Why Music?, Arvo Pärt and The Singing Neanderthals

After a busy string of back-to-back and overlapping projects I found some time to look past the console's edge. This led to a chain of great coincidences, reminding me how important it is to break the loop and have a wonder in order to refill the creativity tank.

I took the opportunity to start a book that had been on my reading list since the student days: The Singing Neanderthals by Steven Mithen. Published in 2006, it is a thorough investigation of the origins of music, advancing the theory that music is as important and unique to human development as language. It seems crazy writing it but before this work most theories had music as an off-shoot of language. The text is academically rigorous but written in an easy style, and the subject is so interesting that it's hard to put down anyway.

One day a few chapters into the book, I switched the radio on and there he was: Professor Steven Mithen discussing his theory on a live BBC panel. The constant output and sheer quality of programmes that the BBC produces is hugely impressive. The talk I tuned in was part of "Why Music?", the latest subject marathon at BBC's Radio 3 - a whole weekend dedicated to exploring the power of music and what makes music a vital part of being human. Quite on point. 

Over the following weeks I have been listening to as many Why Music? programmes as possible. And in one of those shows I got rewarded with the much mentioned spine-chilling sensation that only music can (safely) give you. The piece I heard was Arvo Pärt's Fratres. Apparently we don't all feel the same levels of emotion to a same piece of music so although this might not raise your back hairs, I'm sure you'll agree it's pretty damn good. 

Call me ignorant but this was my first encounter with Pärt's music. At least it was the first time I was made aware of this contemporary musical genius, as his music has been used in a few movies.

And so I went on an Arvo Pärt listening spree. Suddenly his name started creeping everywhere, like when you buy a red car and start noticing all other red cars. All the music I have listened so far from this man has blown my mind in some way. In some pieces I even hear shadows of the Interstellar score. He really captures the essence of classical music and adds a contemporary edge that works magic on my brain, to the point I can hear it affecting my work.

What music gives you that Tingle Factor? I'd love to hear it! Leave us a comment at the bottom.

Best Reads - Film & Sound

Someone recently asked me, "what's the best thing to read to get an idea of what you do?" What a great question. Nothing replaces practical work experience when it comes to learning but there are some brilliantly written books and articles to get a good grasp on the industry, and Sound in particular. 

Here's my top 5...


1. [Article] Designing A Movie For Sound - Randy Thom

This article is the closest thing to a Film Sound Manifesto.

2. [Book] Film Sound: Theory and Practice - Elizabeth Weis and John Belton (editors)

Essays from the world's most respected film historians, aestheticians, and theorists. Ideal for anyone seeking both a comprehensive introduction to the form and a rich survey of its historical and global evolution.

3. [Book] Sound-On-Film - Vincent LoBrutto

If you're hungry to know more about the craft and its history every page of this book is a feast; 27 interviews with pioneering figures in film sound that take you on a trip from the studio era to contemporary productions. Packed with references, anecdotes and practical examples of legendary films such as Star Wars, Raging Bull or Terminator 2, to name a few.

4. [Book] Soundscape: The School of Sound Lectures 1998-2001 - Larry Sider, Diane Freeman and Jerry Sider (editors)

A compilation of some of the best presentations given at this annual symposium exploring the creative use of sound in arts and media, with a special emphasis on film and screen productions. Contributors include David Lynch, Carter Burwell, Walter Murch amongst other great film sound thinking heads.   

5. [Book] Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen - Michel Chion

Chion has made great advances in coiling a Film Sound lingo, this is his seminal work. A deep book with strong theories on the magical interaction of sound and image.


There are many more (I'll do a further reading list sometime), but these are the ones I'd read again if my memory was suddenly wiped out by the M.I.B. If you have other recommendations for essential reading please post them below in the comments.

Hope everyone has a great weekend!