sound & image

Has there ever been a marriage this perfect?

In the beginning, there was just music.

oldschool jamz
oldschool jamz

From cavemen banging their heads on walls to that fancypants Mozart, from drugged out Miles Davis to thugged out Tupac Shakur, music has provided relaxation to the weary for centuries.

In 1825, along came the photograph and the ability to capture an image and a moment forever. This was an enormous breakthrough and in essence allowed people to “freeze time”. Thus science had given birth to a new art form. Although the concept of image capture has been written about since ancient times, the first known photograph was taken by Joseph Nicephore Niepce in 1825 by the heliograph process. According to the renowned Museum of Historic Photography and Art in Basel, Switzerland, Niepce ‘s photograph was found one hundred sixty years ago in a paper-mill in the south of France and is believed to be worth 1.2 million Euros. This is it…

the definitive image of all time
the definitive image of all time

Okay, that wasn’t the photo although it is memorable in it’s own right. This next one was the first photograph ever taken…seriously.

The First Photo Taken

The image is of a 17th Century Flemish engraving showing a man leading a horse. You would assume that the first photo ever taken was of a really smokin’ hot gorgeous girl, right? After all, we are talking about the French here but there you have it, a photograph of an engraving of a horse… not even a photograph of a horse but of an ENGRAVING of a horse… one can only imagine a hundred sad frenchmen trudging home drunk after the exhibition of the world’s first photo.

Over time , the discovery of the photograph evolved into the “moving picture” or “motion picture” aka the silent movie. These movies featured images looped one after another and while a photo could illustrate an image or a place, a sequence of photos or a “movie” could tell a long and intricate story. These early flicks were short, black & white and silent, imagine the opposite of a Michael Bay movie.

Then, the “talkie” arrived and life was never the same again. An assault on the senses, these flicks combined the aesthetic beauty of images and expert photography with the beauty of language and even more so, music. The soaring scores and huge musical numbers of the first half of the twentieth century struck a chord with people. Soon after came colour. This was akin to throwing away everything in the artist’s kit. New brushes, new paints and most importantly, a new canvas. Once colour movies and sound were put together…we would never look back.

Imagine watching Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel in black & white.

Now, imagine him painting it in colour.

Now, imagine him painting in vibrant colours while the Beatles jam there. Sensory overload!

When sound and image are put together in a way that is tasteful and cohesive, the results are entertaining. True genius is impossible to define but when both the audio and video are perfectly in sync, it is impossible to imagine one without the other. Maybe you could imagine it, but you don’t want to, and you don’t need to.

Sometimes, the image comes first. One might have a stream of photos or a video clip and look to improve it by adding music. This is what the score of every film aims to do. This has been the case with movies since the silent era ended.The music aims to support the relationship between the images and the characters. In a flawless film, each note of the score amplifies the drama and nuances of the story. The score is an underrated area of the film and can greatly improve it if done well, think Chinatown, The Godfather, Police Academy and The Good, Bad and the Ugly.

Sometimes the music comes first. These were the first sound and image marriages I came across in my life. When artists strive to find visuals suited to the audio, there are some truly amazing collaborations and MTV was at the forefront of showing us these stunning examples of audio/video chemistry.

I had a simple litmus test to tell how good a music video was. Music is on it’s own a very powerful medium. Almost anytime that you get lost in music (with headphones in particular) you will start daydreaming and you are essentially playing a video in your head and it stars you and the people and places you know. Therefore, this video is personal and one would think it is impossible to trump. However, once in a while, a video will come out for a song you love, and the video will be so good that your personalized video is no longer the definitive one, even for you. Now, when you hear this song, your mind instinctively thinks of the video you saw on TV. That is a quality video.

This was the basis of MTV many years ago, before their goal was to encourage the world to idolize vapid teenagers. Music television was once a creative haven and I was obsessed with it from the time I was about four years old and Peter Gabriel and A-ha were cutting edge. Back then, MTV was home for audiophiles, cinesnobs and up and coming directors. However, by the time I was fifteen, it had gone to hell in a hand basket (full of money) and MTV was more caught up in it’s own image and brainwashing kids than music and videos. At least I gave up completely before The Hills debuted. I thank God for that every day.

Nowadays, media rushes at us from every direction. We are deluged with sound (NOISE) and images (BLINDING) at every turn. It is easy to forget that these two can make the world a more beautiful place, if only for a few minutes. The sheer volume of media being put out these days is so vast that it is no surprise that most of it is total crap. That being said, when you sift through the garbage and find something that simultaneously pleases your eyes and ears, in that moment, your worries seem to fall by the wayside.


Here are some choice nuggets that titilate the senses.

One response to “sound & image”

  1. I’m partial to Buffalo ’66, but City Of Lights is a rad video (a lot better than the song)

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