Maintaining the integrity of archival footage from the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival with performances by artists such as Nina Simone, Sly and the Family Stone and Stevie Wonder was paramount in the making of Ahmir’s film “Questlove Thompson. Summer of Soul (… or, when the revolution couldn’t be televised).
For Hulu’s musical film and black history documentary, the material is accompanied by new interviews in a cut by Joshua L. Pearson. Speaking of the sound, re-recording mixer Paul Hsu says, âThe whole job was really to keep this woven structure alive.
âIt’s a bit of a high-flying act where you have to maintain that energy throughout the film,â he adds. âIt’s very artistic in the sense that there is a lot of information, there are a lot of interviews and there is a lot of music. You must maintain this continuous thread throughout the movie.
The late television veterinarian Hal Tulchin produced and shot the original footage of the festival, which was then stored in his basement for half a century. As the project began, music mixer Jimmy Douglass restored about 40 hours of the 2-inch video tape “with a slight touch … the recordings were very good,” said Hsu, who created the 5.1 surround sound mix for the film so that “you can feel the music even when we’re not on stage.”
Hsu describes his approach to mixing as âall dialogue, all music,â which he admits seems obvious, âbut it’s a lot harder to achieve than it sounds. The words [in the interviews] really important. You have to feel what they are saying at all times, but the music is also the most important. So how do you keep these two things alive at all times? This is certainly the thing Ahmir and I talked about from the start. How do you keep those two things constant all the time and still make it sound beautiful and enjoyable to the audience? “
Hsu says Thompson is an âamazingâ music historian and the right director for the film. âThe importance of each of the musicians in these acts is so clear and understood by [Thompson], says Hsu. âThere are so few people who could have made this movie like he did. In a way, my job is really to push that forward, just help it flourish and make you feel like you’re really there.
This story first appeared in a December issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.