Friday, March 12, 2010
Mule Days Music
The music for the Mule Days documentary should sound something like how this photograph looks. Just barely pre-blues, strings and harmonica, trumpet and slide guitar. We're making a movie about Americana and nostalgia and fading ways of life. There's already an interesting push and pull between the past and future and where our characters are going, and I think the music can play along with these themes very well.
The latest Mule Clip is without any soundtrack, except for two songs played at the parade and the opening ceremony: "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and "Star Spangled Banner." I think this is very telling of the kind of event Mule Days is. It looks for a kind of classic Americanism when cowboys were stars and packing was still a relevant means of transportation. Our characters are either immersed in that culture, hanging onto it, or (in the case of the clown), just coming out of it.
The previous draft has a song I'm using as a place holder: "1000 Miles" by The Dirty Three. It comes in at the 2:15-ish mark if you want to listen to it. This song gets at some emotions that I'd like to keep exploring. It takes that Americana and spits it out the other end, where shit gets weird and you don't know what's going to happen. On one hand it sounds nostalgic, but when you listen to it you know that whatever its nostalgic for probably didn't exist in the first place. I love this idea: nostalgia for something that was never there. That's how I hope our music sounds.
There was a time in the 60's and 70's when American folk music really captured this feeling of being in limbo between remembering and going somewhere. I'm thinking about Bob Dylan, The Band, Neil Young, and Joan Baez. Its still around today, too; Bonnie Prince Billy, Nick Cave, Tom Waits. These have been huge inspirations for the film and for the music.
Whenever I edit, I always throw on an album in the background to set a tone. Neil Young's "After the Goldrush" has been a big staple.
From day one we've talked about Bonnie.
Here's a nutty version of 1000 Miles with an intro by my man Warren Ellis.
And, of course:
Combine this kind of music with an atmospheric bend, like the stuff at the beginning of this Nels Cline video, and you're arriving at the sound I think Mule Days should have.
We'll be recording a fairly small amount of music. My guess is 4-5 minutes MAXIMUM. As you can see from the two clips, "1000 Miles" and "Star Spangled" are used mainly as chapter breaks, or musical bridges between different scenes. I'm not looking for wall-to-wall sound, I'm looking for punctuation.
With all this in mind, maybe the music should sound more like this photograph than the last one.