Black Inc. November 2010
The Sound of Pictures: Listening to the Movies, from Hitchcock to High Fidelity looks at the ways directors have used music and other sounds in more than 400 films. How did Alfred Hitchcock use music to plant clues in his films? Why do some ‘mix-tape’ soundtracks work brilliantly and others fall flat? How do classics from A Clockwork Orange to The Godfather, Cinema Paradiso to High Noon, use music and sound effects to enhance what we see on screen? In addition to Ford’s own essays, there are his interviews with five composers Ennio Morricone, Richard Rodney Bennett, Dick Hayman, Lalo Schifrin and Howard Shore) and five directors (Bruce Beresford, Sally Potter, Wim Wenders, Peter Greenaway and Peter Weir).
Pick of the Week!
If you want to be reminded (who does?) of the too-frequent mediocrity of much criticism in this country, read the beautifully written opening essay in this entertaining book about movie soundtracks. Andrew Ford, surely one of this country’s most astute music critics (and a composer to boot), writes with such knowledge and authority about film scores, the reader is left gasping at his deep attentiveness to the subtleties involved in the interplay between sound and image. He ranges widely and is as comfortable evaluating Bernard Herrmann’s contribution to Hitchcock’s movies as he is writing about Thomas Newman’s use of marimba and tabla in American Beauty.
But this book is much more than just the opening essay. It is structured to include insightful interviews with five composers, including Ennio Morricone and the New York jazz pianist Dick Hyman; six critical essays on topics as diverse as ‘Pop Goes the Score’ (with an excellent analysis of the role played by the song ‘High Noon’ in the movie of the same name) and ‘Listening for Clues in Hitchcock’; and interviews with directors including Bruce Beresford, Sally Potter, Wim Wenders and Peter Weir.
For most moviegoers, the most effective music operates as a subconscious backdrop, so this book’s appeal lies in the way it bypasses the images and storylines and brings the soundtrack to the fore. It makes readers think and respond differently to movies and become much more aware of the role played by music, its manipulative power and the importance of song choice.
Bruce Elder, Sydney Morning Herald
In writing The Sound of Pictures, Ford wanted to ‘discuss actual films and not other people’s theories about them’ and expressed his desire that it should be free of academic obfuscation. Ford has done exactly that, producing an immensely readable book, full of revealing information and interesting anecdotes. The Sound of Pictures will be joyfully read by movie and music fans alike.
Peter Crossing, The Canberra Times
[T]his extended think-piece on the historical role and range of movie music is one of the best works since Adorno and Hans Eisler’s ancient Composing for Films, which has been the standard film school text forever and runs the high art line until you want to scream.
The Sound of Pictures is a must-read for anyone with an interest in film or music.
Terry Oberg, The Courier-Mail
Ford’s roving curiosity and inclusive prose ensure The Sound of Pictures holds premium interest for all movie enthusiasts, casual and committed.
Gerard Elson, Bookseller+Publisher
The Sound of Pictures is a consciousness-raising affair that helps the film buff and even the most casual viewer understand how music complements a film.
Martin Stevenson, The Examiner
Music can be integral to making a film work, but it’s the director and the starts who generally get the credit. More power to Ford for showering a little attention on the contribution of screen composers with such well-informed enthusiasm.
Alistair Jones, The Australian