Good morrow, friends!
As you may or may not be aware, I have a “slight” obsession with stories.
One storytelling medium that I geek out about is music: contemporary music, Broadway music, movie soundtracks. The fascinating thing about movie soundtrack music as opposed to the other two types, is that it can tell a story without using a single word. Music has a huge impact on the emotion and mood of what is going on. So much can be expressed and felt through music. Music is its own powerful, effective way to tell stories.
Music is insurmountably important in many familiar movie scenes. If you don’t believe me, try looking up a scene on Youtube without the music, or substituting different music for the original score. It can be rather terrifying how much that changes things.
(Observe, an example. The first forty seconds or so are the best in my opinion.)
Movie soundtracks are an integral piece to any movie, but they can also be quite enjoyable to listen to on their own. Outside of the context of the movie, the music can be independently awesome, which I love.
If you don’t already listen to movie soundtracks, it can be rather daunting to figure out where to begin, which is why I have compiled this Extremely Helpful Guide to movie soundtrack listening. It is my goal to guide everyone towards being as much of a movie soundtrack nerd as I am.
1. Getting your feet wet (main themes)
It is best to start out with movie soundtrack themes that you are likely to recognize- Good, substantial themes that you are probably already semi-familiar with.
Usually an easy way to find these themes is by listening to main titles (but not always)- These tracks tend to have clear cut themes that you can hum along to.
A Few Prime Specimens:
2. Wading deeper in (secondary themes)
After you’ve got the hang of those main themes, it’s time to work some subtlety into your movie soundtrack diet. If you listen with an attentive enough ear, you may notice that movies have more than one theme. (Shocking, right? Am I being helpful yet?)
Star Wars, for example, not only has that bombastic opening titles music, but also the Force theme, Yoda’s theme, the Imperial March, a smattering of love themes, and a plethora of others. (Leave it to John Williams to go overboard with the themes.)
Secondary themes are often just as satisfying as main themes, and should not be overlooked. They are often linked to specific characters/places/objects in the story, and have their own unique flavors.
The end credits is often a spectacular place to find a suite of most of the important themes in any movie- (but not in those pop songs that some movies put in the credits- blegh.)
A Few Examples:
Since we’re talking about Star Wars…
Across the Stars (Love theme) (possibly one of the most beautiful love themes written for one of my least favorite love stories of all time- Why.)
3. Taking the plunge (mood music)
At this point you have started gaining a mastery over this whole business- recognizing themes! Possibly even recognizing composers! (Or at least John Williams.) But there are still a lot of movie soundtracks out there and organizing all that material is still a bit daunting.
One great way to sort everything out is by mood. Sometimes you want to fly and sometimes you want to punch a hole in the wall, and there are movie soundtracks to cover these and a plethora of emotions.
Few Lot of Suggestions to get you started:
1. Feeling chipper and inspired: (flurrying strings! Triumphant brass! Groovy drums!)
Main Title from Planes: Fire and Rescue (by Mark Mancina)
Tryouts from Rudy (by Jerry Goldsmith)
Test Drive from How to Train Your Dragon (by John Powell)
Flying from Peter Pan (by James Newton Howard)
2. Feeling sad, droopy, and pensive: (a whole lot of angsty guitar…melancholy piano…)
Harry and Hermione from Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (by Nicholas Hooper)
Old Souls from Inception (by Hans Zimmer)
There’s Always a Flaw from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (by James Newton Howard)
Ashes from Hugo (by Howard Shore)
One Small Fact from The Book Thief (John Williams)
3. Feeling mischievous (definitely clarinet, skittish flute, probably some harpsichord and accordion in there, I don’t even know)
Main Title from Mouse Hunt (by Alan Silvestri)
The Adventures of Tintin from The Adventures of Tintin (by John Williams)
Colette Shows Him Le Ropes from Ratatouille (by Michael Giacchino)
Catch Me If You Can from Catch Me If You Can (by John Williams)
Main Titles from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (by Danny Elfman)
4. Feeling rage and/or determination (Angry choir+LOUD)
Charging Fort Wagner from Glory (by James Horner)
Sanctuary! from The Hunchback of Notre Dame (by Alan Menken)
Dream is Collapsing from Inception (by Hans Zimmer)
Peacekeepers from The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (by James Newton Howard)
5. Feeling wistful, nostalgic- basically like a fountain of tears (HEARTSTRINGS)
Silver Comforts Jim from Treasure Planet (by James Newton Howard)
For the Love of a Princess from Braveheart (by James Horner)
The Breaking of the Fellowship from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (by Howard Shore)
Rue’s Farewell from The Hunger Games (by James Newton Howard)
The Letter That Never Came from A Series of Unfortunate Events (by Thomas Newman)
6. Feeling like you’re made of magic (sparkles galore)
Only the Beginning of the Adventure from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (by Harry Gregson-Williams)
I Did Knock from Nanny McPhee (by Patrick Doyle)
Fairy Dance from Peter Pan (by James Newton Howard)
Tina Takes Newt In/Macusa Headquarters from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (by James Newton Howard)
If you are like Spock, you can organize soundtracks based on composer, rather than getting into all this moody nonsense.
Though it may seem like a lot, the tracks I named here are only a small handful of the glorious movie soundtracks that await you! There are movie soundtracks in a wide variety of styles by a whole multitude of talented composers. My lists tend to be heavy on the James Newton Howard, James Horner, and John Williams soundtracks (especially James Newton Howard, sheesh) because they are three of my favorite composers, but I am always discovering more.
Do you geek out over movie soundtracks? Which ones are you favorite? Who are your favorite composers? If you don’t typically listen to movie soundtracks, have I inspired you? (I mean, is that even a question? Of course I have.) Did you try out any of the tracks I listed? Are you interested in more suggestions? Do you have any movie soundtrack suggestions for me? I am always looking for more awesome music to listen to!