But with poignancy or sadness, if you miss the mark a little, it really shows. If I don’t feel it, it is not working. You can’t force it, but deadlines don’t care about all that, so music really helps me get into the emotional space. It’s a handy shortcut.
What music I listen to very much depends on what I am writing. The feature script I am currently writing seems to love late-1960s ballads, especially “Reflections of My Life” by Marmalade. The script has nothing to do with the 1960s, but the song is a sad song disguised behind a cheery tune. It’s sad by stealth, which I love.
A lot of writing is done mentally, away from my computer: I could be in my car (not wearing my Bose!) and I hear the right song, and my mind starts writing. I pull over, Shazam it, and that becomes the temp song for the scene. For Angela’s Christmas I listened to Pietro Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana — Intermezzo” (a.k.a. the Raging Bull opening theme) on a loop, as it has the perfect poignancy. For the sequel it was a mix of Darren Hendley’s score for the first film and, bizarrely (as I am not a fan), André Rieu playing “And The Waltz Goes On,” composed by Anthony Hopkins.
I often review animation passes while traveling. The headphones allow me to review dialogue scenes anywhere (and sleep on planes!). At sound mix, I can review premixes at home to prep notes and listen to final mix passes outside the professional studio.
I hear things on the headphones that I’d miss on speakers, but it is a double-edged sword, as not everyone will watch the film wearing Bose headphones. So I jump from Bose headphones to cheap headphones to studio-grade speakers to tv speakers to make sure the mix works across all outputs. But the Bose headphones are great for catching rogue sounds or sounds that are too loud.
I have tried other noise-canceling headphones. Some of them do nothing! When I first got my Bose, I put them on and clicked the switch … the world went quiet. It was amazing. When you take them off, it is quite overpowering just how loud everything is. It’s a little like in action films, post-explosion, when they cut the audio and play the audio muffled, then have the sound rush back to full volume.
The headphones provide a silent sanctuary in a permanently noisy world. I love living in this world: total silence freaks me out, especially outdoors, as it means nothing is alive for quite a wide radius. There is something reassuring about hearing a car in the distance. But it is lovely to be able to control the noise. So if I am in the studio, I click on the noise canceling and it is me and the page, or the rough cut, or the mix.
“Angela’s Christmas Wish” is available to watch on Netflix.