Tag Archives: Film

Interview with DJ Michael Knall

by Peter Muller

DJ Michael Knall

Lately, we’ve looked at research concerning recent breakthroughs in the study of music’s effect on mood and film’s effect on our memories. Michael Knall is a music producer, record label owner, and deejay specializing in a genre of electronica known as “House” music. Strongly influenced by elements of soul and funk-infused percussive disco, Knall mixes bass lines, electronic drums, beats, funk and pop samples, reverb, vocals and synthesizers to ensure everyone on the dance floor is truly emotionally affected.

We sat down with Michael to talk about his current and future projects and his thoughts on the effect of music and emotions.

Occam’s Taser: How did you get your start in music?
Michael Knall: Funny thing, I was never really into music growing up, I had my few favorite songs here and there, but I just never realized how great it really is until my late teens. I think I sort of hit a “musical puberty” in my high school years; some would call me a late bloomer in that aspect. During high school, I started frequenting the infamous Mission Night Club in Chicago’s suburb of Elgin, IL. At the time it was really what set me into the electronic music culture. It wasn’t long before I wanted more of it, and moreover, I wanted to learn what made this scene work, the part that you most don’t see, just feel. The part that draws the people together: House music.

OT: What is it about House that drew you in?
MK: House music, just like any other genre, has many different styles ranging from progressive house to electro-house and so on. I love them all, but I tend to stick to a combination of progressive, electro, and dutch house sounds with my music. It has a harder electronic edge and more defined beat. Accelerating highs and lows throughout a track, layering different sounds on top of each other and slowly bringing them in and out of the mix are the key ideas behind the progressive movement.

OT: What are some of your current projects?
MK: Aside from running a very new record label and the responsibilities that go along with that, I’m constantly producing new music. Whenever I have an idea for a new track or sound, it’s important for me to get to work on it right away while it’s still fresh in my mind. That usually accumulates to around 10 or so works-in-progress at a time, and I manage to finish only around two per month. I’ve also been working with some vocalists around the city, really trying to showcase a lot of unseen talent in the Chicagoland area. Who knows, maybe I’ll find the Freddie Mercury of our generation.

DJ Michael Knall

OT: Last week we looked at research that studied how music affects people’s emotions. Do you have any thoughts on the emotional effect of music on people?
MK: Every track I write embodies my current mood at the time. I think that transmitting emotions to my listeners through my music is key to connecting with them. We all listen to music that suits the mood we’re in, and sometimes music can help change our mood. Any song you hear can take you back to a certain memory or mindset linked with it resulting in happiness, sadness, excitement and so on. I often see this first hand when I’m playing to a packed night club; depending on what I work into the mix, I can see differences in how people react almost immediately. It’s almost like I can control peoples moods or energy levels through my choice of beats, intensity, effects, etc.

OT: Is there any music that has, or has had, an emotional effect on you?
MK: I think everyone has different memories linked to different songs, be those good or bad, they’re emotional connections. That’s one of the reasons we consciously like or dislike certain songs, whether or not we truly think they’re good songs.  One that immediately comes to mind from my childhood is Alice Cooper’s “Schools Out”. I remember singing along to it with my brother, blasting in my Dad’s conversion van with the new high-tech CD player. That’s a memory that will always remain warm every time I hear that song.

OT: What about music in film? Do you think it has a similar effect on the audience?
MK: If you ever have a chance to watch a movie with the music removed, do it. It’ll blow your mind as to the difference it makes in your emotional perception of the film. For example, The Dark Night was a movie that used a lot of music and intense sounds to give the audience those goosebumps and butterflies.  Movie soundtracks are one of the most important elements of film that I’m sure most people don’t even notice. Music is, at its core, an emotion in a the form of sound. It creates a certain feeling and mood that can’t be replicated by anything else.

DJ Michael Knall Live

Michael Knall is the president of  White Smoke Records. He produces House music in his home recording studio and deejays at various night clubs in and around Chicago. You can catch up with him on his FaceBook page, check out and download his tracks from his SoundCloud page, or see him spinning his beats live in and around Chicago’s club scene. Just try to control yourself at his shows and keep your memories good ones.

My Life, The Movie: An Interview with Patrick Muldoon

By Lizzy Sebuck

Sometimes the staff at Occam’s Taser just gets really, ridiculously lucky (it’s probably because of our dashing good looks). This week we were fortunate enough to speak with Patrick Muldoon, a Chicagoan who works in the film industry. For this interview we picked at Patrick’s noggin about his experiences helping to create some of the most known films of the past ten years. Working as a Locations Manager, Patrick has worked on the sets of major blockbuster films including the masterpiece The Dark Knight. Want to know how Patrick got into the film industry? Would you believe us if we told you paper products and copy machines played a small role? Read on.

Occam’s Taser: So what exactly is your job, Patrick?
Patrick Muldoon:  I am a Location Manager in Chicago. I work as a freelance employee and I work with the Illinois Film Office on some projects.

OT:  Where did you go to school, and what did you study?
PM: I graduated from Loyola University and worked at Xerox right out of school selling copiers. I ended up going back to school to get a 2nd degree in television from Columbia College and from there I started working on independent films here in Chicago.

OT: What have been your favorite projects?  A little birdie told me you’ve worked on some pretty cool sets…
PM: I was fortunate enough to work on projects such as Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Public Enemies, and most recently Transformers 3.

OT: Xerox to The Dark Knight? Awesome transition. So what was your role in producing those films?
PM: Basically, when a studio plans to do a movie in Chicago they put together a crew and the Location Department is the first on the project. They send me a script and I breakdown the locations and start scouting for them. I will give the Production Designer and Director pictures of various locations and they pick a few possibilities. For example if a scene calls for a house I will scout 10-20 houses and send them pictures. They would pick a few to see in person.  I would take them to the locations and they would decide which one to film in. From there I negotiate a legal agreement and location fee with the owner. During these negotiations I develop a relationship with the owner which will help when the preparation and filming of the location occurs.

OT: Whoa! Your job is all over the place. Any other responsibilities?
PM: Many times it will take weeks for the Art Department and Set Decorators to make a location ready for filming. When it gets close to the shoot day I am responsible for obtaining permits from the city, hiring security to watch the trucks and equipment and hiring Police to assist with the shoot.  I also have to find a place for the crew members to park and rent out a nearby space for the caterer to set up for lunch. As you can see there is a lot that goes into my job and I am usually part of a department (5 or 6 of us split up the work). There are many other things that come up that are unique to each location.

OT: What do you consider to be the best part about your job?
PM: It’s interesting to be part of the creative process and scouting the city with different directors. They all have different styles and processes. The most rewarding part of my job is to see a movie I worked on and see the different locations I found.

OT: Patrick, you have the coolest job ever. Any current projects you want to let us know about?
PM:  I am currently working on a television series called The Chicago Code.  It is shot entirely in Chicago and will begin to air on Fox in February.

Working in the film industry isn’t reserved for the Landsberg-theorists of the world. Patrick Muldoon has done a pretty awesome job making a career out of something he clearly loves to do. From helping pick out set locations, to working with the Art Departments on designing the ideal atmosphere for each scene, Patrick Muldoon has helped shape some of the highest grossing films of the past decade. Let’s just hope that he’s not left with any twisted prosthetic memories from his work on films like The Dark Knight keeping him up at night. “Why so serious?”, you ask? We have a hard enough time sleeping at night remembering Heath Ledger’s performance, let alone the repressed memories of him in a nurse’s outfit.

It’s More Than a Movie: Prosthetic Memories

By Lizzy Sebuck

Have you ever wandered off into a day dream during class? Oh, no, no, no! Not YOU, you studious student, you, but surely you’ve heard of this happening to others. What happens when you reflect? Do you think about your dog? Your family? Your journey from adolescence to adulthood? The accomplishments you’ve made and what you have left to overcome? Are you sure you’re not just thinking about the plot to Homeward Bound?

The Theory of Prosthetic Memory states that humans often substitute memories or ideas they have seen in media entertainment in place of memories from their own reality. In Prosthetic Memory: The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture the argument is made that modernity makes new forms of public cultural memory possible. Alison Landsberg, the theorist behind prosthetic memory, reviews the effects that mass media, marketing, and visual art can have on a person. Landsberg’s point is that when you observe visual media, the short-term effects may be the shedding of a few tears or leaving  the theater joyful from comedy, but the long-term effects are as complex as the shaping of character and personal development in the individual viewer. Think about it: your growing appreciation and respect for your elders could be a deeply-rooted instinct you picked up from watching Chance, Sassy, and Shadow work it out from way back when.

“Prosthetic memories are adopted as the result of a person’s experience with a mass cultural technology of memory that dramatizes or recreates a history that he or she did not live” (Landsberg, 29).

The development of graphic design technology and the enhancement of visual effects has played an enormous role in aiding the cinematic experience to make movie-watching more realistic than ever. It’s the development of these cinematic advances that helps audiences gather a thorough understanding of the themes and emotion in films. The almost touchable reality that James Cameron created through the introduction of new 3D visual imaging in the widely famous Avatar has affected audiences so intensely that in some it has brought on a new level of film inspired depression because the colorful wonderland depicted in Avatar does not actually exist.

Landsberg suggests that the technologies of mass media not only change the concept of an authentic experience to the individual audience member (48), but also the vividness of the film and the created alternate realities achieved through technology creates a “suspension of disbelief and identification with the protagonist” which might affect [audiences] so significantly that the images would actually become part of their own archive of experience” (30). Essentially, Landsberg is saying that audiences adopt memories and experiences because of the alternate realities they see on the screen, then convert them into their own authentic memories.

The notion of the Prosthetic Memory brings on a slew of unsettling thoughts. Prosthetic Memories make us ask ourselves questions such as “What is real?”, “Which of my memories are real?”. This concept of Prosthetic Memory gives humans a reason to re-evaluate the development of their own personalities. Memories shape the person that we become with age. Memories based off visual media can stem from viewing all types of media. This includes films, Vlogs, YouTube clips, and Vimeos we’ve seen and the visual concepts that have affected us. Is this why some have become so obsessed with Hollywood love? Is this why so many young men and women turn into such hopeless romantics in the pursuit of happiness? Those who were raised on Breakfast at Tiffany’s generally swoon at films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and (500) Days of Summer and whisper to themselves “why not me?”. Have these prosthetic memories left audiences with an idea of what love is supposed to be versus what it actually is?

More so, consider horror and scary movie genres. The reason that so many of our twenty-something peers still sleep with their bedroom doors locked may be because of a cultured notion  they were raised on. We have been cultured to believe through the Scream series that someone is going to burst into our rooms in the middle of the night and murder us! Thanks a lot Prosthetic Memory & Nev Campbell, thanks a-freaking-lot.

Prosthetic Memories are able to shape personality, morals, and character even though they’re not real. Visual memories we obtain through film and popular culture in our youth are repressed and stay with us throughout our adult development, forming our passions, fears, and aspirations. Audiences identify with the characters they see on the silver screen and envision themselves as the hero or heroine; they take on their hardships as if they were their own. Here are the hard facts:

1: Chances are the guy from Scream is not gonna pop into your room tonight and bust out a can of whoop-ass.
2: There is no way Jim Carrey is that sweet in real life. You can be hopeful that Joel Barish is out there somewhere, but don’t hold your breath for some guy who will go through reverse memory erasing for your love.
3: No, Jack from Titanic didn’t make it, but whether you want to believe it or not, he was never your real-life lover and you really have no reason to keep crying about it 13 years later. We know through Prosthetic Memory that you really felt it with the words “I’ll never let go”, but really, it’s time.

SOURCES:

Cinephile: The University of British Columbia’s Film Journal

Psychology Today

Prosthetic Memory: The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture
by Alison Landsberg, 1993, pg29-50