The Nonlinear Editor: Getting in Tune (Reprise)
Posted Aug 5, 2005

A few months back, I wrote an editorial called "Getting in Tune" that provoked a multitude of responses, most related to my perceived cavalier approach to copyright violation. The editorial called for more inventive use of music in wedding and event video and photo montage, a sharp left turn from the humdrum, clichéd music selections that plague so much of the video I see. Interestingly, no one spoke up in defense of the same old songs; rather, they flamed me for implicitly endorsing the practice of appropriating copyrighted music for event video without permission or compensation.

Which is reasonable enough. However unlikely your use of 40 seconds of Chicago's "Colour My World" in a $1,500 wedding video is to arouse the RIAA's ire—as one reader recently asked me—it's a risk you might not want to take. Morally speaking, it also means making commercial use of another artist's work without permission, however slight the offense.

Of course, there are other sources of engaging musical accompaniment for your work. The one you hear about most is "library" or "royalty-free" music, widely available on the Web and elsewhere. In theory, the use of this type of material makes great sense for wedding and event videography. There are many, many times when you need a musical backdrop but popular or vocal music simply doesn't fit, and the aural space is much better filled by compositions that will convey the "feel" of the scene without contradicting or crowding out the visuals.

But it doesn't always work out so well. I don't know how many times I've watched a demo clip or event video and cringed as soon as the soundtrack kicked in. Whether it's the sterility of the dentist's office, the somnolence of the elevator, the saccharine sweetness of easy-listening radio, the electronic camp of the Casio demo, the whispering-pine ennui of Windham Hill, or the newsroom-ticker rhythms of themes better saved for six o'clock, it always seems a regrettable choice. I find myself wishing that whoever was responsible for the library music in question had observed the mandate of silence that's enforced in real libraries around the world. I'm not saying all library or royalty-free music is bad by any stretch—but I've seen few, if any, videos where it's used to good effect.

Until now. Thanks to my friend and colleague Tim Ryan at the 4EVER Group, I'm starting to see—and hear—things differently. In early July he sent me a sample copy of a new set of royalty-free compositions created expressly for wedding and event video. Best of all, this collection has been brought to market by one of the most honored and admired wedding videographers in the world, 2001 WEVA Creative Excellence Award winner and Battle of the Editing Styles grand champion LaDonna Moore.

Moore didn't actually compose the music included here, but she was intimately involved in its creation. The ten pieces included on Wedding and Event Series Volume 2 were written and recorded by classically trained composer Michael Aiken of Nightsong Productions. Moore worked closely with Aiken on each composition, describing specific needs she had for certain moods and feels in her wedding videos.

Aiken himself is no stranger to composing for video, having cut his teeth in the broadcast world. Their collaboration has yielded the first—to my knowledge—collection of royalty-free compositions designed by videographers for videographers, and it shows. This is satisfying, inspiring work.

It's practical, too. Many of the pieces come in multiple mixes. For example, a soaring orchestral piece titled (appropriately enough) "Climb" is included as one uninterrupted opus and also with its individual movements as discrete tracks. The movements' helpful subtitles "Grandeur, Awe, Anticipation," "Challenge, Achievement," and "Reflection, Peace" serve as guideposts for using this material in your work. Other pieces also come with helpful descriptions, such as the lovely "Sunday Drive," which is noted as "Carefree, Relaxed, Happy" and presented in both its full mix and in a piano-and-strings-only version. There's a nice and varied mix of instruments here, too, with gentle but sprightly percussion where appropriate, a variety of keyboards, always-tasteful synth, and well-applied woodwinds.

The package Tim Ryan sent me also includes a DVD with music videos featuring various tracks from the CD edited beautifully into some great wedding clips that will tell you exactly how to use this stuff to wonderful effect. While the DVD doesn't currently ship with the CD, it should.

Available for $99 from the 4EVER Group's Online Store (www.4evergroup.org) or directly via LaDonna Moore's own Web site (www.myladonna.com), Wedding and Event Series Volume 2 makes good on the promises of what royalty-free music can do for event video. If it seems tailor-made to the task, that's because it is—and by an expert tailor at that. And if all this sounds a little too comfort-fitting to all you counterpoint fans out there, it's worth keeping in mind that sometimes you just need to let the video do the singing and have the music hum along. And who better to do the humming than someone who really knows the tune?