Table Talk: The Soundtrack

It’s that moment. The moment in the movie where the storyline comes to a peak. And then … cue music … the drama unfolds.

And it’s in that moment, the moment the music plays, that makes everything in that moment a little more climactic. It just gives the moment more.

I love soundtracks. In fact, my love of music developed from soundtracks.

My first encounter with “the soundtrack” was the cassette tape and one lazy summer afternoon. My aunt left her cassette player out in the living room so I jumped at the change to play with. There was a tape already inside and the first song that came blaring out of the speakers was “In the Still of the Night.” At the song’s end, the automatic rewind triggered and more songs kept playing.

I realized that there were different artists and there didn’t seem to be a theme or anything to the songs playing. Curious, I stopped the tape, popped the eject, and took a look at the cassette. It said “Dirty Dancing–Original Soundtrack.” When I asked my aunt about the tape, she mentioned that it was songs from the movie Dirty Dancing. I remember thinking about that–a tape filled with music from a movie. It was intriguing. From that moment on, I paid attention to sounds and music in the movies I watched. I remember waiting for the end credits to scroll so I could see the titles of the songs and who sang them. I paid more attention if I heard a song I loved. And when I got older and started making my own money, I would buy soundtracks (by then CDs had replaced cassettes) and relive the movie while listening to the album.

And I think that’s what I love most about soundtracks. They take you to that one scene where the where the villain is introduced, where the hero reflects on the day he had, where the guy finally gets the girl. The music encompasses all the feels you had at watching that scene and slams you back no matter where you are, even if it’s for a brief moment.

Tell me you don’t have a grin on your face, or give an eye roll, whenever you hear “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life (Dirty Dancing)” or freak out just a little when you hear “Cry Little Sister (The Lost Boys)” (I can’t listen to at night. I’ll sleep with nightmares. Don’t get me wrong, I love the movie, but yeah. I’d rather keep it out of my head when I’m about to sleep).

Composer Howard Shore, an award winner for The Lord of the Rings music score had this to say about music in movies:

“I like to work around the edges and try to give the film another level of subtext, which is what music can do. I love painting around the corners of the frames and staying out of the middles. What you want to do is bring the audience right in the scene with the characters, so they’re living and breathing as part of the film.”[1]

Music is the glue that binds the moment. It’s the best part of movie magic because it is so subtle. You don’t know you are in that moment until the moment is gone and that’s because the music lead you there.

1. Hutchinson, Lydia. The Big Score: A Timeline of Music. 2012.
2. Gerard de Marigny.