Monday 4 August 2014

Counterpoint in Film Music

Last year, Noémie Lachance and Jana Zander, students in a BA course on Film and Visual Culture at Groningen in the Netherlands, produced a 12-minute audiovisual essay entitled "Counterpoint in Film Music." Their instructors were so impressed they uploaded it to Vimeo, while making sure their own names were prominently mentioned.

The video runs for 12 minutes; it is a little difficult to listen to, as the narration is obviously by an English-as-a-second-language speaker, but worth the time.  If you don't have a background in music theory, you need to grasp two ideas.

1.  Homophony. Homophonic music is a texture in which two or more parts move together in harmony, the relationship between them creating chords.

2.  Polyphony. Polyphonic music is a texture consisting of two or more simultaneous lines of independent melody. 

In the context of film, music is used to either underscore or contradict the images. When the music contradicts, it is said to be in counterpoint (contrapuntal). When the music does not support the images shown, the combination creates a different (higher) meaning for the audience than either the images or the music would do alone.

Take a look/listen for yourself.

The following short film, A Counterpoint: Real to Reel, was created by Anand Sundararajan as a puzzle. He says:
Counterpoint, in music, is the simultaneous sounding of 2 or more melodies. It is both cerebral and exhilarating at the same time.
    Inspired by the works of the great J.S. Bach's Art of Fugue and The Musical Offering, I have tried to create a counterpoint - albeit a visual one.
    It is highly unlikely that everything would be clear in one viewing, as the nature of the movie is such. After all, one has to listen to a fugue multiple times to actually appreciate it better.
    Hence, as a viewer you might require multiple viewings to completely understand what this movie is about. It is a bit of a puzzle (I love puzzles) and I have dropped clues at various points in the movie to help the viewer uncover the storyline.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

This is a film assignment by film students but it makes a thorough analysis of the use of counterpoint music in films into a comment about film as an art form. Excellent.