Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Droning

Here's a look (more of a listen, actually) at excerpts from the scores of two movies set in New York. Both passages accompany relatively low-speed street chases and are also similar in their use of what could be described as a drone — an almost constant low note which serves as foundation for subsequent layers of musical sound. In each case, the inexorable quality of these tones complements the motion of the films' characters and builds suspense on the way to each scene's conclusion.

The first example is from Escape from New York (1981, music by John Carpenter with Alan Howarth), when The Duke first arrives and is pursued by Snake, Brain, and Maggie to the derelict train cars where the kidnapped president is being held. On top of the low synth sound is the persistent rhythm of drums and bass, creating a relentless pulse as the protagonists drive through a gauntlet of street people and smash through a barrier of stacked cars, all the while intent on their goal of reaching the train.

Second is an example from Crocodile Dundee (1986, music by Peter Best), from the end scene where Sue runs to catch Mick before he departs for good on the subway. Once again, the drone (ostensibly played on the native Australian didgeridoo) reflects Sue's determination to reach Mick, and then Mick's will to make his way though (and over) the crowd to reunite with Sue.


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