Tag Archives: blockbusters

“BRAAAM!”: The Sound that Invaded the Hollywood Soundtrack

Illustration by Kjell Reigstad.

Adrian Daub | Longreads | December 2016 | 15 minutes (3,902 words)


You walk into a local multiplex a few minutes after the lights have dimmed. You find your seat to the first trailer, some confection involving superheroes or zombies. As the light flickers over you, strings churn from the speakers, interrupted at certain intervals by a massive blast of indistinguishable brass, like an alphorn next to an amplifier.

Does this sound familiar? At some point movies started braying at us like ships lost in a fog, and we have come to accept that as perfectly normal. Variations on this sound sequence — a simple string motif interrupted by sudden bursts of non-melodic noise — are everywhere in film soundtracks and trailers. It is the noise that goes with people in spandex standing in a Delacroix-style tableau, or so Hollywood has decided. It is the sound we know is coming when a trailer intercuts CGI objects slamming into each other with portentous fades-to-black.

The internet and the sound’s creator refer to it as BRAAAM. (If you think you’ve successfully avoided it, here’s a sample). It may sound synthetic, but it’s usually produced with brass instruments and a prepared piano. Although it has its roots in a scoring style composer Hans Zimmer employed for much of the early ’00s, the BRAAAM heard in seemingly every trailer was first recorded for Christopher Nolan’s 2010 film Inception, and has been adapted, copied, and even outright sampled ever since. Is BRAAAM something that happened to us, or is it something we, as moviegoers, desired?

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How the NFL Is Like a Blockbuster Movie Franchise

The industry term for or a blockbuster movie franchise is a “tentpole”—it’s the asset that holds the whole operation up. At the height of mass culture, in the second half of the 20th century, it was enough to be on television to command an audience in the tens of millions. But as channels multiplied, the difference between those properties that could command such audiences and those that merely gathered under the shelter they provided began to fall into relief. Tentpoles are harder and harder to find in the movie business today, and those that do exist are as frequently a result of 3D ticket prices as they are of any organic appeal. In music, too, a few big stars give life enough for a universe of micro-ecologies where many artists barely make a living. Against this backdrop the NFL stands out as the last fortress of mass culture. Today, nothing is watched by everybody, but the thing that comes closest is the NFL.

This power was on display in its demand that this year’s Super Bowl halftime performer pay the NFL for the privilege, in the form of cash now and a percentage of tour revenues later. All three of the finalists—Rihanna, Coldplay and Katy Perry—refused, and apparently Perry was chosen anyway. But the message was clear: No show is bigger than the NFL, not the biggest pop star, nothing.

Stephen Squibb writing for n+1 about the problems plaguing the NFL.

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