Arts & Entertainment

Sound and Music

Mira Nair

Lesson time 17:49 min

Mira teaches her philosophy on directing the viewer’s eye and heart with sound, advice for working with a composer, and how to use silence in an impactful way.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: Use Sound to Direct the Eye and Heart • Balance Silence and Sound • Discuss What You Want to Feel • Working With Mychael Danna on the Monsoon Wedding Theme


How early should you think of sound design? It depends on what you're thinking of your film. If it is a highly stylized film, which has a real relevance of a certain kind of sound, you know, then you have to start thinking about it early, because that kind of sound might inform how you shoot the picture, you know? In my universes of film, normally, it's sort of part and parcel of the universe. But sound design for me always usually comes in the end of post-production, you know, like after I have got a cut that really works, then I sit with my sound designer, who is equally important to me as my director of photography. And we'll actually build a universe, and embellish the universe very particularly. Then we will sift it. Then we will-- you know, it's just like editing visually, you know. And then see if it will work, you know. And again, we also test that, you know. But often, a lot of sound design is very subjective. It's about taste. It's about sensibility, you know? It's also about how to direct the eye, but also to direct the heart. A person like me films a lot in real crowds, in real spaces, in complete chaos, you know. But in the editing of it, and in the sound editing of it, which is the sifting of it in a sense, you can choose to use sound to tell you where your eye will go, or you can choose to use sound to direct the eye, to look at this and not necessarily that, to basically sift the frame that you're presenting, again, for an intention of some sort, you know. And oftentimes, I use sound as music, you know, which is, a mosaic of street sound can almost be musical in its impact. - [NON-ENGLISH SPEECH] [DISTANT SINGING AND MUSIC] [MUSIC PLAYING] - In India, we have a terrible tradition of the background score, you know, which is a constant and undiluted and pounding, you know. It's constantly a sound that tells you what to think, you know, and tells you, oh, drama is coming up, or you know, now you're supposed to be happy, and now you're supposed to be sad. That is not my sound design. That, I don't consider sound design, and for me, silence actually is what makes music and sound work, you know. That was an early lesson that actually still teaches me, because in that film, the balance of silence with sound is very effectively done, you know. And oftentimes, in the course of making a lot of cinema, you can also fall into the drivel of wallpapering it with music and sound. And I think that that's a mistake, you know. I think that without silence, sound does not flourish, and music is not heard, you know. And that kind of sifting and balancing is key to the idea of rhythm in cinema. Using the same example of the scene in "Monsoon Wedding" when the Uncle Tej is banished by Lalit, you know, I use a certain very abstract sound design to tell us that the cold wind of Tej, the predator in Tej-- as I said, I always used a hawk or a falcon sound, you know, when he came along. It also resembl...

About the Instructor

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Mira Nair approaches directing with the “heart of a poet and the skin of an elephant,” spurred by rejection and fighting to bring uncompromising stories to film. In the Golden Lion-winning director’s MasterClass, learn to make a big impact on a small budget in film production, evoke the best from actors and nonactors, and protect your creative vision so you tell the story that can only come from you.

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Mira Nair

The Oscar-nominated director teaches her methods for directing powerful performances, maximizing budgets, and bringing authentic stories to life.

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