Music is sound and sound is music.
That’s how it is for me. I’m a big fan of all kinds of music and music really influences all aspects of my work. I wanted to share with you some different songs and talk about how they’ve inspired my work. It’s by no means a list with all the artists I love – there’s no Kraftwerk, no Fela Kuti, no Miles Davis, no Slayer, no Philip Glass, no Nina Simone, no Boards of Canada, and, shame on me, no Radiohead. But nevertheless, here are 10 tracks (well, the last five) that have meant a lot for my work with sound:
I love manipulating with the human voice. It’s such an awesome instrument in itself and you can make the most amazing textures with it without losing emotional impact. I’ve been listening to a lot of the early voice experiments by Steve Reich and Alvin Lucier and I’m also a big fan of the unique way the voice is used and manipulated by very different artists like Juana Molina, Mike Patton, Burial, The Knife and even Michael Jackson, who was a true master of advanced vocal arrangements.
This track has a special place in my heart. Underworld has worked on several soundtracks and for good reason – there’s something very cinematic about their atmospheric soundscapes, even when the duo is riding high on a beat. This track, “Skym”, is very low key, though, with no drums at all. Instead it’s based on a few tones and, first and foremost, the way singer Karl Hyde’s vocals is manipulated and echoed. Often the reverb comes in before the actual voice and at times just one word is cut out of a sentence he’s singing and repeated in extremely musical ways.
I was listening a lot to this track when I worked on “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”. There’s a very intense POV scene towards the end where the main character is drugged and he wakes up while the murderer is speaking to him. For this scene, all the sound elements you hear on the soundtrack were created from the villain’s voice using a lot of weird processing, reverb and reverse effects. It was my salute to Underworld.
The Books: The Story of Hip-Hop
Old sounds become new sounds in the hands of The Books. This New York-duo has a truly unique vision: Their songs usually consists of folky, acoustic instrumentation – guitar, cello, banjo and more – combined with a diverse range of found sounds and samples obtained from cassettes and other recordings found in thrift stores. If that description sounds a tad boring, it’s very misleading, ‘cause The Books’ collage songs are usually wonderfully playful, humorous and groovy in a charming, laidback way.
All of The Books’ albums are great but I picked this song because it just cracks me up each time I hear it. Besides that, it’s also just a brilliant example of The Books’ sound and how elegantly they weave different sound bites in and out of their tasteful instrumentation. The way they work with textures, sounds and weird voices is really something to behold. The Books’ sound has segued quite a bit into the way I deal with flashbacks and other sequences where time dissolves. I love it.