"What Difference Does it Make?"

 

“You have to be willing to be nobody to be somebody.”

This line encompasses “What Difference Does It Make?”.

It was spoken early on in between the myriad of meaningful anecdotes presented in the film, but it’s a line that resonates and illustrates itself throughout. I walked into the premiere of “What Difference Does It Make?” assuming I was going to watch a film about what it’s like to be at the illustrious Red Bull Music Academy, and it definitely seemed that way for the first thirty seconds of the movie when one of the participants was talking about how nervous they were. This is not at all a film about participating at the Red Bull Music Academy. This is a film about sound.

A film about sounds; it sounds paradoxical, but this documentary is a feast for the senses. You start off trying to really pay attention to the musicians’ words and descriptions, and at first it seems like there must have been some mistake because you can’t quite catch every single thing everyone is saying, especially the telephone conversations.

Slowly you start to realize that sometimes it’s not about what people say, it’s about how they sound. The emphasis on pure sounds is clear through the film making and directing; there are, in some instances, really harsh breaks between scenes; it can go from a high-pitched shriek into sudden silence.

In some parts, you may even twist your face to deal with some of the harsh elements of the sound, and at other times you fall into the serenity of the soothing melodies in the background.

The foreground monologues can fade away into the background so that you start to pay attention to the sound in the pipes in the ceiling. “Music is about listening.”

Although the movie is primarily about music and sound, the entire film is a complete sensory experience.

The images and scenes are a visual parallel to the audio, hitting all the right spots in your brain and you’re not even sure why.

You watch the day-by-day happenings as you listen to other people’s thoughts. It’s like being in someone else’s body, and it works. The best thing about the video is that no two scenes are exactly the same; there was no repetition of images, which is something I personally feel is a testament to how hard it must have been to put this movie together. It pays off.

Throughout the film, different experienced and inexperienced artists share personal anecdotes about what it’s like to be in the music business, and what it’s like in the depths of the creative process. You get little snippets of the music people make, but never a complete or mind- blowingly phenomenal piece, and that’s the entire point. The sound produced, by itself, existing because of some context or some inspiration, is what’s phenomenal. Had they played any one musician’s entire piece, they would have fallen into the trap of ‘tastes’ and would have risked losing the audience’s interest. It’s the music-making that’s important, not what exactly is made. “You have to be willing to be nobody to be somebody,” and that’s exactly what’s proven during the film; every sound the musicians make is nothing, just a sample in a movie, but the tones they create and the words they say resonate so powerfully in the presentation that they become extremely inspirational.

Perhaps my only issue with the film would be the length. The feature film we saw at the premiere was about an hour and a half, and the actual movie goes up to three hours.

I feel like it could have been shorter, but that could just be a personal preference, considering I don’t enjoy doing anything in a sitting that takes longer than an hour.

There’s a uniqueness and distinctiveness in the perspectives and experiences shared in the film, sometimes to the point where different people express completely opposite opinions, but the universality in the undertone and the sentiment behind the words they say is what strings these musicians together, and connects them with the sounds and the images of the film, to leave any viewer - musician or otherwise - utterly and deeply inspired, to go and create something.

I’m not a musician, and this film moved me.

 

- Noor Nooruddin

February 24, 2014

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