soundtrack by mukul
piano music by rupert huber
Notes on the completed soundtrack:
When Manu asked me to make the music in surround – she felt that the 'flatness' of the images demanded it – I took her literally. The score is built in 5.1. I don't use the rear speakers just for special/spatial effects – as point sources, they are as important as the front speakers. For example, there is the 'pulse of RealTime', which ticks clockwise around the viewer throughout the film.
The surround soundtrack helps to overcome the spatial and temporal limitations of the CCTV footage:
1. The immersive quality of the soundtrack compensates for the relatively large depth of field and generally unvarying perspective of the CCTV cameras. There are no visual close-ups in this film – only sonic ones.
2. The ability to move sound right around the audience carries movement in the picture over the chasms of time-lapse recording. (The full-frame-rate error and jitter in the images also helps, of course).
Also the 'dream space' in the film, those passages which have only Rupert's piano, is further distinguished by being the only part in mono/stereo, without the rear speakers.
In late 2006, it became clear that the film needed a voiceover. Early, short experiments with the footage used intertitles, but later the plot grew too complex to be narrated elegantly by a combination of protolanguage (see original notes below) and titles. It was not only the appropriateness of her voice, but also her longstanding commitment to critical art that made Tilda Swinton the ideal narrator for Faceless. Voice (which is placed, classically, in the centre speaker), music, and 'sound effects' – to the extent that they can be distinguished from the music – all had equal importance in the composition of the soundtrack.
The other voices in the film – those of the choir led by Eva Königer, which sings the refrain of the New Machine – are treated in a way that brings them close to the original idea of 'protolanguage'. Difficult to place, they add spookiness to the world; the lyric is distinguishable, but not on a casual listening.
Until a few days before the mastering date, I had no theme for the Spectral Children. Then, I chanced across an old recording of Paul Zimmerman playing berimbau. Cut up to the image, this was the perfect sound for a dance of rebellion.
On a final note, there is only one moment of truly diegetic sound in the film – it's hard to miss.
Original statement of intent:
Sound for the film poses a particular challenge: there is no dialogue; moreover, the footage obtained from the surveillance cameras is silent, so there is no ambient sound recording from the field either. Yet the soundtrack must be more than a score, for it has to make the narrative explicit, without recourse to quotation.
As the protagonist first recognizes her own strangeness and then evolves to see instead her surroundings as strange, so the signature 'themes' of characters, actions, locations, will evolve.
Particular attention will be paid to texture, dynamics, and spatialisation. Textures will be predominantly 'postindustrial ambient' - not industrial nor even 'light industrial', but more the throb of the service sector. Dynamics will be used in and out of synchrony with the visual dynamics to evoke nuanced moods. Spatialisation (through 5.1 surround sound) will be key to psychologically enlarging or compressing the space depicted from the predominantly overhead camera angles.
Set into this sound field will be a kind of proto-dialogue, which helps unfold the narrative. The rhythmic patterns and tonal inflections of speech will be synthesized; these flutters and chirps and whistles will convey interactions between characters (as the mutterings of Jacques Tati's characters do so effectively).
The process of composition will be aided by remembering some words of Ruskin: "There is something peculiarly delightful in passing through the streets of a foreign city without understanding a word that anybody says! One's ear for all sound of voices then becomes entirely impartial; one is not diverted by the meaning of syllables from recognizing the absolute guttural, liquid, or honeyed quality of them: while the gesture of the body and the expression of the face have the same value for you that they have in a pantomime..."