Well-timed montages
December 23, 2012 3:59 PM   Subscribe

From John Simpson flinching (at ~26s) to a 747 appearing out of the haze in Koyaanisqatsi: what are the most apposite and best-timed pairings of music to moving pictures?

I'm more interested in the 'ooh, nice timing' (John Simpson) end of things than the 'that music really fits the mood of this shot' (Koyaanisqatsi) end of this spectrum, but I'm curious to see what other sort of elegant pairings I might have missed, whether it be on TV, in film, or elsewhere.
posted by Talkie Toaster to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I once asked a filmmaker friend how he achieved some of the great timing of music to action in his films. He told me there's a phenomenon known as 'serendipitous sync', wherein the mind of the watcher/listener discovers connections between the music in a film and the action, even though the timing may actually be random.

Sorry tho, I don't have any examples for you.
posted by carterk at 4:17 PM on December 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Chronos, an IMAX movie that was basically a reworking of Koyaanisqatsi (and shot by some of the same people) had many moments that worked on the one end that you noted. In particular, the Grand Central escalator scene was the end of a sequence that starts about a minute earlier was the culmination of a rising beat of music and movement.

As a contrast, the same escalator is in another shot about 5 minutes later with different music and people traveling the other direction.
posted by lampshade at 4:19 PM on December 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

One my favorite movies, Scorsese's "After Hours" has a great score that's based on a ticking clock effect that's used as a percussive element throughout the film. There are numerous scenes where the music drives home the isolation and desperation the lead character's experiencing as he moves through the city in the middle of the night. The ticking is a constant metaphor for movement and a reminder that time is passing and he's powerless to stop it.

The first 10 seconds of this scene is a great example.
posted by davebush at 5:24 PM on December 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I agree with carterk. One example.
posted by bricoleur at 5:28 PM on December 23, 2012

Much of Michel Gondry's music video work functions like this, but especially "Star Guitar."

The film Amadeus is full of surprising and amazing synchronicities, especially in transitions, this for example.

A Clockwork Orange plays with music and rhythm quite a bit. Not quite what you're describing, but maybe related, such as this.
posted by Ms. Toad at 5:34 PM on December 23, 2012

There is a plane landing scene in The Usual Suspects that is timed well with the tension in the accompanying music.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:42 PM on December 23, 2012

I used to work with a guy named (incredibly) John Q. Adams, who ran the music library at New York's WNET, the public television station. He would add the music to your favorite PBS documentaries (Nature, Nova, etc. (I can't remember which shows are WNET and which are WGBH, apologies)).

He used to call a perfect synchronicity of music and video--the exact downbeat of the music as the bear chomps on the salmon mid-air--a "Mickey Mouse." If you pulled a CD off the shelf, queued it up and the volcano erupts exactly at the big crescendo of the music, it was a Mickey Mouse.

Now, whenever I'm listening to music on my iPhone, and the bus stops and opens its doors just as the chorus hits, it's a Mickey Mouse.

The best is when I see my wife as some big romantic crescendo plays in my earphones.

Now that's a Mickey Mouse.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:43 PM on December 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think Jeb Corliss, Grinding the Crack might fit the bill. At least the first 40 seconds or so are pretty perfectly timed to the song.

And as a bonus, I get to link to Kitty Corliss, one of my favorite youtube videos, which plays off the above video.
posted by losvedir at 7:04 PM on December 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Timing a shot to a beat is absolutely something that happens a lot in the fanvid culture. Vidders match video clips with an song that is somehow thematically or rhythmically linked to the clips.

For example, this Loki fanvid is currently rocking my socks with the timing. (Loki looking up exactly on the beat at 2:37... Oh yes.)

I'm happy to give more examples if wanted.
posted by snowleopard at 8:14 PM on December 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I came in to suggest Star Guitar, which is an absolutely perfect example of this, and wonderful fun to boot. But since I'm not very good at synchronous timing, Ms Toad beat me to it.
posted by Joh at 9:04 PM on December 23, 2012

I mean, if we're talking about music videos... which you probably aren't, another great example is The xx's Islands. Things go downhill. To music. Gondry, mentioned above, also directed Around the World which is pretty fantastic, but again, just a music video.

That classic VW commercial is a perfect example of this, called out by the VO, and I think of it a lot when it rains. That's good advertising right there.
posted by disillusioned at 12:17 AM on December 24, 2012

You mean like Dark Side of Oz?

posted by JJ86 at 1:36 AM on December 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are many such moments in 2001: A Space Oddyssey.
posted by Specklet at 1:51 AM on December 24, 2012

As well as Dark Side of the Rainbow mentioned above by bricoleur, there's also 2001: A Spiritualized Odyssey, which is pretty fabulous. I'm also quite partial to Godflesh Superstar.
posted by jonathanbell at 2:25 AM on December 24, 2012

Len Lye's "Swinging the Lambeth Walk" - in one way this is an ancestor of today's music visualisers driven by an FFT of the music- but the effect of a piece of film where the whole thing is done by hand is quite different.
posted by rongorongo at 4:38 AM on December 24, 2012

Epic Tea Time with Alan Rickman. (Previously, but the link there is dead.)

kitten vs TWO scary things
posted by stebulus at 5:07 AM on December 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! Your responses went off in a different direction to what I had anticipated, but I am grateful.
posted by Talkie Toaster at 6:03 AM on January 6, 2013

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