The soundtrack of ‘Whiplash’, beyond jazz

Since sound has become part of the cinema, the seventh art has changed forever. Movies like ‘Whiplash’, which also focuses on music, show that image and sound are one when a film is projected on the giant screen. Discover with us why.

‘Whiplash’ (2014) is a piece that we have to talk about in Signal Colombia. The film deals with the relationship that two musicians establish in the search for perfection of rhythm and interpretation in order to become worthy of jazz. On one side is Terrence Fletcher (J. K. Simmons), a jazz master known both for his talent and for his disciplinary methods of guiding his musicians. According to Fletcher, it takes a lot more than talent to become a giant in music: it takes an iron discipline, almost obsessive, to achieve a perfect interpretation.

On the other side is the young Andrew Neiman (Miles Teller), who dreams of becoming one of the best jazz drummers and, to achieve this, his first step will be to succeed at the East Coast Conservatory of Music, where he will have to do with Fletcher’s methods to gain his respect and take the first step towards realizing your dreams.

The feature film, which from start to finish shows the talent of J.K. Simmons, who with an outstanding performance recreates his passionate relationship between music and what he could do to find talents that they honor the jazz, It also featured the also magnificent performance of Miles Teller, not only because of the challenges posed by interpreting long sessions sitting on the drums and making it convincing, but because it was an important step for any actor: the move from comedy to pure drama.

The script for the feature film, passionate and well-constructed, and supported by a clean photograph and well-worked lighting, had the fortune of being very well brought to the screen by the director of the film, Damien Chazelle, who in addition to having an excellent casting director also knew how to raise the main theme of the film -the music- at the level of an elusive but overwhelming protagonist. ‘Whiplash’, definitely, it would not have been the same movie without the soundtrack that accompanies the narration of the story.

The soundtrack on ‘Whiplash’

A common confusion is related to the original soundtrack (BSO), and many times it is thought that the music (produced for the film or chosen for the film) is the entirety of the OST However, the soundtrack includes from the word, the human voice in the dialogues or in voice-over, to the use of silence and sound and environmental effects.

It is not by chance, for example, that when in a good part of the films, when a firearm appears in the painting, the image is accompanied by a characteristic sound that in reality the weapons do not make, but when mounted with the image reminds the viewer: “Be careful, someone drew a gun.”

The soundtrack conditions the way a viewer perceives and interprets the image And what is projected on the screen can change quite a bit depending on what is coming out of the speakers. A classic example taught in academia is the scene of Psychosis (1960), by Alfred Hitchcock, in which the entry of the knife into the body of the victim, added to his screams and the fall of the shower water accompany the image to make a flawless narration of a cold-blooded murder in a hotel bathroom. The scene is also accompanied by violins that push the terror of murder to another level.

Every sound since the woman enters the shower, the closing of the shower curtain, the opening of the bath soap provided by the hotel and the falling of the water in the shower make the image see an intimate atmosphere, with sounds that are rare Once you hear a person accompanied, and that are commonly heard in solitude. This conjunction of factors not only helps give meaning to the image, but with the sound it transports the subconscious of the viewer to a moment of absolute calm and security, in which no one else can be a participant.

Just when the murderer appears, the record of the sound of the curtain pushed to the side with violence, the scream of the woman, the violins and the entry of the knife into the victim’s flesh make one see how the weapon enters the body of the woman to death. But nevertheless, murder is unspoken, well in the frames you never see the gun hurting the woman and is limited to making appearances addressing the body, but never entering. However, the viewer related the sound to the image, and although it was never actually shown, they witnessed the crime.

In ‘Whiplash’, on the other hand, the relationship between the characters and the music becomes manifest from the absolute silence and the prominence of the noise emitted by the drums: from the slightest contact between the drumsticks and Andrew’s drums or cymbals with his instrument, the viewer is made manifest through the OST, as well as the transitions and the rhythm of the feature film are made in the key of jazz, from of the saucers.

We can also cite the scene in which the protagonist has to race against time to recover some scores. This sequence is accompanied by the sounds of car racing and dialogue, but also jazz; specifically jazz percussion: the musicalization gives it a violent and unbridled rhythm that is coupled with the actions and the outcome of the scene.

After the accident of the protagonist, product of his eagerness, a very meticulous tour is also made of how the impact of one vehicle with another sounds, even at the level of detail the sound of glass shards rubbing against the pavement and the metal of the car.

This emphasis on the soundtrack, which establishes an intimate and closed relationship between image, actions and sound, is characteristic of tapes in which music plays a decisive role in the story and, although it is not a general rule, a correlation of “need” between a musician and his instrument is constructed from this tool: there is no character without the instrument, and there is no film without the music that is born from it.

Most recently in the British-Irish feature film Jimi: Everything is on My Side (2013), which narrates the beginnings of the musical career of Jimi Hendrix, you can see scenes in which the soundtrack is also essential to explain the relationship between the musician and the guitar, as well as the use of the orchestral counterpoint (that the images do not match the sound) to tell the artist’s first experience with LSD.

In order not to go too far and leave one last example of how you could discover in depth the soundtrack of ‘Whiplash’, we also remember the rogue scene from the movie Travels of the Wind (2009), by Ciro Guerra, in which the minstrel Ignacio Carrillo plays the devil’s accordion and defeats his opponent, or when to the rhythm of vallenato a machete fight is embodied.

Who is JK Simmons?

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The soundtrack of ‘Whiplash’, beyond jazz

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