Here I wrote a long blog entry about this only to find that I already blogged about this earlier. Gah and double gah. Fine…whatever. I am going to post what I wrote. It is different enough…even though it has some very similar points. I’m gonna post it for all those who DON’T dig into my archives.

Here it is:


I was listening to THIS AMERICAN LIFE the other day and noticed something that took me out of the story. A small distraction that made me stop paying attention to the story and pay attention to something else…the music. Now, for those of you who don’t know what THIS AMERICAN LIFE is, it is a radio documentary series that airs on NPR and every week they choose a theme and showcase several stories that follow that theme. Look it up on iTunes and listen to it when you get a chance.

But let me get back to why I was distracted. I was distracted because the music used in the segment I was listening to was used in another segment I listened to a few weeks ago. And that got me thinking…the producers must have a small pool of music that they work with. Well, they actually might have a lot of music at their disposal, but then they might keep all of that music in a library and then the producer, or whatever the title is of the person who is editing and producing the segment (I don’t work in radio, so I don’t know), must dip into that pool of music to grab a track that fits the story and the feeling they are trying to convey.

This is not uncommon in my world either. When I work on projects I have four types of music that I might have access too. The first type is TEMP MUSIC, that is popular music and movie soundtracks that I use to convey what I want to convey in a scene. This music will be replaced later by a composer who will make a unique score for that project. The second type is popular music that I might actually use and get the rights to. The third type is from a music library. Either a library of music from bands (like the LAZY BONES RECORDINGS libraries) or scored music made for use in industrials, corporate spots and even broadcast programs. Like the SOUND IDEAS libraries or EXTREME MUSIC or companies that send you hard drives loaded with music. In this case you use the music, then pay a license fee based on the type of project, if it airs, where it airs, and so on.

The fourth type of music that I use is that from a composer who we might have worked with in the past and who has an extensive library of music. This is the case for many projects I work on, including the History Channel series I just wrapped. Now, sometimes you use their music as temp and they might score something new for the project, or you might just use what you used, as it has been edited to fit exactly what you cut. Very often we will use temp music, then the composer scores something, but then in the mix we hear the score and opt not to use it, because the temp music fits the scene better. No problem, that new score will end up in our music library for some future show.

But then there is the issue like what happened with THIS AMERICAN LIFE…because we have this pool of music that we have to choose from, and we ONLY have this pool to choose from…and there are multiple editors working on different shows at the same time…the same music track might be used in multiple episodes. So if you are watching this History Channel show, you might hear the same music cues in a segment about ritual scarring and in another show in a segment about a group of fishermen who survived 9 months at sea. So in this respect this mirrors what I experienced in THIS AMERICAN LIFE. Same show, same music, different segments.

But there is a wrinkle in this tale. The interesting thing about this music is that it was originally slated for…and used in…ANOTHER documentary series that I worked on with this company. A medical series for Discovery. And since I was the only editor from that series that moved on to this new one, only I was affected by this music in the manner that I was. Well, the producers were as well. And this made using this music, meant for use in medical docudrama, in a series about strange rituals around the world…a little odd.

For example, when looking for the right music in a segment, I clicked on a track that I used in the medical show. And while it was perfect for this part of the segment, I found that I couldn’t use it. Because I used it for a moment in the medical show where the main doctor really opens up and pours his heart out about what drives him to do what he does. When the producer, who was sitting behind me, heard it, he too noticed it. “I don’t know about this…I associate it too much with Dr. (BLANK).”

“I know,” I replied. “I is so perfect for this part of the segment though.”

“Yeah, you’re right…but I can’t watch this segment with it…it will make me recall the doctor.”

Now, the average viewer would, of course, not have this reference and it would be fine for them. In fact, it was perfect. I had actually called in a few people from the production to listen and they agreed. Except for one guy, who also worked on that medical show and also recalled it instantly. While I did replace it initially, eventually I did use it in the end. Because the only people with the hangups were me, the production manager, and the producer.

I just found it very interesting how deep music can effect us. And when it is tied with a certain visual, you can’t think of it in any other context…it distracts you when you try.

I’m gonna have multiple parts on this…maybe two, maybe three. So there will be more on this topic later.