Guest post by Adam Rutherford, Nature Video
Last week, Nature Video posted a rather lovely video, made by Charlotte Stoddart, to accompany a stunning new technique on brain imaging. On Tuesday, I collared Nature’s Editor-in-Chief Phil Campbell as he ambled past our desks, to show off Charlotte’s work. Phil has editorial oversight of all Nature’s content, but largely leaves us to our own editorial judgment. However, he did make one specific comment about this film, which was that the music was somewhere between distracting and dreadful. Phil is a thoughtful and musical man and values Liszt and Led Zeppelin with equal vim.
I overruled, and signed off the film with music. This discussion immediately brought to mind the somewhat amusing debacle of music volume in Brian Cox’s landmark BBC series Wonders of the Universe in 2011, in which a volume of viewers apparently complained about the volume and incessancy of the soundtrack. In the Daily Mail, Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen’s Music, truculently described it as ‘muzak’, and the volume was adjusted in subsequent episodes. Indeed in 2012, I received a single letter of complaint for a programme on synthetic biology that I presented for the BBC strand Horizon, in which one poor viewer was compelled to watch ‘with her fingers in her ears’.
As filmmakers, we put music in to engage the viewer on an emotional level. These films are not purely informational, and as Cox said at the time, presenting science on film can be ‘a rather more cinematic experience. At the end of the day it’s a piece of film on TV and it’s not a lecture.’ But, with music being a highly personal art, soundtracks do appear to be divisive.
In the spirit of experimentation, here we present the original version, and the same film sans muzak. In this most unscientific test, let us know which you prefer.
The Results are in!