For the last several years, Red Bull Sound Select has put on their annual music festival 30 Days in LA. In 2017, the well loved tradition has migrated to Chicago but Los Angeles isn’t entirely left out of the dust. This time around, Red Bull Music Academy (RBMA) is taking center stage. Known for nurturing up-and-coming talents and presenting the more artistic sides of their Sound Select partners, RBMA offers audiences an opportunity to learn from and witness the best of the best in their industry. Ranging from a discussion with St. Vincent about the visuals that coincide with her latest album Masseducation to a peek inside a studio session with master engineer Bernie Grundman, RBMA provides a diverse insight into the business like never before.
The one panel that spoke to me the most was Edgar Wright’s discussion on his favorite music moments in film, particularly because I’ve followed Wright’s career from the beginning. Wright has had an impressive year with his film Baby Driver that was touted around as a musical action movie, even being called “An American in Paris on wheels and crack and smoke” by fellow director Guillermo del Toro. Baby Driver filled that gap of the runaway indie summer hit that was not only satisfying from a technical aspect but also as a crowd pleaser. And the number one thing that everyone couldn’t stop talking about was its soundtrack.
There are few directors that have been able to seamlessly integrate music within their films. Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, and Cameron Crowe are some that come to mind. And of course: Edgar Wright. Wright pulls it off in a completely different way than the others though, meticulously curating the music, breaking it apart, and executing it uniquely on screen. So when he had to curate his favorite musical moments in film, it wasn’t a surprise that his choices also seemed to effortlessly blend together to tell the narrative of how they accumulated into the end product of Baby Driver.
Bouncing back and forth between a scene from one of his favorite movies to a scene from one of his own, Wright’s inspirations are apparent but it also showcases his ability to take those inspirations, personalize them, and eventually elevate them.
Going in chronological order, the first sequence he chose was a scene from Busby Berkeley’s 1934 classic, Dames which showed Wright’s appreciation for elaborate sets and practical, in-camera effects. The rest of the clips ranged from the transformation sequence from An American Werewolf in London set to Sam Cooke’s version of “Blue Moon” to Ligeti being used in the Jupiter and the Beyond sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey. While learning about the making of and how these music moments influenced Wright’s work was fascinating, the best part of the whole discussion was seeing the music moments in his own work. From the fake shoot out scene in his TV show, Spaced, to his music video featuring Noel Fielding to the Queen sequence in Shaun of the Dead to the band battle in Scott Pilgrim, it was easy to see how inevitable Baby Driver was for Wright.
From the start, Edgar Wright has always been a visionary in his field. What the audience took away from that night at RBMA was a step-by-step process of how that vision was fully realized — and also a few more movies and songs to fall in love with.
Full list of Edgar Wright’s curated scenes:
“I Only Have Eyes For You” – Dames (1934)
Final Duel – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (1966)
Jupiter and the Beyond – 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Transformation – An American Werewolf in London (1981)
“Modern Love” by David Bowie – Mauvais Sang (1986)
“Jump into the Fire” by Harry Nilsson – Goodfellas (1990)
“Star Guitar” by The Chemical Brothers – directed by Michel Gondry (2002)
The Red Bull Music Academy Festival runs Oct. 6-29 at various locations all over Los Angeles.