From a Whisper to a Scream: The Living History of Irish Music (2000) (NTSC)

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Released 10-Sep-2001

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Documentary Booklet
Main Menu Introduction
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-On Traditional Irish Music
Featurette-On Earliest Musical Memories
Web Links
DVD Credits
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2000
Running Time 155:18
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (85:16) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By David Heffernan

Warner Vision
Starring None Given
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $49.95 Music Various

Video (NTSC) Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 480i (NTSC)
Original Aspect Ratio Unknown Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, mostly in archival footage.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, interviews continue through credits.

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    From A Whisper To A Scream is a documentary about Irish popular music, in the same vein as the BBC's Dancing In The Streets and our own ABC's recent A Long Way To The Top. Why should we as Australians be interested in the history of Irish music? Just take a look through almost any music collection, or for that matter radio station play list, and you will find that Irish artists contribute more than their fair share of notable material. Personally, my interest was piqued as a huge fan of The Corrs (I'll jump at any opportunity to hear one of the Corr sisters talk) and Hothouse Flowers, and I was not disappointed.

    The documentary is a series of three episodes, presented sequentially on this DVD. It traces the evolution of popular music in Ireland from the days of the "show-band" (a kind of music theatre where Irish bands recycled American music for local audiences) in the late fifties to the modern surge of hugely successful sugar-coated pop. It is interesting to see the reaction of older, more traditional musicians to the new wave of Irish manufactured pop that includes acts such as Boyzone, Westlife, B*Witched and Samantha Mumba. It is obvious that many who were brought up on "real" performance hold little or no respect for the new acts, but it is not surprising that it is the members of super-band U2 that are most enthusiastic about a musical style that they are obviously not fans of themselves. As Bono relates, he went to see Garbage, a "punk-rock band" one night, then The Corrs the next day, and "The Corrs were louder - how did this happen?".

    It is appropriate that the man many consider to be the greatest Irish performer of all time, and according to Jim Sheridan (director of In the Name of the Father) "maybe the best ever, anywhere", Van Morrison has two segments dedicated to him, almost book-ending the series. In between it is a fascinating look at how Irish culture, and traditional Irish music, has influenced (or not) the popular acts to emerge from Ireland.

    My one problem with the presentation is that the three episodes are presented back-to-back in the one feature. Not only does this make one two and a half hour feature, but the chapter stops listed in the included booklet are numbered from one for each episode, whilst they simply continue counting in the feature. The end result is that Chapter 3 of Episode 3 is actually Chapter 19. It would have been considerably more convenient had Warner Vision either put the actual chapter numbers in the booklet, or separated each episode into its own feature.

    While From A Whisper To A Scream is very interesting, it certainly is not compelling enough to watch over and over again, and so may appeal more as a rental title than for ownership. Certainly though, if you have any interest in musical history in general, or Irish music in particular, this series is a must-see. It doesn't hurt either that there is interview footage featuring the Corr sisters.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


    From A Whisper To A Scream, being a documentary series, consists of a mixture of new interview footage and archival footage. What this means is a very variable transfer in terms of picture quality, especially from a source perspective. One factor to note is that this feature is presented in the NTSC format, which seems a strange choice for a documentary about Irish music, being sold in Australia, and (officially) region coded R2/R4, both regions having PAL as the standard. This DVD is actually encoded for all regions, so the NTSC formatting is somewhat less surprising.

    This appears to be another made-for-UK DTV program, and as such is presented in the widescreen TV ratio of 1.78:1, and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The sharpness is variable thanks mostly to the huge variation in source material. All of the modern TV footage is extremely sharp, being some of the sharpest material I have seen on DVD. Where necessary, the new interview footage also shows a very nice level of shadow detail. This comes out in some of the interview situations that have been interestingly lit. Much of the archival footage is of a very poor quality, especially the footage of the show-bands that dates back to the 1950s. This footage shows considerably less shadow detail than the new interviews, and much of it is quite blurry, but that is to be expected, especially as much of the footage would have been taken from old video sources. None of the poor quality video detracts from the presentation, and in fact it tends to aid it somewhat, as the older footage actually looks old, as archival footage should. There is no low-level noise present in this transfer.

    Colour is quite good in both older and newer footage, with highlights coming across well. Unfortunately, the only blemish is the interview footage with members of The Corrs, late in the third episode. The problem appears to be an over-abundance of lighting, especially light from a window behind the subject of the interview, with the picture being almost painful to look at, and the colours seeming somewhat bleached and a little washed-out.

    MPEG artefacts were rare, with only some light posterization occurring on the wall behind Van Morrison. There were also a few instances of aliasing, with the most noticeable coming on Paul Brady's guitar strings at 113:10, but these were few and far between. The modern interview footage contained no film artefacts at all, while some of the archival footage was riddled with them. As with the sharpness, this is really to be expected from the archival footage, and adds somewhat to its charm, more than distracting from it.

    This disc contains no subtitles at all.

    This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change occurring during Chapter 15 at 85:16. The change is placed on a fade-to-black, and while it would have been better placed at the end of an episode, it is relatively unobtrusive in its present location.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio presented here varies as much as the video, again suffering from the same source-related problems. Unfortunately, the audio that accompanies the new interview footage is not up to the same standard as the video.

    There is only one audio track on this DVD, being English stereo Dolby Digital 2.0. It is not surround encoded.

    Dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times (unless you generally have a problem understanding thick Irish accents). Unfortunately, this is where the newer interview footage falls down. There is a high-pitched "whine" sound present under most of the interviews. In general, this is not at a significant level and can be ignored. Unfortunately however, it is a particular problem during segments involving U2's Edge, and later in the series it becomes more prevalent. The worst examples are during the Edge's dialogue at 13:00 and Niall Stokes' dialogue at 104:40, both occurrences being extremely distracting. Archival footage was generally accompanied with less clear dialogue, but was always still easy enough to understand.

    Audio sync was never a problem for the new interview sequences. Some of the older performance footage was somewhat out, but this would have been source-related, and most likely due to bands miming the performances for videos and "live" performances on TV shows.

    The music is provided by all the bands being covered in the documentary, and provides a wonderful ride through the changing styles and fashions of Irish music over the last fifty years. There were many occasions where I recognised a song that I never knew was of Irish origin.

    Being a solely stereo soundtrack, and a documentary, there was no use of the surround channels at all. The front soundstage reflected the music being played, and was often quite aggressive, giving a nice sense of movement. There were also occasions where interview dialogue would be routed through the centre while music would come from only the left or right speaker.

    The subwoofer was not used at all.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


    This is a documentary. There really is not that much in the way of extras that could have gone on this disc, and that is what we get - not much. There is however, one glaring omission: there are no music videos for any of the acts featured in the documentary. It would seem to be an obvious inclusion, but there are none to be seen.


    The menu is animated, with the series theme in stereo Dolby Digital 2.0 for audio. The menu is not 16x9 enhanced. It is easy to follow the highlight, although the program titles do not make as much sense as they might have been able to.

Bonus Interviews - On Traditional Irish Music (9:19)

    Presented in 1.78:1 and 16x9 enhanced, this is simply another segment that is made up from all the interview footage that was generated for the production, covering the opinions of a number of the artists in regards to traditional Irish music. It is not particularly interesting as most of the topic is covered in the series proper, and in fact there are a few segments of interview footage that are recycled into this presentation. The presentation is additionally confusing, as no name subtitles are used for any of the artists, leading to a guessing game for some of the lesser-known interview subjects.

Bonus Interviews - On Earliest Musical Memories (7:30)

    Like the other set of bonus interviews, this presentation is at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is 16x9 enhanced. This is a considerably more interesting presentation, as the artists recall their first musical experiences, leading to some surprising revelations. At the same time, however, it is easy to see why this sequence did not make the final documentary, as it does not directly contribute to the tale of the history of Irish music.


    This is simply a list of albums put out by the more prominent acts featured in the documentary. Not particularly interesting, and presents nothing that five minutes searching the web could not find.

Web Links (DVD-ROM)

    This is a program included on the root directory of the DVD and can only be run by Windows based PCs. It is simply a group of links to web-sites. Again, this is nothing that could not be found with five minutes at Google. Furthermore, it links only to official sites that rarely contain enough information to satisfy a fan.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    As far as I can ascertain, this disc is identical the world over, right down to the NTSC formatting. Therefore, if you want to pick this one up, grab it wherever you find it cheapest.


    From A Whisper To A Scream is a fascinating look at the history of Irish popular music that is presented very nicely on DVD. The video and audio quality are quite variable, but for the most part, is only what is to be expected from a documentary containing considerable amounts of archival footage. In general, the video and audio are more than good enough to serve their purpose in a documentary. The extras are somewhat disappointing, especially the wonderful opportunity missed to showcase some great Irish acts by including some music videos or concert footage for a few of the bands featured. Overall, this will most likely make a very interesting rental, but is unlikely to be attractive to buy.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Monday, August 27, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayRCA 80cm. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)

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