Tag Archives: design

On music and fonts

The above photos are from a project I did about the beginning of school in Santiago – how both children and parents are coping. It has nothing to do with the rest of the post, but is fulfilling our always visuals rule. The post itself talks about an unpublished piece, which will not appear in the blog until the publishing. The only hint on the visuals of that piece is the thumbnail.

So the other night, it was getting late and I was needing some music for a piece. I was working on a story about the damage to the Chile’s cultural heritage by the earthquake that occurred Feb. 27.

Music creates an internal conflict for me. I have been trying to steer away from music, as I tend to collect an abundance of ambient audio, and it makes me feel like less of a journalist to use music. I have heard that its use is forbidden in serious papers like the Washington Post and maybe even the New York Times. On the other hand, music can be wonderful. It’s nice to watch things with music. We’re accustomed to seeing it in television and movies. On the other, other hand, in Chile, they even play it in their broadcast news. I heard Sarah McLachlan playing during the reporting of the death and funeral of a young boy who had rejected a heart transplant. As well, the early entries to this year’s Project Report nearly all had heavy, narrative drowning emotional music. Blah. I don’t want to be a music user like that.

But, this piece needed it. I was using a combination of images from my own shooting, the work of other staff photographers at La Tercera and the Consejo de Monumentos Nacionales. I was the only one who recorded any ambient. Plus, the piece was long. These days, I don’t like to go over 2, 2 and a half minutes. I feel like it’s discourteous to the viewer. I dislike being bored. I don’t want to do the same to others. Additionally, the piece was full of buildings. It’s hard to connect with a building, even if it is pretty and old.

As I said, it was late. Or maybe early. I’ve been trading in my late nights for early mornings. It’s arguably more productive. My interview track was set. Nearly all of the images were in place. I went to the free soundtrackpro first but I couldn’t commit to it as I feel that as a source, it’s kind of tapped. I moved to Jamendo. I like the site because although the search isn’t super, it’s inexpensive, you don’t have to deal with a customer rep, and you can download and try all of their music free in the normal (as opposed to pro) section.

The story was for the Bicentenario (200th anniversary of Chile’s independence or declaration of independence more accurately). I felt like I should use something traditional, but I don’t know very much about traditional Chilean music. There is the cueca, a large, kind of complex, percussion heavy music. There were a number of reasons not to use the cueca. Firstly, it would have dominated my piece. Secondly, I was looking for something with the precise mixture of sadness and hopefulness – building were destroyed, but Chile’s strength is in her people. I doubted I would be able to find such a cueca. Finally, even if I did find the cueca that could convey these things, it was not going to be on Jamendo. Licensing some obscure cueca band would provide a whole new series of challenges.

It came to four songs. I found a song with something of a folk sounding theme, done by a Chilean group, although to my ear, it sounded more Caribbean than Chilean (Catalina Parra). Other searches gave me: one very bold, march sounding tune by a Spanish group (Quisiera ser Sol para iluminar) one simple, quasi classical piano tune, and finally (Hope), one electronic song, that captured the emotion but I was doubtful it would fit with the theme of bicentenario that my editors sought (Exponential Tears).

The Spanish, with their big, 18th century military march type song, was ruled out quickly, as it was the Spanish the Chileans were fighting. Although I might be the only one who would know, it still seemed inappropriate.

With the last three I struggled. Hope was what you expect to hear in a multimedia piece – simple piano playing. Catalina Parra hinted at the folk past of Chile. Exponential Tears, I just liked. It was edgier, more modern. It did not hint at the past, but emotionally, it conveyed what I was looking for without being heavy handed.

So, struggling, and struggling, I listened to the songs over and over again. Each time I heard a particular song, I thought, “this one, definitely this one.” Then I’d return to listen to another, with a repeat of “this one, definitely this one.”

And then, inspiration. It began with Papyrus. I thought, if the folksy song were to be any font, it would be Papyrus – very obvious, and not necessarily speaking to the actual moment. Then, bam, if Catalina Parra is the Papyrus choice for this project, Hope would be Times New Roman. Just blah. Functional and not in your face, but nothing that will spark anything up. OK, so then, Exponential Tears would have to be Interstate – modern and sleek, but no so much so that it is irritating. A font elegant for it’s simplicity, but beyond the basic Helvetica. A font, were this video to be a website, I’d be proud to use. And so, I chose Interstate, ie Exponential Tears.

Some links, for exploration…

On fonts – Nacho found this really fun chart the other day. Each time I look at it, I find something new to make me chuckle.

On music – MediaStorm has written a guide to choosing and working with music.