Tag Archives: opinion

Amplified Observations: Why do post-rock bands score so many movies?

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Scoring a film is much like capturing it. It takes arrangement and execution.

It’s not an uncommon practice to bolster a film’s visuals with a barrage of orchestral strings and powerful brass. A good film score increases tension and targets emotion, feats that grandiose classical ensembles easily achieve.

But for some directors, violins are not enough. Several famed filmmakers have strayed from the Hans Zimmers and Danny Elfmans of the world in favor of a less conventional sound: post-rock.

Columnist Luke Furman argues how despite going through changes of sound and subjects, folk has retained its original intention and purpose.

Post-rock, a mostly instrumental rock derivative that focuses on creating longer, more complex compositions than traditional rock, works in a similar fashion to classical film scores. Both take time to establish fine-tuned textures, build suspense, convey intensity or triumph and both sound amazingly rich at loud volumes.

One of the most popular post-rock bands, Explosions in the Sky, scored two critically successful Peter Berg films: Friday Night Lights (2004) and Lone Survivor (2013). Berg described the appeal of the band as having “an emotional, tender quality to their music, even when it gets aggressive.” In addition to these, the quartet also crafted soundtracks to Prince Avalanche (2013) starring Paul Rudd and Manglehorn (2014) starring Al Pacino. But they are hardly the only band of this style to cash in on this art form with dual film and soundtrack revenues.

The films Moneyball (2011) and Room (2015) both feature “The Mighty Rio Grande,” an 11 minute wordless ode by Texas post-rock band This Will Destroy YouMoneyball almost uses it to a point of motif. The band also lent its song “Villa Del Refugio” to the Brad Pitt zombie thriller World War Z (2013).

Scottish genre band Mogwai scored Darren Aronofsky’s The Fountain (2006) and the French TV show known in America as The Returned. And even further back, Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s song “East Hastings” appeared in Danny Boyle’s apocalyptic 28 Days Later in 2003, which might have even set the precedent for the use of post-rock in place of traditional scores.

Boyle told The Guardian he used Godspeed’s album F#A# Infinity as inspiration for the atmosphere of the film, saying “The whole film was cut to Godspeed in my head.”

So whether it’s stirring moodiness or feelings buried underneath layers of reverb, something about post-rock makes for a perfect complement to any tense or meaningful film sequence. It’s what Beethoven or Bach might have made if they had some effects pedals and rolling papers lying around the house.

And ultimately, when two passion-driven art forms like film and post-rock collide, something memorable is bound to emerge in its radiating aftermath.

Luke Furman is a sophomore studying journalism and a reporter for The Post. Can you think of another movie with a great post-rock soundtrack? Tweet him @LukeFurmanOU or email him at lf491413@ohio.edu.

Amplified Observations: Rhythm guitarists are the unsung heroes of rock music

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How can you expect a house to stand without its foundation? You really can’t. The same principle applies to the process of songwriting and the role of the rhythm guitarist.

Without a foundation from a solid chord sequence, even if it’s expressed in secret, there wouldn’t be anything to guide a song’s progression and anchor down all its fluttering melodies. If a song lacks this necessary structure for the creation of riffs and repetition, it might not hold up as well as others that do. When those hurricane force winds of criticism descend upon it, hopefully it has enough support to not topple over onto its neighbor’s fence.

Naturally, the purest example of assuring chord structure is bolstered belongs to the role of the rhythm guitarist. Whether it’s a designated band role or simply a playing style, rhythm guitarists almost exclusively strum the song’s unabridged chord progression behind the lead guitarists’ melodies and the bassist’s often-wavering undercurrents. For this reason, they act as a crucial part of an artist or act’s intended sound, unless the intended sound is something unusually sparse along the lines ofPete Seeger.

But this musical role is also a loveless one.

Columnist Luke Furman discusses what characteristics to look for to gauge the quality or illusion of quality music holds.

If you don’t think so, then how many rhythm guitarists can you name? And, hard mode, how many rhythm guitarist can you name who are not also lead singers? For reference, that eliminates Chuck Berry, George Harrison, Joan Jett, Glenn Frey, Bob Marley and Dave Grohl.

So, unless they’re in an über-famous group or contribute vocals, sole rhythm guitarists’ names seldomly rise to prominence of the household variety. But that’s not their fault.

Their role allows them to fill in the frequency gaps between the bass, drums and leads, which is important enough that it doesn’t require conscious recognition. Perhaps it is then the most selfless role in music.

Some rhythm guitarists who have achieved fame of their own include Keith Richards, whose rhythmic playing functions doubly as a lead, Izzy Stradlin of Guns ‘N’ Roses and Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam, but the majority of solely rhythm guitarists remain unsung for their seemingly passive contributions whether live or in the studio.

Keyboardists, whose support role serves a similar, if not the same, purpose of providing dense structural padding, share an equal level of anonymity. Except for legendary players such as Ray Manzarek of The Doors and Richard Wright of Pink Floyd, along with the previous examples, musicians in sound-spectrum support roles seem to pass by unnoticed and unthanked.

But ultimately, fame doesn’t really matter as long as you’re doing your job.

Without the sonic layering rhythm guitar provides, we might not become as immersed in the textures and timbres of songs as we so often do. The importance of the role essentially boils down to one of those cases where, in the words of 80s glam-metal band Cinderella, you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone.

So to all the rhythm guitarists out there, I thank you for your work. You keep a lot of houses from crumbling into ruin.

Luke Furman is a sophomore studying journalism and a reporter for The Post. Do you have a favorite rhythm guitarist? Tweet him @LukeFurmanOU or email him at lf491413@ohio.edu.

Amplified Observations: Sirius XM delivers an optimal driving experience worth the cost

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When semester breaks roll around, I always look forward to the long drive back home to Pennsylvania mainly for two reasons.

One is that I get to take in the rustic Appalachian landscape and the other is that my parents’ car has Sirius XM. Oh and I like to see my parents, too, so I guess that’s three reasons then.

But aside from the two givens, having Sirius XM for roadtripping or just driving in general vastly improves the whole experience.

Formed from a 2008 merger between Sirius and XM, the commercial-free satellite radio service provides a diverse selection of high quality music including several channels surprisingly dedicated to niche genres and deep cuts almost never played on FM radio. Their channel 27 is even called “Deep Tracks” for that sole purpose.

Many Sirius XM channels tend to be narrowly focused on specific eras or sounds of music rather than the umbrella terms of “classic rock,” “alternative rock” or “rap.” For example, a channel called “The Bridge”  focuses on mellow 70s rock and folk acts like James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Paul Simon and an assortment of the likes. This one usually stays on if my dad is in the car.

Classic rock is also divided between 60s and 70s on “Classic Vinyl” and the later stuff on “Classic Rewind,” giving listeners the freedom to choose.

Columnist Luke Furman determines whether Jim Morrison’s poetry could get an A in a high school English class or if it would come up short.

Conversely, there are also more loosely-focused channels that broadcast a variety of brand new and less established artists. Channel 44, “Hip-Hop Nation” is on rap songs nearly as soon as they’re released, and the Eminem-created “Shade 45” features the popular show “Sway In the Morning” on top of uncensored verses.

For all needs indie, “Sirius XMU” and “Alt Nation” play everything working its way through the music blogs along with some classic indie artists like Yo La Tengo. And for the birth of indie, you can tune to channel 33, “1st Wave,” for some of the earliest alternative/indie rock like R.E.M. and The Smiths.

And apart from being in a tunnel, all of these channels come in crystal clear from a satellite, seasonable to taste with the bass and treble knobs of your car radio.

Of course, like many things, cost is a major downside to Sirius XM. However, if you can shell out an extra $20 a month, it saves paying for data to stream music on-the-go and allows for more song variety than an iPhone can hold. Even so, with options in each style of music in addition to sports, talk, comedy and news, the experience is unmatched by other streaming services, at least while in the car.

For college students stretching every penny, it might not be the best use of money, but it’s nonetheless a great service that might put the subwoofer you bought in high school to good use. And if you can afford it or even have access to a car, then color me jealous.

Luke Furman is a sophomore studying journalism and a reporter for The Post. Do you use Sirius XM? Tweet him @LukeFurmanOU or email him at lf491413@ohio.edu.