I’ve written before about Boston.com/The Boston Globe’s incredible series on Ted Kennedy. If you haven’t seen it yet, please click on the link and do so. Now. It’s an incredibly rich multimedia package that weaves video, still photos, artifacts, interviews and more into a cohesive project that manages to tell Kennedy’s story without worshiping or damning the liberal lion of the Senate.
I was particularly interested in the music in the series — especially the theme in Part 1, “Overture.” The piece is a perfect accompaniment for the sort of sweeping epic that is Kennedy’s life; it avoids syrupy sentiment but remains moving. So I wrote to series producer Ann Silvio of Boston.com’s staff to ask her about her music choices.
I’ll publish her entire response below, but I’ll summarize what I learned. Ann picked the piece for “Overture,” along with the other snippets of music sprinkled liberally throughout the series, from a subscription music service the New York Times uses. The pieces are composed and recorded for multimedia, but you obviously must pay the subscription rate to use them.
You also have to pick the right pieces for the project, and here Ann and her colleagues did particularly well, even changing some original choices to make sure they fit with the images. Here’s what she had to say about the process of picking the music for the wonderful series:
Using music in our videos has been a challenge over the years. It’s such an important element to multimedia storytelling, as you know, but the copyright issues really limit our choices. Using ambient music, shot on the scene, or excerpts small enough to be considered “fair use” doesn’t get you much. And sites like stockmusic.net can be helpful, but the music selections tend to be corny and commercial-sounding.
About a year and half ago, our website editor Dave Beard was able to arrange a deal that allowed the Boston Globe to piggyback on the New York Times’ subscription to APM Music Library, and that has been a huge improvement. [http://www.apmmusic.com/main.php] There isn’t much current music in the library, but there are thousands of evocative pieces, searchable by mood or instrument or style. All the Kennedy music comes from the APM library, including the piece I chose for the Overture: “Human Perspectives,” composed by Laurent Juillet. APM is extremely helpful in cases like the Kennedy series because my budget for the series was too small to commission anything (my travel budget was so tight, I had to do the lighting, shooting, audio, research, reporting, and editing solo for most of the interviews).
There was quite a bit of internal debate about my choice for the Overture. We needed something that wasn’t too laudatory or too tragic-sounding. The visual theme of Kennedy as a young man rowing and rowing– as both positive and negative scenes from his life passed by– called for music that reflects the long journey of a complicated man. I thought “Human Perspectives” worked, and readers seem to agree because I keep getting emails asking the name of the composer. (I should have included that in the credits.)
Another debate took place over the music we used during the animated intro graphics, which were designed by the Globe’s talented Jared Novack. The graphics are heavily patriotic, with an American flag flapping behind images of Kennedy, and the music we first chose was almost jingoistic, as if to say “you’re about to watch a video about a great American hero.” This musical choice seemed discordant when the intro graphics were edited into the videos about Kennedy’s worst moments, such as Chappaquiddick and the Palm Beach trial. We were all uncomfortable with it until Scott LaPierre, one of my colleagues in video, dove back into the APM library and came up with a replacement that was a little more disquieting.