Maidenhead

Film Score & Sound Design

Maidenhead - 15'51" 35mm Dolby Surround stereo mix © Marie Craven 1995

Background

Maidenhead is a short film funded by the Australian Film Commission and developed by writer/director Marie Craven and producer John Cruthers. It stars Alice Garner as Alice - a young woman who moves through a series of quasi-surreal episodes and encounters with people in everyday situations. The character Alice is a meld of the numerous 'Alices in Wonderlands' that have been referenced in stories intent on exploring emotional/psychological transformations that occur when a female character 'wanders' across unfamiliar terrain.

Very much a 'dream narrative', Maidenhead is comprised of around 7 discrete episodes - each featuring Alice, but none connecting or linking to each other. They are like random moments or chapters in her memory or imagination. The staging is very naturalistic, but the sequencing and flow of the collected episodes doesn't map out any grand plot situation, but rather details subtle shades of Alice's psyche and emotional composure.

Maidenhead premiered at the 44th Melbourne International Film Festival in 1995. It is shot on Super 16mm and printed at 35mm and mixed in Dolby Surround stereo. Score excerpts from Maidenhead were included on the CD Filmmusic Vol.2, released by Sound Punch Records in 2009.

Credits

1995

Engineered, produced, processed & mixed by Philip Brophy
Drums, samples, guitar & voice - Philip Brophy
Sound design - Philip Brophy
Sound editors - Craig Carter & Livia Ruzsic
Source sound effects recorded by Philip Samartzis & Jennifer Sochackjy

Overview

Maidenhead was developed by Marie from a series of dream fragments. She wrote these down over a long period, and then workshopped them under performance and dramatic conditions with actor Alice Garner. From these workshops, Marie then devised the final set of narrative chapters which comprise the final script.

As there is no overarching theme - or least no singular dramatic arc - to Maidenhead, the idea of scoring a 'net' of themes was deemed inappropriate. The beauty of the film is the way in which it portrays Alice nonchalantly so that the film itself seems not concerned with summing up any specific or distinctive purpose in her being. This avoidance of scriptwriting-101 is refreshing, plus it allows greater space for a psychological 'reflectiveness' in revealing and documenting Alice's character without justifying her actions.

Following the way that the Alice character is thus mostly nonplussed and seems vaguely detached from her situations and surroundings, the idea was to mesh the film score with the sound design so as to create a semi-realistic environment which nonetheless appears aurally heightened or even unlikely and inappropriate. In most cases, the sound elements are from actual and verifiable locations which connect to the onscreen depiction, but they have been modified - sometimes subtly, other times obviously. In other cases, the sounds are 'naturalistic' but they are entirely divorced from their onscreen location. (Philip provided these 'trans-world' sound elements and Craig Carter handled the sound editing and dialogue editing.)

The result is not so much to portray an interior mind state of Alice - remembering that she herself is mostly mildly quizzical and generally non-judgmental in the various situations she finds herself in. Instead, the sound design creates spaces which confirm that they are not what they appear, yet there is no concern expressed by Alice and others that these spaces may not be what they appear. This option has been explored in marked contrast to the obvious tack of sonically and musically rendering the spaces 'dream-like' - which usually means resorting to cliches like tacky echoed flutes, spooky ambient soundscapes or surrealism-101 style-clashes. Ultimately, Maidenhead depicts Alice as devoid of angst, apprehension or alienation: she is at home in her wandering terrain, relieved of heroic journey's and gendered histrionics.

Technical

Sound score

Following a viewing of the fine cut of the picture, the following 'sound score' breakdown was written up and used as the master plan for developing the 'sense of space' for each of the environments Alice's passes through. Comprised of natural sounds (interior sfx recorded by Philip Brophy; exterior sfx recorded by Philip Samartzis & Jennifer Sochackjy) and processed through the ASR sampling workstation, theses passages retain their acoustic aura while conveying a 'trans-worldly' sensation.

For about half of these sections, musical elements were seeded within the constructed acoustic environments. 'Seeded' means that some of the sound effects were performed with pitch or rhythmic patterning so that a harmonic suggestion grew from within the acoustic environment. This technique Philip has noted occurs often in Japanese film scores, where sounds and musical motifs are allowed to float through and beyond scenes, as if wind or water currents are governing their placement rather than authorial inscripture. Thus, components like distant planes, screeching breaks, heart beats, magpies and alarms start to function more musically than acoustically.

PRE-TITLE

Alice enters frame. No foley footsteps as Alice walks into frame. Slight empty atmosphere fills the space. Digital alarm suddenly rings. Alice opens pouch. Still no foley sounds - button snap as Alice opens pouch. Alice turns alarm off. Final bip of digital alarm transforms into a puff of deeper atmosphere - cross-fade into: Alice stands still. Slight traces of short wave radio crackle. MAIDENHEAD title. Short wave radio crackle peaks in volume.

TOO BIG FOR HER HEAD

Title card. Slight reverberant ringing. Reverbed fade-up of foley footsteps, with less reverb as the footsteps get closer? Alice lifts up hat. Timed to the rhythm of her footsteps fading up from the TOO BIG FOR HER HEAD title, a sweep of shopping mall atmosphere suddenly thrusts us into the hat shop environment. This sweep - like the shift from having your ears suddenly unblocked - synchs with the on-screen movement of Alice lifting the hat to her head. Throughout this first part of the scene, an occasional distant saleswoman's PA voice is vaguely heard speaking through a small amplifier. Lift chimes can also be heard. Saleslady enters. Distinctive foley steps of high-heels. Saleslady presents hat. A small christmas bell jingle accompanies the sound of the new hat as she lifts it up. Saleslady lifts hat onto head. As hat touches Alice's head, crisp foley sounds of the hat bristling is clearly heard. This foley sound to continue with each movement of Alice's head. Alice reacts to Saleslady. The shopping mall atmosphere becomes deeper in tone (more bass, more rumbling). Alice walks to Saleslady's desk. Shopping mall atmosphere returns to normal. Alice turns & exits. A long extended sound of wood creaking is heard. Carry this sound over into: Alice walking down stairs. Wood creak dies, mingled with soft leather-slipper foley of Alice's footsteps. A slight reverberant hum hangs in the background (a digital reconstruction of Alice's reverberant ringing). Alice hears sound. An off-screen boom fills the stairwell, introducing loud and partially distorted muzak (soft rock ballad) which fills the space. The song is unrecognizable, but its presence is oppressive. Hat box carried down stairs. The small Christmas bell jingle accompanies the movement of the hat box. The volume of the distorted muzak recedes into the background. The Saleslady's footsteps are distinct and harshly reverb in the space. Alice removes her shoes. Clear foley leather squeaks match her removing the shoes. From this point on, no sound for Alice's feet in the stairwell. Saleslady calls out. A sharp short wave crackling trails after her voice. By this point all distorted muzak has disappeared. Alice drops shoes & runs. The dropped shoes distinctly reverberate. The foley of her bare feet on concrete is clearly heard for a brief onscreen moment. Alice looks up, runs away. Slight reverberant ringing follows Alice, increasing in volume. The Christmas bell jingle matches the Saleslady chasing Alice. Alice looks up, runs away. The reverberant ringing rises sharply, peaking in volume just as: Alice enters outside lane. A new lane atmosphere matches this new laneway environment: a street- cleaner hum slowly approaching; a very distant building-site jackhammer; the odd loud reverb dumpster bangs of restaurant hands dumping bags into lane dumpsters; the sporadic sound of an electronic car alarm being de-activated. Saleslady exchange with Alice. Street-cleaner hum rises and fails to match this exchange. Very soft foley of her high heels. Christmas bell jingle as box is handed to Alice. Alice walks away. Light extended reverb of Alice's shoes being dropped. Soft footsteps fade as she walks away. Christmas bell jingle trails off as well.

AS FAR AS SHE CAN GET

Title card Full stereo sound of egg frying. Cross-fade into: Bus approaches. Fade up of roaring bus. A high pitched kettle whistle fades up and peaks at the cut: Alice sitting next to woman. Deep rumble inside bus - a fairly empty and monotonous drone. The high pitched kettle whistle fades away quickly. Alice gets up/sits down. Hissing vinyl cushion sound (reversed). This sound is played forward as Alice sits down. Passing landscape. A 2 note chime plays lightly, combined with frying egg atmosphere (digitally reconstructed texture of the egg frying). Bump jolts Alice. A big jolt signals the return to the deep rumble inside the bus, but this time it is combined with a series of metallic rattles. Alice gets up/sits down. Hissing vinyl cushion sound (reversed). This sound is played forward as Alice sits down. No foley for Alice's footsteps. Man & woman's movements. Light foley of all their movements. Alice gets up again. Hissing vinyl cushion sound (reversed). Alice speaks. All metallic rattles stop. Alice sits down. A long drawn- out forwards version of the hissing vinyl cushion. The metallic rattles return, building in intensity. Bus drives away. Fade down of roaring bus. Slight trace of frying egg atmosphere. Fade out over AN OTHERWISE ORDINARY ROOM title card.

AN OTHERWISE ORDINARY ROOM

Title card Soft suburban atmosphere. Alice listens at window. A single magpie sings outside. This blends into a loop of backwards chimes, playing a cycle of 2 notes. Occasional water drops are heard. Alice unrolls toilet fabric. Incidental music: 3 contrapuntal melodic lines distinctly develop harmonies upon the 3 note cycle: (a) a Verdi-esque cello (b) a breathy baroque flute (c) a jazzy clarinet. These will all be sampled, digitally processed and transformed from recordings. As these melodic lines interweave - following the flowing movements of the toilet roll fabric - an ambient wash of choral voices heaves and sighs throughout the developing melodies. Alice reaches end of the roll. The incidental music changes as the final sheet of fabric flows from the toilet roll. As the roll continues spinning, the music fades away. Alice sits looking at the fabric. The final refrain of the music melts into a final version of the magpie outside. The chimes now briefly play forward. A few isolated water drops from the bathroom tap are heard. Carry magpie over into A SCEPTRE OR A HANDBAG title card.

A SCEPTRE OR A HANDBAG

Title card. A single magpie sings very softly. The queen sings. No atmosphere to be used throughout this scene. The queen's studio recording will be used. No foley movement of anyone in the room. Queen sings to Alice. A slight trace of reverberant ringing rises when Alice appears (from TOO BIG FOR HER HAT). Some slight voice texture (digitally edited from sample of Queen's voice) hovers at end of song. Everyone applauds. Natural synch recording to be used.

ANOTHER PASSERBY

Title card. A single car horn can be heard clearly. A whoosh (a mix of fabrics & plastic moving through wind) joins to: Alice & Runner in street. The heavy city traffic at a loud volume level. The same single car horn occasionally sounds, getting more impatient in tone. The foley steps of Alice's leather shoes and the Runner's runners are distinct and audible. (Possibly need to be done for whole scene for any moments of clarity required.) Alice looks over at Runner. The car horn sounds impatiently, this time holding a sustained note. Runner stands looking at Alice. The sustained note of the car horn carries over. Alice continues on her way. Car horn ends on cut. Heavy city traffic atmosphere continues. Alice walks into shadow. The heavy city traffic closes down into a deep tonal wash, as the Runner follows Alice. This deep tonal wash peaks as Alice turns her head. Runner charges - Alice reacts. As Runner moves, a sharp blade scrape joins the two shots. The deep tonal wash ceases when this sound occurs. Alice runs down side of house. A dog bark punctuates the latter half of Alice's run. Her footsteps are carried by some dumpster bangs (from TOO BIG FOR HER HAT). Alice pauses to look back. A whoosh synchs to the camera movement. Runner stares at Alice. Low volume of a machine pulse. Runner charges; Alice runs. Another whoosh synchs to the camera movement, dying as Alice runs toward fence. Alice jumps fence. Distant helicopter soar. Synch or foley sound of Alice jumping fence. Runner sees Alice jump fence. Machine pulse builds in volume. Helicopter soar volume trails off. Runner jumps fence. Final fade of helicopter soar. Machine pulse builds in volume as Runner scales fence. Synch or foley sound of Runner jumping fence. Runner lands on feet. Boom 2(from TOO BIG FOR HER HEAD). Runner's POV scanning yard. Sharp wood clicks with reverb synch the end of each camera sweep. An occasional single sparrow is heard in this backyard - no other atmosphere. Runner searches yard. Very light footsteps. Alice hides at side of house. Light breathing. A second dog bark halts her breathing. Alice approaches/opens door. Light foley of door handle. No door creak. Alice inside house. Grandfather clock ticks slowly and ominously. No other atmosphere. Door opened by Runner. No door creak. The machine pulse fades up slightly as Runner enters house. Alice runs past Runner. Loud foley of Alice's footsteps. Loud foley bang of door being pushed open. Alice runs down corridor. The sound of a wood ball rolling on wood loudly fills this space as Alice charges. Foley of Alice & Runner's footsteps. Alice at front door. Wood ball rolling on wood continues, mixed with machine hum as Runner grabs Alice. Foley of Alice rattling metal latch. Alice's hands against glass. Two loud foley bangs in silence. Alice at front door. Loud foley bang as Runner falls against other door. Wood ball rolling on wood continues, introduced by a whoosh. Alice opens door. Foley for door being opened in silence. Alice exits front yard. Full and surging wind through cypress trees swells up as Alice hits the street. This wind sound continues for rest of scene. A new reverberant ringing 2 builds. Alice crosses street. Once again, the foley steps of Dice's leather shoes and the Runner's runners are distinct and audible. Foley of bush as Alice enters it. Alice hides in bush. Light reverberant ringing 2 builds as Alice watches Runner searching for her. Runner searches. Machine pulse follows her actions. As Runner passes on, the reverberant ringing and machine pulse die - but both are suddenly cut by the sharp postman's whistle. Postman's dialogue Wind through cypress trees fades slightly. Alice looks shocked to Runner. Short wave crackle (from PRE-TITLE) ties over to shot of Runner looking at postman. Postman exits. Reverberant ringing 2 continues, mixed with sound of postman's bike fading away. Alice watches Runner exit. Wind through cypress trees fades gradually, reaching silence by end of final wide shot of the street. Throughout this close down of the scene, an occasional short wave radio crackle is heard, combined with musical resolution of reverberant ringing 2. A heart beat commences as Alice looks relieved. Carry this over into next title card.

AFTER DARK

Title card A soft heart beat fades up. Alice move through club. Some incidental music will play for this whole nightclub scene. The music will be tactile, pulsating, sensual, with a thick, continual beat. No Foley sounds should be audible. Alice sees Man. The incidental music builds and breaks apart, basically mirroring the development between Alice and the man. Alice touches the man. Stylized musical motifs will be matched to their actions. As she passes his ears, the sound of the incidental music will noticeably change. Man exits with Alice. The incidental music changes gear, and cuts at next scene. Alice enters bedroom. Light carpet foley for both Alice and Man's footsteps. Throughout this scene, processed car squeals punctuate the dramatic space, heard far in the distance. (These sounds are similar to tyre squeals heard in underground car parks, but lighter in texture and presence.) Apart from these occasional sounds and foley work, the space is filled with a musical silence (a musical texture stylistically signifying extreme quiet). Alice turns on light. Reverberant ringing 2 (from ANOTHER PASSERBY). Alice gets into bed. Foley for bed quilt movement, but no creak for bed. Light foley or synch for all other body movements. Man touches floor. As man comes to rest on floor, a deep ringing plays lightly for rest of scene. Alice turns out light. Reverberant ringing 2.

ALL THESE EYES

Title card. A final processed car squeal accompanies this title card, mixed with a single pigeon coo. Alice walks along city lane. Dense city traffic - close and not as distant as the atmosphere used for ANOTHER PASSERBY. At the cut to this shot, a flock of pigeons loudly disperses and settles. Light foley of Alice's footsteps. Alice notices sound. The sound of applause rises in volume. Alice walks by bus. Foley of clapping may be needed to match close-up track of people in bus. Some ADR vocal 'whoops' may also be needed to synch some obvious mouth movements. Alice walks away. A few passing cars should be mixed into the dense city traffic to match on-screen car passes. Gradually, the dense city traffic recedes, and the sound of applause cross-fades into gushing water. This cross-fade is noticeable by the time Alice reaches the corner. End credits. The cross-fade between applause and gushing water continues, with the applause receding by the time the credit block reaches centre frame. The gushing water then gradually fades into a few isolated water drops from a bathroom tap.