There's quite a range of fairly sophisticated music to be heard in commercials these days, but dissonant contemporary classical is rarely on the playlist. Nevertheless, it drives the wild camera ride in Hewlett-Packard's "The Wind" :60, from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, which is just one anomaly among many in this elegant bit of Euro-chic. The spot features a French voiceover, English subtitles and sinuously insistent, sometimes downright vertiginous black and white photography, shot in Paris by @radical.media's Ralf Schmerberg. As if that weren't enough, Jeff Goodby and Rich Silverstein themselves teamed up to handle the art/copy, working with CDs Steve Simpson and Steve Luker (see Hank Corwin's piece on the editing of this spot on p. 41).
The idea is simple enough. "We had in mind a French film," says co-chairman Silverstein. "Moody, intriguing, classic black and white, with subtitles. We wanted the wind to be discontented - in that French movie manner." So the wind, personified by a woman declaiming what could be poetry, talks about its utter implacability until it runs into an aerodynamic Porsche (made so with HP technology) and suddenly it's a giggly breeze. Tim Barnes of New York's Quakebasket, who wrote the string quartet-based music, insists he owes his inspiration to others. "It really came about through Hank Corwin and Jeff Goodby, both of whom are serious music fans, and very in touch with sound and picture." he says. "The overall feel for the commercial is the ever-changing path, velocity and mood of the wind. What better way to represent that than with musical shifts?" Lost Planet editor Corwin "created a music collage from sound sources such as John Zorn and Penderecki that really pushed the wind ride to a new place - a pastiche score that was intense, funny, sad, then romantic," says Barnes. But, adds Corwin, "we found that my hallucinogenic guide track was just too aggressive and random."
"Hank came to me with this post-score situation because he knew of my activities with New York's experimental music community, as well as my being an enthusiast of modern classical music," says Barnes. "Quakebasket is primarily a sound design company and I'm not really set up to have clients in for a proper record session. But I recruited six friends, who predominantly play free, improvised music, and we sat around a bunch of microphones in our kitchen area and recorded. Luckily, our offices are in a loft with pretty nice natural acoustics." Is the VO considered part of the music? Barnes believes "it's more the conductor of the string quartet, rather than being a rhythmic or tonal element of the music." And he points out that though the spot is intrinsically French, "the music reminds me more of Charles Ives. After the live takes of the quartet, I brought in a clarinet to embellish some of the music's progressions. When the wind falls in love with the aerodynamics of the Porsche, we're experiencing an emotion that we haven't witnessed so far in the commercial, so it was necessary to drastically change the instrumentation. Here, I brought in vibes to try to bring out the wind's fragility."
"Tim composed the track in segments, sounding nothing like my temp," says Corwin. "It was better. It was sublime."