Let me say right off the top that we are creating videos for profit, so using copyright-protected music for our event productions is illegal.
That said, if I were to take the law into my own hands, hypothetically speaking, this is how I would come up with some creative music for the "Timeshift" video concept introduced in the April installment of The Main Event.
For those of you who did not read that column, here's a quick review: I developed the Timeshift to juxtapose short, loosely connected scenes, so as to give the impression of freshness or spontaneity. My hope was to introduce a fresh, vital, staccato presentation of visual material as a direct reflection of changes in our perception of the passage of time. Using a rotating scenario, it jumps around from one short scene to the next. Each scene, however, is thoughtfully placed, with the intention of provoking, rather than confusing, the viewer.
Choosing the music to accompany Timeshift videos is extremely important in relation to pacing, mood, and emotional impact.
Now, if I were legally allowed to use copyright-protected music, I would avoid the typical music choice clichés from artists such as Enya, Bryan Adams, Melissa Manchester, Bette Midler, Harry Connick Jr., the Carpenters, Aerosmith, Louis Armstrong, Jim Brickman, James Horner, Mariah Carey, everyone from American Idol, Marc Cohn, etc. These artists have great talent and a huge fan base, but I find the music bland, banal, formulaic, agitating, and painful to listen to.
I'm sure many of you will disagree wholeheartedly, but let me explain some of my musical upbringing that hopefully will explain where my music choices today are derived from.
I started seriously listening to music at age 13. Before that, growing up in London, I was subjected to all the top 100 hits of the time. Pop and glam acts were huge, like Gary Glitter, T. Rex, Sweet, Mud, Suzi Quatro, and Status Quo. I loved this music and watched Top Of The Pops religiously.
Things started to change, however, when I started listening to more complex and fulfilling pop music such as David Bowie and Queen. Then around 1973 my older brother started listening to progressive rock bands such as King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull, Genesis, Yes, and Emerson, Lake and Palmer. The house was filled with this complex music as well as the Sinatra and jazz that my parents were obsessed with. I loved it all.
At this time I also started earnestly playing drums. Needless to say, music was a huge part of my life.
In 1975 I saw John McLaughlin's Mahavishnu Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall, and everything changed. Here we had a band that melded jazz and rock and took it to a new level of blistering aggressiveness that, quite frankly, got my juices flowing. I had found the music that still today inspires and fulfills me.
Now I certainly don't think that the Mahavishnu Orchestra's music would work very well as a pre-ceremony soundtrack (although it would be really interesting). In fact it would probably send the bride, her mother, and every aunt into an angry frenzy.
Be that as it may, listening to a broader palette of challenging music growing up has influenced my choices in today's productions. I look for more interesting choices that create my desired emotional response, pacing, and impact, and at the same time make my work stand out from the many productions still using music by Enya.
Inspiration also comes from TV commercials and forward-thinking movies such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Jon Brion rules!), to name but one.
To keep on the pulse of what is hip and cool in today's culture, it is imperative to keep up with all aspects of popular culture. Whether it's an episode of the OC, a reality TV show, music videos on MTV, a Michael Bay movie, or a low-budget foreign film, I really try to keep an open mind and try new things that on first listen do not seem to fit, but when matched with certain visuals and editing, take on a new life.
In the context of the Timeshift I try to cram in as much additional music as possible. Of course, I always use original sound when it makes sense to do so. I do not like it when all the material is edited to recorded music. I try to create a balance.
With wedding video, I have a list of segments that generally have music added. Each segment can have more than one tune. The more I use, the better the program seems to flow. That list includes Pre-Ceremony, Ceremony (instrumental music under the vows and ring exchange to heighten dramatic impact), Cocktail Hour, Table Montage, Candid Montage, Dance Segment, and Flashback Sequence.
This list is written in chronological order. However, with the Timeshift the segments are sliced up and jumbled, as previously mentioned. My goal here is not to tell you what music to use, any more than the goal of the previous column was to tell you how to re-sequence your videos. Rather, I'd merely like to see—and hear—you think beyond the mainstream and seek out more obscure choices that will ultimately give your work the edge you just might be looking for.