I downloaded Inception the app almost right away when it came out, because of course, as an RjDj fan I knew about it. At the time I had a 3G iphone and had a really bad experience with it. It essentially wouldn’t play for me at all…It downloaded – so I assumed it would work, since I had been using RjDj, and then it didn’t. Dismayed, I posted a bad review of it on the Apple site. Then, I tried it on my iPod touch 4, worked like a charm, fast and furious, but I didn’t really see much point in using it. I was at home at the time…not much going on. This was similar to my early RjDj experience…you just really have to take that baby out and about to experience the magic. So, recently, bored with my usual soundtrips, I turned on Inception on my new iPhone 4G and rather than trying to tinker with dreamscapes, just hit enter…
Fast-forward a week…I’ve been listening to it almost every day, for long periods of time, on my too-long commutes, and reflecting on this experience. It’s just a week past my sound course’s “ipods and headphones” lecture when we all talked about our headphone/ipod listening habits, desires for retreat into a musical world, for orchestrating our own accompaniment to life. I try not to be a hypocrite. I’ve never told my students listening on the ipod is bad, or escapism is bad. I don’t even think it is. But, only *i* know when i do it, and I certainly sometimes do escape. RjDj has already been a fresh change, and I’ve written about that, but Inception is interesting in yet other ways, and I’ve become somewhat obssessed.
One of the things I talked with my class about is how you don’t have to carry huge books of CDs like before, now you have all your music on a tiny ipod, all the variety you need…because who can stand to listen to only one album all day? We’ve also been talking about film sound and how it evokes certain moods or expressions (or rather, as many of my students say if it’s a happy scene and the music fits ’cause it’s happy – surely, we’ll never know why that is… but i digress). So Inception in some ways is like listening to the same album all day, for days on end in fact. Except, its “interactive” nature makes it sort of random when the musical score would appear and take charge so in that way it’s not really predictable as an album, but nevertheless, it’s the same soundtrack.
The voice modulation at certain points of the experience is also pretty dramatic and sophisticated. Coupled with the deep, raspy tones of the tuba inside the lavish orchestration of the Inception Main theme, I caught myself wanting to whisper dramatic things like “One Day… (one day… one day…) …. When This is All Over (all over…all over….) … We Can Start … (start….start….start…) Again (ehn…ehn….ehn…). I get that urge every time and am quite saddned there is no recording capability…I presume for copyright purposes. Of course I will soon get around that and post a file on my Soundcloud…but for now, reflections.
The last of which being the Action dream. It cracks me up. It is an un-intended parody of everything I’ve talking about in class in the last three weeks. Once the ipod senses you moving, and taking in mind the rate of displacement, it starts the action sequence music, which is basically, as I recall, the “action shots” music score from the movie. It is a fast-paced minor-pitched staccato rhythm, rising a half tone in building suspense every once in a while. What makes it hilarious is that instead of shooting at subconscious agents trying to kill me or driving a van off a bridge, I am demurly walking down the street with the usual mundanity surrounding me – buses, people, clouds. It is funny how so many people (many of my students too) like rhythmic music to give them energy and accompany their travel/walking. This music though, fully orchestrated, rather than musically mixed, infinitely clashes with the mundane mise-en-scene, and in so doing brings attention to the fact of how “constructed” film music is; which brings me to ask myself – why is other music ok? Why does it feel more “natural’ to walk around or ride the train with lady Gaga on – it is just as much a constructed soundscape? is it that its spatial or contextual connotations are more open, and therefore it is easier to imagine oneself being anywhere or doing anything with this type of music backdrop on?
To continue on this meta-level, it was also interesting in itself to be reminded of the functioning of the Inception app itself – “You are active” – hah, like I don’t know that. In a sense pulling me out of the cocoon of the ambient, film-orchestrated score I was immersed in, I become aware of its built-in functions, the limitations of its “intelligence”. Yet always, the dramatic, culminating parts of the movie soundtrack seem to come at the “right” moment, or at least seems to make the moment right, giving that scene just the pomp-and-circumstance to make real life movie-like.