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Friday, March 15, 2013

Putting Sound and Music to Ray Lewis, Part 2

         E:60’s profile of Ray Lewis in 2012 called for music and sound to match the dark hues of Lewis’ story.  Producer David Salerno focused on Lewis’ relationship with his father, distant and troubled in youth and early adulthood.  Only in recent years have they reconciled.

Marlon Hidalgo

          Marlon Hidalgo of Anderson Productions edited the piece and explains the music.  It starts with Lewis meeting children in Harlem for his charity foundation.  A music cut, “You Will be Home”, runs for about 30 seconds.
          Hidalgo: “Very light and neutral for that part of the story.”
          Then Lewis answers his cell phone.  His father, Ray Jackson, is calling.  We hear Jackson singing a gospel tune, “I Feel Like Going On.”  At 1:05 the story moves forward with the reporter’s voice-over.  Lewis’ career success is summarized before his ordeal as a quasi-fatherless child is introduced.  The section uses four sound selections that start with a driving percussion and end with mysterious-spooky. The four cuts are called “Jump Cut”, “Antarctic”, “Harbor”, and Incantation.”
          Hidalgo: “I love to combine songs and audio design on my own.  The next four cuts were used for a total of 45 seconds.  I used them to jump from a fast-paced action to pensive and reflective mood.”

          The story transitions to Lewis’ Florida childhood at about 1:55.  The music is “Travels”, a light piece with strings.
          At 2:10 Lewis’ father is introduced as an absent figure in and out of jail for drugs.  The music, “Rainy Days”, a dark piano cut, runs for about 10 seconds.
          Hidalgo: “We thought it fit the mood.”
          At 2:45 come details of the father’s drug habit.  The tense music,  “The Basement”, is followed by “Mist on the Lake”, to 3:15, wherein the story turns toward Lewis’ fatherless childhood.
          Hidalgo: “We go from a dark mood to a mood of uncertainty.”
          Lewis’ loneliness and yearning for his father, and his immersion in athletics, is underscored by a melancholy piano in “Still Water” at 3:25 to 4:05, followed by a slow horn in “Earth Drama” at 4:15 and a soft percussion and ‘whistling wind’ in “Pensive” at 4:30 to 5:00.
          Hidalgo: “We went from a mood of emptiness to a resentful mood as Ray started training to forget about the pain his dad left in him.”
          Lewis coped through athletics at Kathleen High, and erasing his father’s achievements from the school record books.  This covers two cuts, “Floating Current”, and “Adventures in Relaxation”, from 5:30 to 5:50.
          Hidalgo: “They are both sort of atmospheric cuts that went well with the training and pain Ray felt in high school.”
          Lewis’ career advances to the University of Miami, where he becomes an All-American linebacker.  He begins to see more of his father, but their meetings tend to upset Lewis.  The music, “Future World”, runs from 5:52 to 6:15.
          Hidalgo: “It is a neutral cut that finishes with a down side.”  
          At 6:25 Lewis’ career takes off with the Baltimore Ravens, but still he craves a relationship with his father.  The music,  “Reading Your Words”, runs until about 7:00.
          Hidalgo: “A dark and somber cut.  Ray never got to have a father/son conversation at that time in his life.  Song was perfect for that.”
          The story becomes darker, as Lewis’ father flits at the margins of Ray’s life, mooching money but avoiding a relationship. 
          In 2000 Lewis is convicted of obstruction of justice, and in 2001 he wins a Super Bowl, but his father remains distant.  “Call for Help” runs from 7:16 to 7:36.
          Hidalgo: “A mysterious cut.  Ray testifies about the stabbings -- we thought the cut fit the mood.”
          The father talks about his relapse into drug addiction at 7:55, to a sound called “Suspensory”.
          Hidalgo: “It has a sort of dark investigative mood.”
          At 8:15 the father rejects Lewis’ offer to pay for treatment of his addiction, and determines to do it on his own.  The music, “Great Salt Lake”, which runs to 9:00, is “very dronie and a little dark”, Hidalgo said.
          The reconciliation of Lewis and his father began with a six-hour motor trip to visit Lewis’ grandfather and Ray Jackson’s father.  “Sun Rise and Shine”, at 9:15 to 9:30, is described by Hidalgo as “very reflective”.
          From 9:30 to 10:45, as Lewis’ father recounts how, during the drive, he poured out his guilt and remorse to his son, and Lewis recounts how he received it, no music or sound is used.   Catharsis begins in this segment.
          The story advances to their meeting with Lewis’ grandfather at his North Carolina home.  Lewis had never met his grandfather, Shadie Ray Whitehead.  The music, “Earth Rise”, was “another reflective and mysterious cut,” Hidalgo said, that ran for about 45 seconds.  As three generations talk of the family “curse” of paternal abandonment, and Lewis vanquishes his bitterness, catharsis is achieved.
          The mood swings upward at 11: 55 as Lewis vows to be a good father to his six children and to help disadvantaged youth through United Athletes Foundation.  Hidalgo used “The Waiting” because it is “reflective and light”.
          The story comes full circle at 12:35 when it returns to Lewis taking the cell phone call from his father, who belts out “I Feel Like Going On”, by The Five Heartbeats.  The tune gets a 20-second run, and then reappears at 13:45 as the story wraps.
          Hidalgo:  “The best cut of the piece.  This is Ray’s Dad singing and it fits the mood of the whole piece.  We all thought it would be the perfect way to end a father and son feature.  It is very powerful and has a great message.  It gives the perfect ending.”

Posted by Steve Marantz on March 15, 2013.  

Putting Sound and Music to Calvin Johnson. Part 1

Phil Hanson

          Sound and music, as production elements, distinguish E:60 stories among ESPN content.  That’s the opinion of Phil Hanson, music coordinator at ESPN.
          “What you get with E:60 is music that ties you here,” says Hanson, tapping his heart.  “We’re taking viewers into other people’s lives and worlds.  Music is part of that storytelling.  We have a chance to go in different directions with music and film score.  It’s a more elevated form of storytelling.”
          Hanson helps E:60 producers use sound and music to define and reflect emotion, mood, action, location, pace, and time period.
          As with food and flavors, sound and music are better understood as sensory experience than in words.  That’s why Hanson took us into the Music Room, 4th Floor, Building 13, to show how sound and music are used.
          Within the music room is a library with thousands of licensed selections labeled descriptively: suspense-tension, bebop jazz, kitsch, easy listening, percussive, world travel, mambo madness, surreal images, glued to the box, tribal dance, popular Dvorak, gator legends of rock and blues, questioning and curious, comedy classic, earth horizon, scenic emotions, computers and robots, lite whimsy, aggressive punk, electro rock, Latin pride and glory, moods, surf score, swamp rock, and country hard rock.       
          It also contains 20 custom scores composed for E:60’s exclusive use, soon to be 30 custom scores.  None were in the E:60 piece about Lions All-Pro wide receiver Calvin Johnson, first aired in 2012, that Hanson queued up as an example.
          The story highlighted Johnson’s supportive family and comfortable upbringing in Georgia, his work ethic and humility, and his steady ascent to stardom.  It was relatively devoid of struggle and darkness, save for his second year in the league in which the Lions were 0-16.
          The sound and music had to match the story.
          “We look at three key areas,” Hanson said. “The location of the footage -- Georgia for the most part.  The period is contemporary.  And the overall mood -- nothing too dark or dramatic.  You also have the fact that he’s an NFL player, which lend itself to a hard-hitting sound.”

          The piece opens with “Sandstorm Tambur” against a montage of Johnson’s on-field feats.  Sandstorm Tambur is a driving percussion, or as Hanson put it, “Kind of action-adventure.”
          In succession followed “Stars and Sand”, “Undercover Agents”, and “Epic Action Combat”.  More of the same.
          At 2:10 the story shifts to Johnson’s family and upbringing in Georgia.  The music is “Central Position” -- a slower tempo with folksy strings.
          “That’s a major shift - more of a background score for storytelling,” said Hanson.
          As the family story unwinds a slow cut, “Hidden Valley”, is followed by “Sparxx”.   At the mention of Sparxx Hanson lit up.
          “That’s one of our ESPN country drama sounds,” he said. “The story is looking into his background in the south.  Basically it combines some country elements with drama.”
          Asked to describe Sparxx, Hanson said, “It’s not a melody you can easily hum.  It’s going to give you drama and rising moments, with flavors that are southern.  It’s also called ‘crunk’, which is country funk.  It goes with long-form storytelling on athletes from the south.”
          Something called “Tribal Landscapes” is used for a few beats before the story shifts to Johnson’s high school and college feats.  The music becomes “Illest in the Game Instrumental”. 
          “Rather than the traditional highlight music we’re giving it a dramatic twist,” said Hanson.  “You can take any kind of basic music style - country, hip-hop, rock, pop - and give it different dramatic twists by putting in more minor chord changes, and changing the pace and the beats underneath.”
           As the story winds through his high school and college (Georgia Tech) career, the sound is “A Change of Sky”, which is soft, and “Epic Fight Action”, which is used for highlights, often in montage.
          A reflective cut called “Pensive” plays under the account, at 10:50, of his dreary 2008 season in which the Lions went 0-16.   After Pensive comes more up-tempo percussive sound to underscore the arrival of quarterback Matthew Stafford, and Johnson’s first Pro Bowl.  Lively strings accompany his signing of a huge new contract. 
          The summation, at 13:30, of the enviable and admirable world of Calvin Johnson is accompanied by “I Guess We’re Friends”, a bright pop acoustic number.
          “That’s for a happy ending,” Hanson said.

Posted by Steve Marantz on March 15, 2013