Music as element of narration in poetic documentaries

Authors: Stutterheim, K.

Journal: New Soundtrack

Volume: 8

Issue: 2

Publisher: Edingburgh University Press

ISSN: 2042-8855

DOI: 10.3366/sound.2018.0124

Music, sound and rhythm, as aesthetic means of design, have been part of the tradition of poetic documentary film from its early history. This paper discusses various examples of this genre, all of which use soundscapes, sound design, and music. Music can be either specially composed for the film or previously published. Internationally known for their musical and poetic qualities are films such as, Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929), Rain (1929) by Joris Ivens, and Berlin, Symphony of a City by Walter Ruttmann (1929), to name but a few outstanding examples. Among the most recent documentaries using music as a narrative element are The End of Time by Peter Mettler (2012) and Pearl Button by Patricio Guzman (2015). The notion of music and rhythm as embodying meaning also applies to silent films, such as Manhatta, a poetic documentary about Manhattan (Strand & Sheeler, USA 1921). ‘Poetic documentaries’ use sounds of the environment as well as of music to convey a dramaturgical meaning. How these sounds inform the conceptualisation and realisation of creative/poetic documentaries is the central focus of this paper.

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