, as opposed to being associated with a single scene. Thus, when they are invariably used again in the film, the audience is provided with an idea of what can be expected from the scene, which completely changes the way they view the film as well. Consider Hans Zimmer’s Lion King score. The same progression is repeated, albeit with a few changes in tempo or instruments, whenever Simba undergoes any form of character development (the scene where he “remembers “who he is once again, for example). Upon his triumphant return to Pride Rock, the music plays once more, providing closure not only to the characters but to the audience as well.

 Film scores don't just add an extra dimension to the film, they are essential to it. No movie watching experience is complete without taking the score into account. It transports us to a world far removed from our own, a world the characters of the movie inhabit. I don't really have a proper conclusion for this article, so I think I'll just ride off into the sunset

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Night Owls

A/N: A short poem I wrote on the night, and its myriad wonders.

The night owls are up, the dawn slumbers
And though the day had its charms and wonders,
Still we must move on, the stars beckon,
And while we lack a crowd, we have company, I reckon.
For no man is an island; the island has the sea,
And know that you are never alone, while you still have me.
For spirit is not contained by earthly bonds, nor ‘fraid of sticks and stones
The calls traverse the lakes and ponds, through still air and shivering bones.
Yea’, we are a single entity, but we are multiple wonders,
As the night owls fly on, and the dawn slumbers.

Spread your wings, night owl. The stars beckon.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

The Tale of Alice

The cold. Whenever she looked back on that time, that was what stood out the most. The shivers. “It would get better”, the doctors had assured her. Of course it would. And it had. For the most part. But her demons had never truly left her, and probably never would. It was part of her now; she had come to accept that. Their grins still haunted her nightmares; eternal smiles lingering, long after their bodies had faded away.
She could never quite remember when the hallucinations began. The doctors had said that they were a defence mechanism, a way for her body to cope with the abuse. When you have a neglectful mother, and a drunkard father, where was a young girl to go? A magical escape, to a magical land. Not that there was anything truly magical about it. But she had realised that far too late.

Alice sighed, brushing away the strands of hair that cascaded across her face. The past was not a place she liked to visit, but it was required. A new form of therapy, they told her. A way to finally set yourself free. Alice didn’t want to be set free. She had tried it once, and look where that got her. Institutionalised. Always looked down upon. Forever a freak. Unfortunately, she had no say in the matter. Perhaps she never did.

“Tea, Alice?” asked her therapist, seated across from her. “No, thank you”, was the hurried reply. Alice and tea were not on good terms. Not since her youth. Alice took a moment to study her therapist. A pretty woman, probably younger than Alice was. She had an air of affected disinterest, but Alice knew it was only for show. Surreptitiously, the therapist was analysing Alice as one would an interesting species of insect. That was all Alice was to them. A specimen, an object to be scrutinised, played with, experimented on. Alice felt a wave of paranoia crashing upon her. The walls seemed to be closing in. How could she escape from this? What new means would they now use to dissect her?

“Breathe, Alice”, the therapist said, breaking Alice out of her reverie. A hint of a smile was now on the therapist’s face. “There’s no need to be so frightened, I’m just here to talk. Have the new pills helped at all?” “Just fine, thanks”, replied Alice.
“Any nightmares recently?”
“Just the one. You know…the one with all the clocks. I’d rather not talk about it.”
“I understand. Take your time.”
Alice settled back into a contemplative silence. If there was one thing she had plenty of, it was time.  That was her one luxury, back when they kept her in the room with all the padded walls. She supposed that she should have been grateful. After all, they had given her a new life. One away from her family. But the only feeling she could muster was regret.  Regret that she hadn’t spoken up sooner. Regret that she hadn't realised the pain she was causing to herself. Regret that she found only herself to blame.

Alice caught herself. That was not a path of questions that she should follow. They would only lead to disappointment and depression. After all, how could she have possibly known the danger she was in? How close she was to losing her mind, to locking herself out of this world? All she saw were the pretty colours, the bright lights. And they had helped her. She was better now. Maybe the nightmares would stop too. Eventually, she might even be considered normal again. 

“You know, doctor, the pills have helped me quite a bit, to be honest. I’m starting to feel more like myself again.”
“That’s great, Alice! And please, call me Carol.”
“Well, thank you, Carol. You've helped me put my life back together. I honestly couldn't be more grateful.”
“Just doing my job, Alice. This is excellent progress. I’m glad you’re on the path to recovery. See you the same time, next week, then?”
“Of course. Goodbye, Carol.”
“Bye, Alice.”

As Alice crossed the makeshift lawn in front of her therapist’s office, she thought she noticed something out of the corner of her eye. A white rabbit, scurrying down a burrow as it chased after its out of sight prey. The rabbit hole almost seemed to close up behind it, giving privacy to its owner; shutting the world away. The sun poked out, its light appearing to spread hope with every ray. Alice smiled. It was a new beginning. 

Saturday, 20 October 2012

The Trouble with Licensing- Part 2

A\N:It's been a while since I last updated. There were a myriad of reasons for this, but mostly it was laziness. I apologize to my readers, and I promise to be more regular from now on.

So we've covered a few of the problems associated with licensing in art. But we still haven't arrived at the crux of the issue: Is it worth it?

Personally, I feel that it all comes down to the creator, and how much they're willing to let go of their creations. Some claim they suffer something akin to post-partum depression upon allowing licensing, while others staunchly swear by it and its advantages in the modern byte-for-your-thought world. In other ways, it also boils down to how we as a society allow artists to profit from their creations.

For some reason, the introduction of money instantly dilutes the product, and we immediately criticise the artist for "selling out". But is it really selling out? Haven't we all sold out, just by joining a certain corporation or endorsing a certain product? What makes artists better (or alternatively, worse) than us that they simply aren't offered the option to make money without someone calling them out on their credibility? At the end of the day, artists are just human beings, and human beings need to eat. Since when has someone being allowed to make a fair profit for their work become the work of the devil?

Perhaps we wish for artists to be the anti-establishment voices of dissent that we never were. Considering the amount of analysis and thought that goes into the discussion of the creation, it's only natural that we pour our own souls into the creation, and we'd prefer not to tarnish pure imagination with something as practical as money. Maybe we’re all clinging on to that inner artist of ours, just waiting to be let out. We know that the artist in us would never compromise on their principles, no sir. So we project our dreams and wishes onto our favourite creators, and with the inevitable disappointment comes the even more inevitable backlash.
Oh Snoopy. What would Woodstock say?

Perhaps it is not our right to question our favourite creators on their decisions. So, to all you Star Wars, Garfield, heck, even Peanuts fans, let go. Relax. Don't try to control the ride. After all, it was never yours to begin with.
But seriously, watch this show. It's awesome.

So let's get back to that question of ours: Is it worth it? To tell you the truth, I think it probably is. After all, there's no reason for you to not have control over the licensing itself, and in the case of creations like Garfield, the adapted versions may surpass the original. Sure, you may be occasionally unhappy, but I'd rather cry in a Porsche than fake a smile in a Prius. Probably. I haven't done either, so I can't really say for sure. As to any questions on whether I've sold my soul or not, I haven't. This blog is one hundred percent by me, and I will not allow it to be influenced by anybody, ever. I've managed to keep it this free by powering up my brain through the invigorating deliciousness of Kellogg's Cornflakes! This out of the blue endorsement is completely authentic, because eating Kellogg's products and praising them doesn't come from the allure of money. It comes from your heart.
Seriously, buy them. You won't regret it.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

The Trouble with Licensing- Part 1

Licensing has long been any creative cretin's bread and butter. With the power of licensing, they ensure for themselves a comfortable existence as they attempt to broaden the human consciousness. But this comfort comes with a dark side, for they essentially sell their soul to a corporation in order to enjoy a life of luxury. For some artists, this is a fate worse than death. A laboured love of creation is not something that can be handed over in an instant, and is equivalent to giving up a child.

Of course, for others, the art is merely a means to an end. Jim Davis, the creator of Garfield, for example, admitted that the sole reason the orange tabby ever came about was so that he could create a merchandising empire. But the fact is that for the vast majority of artists, licensing can be seen as the kiss of death for their creations. So, the question is, is licensing a necessary evil?

One of the most common arguments against licensing is that it dilutes the product. This is true to an extent, but it's not necessary that the changes are always adverse in nature. For example, I've always preferred the wry humour of the Garfield TV show to the comics themselves (the movie, on the other hand...well, some things are better left un-watched). Let's take another example to see how this works. On the opposite end of the spectrum of Jim Davis is another comic book artist, Bill Watterson. Mr. Watterson has steadfastly refused to partake in licensing of any kind, and there has been no official merchandise of Calvin and Hobbes ever released. But the key word there is official. Nearly everybody has seen the "pissing Calvin" images. Everybody who has actually read the comics knows that this is an inaccurate depiction of Calvin (for one thing, there is a severe lack of dinosaurs), but the images are ridiculously popular. Due to ill-defined trademarks, Calvin is one of the most bootlegged creations of all time. Sure, Bill might have felt that licensing might have lead to poor animated TV shows and the like (not to mention the potential for actual Hobbes stuffed tigers), but it has led to unofficial proliferation of his beloved characters all the same. Frankly, I'd prefer the real deal.

Licensing also comes with responsibilities. Like it or not, the people who have put money into your product expect to see something accessible, something to appeal to the lowest common denominator. You give up a lot of freedom when you start licensing. This is where a character like Garfield comes in handy. Everybody hates Mondays, and (nearly) everybody loves lasagna. But do you think the strip of Calvin blowing up his school would have been made it into syndication if kids were also tuning into Calvin's misadventures on Saturday morning? It'd be highly unlikely to say the least. Perhaps that was Bill Watterson is trying to hang onto. His artistic integrity.

So we've tackled some of the cons (and pros) of licensing. But the key question, "Is it worth it?", remains to be answered. Stay tuned...


Wednesday, 19 September 2012

FaceOff: The Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones

The Beatles vs. the Rolling Stones

Welcome to FaceOff, where I will be taking two similar or equally influential pop culture figures, and compare them. Please note that this is not a typical ‘who’s better’ blog, as that is just a pointless exercise in brain power and is ultimately a futile experience. Not to mention that I will be attacked by rabid fans no matter which way I turn, so I’d rather not bring that pressure on myself
Moving on.
So, as I said ,this is not your typical comparison. Instead, what I will be comparing is how two bands who started at the same time, but had fundamentally different approaches in their music, grew to where they are today.

I’d rather not go into details, as both these bands’ origin stories have been repeated so often that there’s no point in me repeating a tired tale. Here’s how it goes.
Liverpool. Skiffle. Mommy issues. Aunty issues. Hamburg. Death. Drums Issues. Hamburg. Record Deal. (Almost) Instant Stardom.
The Beatles: John, Paul, George and um...sorry, can't place the last one

And on the other end, London. Blues Incorporated. Phone Calls. Unfiled Muddy Waters LPs. Embarrassed Decca. Various changes. England’s Newest Hit-Makers.
A rolling stone gathers no moss.Wrinkles, on the other hand..

In contrast to the Beatles’ clean-cut image, the Stones presented themselves as the wild boys of rock n’ roll. This was done deliberately, in order to appeal to that section of society that found the Beatles “too poppy” (Yes, even in the 60s, when things were just getting started, pop music was derided. Go figure). However, both these images were manufactured. The Beatles’ image was manufactured by their manager, Brian Epstein, in order to replace their previous, raucous, wild stage personas. Indeed, if one were to look at their origins, the Beatles (working class Liverpudlians) might be considered even more rowdy than the Stones (middle class Londoners). The Stones were manufactured by their manager, Andrew Oldham. A former publicist for the Beatles, Oldham saw potential in the group being positioned as an "anti-Beatles" - a rougher group compared to the "cuddly moptop" image of the Beatles at that time.  This, by the way, proves that selling out doesn’t necessarily mean losing artistic credibility and/or talent (You’re welcome, punk rock bands).
Oh, they were manufactured too. Sorry, punk rock fans.

Both groups have a varied and diverse soundscape, but I’ve always found the Beatles to be the more innovative of the two. In fact, the Stones were seen as a throwback to the R&B and blues bands of old. Also, I’ve always found that the Stones seemed to ape whatever trend was in fashion at the moment, be it psychedilia (Their Satanic Majesties Request) or glam rock (It’s Only Rock n’ Roll), while the Beatles were constantly paving new ground. I’m sure I’ll get some criticism for that view point, but it is what it is. Sure, the Stones rocked harder, but at the end of the day, it was the Beatles that made rock n’ roll what it is today.
A masterpiece in psychedilia...

Sure, it doesn't break any new ground, but who said that's a requirement for good music?

Live Performances
No contest here. The Beatles were a fine live band in their own right, but they didn’t hold a candle to the Stones. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that what the Rolling Stones did for live performances was as ground breaking as what the Beatles did for studio innovation. Some may cite the fact that the Beatles stopped touring in the mid-60s as a reason for this setback, but I don’t think they’d ever be able to match the Stones. The Stones were raw, and showed us the wild side of rock music. (Of course, neither of the groups holds a candle to the Who in this category, but that’s a topic for another post).

Have some sympathy for the Beatles...or don't, seeing as they could buy your sympathy and then make it do the waltz with your dignity, and then they all laugh at your overly long captions...

So there you have it. Not a very thorough list, but I just wanted to highlight what I felt were the two groups’ biggest strengths. While the Beatles represented the creative and genius of rock n’ roll and pop music in general, the Stones showed us its wild and beautiful side.