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Music in films - is it possible to get a positive ID on a short segment?
January 5, 2014 2:26 PM   Subscribe

The incidental music in a specific scene of Only Lovers Left Alive by Jim Jarmusch sounds a lot like the first half minute of something I have heard before, but it's not listed in the soundtrack. Is it possible to get a definitive answer on whether it's the same thing or it just sounds similar?

In the scene where Tilda Swinton flies to Detroit, there's a some background music that is just an electric guitar wailing with no lyrics. I only heard it once in a theater, but it immediately registered as the opening to a track I am familiar with. Google and IMDB do not seem to be corroborating this, but perhaps such a small sample would not show up anywhere.

It's very possibly a case of apophenia, but it got me wondering: is every piece of music in a film formally accounted for? Would it be possible for the filmmaker to slip in a short, not very identifiable sample in this manner, and do we have any known cases of this happening?
posted by Dr Dracator to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is the the music at 1:35 in this clip?
posted by nightwood at 3:01 PM on January 5

If you have a smartphone or tablet, try running the moment in question through SoundHound or Shazam or something similar. How long does the guitar sample last?
posted by Pandora Kouti at 3:32 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]

is every piece of music in a film formally accounted for?

I think in this case it'd be safe to say "yes" - a filmmaker of Jarmusch's stature making a film distributed by Sony Pictures and that's been shown at Cannes and the Toronto International Film Festival - there's pretty much 0% chance everything isn't totally legit.

Plus Jarmusch is apparently an active musician himself (a guitarist, actually), and known to be friends with a lot of musicians, so I doubt cribbing a sample of someone else's music without credit is something he's likely to do anyway.

it's not listed in the soundtrack.

Soundtracks are often not very accurate representations of the music heard in the film, although Jarmusch being Jarmusch it's probably better than most. The place to look would be in the end credits of the film proper, which will have a more complete listing of music in the film not written by the film's composer (who in this case is Jozef van Wissem who actually plays with Jarmusch.) IMDB also gives Sqürl a credit as composer and "additional music", and that's the name of one of Jarmusch's other musical projects.

So it's entirely possible the bit you heard was by the filmmaker himself.

incidental music

Stuff like this is often what people who get "composer" or "additional music" credits do, so unless that bit you heard is credited at the end (and sometimes it is), I doubt you'll be able to find much if any info on it. Maybe if a full, complete, "every bit of music from the movie" soundtrack gets released.

Would it be possible for the filmmaker to slip in a short, not very identifiable sample in this manner

Possible, sure, but highly unlikely. Even producers of direct-to-DVD dreck probably don't want the hassle & financial problems of a lawsuit, or the loss of reputation. Cheaper & safer to just hire a nobody musician to make third-rate copies that sound kinda like whatever style of music they're looking for (I worked on recording a few of these kinds of things early in my career.)

Go check out some 80's raunchy comedies, or some low-budget horror flicks. They're filled with "sounds kinda like Band X" tunes that are actually written & performed by someone else. Heck, some of the 80's comedies have the actual original bands performing dreck music that sounds like a third-rate copy of their original work (looking at you, Cheap Trick.)
posted by soundguy99 at 3:44 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]

"Is every piece of music in a film formally accounted for?"

Yes, 100%, corporate film studios and TV networks require documentation for all music.

"Would it be possible for the filmmaker to slip in a short, not very identifiable sample in this manner?"

No, the director doesn't create the final sound masters. Every bit of music is listed out and checked by multiple people.

Maybe 20 or so years ago that could have happened.
posted by hamsterdam at 6:26 PM on January 5 [1 favorite]

Is the the music at 1:35 in this clip?

That's the scene, but I don't think that was the music.

I doubt cribbing a sample of someone else's music without credit is something he's likely to do anyway

I was thinking of it being a deliberate but obscure reference, not that they can't be bothered coming up with their own music. For what it's worth, the mood and lyrics of the track I'm thinking of would be a good fit to the film, which is pretty heavy-handed about dropping visual and dialogue references overall.
posted by Dr Dracator at 10:39 PM on January 5

If you mean the piece of music you heard was the original track by the original artist, then yeah, the movie makers got clearance and paid for the right to use the music in the film.

If you mean the composer(s) used a bit of melody or a riff or something and re-played and re-recorded it and incorporated it into the soundtrack as a homage to another musician, that's a little more of a grey area. First, it's possible for a work to use pieces of someone else's work and still be a unique and original creation in its own right, so possibly no clearance was needed. Second, something like this is usually intended as a friendly gesture of admiration and respect, so as long as the original artist takes it that way and doesn't sue or threaten to sue, then the filmmakers could possibly get by without looking for express permission. Even then, though, it's entirely possible that someone on the legal/production team noticed the musical quote and insisted on getting clearance or that Jarmusch & co. voluntarily got permission even if it might not have been entirely necessary.

In either case, the end credits would be the place to look. They don't seem to be available on IMDb (maybe on IMDbPro, which you have to pay for), and you might just be a little early to find that info elsewhere on the web, as the film has only seen release outside of film festivals in a handful of countries so far and won't hit the UK til the end of February and not until April in the US.
posted by soundguy99 at 5:01 PM on January 6

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