Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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Sound is, of course, a major interest of mine. Not just as an audiophile who is heavily into music and movies, although the practical element of the topic means that music and sound reproduction is a main aspect of it. I like finding out how things sound. Not that hyper-real sound that you associate with the movies, I mean the sounds one finds in the real world. There are some things that are just pleasing to the ears. Of course, everybody knows about the ones that relax you, rain, ocean surf and the like, but just as my tastes in music sometimes lead me to more dissonant areas, so too does this interest in sound sometimes lead to surprising places.

Heat Trails

At one point while at Queens College, I was supposed to be interning for the Womyn's Center at the time, but unfortunately my co-intern - who had the key to the office - would consistently show up an hour or two late. It wasn't so bad sometimes, because it was right around the corner from GLU, where a lot of cool people hung out, but it was annoying on the occasions where I had to wait for him when nobody was around. There was a radiator on the opposite wall that would make very interesting sounds when hit in different spots. Hey, I was bored. I was surprised when, later in that very term, in Royal Brown screened Robert Altman's Images,¹ John Williams' score for which includes strange sound effects by Stomu Yamash'ta, who created them by hitting large metal sculptures, much the same way that I amused myself with the radiator.

Harmonic Violence

Brad's family had an upright piano in the basement of their old house in Floral Park. No provisions were made to transport it when they moved to New Jersey because there was no space for it in the new house. The only way to remove it was to break it apart and take the pieces upstairs. Now, in case you didn't know, pianos are made out of neutron star material, and every part of it weighs approximately thirty thousand metric tons. So this was a very difficult and time consuming process. However, I have to admit that it was worth it, because the process of breaking up that piano caused the most amazing, deep sounds. While there was no melody or anything, it was nevertheless very, very dramatic.

Upstairs, Downstairs

The metal bannister on the stairwell that leads to the door to my apartment is interesting. Whenever anything hits it, a surprisingly pleasing sound is emitted. It is hollow inside, and so the effect is very much like a chime. It always seems to ring out when I'm least expecting it... usually because I knocked something I'm carrying into it.


The cause of this reflection was the fireworks display last night, which I watched at the party at Paul's last night. We went to the rooftop to watch it. I don't care to view fireworks on television because they just look like blobs of light; there is no scope to them. The show was enormous and quite transfixing. But the sound of those fireworks echoing through Manhattan was impressive as well. There was the direct sound of the explosions themselves, which was pretty loud, but because Manhattan is built of vertical surfaces, there was a lot of reverberation. Each boom was therefore answered a thousand times over; it is an impressive effect and, I might add, completely unreproducable; you can only experience it one day a year in one borough. And I don't care if you have the facilities of five Imax theaters at your disposal, you're not coming close to the kind of aural envelopment it is.


A few weeks ago, mentioned a topic on the FSM message board in which Gumdrops1 brought up the concept of scoring a bra commercial with a blaster beam. I mentioned at the time that I wonder if I would ever be able to watch a bra commercial without hearing the blaster beam in my head. Well, on the way home, on a whim, I listened to James Horner's Battle Beyond the Stars. I felt like some big space opera music, and it really did hit the spot. However... I totally forgot when putting it on how prominently the blaster beam figures in this score², and it caught me a bit by surprise. And... I couldn't help it. My brain, the uncooperative bastard that it is, now associates the blaster beam with bras. I don't think I can ever watch Star Trek: The Motion Picture again.


¹ That was, in fact, the first time I had ever seen the film. It was a Betamax cassette taped off of a muddy print, pan-and-scan transfer broadcast on Cinemax. The sound was awful, harsh and tinny, which, with all of Yamash'ta's percussive sounds and the wind chime effects, it was pretty unpleasant. I have to say that the new DVD looks and sounds so much better that it's like watching a different - and much more probing - film. This was the first of Altman's really experimental films that I had seen.

² Horner really does shamelessly rip off Jerry Goldsmith's Star Trek: The Motion Picture, although in a much more adventurous context. Nevertheless, it gives further credence to the dirty rumor about why Horner dated Goldsmith's daughter...
Tags: film music, jerry goldsmith, new york, stories

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