Norman McLaren Music
September 14, 2006 9:16 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know anything about the electronic music/soundtracks that Norman McLaren composed for his own NFB short films (availability, gear, recording techniques, etc.)?
posted by gordasm to Media & Arts (7 answers total)
IIRC he scratched some of them directly on the side of the film where the sound was read optically.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 9:32 PM on September 14, 2006

I think he scratched and painted the visuals on the actual film, for some films.
From what I understood, he "drew" sound patterns which were then photographed and placed down the side of the film, where the projector reads the optical track.
If you scratch the film where the optical track is, you're just going to get a crappy scratching noise.

At least this is my memory from film school more than ten years ago.
posted by chococat at 9:45 PM on September 14, 2006

Yeah, chococat is right. Weirdly enough, I saw one of his films and a small doc. about the process yesterday (yes, I'm in film school). He painted blobs and dots on the optical track of 35mm film, which was read by the projector. Well, at least it was 35mm in the documentary. Maybe he used something smaller for other projects.
posted by ruby.aftermath at 8:19 AM on September 15, 2006

According to this he engraved and painted to create sound. The optical sound track is an analog clear pattern in black emulsion, no? So if he drew the sound tracks, the negative of the drawing would be placed on the film, unless he painted with bleach. There must be people at the NFB who could answer this in more detail.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:21 AM on September 15, 2006're starting to jog my memory, weapons-grade.
Years ago I went to the NFB in Montreal and there was a McLaren exhibit. They had a little studio set up to show some of his sound experimentation. As I remember, he had a set of cards: templates. They were shapes, the waveforms seen on the optical track. Each card represented a note on the musical scale and this way he could plan out melodies and rhythms and such.
So, you're right, I think he painted with ink on the optical track. But I also seem remember he would use those cards and photograph them onto the optical track, which was much quicker. And I remember the scratching as more to do with the visuals; but I'm probably wrong about much of this.
Awesome stuff, regardless. He's always been a favourite of mine.
posted by chococat at 8:38 AM on September 15, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks a lot everyone! I just found out yesterday that the NFB is releasing a 7 (!) DVD Masters Edition box set on McLaren. Hopefully there'll be some footage of his musical preparations. Are there any fans of his Mosaic short? My favourite of his (so far).
posted by gordasm at 4:53 PM on September 15, 2006

Yes as far as I remember he did paint them on the optical track, and the scratching was for the visuals but I'm a composer and not a film-maker so that's the extent of my knowledge. Anyway, yes McLaren was amazing...
posted by ob at 9:36 AM on September 16, 2006

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