In order to create a soundtrack that addresses the sounds cape of Fredrick Douglass’ self narrated life story, it seems prudent to attempt to transpose familiar sounds and patterns that might evoke emotions and imagery in synch with the emotions evoked by Douglass. Hearing is a sense that we unconsciously regulate, literal sounds and songs described by Douglass in his narrative, while imaginable, are un familiar to us. They do not invoke the same emotions and thoughts when we hear them as they do when they fall upon the ears of the individuals in Douglass’ time. I would propose an unconventional approach to a soundtrack for a recreation of the Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass by Fredrick Douglass. Imagine an interactive media format in which the limitless capabilities of the internet are at your disposal. The main plot points and episodes of the narrative are displayed, and the viewer/ listener can chose songs for each section of the story. Music and song can express and stimulate emotional sensory and understanding. This is exemplified in the songs sung by slaves in 19th century America. But the songs of these slaves provide a soundtrack that is specific to their own plight and experiences. We may be able to absorb the communicated themes and emotions in the song, but they are not our own. By offering the option of choice to the viewer/listener,  a greater connection is created. Each scene in the narrative has its own standard sounds, cracking whips, yelling voices, and the grunts and noise of labor perhaps. However, layered over these sounds is the song chosen by the viewer/listener that is meaningful and specific to that individual in particular. This would allow for a deeper connection and understanding of the soundscape of history by connecting it to modern day noise, music specifically. To provide an example of the logistics of such a medium for narration, I will attempt to divide Douglass’ story into sections, applying songs from specific artists that I feel would tie my own soudnscape to Douglass’. For the first episode, we can take the period in which Douglass resides on the “Great House Farm”. Perhaps a track like “Money” by Pink Floyd could encapsulate the image of economic extortion that is exemplified in the plantation structure of the Great Farm. As Douglass moves into the city of Baltimore, education is the theme of his dialogue. Maybe another Pink Floyd hit “The Wall” would be appropriate to describe the mentality of the slave owner who breeds ignorance through censorship. When Douglass is sent to Covey, and the two men do battle, a song such as “Suicide and Redemption”, a heavy metal, cathartic instrumental by Metallica’s Kirk Hamett would be provide an emotional tie to Douglass’ baptism by combat. In Baltimore, as he works to learn a new trade, Douglass could be seen accompanied by the Beatles’ “Hard Day’s Night”. And lastly when he makes his escape to the North, the movie could end on a rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner”. Mental connection to sound and music is based in familiarity. Reading Douglass’ accounts of antebellum America, including his sound imagery and description cannot provide us with a full idea of the interpreted soundscape. Incorporating songs that we are more familiar with and transposing them into the world of Douglass recreates his Narrative in a unique and powerful way.

7 thoughts on “Douglass

  1. I think it is an interesting idea to provide an interactive choice for the viewer, allowing them to pick different songs for different parts of the narrative, however there are several issues I see with the idea. Even if the technological logistics of such a medium were to be figured out, wouldn’t the viewer have to thouroghly know the order and mood of the various scenes in the narrative to effectively pick a song that would appropriately connect the scene with themselves? Would the viewer be given a short list of ‘appropriate’ songs, or would they be able to pick anything? Also, by giving song choice to the viewer you lose a lot of power in crafting the mood that you are trying to portray with the soundscape, so I’m not sure whether this would be a benefit or a detriment. It is a thought provoking idea though, I just think that it might be better applied to a different sort of project than this, where the difference between choosing this: and might make for a crucially different viewing experience…

  2. I like the idea of giving the viewers the options as to what songs could be played over the keynote sounds. The endless amount of songs that could be combined to form a soundtrack unique to the viewer would illicit a variety of different feelings and emotions. Varying artists and musical selections could give rise to emotions and feelings in the narrative that would be overlooked otherwise. I genuinely like this idea of a “Viewer’s Choice” for the soundtrack it would be interesting to see the combinations of sounds and emotions that could come from something like that.

  3. I like your idea of using modern music as a way to connect this issue to our modern-day thinking. I think it makes it more relatable, and I also think that this would potentially attract a whole new group of listeners who might not be interested if the modern component wasn’t present.

  4. While I think the idea about providing a choice to the viewers is an intriguing one, would not some of the contemporary choices pull the viewer away from the authenticity of the scene?

  5. I enjoyed how you used specific songs to convey the moods of various parts of Douglass’ journey in addition to the sounds that would naturally be present in the environment. Like WIll, I love the idea of using “Money” for the Great House Farm scene. I think the song would create the perfect mood of arrogant wealth that went along with rich plantations at the time. On ending with “The Star-Spangled Banner”, do you think that might convey a feeling that the North is more American than the South? Otherwise, why would it be played upon his entrance into the North, and never connected with his time in the South?

  6. Very thought-provoking content—I really like idea of using “Money” to represent the economic capital manufactured by plantations. Regarding your usage of “Hard Day’s Night,” do you feel that the tone of the song would mirror the general air of the shipyard? While I think the lyrics are fair harmonious with certain aspects of Douglass’ situation, the upbeat tempo and general vibe of the song seem to foster a greater sense of happiness than I would assume was actually present.

    • Your synergism of objective and subjective sound sets really interests me. I think the most interesting part of this experiment is what it might reveal about the viewer’s mind. What I also wonder about is how capable viewers would be at choosing applicable songs. Although it’s true that we live in an era of multimedia dominance and music accompanies us nearly everywhere, how much of the time do we interpret the world around us and then find songs to match it. I think not much, but we do match music to our moods. I wonder how this ability would correlate between introversive and extroversive settings of perception.

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