Posts Tagged ‘New York Times’

Fractions of a second: an Olympic musical

February 28, 2010

Here is a fascinating use of musical notes to tell a story. The New York Times’ Amanda Cox uses the timing of musical notes to show how close many of the Olympic race finishes have been.

I love this because it uses music to tell an otherwise non-musical story, to shed new light on an aspect of reality. My only suggestion: Cox could have used a different note for each sport or category of sport, instead of the same note for all sports. A minor quibble, to be sure.


10 great multimedia pieces from the Times

July 9, 2009

Here’s Mark S. Luckie’s post in 10,000 Words highlighting 10 great multimedia and interactive features from the New York Times.  Espcially fun: photographer Bill Cunningham’s whimsical piece, The Water Dance. Yes, there’s a bit of music, but it’s Cunningham’s bemused narration, together with the arresting images, that does it for me.


Use of music embraced by New York Times

March 30, 2009

One of the reasons I started this blog was to celebrate and promote the use of music in nonfiction multimedia projects. So I was delighted to see this video from the Nieman Journalism Lab of New York Times multimedia producer Amy O’Leary explaining just how she used music in a groundbreaking election project.

O’Leary, one of journalism’s brightest multimedia lights, clearly explains why customized music so often can add just the right touch to multimedia work. In the election piece, she says, she searched in vain for appropriate music in the Times’ library of canned clips. Unable to find what she needed, she decided to create the soundtrack herself:

So using Apple Loops and GarageBand and Soundtrack Pro, I would develop a baseline score — so sort of a feel for a couple of the chapters. There were slightly different feels for the intro and the middle chapter and the later chapters. And then, after the piece was fully done, at the last minute, I would go back in and tweak the score. So I would make sure that a certain, you know, a cello hit would happen right when the photo was appearing and really adjust the score so that every moment was weighted, and that it was pulling out at the right moments and coming in at moments that were interesting. And trying to really — you know, it’s the difference between an off-the-rack suit and a custom tailored suit. It fits much better when you give it that level of detail and attention.

If you watch the Neiman video, you’ll see that O’Leary’s larger point involves the use of music in general. The Times, like many other traditional paper-based news organizations, is conservative in its use of music, fearing that improper or unskilled use of music could manipulate viewers’ emotions. O’Leary carefully explains how she insisted that original music was not only appropriate, but even necessary for her piece to reach its full potential.

It’s not surprising that so many journalists fear using music in multimedia storytelling – a fear expressed in this blog recently by Poyter’s legendary writing coach Roy Peter Clark. After all, most of us come from the traditional, conservative, high-minded world of newspapers. We are by nature suspicious of new storytelling tools — especially those used by radio or — gasp! — television.

But the very attraction of multimedia is that is has the power to engage all the senses. Why would we rob viewers of the power of music? Think, after all, about the great documentarians like Ken Burns, who used original music so effectively to help tell the story of the Civil War.

Can bad music distract viewers? Can overwrought music manipulate listeners’ emotions? Of course – just as bad words or images can distract or manipulate viewers.

The answer isn’t to eschew music. We should embrace music – that is, music used with skill and restraint. As we fight tooth and nail for viewers and readers,  I believe it’s a tool we can’t afford to do without.

Measure for measure

February 4, 2009

Today I wanted to point out an extraordinary New York Times blog – Measure for Measure.

If you  haven’t stopped by, please click on the link and visit. Just beware: You might lose yourself for a couple hours if you’re not careful. If you love music, this is a must-read.

The blog’s description sums up what it’s about better than I could:

With music now available with a single, offhand click, it’s easy to forget that songs are not born whole, polished and ready to play. They are created by artists who draw on some combination of craft, skill and inspiration. In the coming weeks, the contributors to this blog — all accomplished songwriters — will pull back the curtain on the creative process as they write about their work on a songs in the making.