The picture was completely edited before we considered what to do about the sound.

At this moment, by great good fortune, the distinguished composer-performer sitarist Ravi Shanker, who was then living in New-York, had come to Montreal for a TV recital. I invited him and his tabla-player, Chatur Lal, to view the silent film. He expressed a keen interest in composing the music.

We went about it in this way. In advance, I prepared a chart of the whole film on square-off graph-paper, where each square represented one second of time. The duration of sequences, episodes, actions and gestures was indicated precisely on this chart, by the use of colours, diagrammatic marks, names and numbers.

I then spent an afternoon screening the film many times for Shankar and his percussionist. Between every screening we would identify each sequence on the chart. After about a dozen screenings, they were both thoroughly acquainted with the film and the chart as it related to the film. They required three weeks to evolve the music based on the chart.

For the recording session the film was split into about ten loops, and the music performed as each loop was projected. About 20 seconds of silence was included in the loop, just enough for decisions to be made for improving the substance and manner of the performance.

When the music was felt to be right, we did not stop the projector, but continued running, and made several takes immediately; for Shankar it was important that they be recorded while at the peak of their "warming-up" rehearsals.

We also recorded 'wild' a few special effects on the sitar, and many percussive and semi-musical sounds on the table. These were later selected from an edited into the re-recording tracks for the final sound mix.

Norman McLaren (1957, revised in 1984)


McLaren, N. (2006). "Technical Notes by Norman Mclaren" (1933-1984), p.17, National Film Board of Canada.

A Chairy Tale (1957)

by Norman McLaren & Claude Jutra

See: McLaren's notes for information about the context in which McLaren created these notations.

This application is created for educational and research purposes only. The Copyright of the source material (images and video) belong to The National Film Board of Canada.

Loading Timeline...

Loading Notations...