Movies love music. Motion picture took its baby steps with a soundtrack. Even before the film incorporated sound, movie houses brought in musicians—pianists, organists, sometimes even full orchestras—to accompany the movie.
Music connects the audience to the story instantly, by pushing our emotional buttons. By linking visual images with sound, we receive cues about what is about to happen. Our hearts pump faster; we hold our breaths. We hunker down in our theatre seats and grab the hand next to us.
Picture a girl running from the beach into the gentle waves of the ocean. She’s carefree, enjoying a beautiful sunset swim. Now add a deep cello background. Duhhn-unmph. Duhhn-unmph. Duhhn-unmph. Yeah, she’s toast.
Try to imagine any great movie without music. It’s difficult.
I joke around with my kids about the music in ‘80’s movies, but what would Ferris Bueller’s Day Off be without “Danke Shoen” or “Twist and Shout?” How could Meryl Streep and Robert Redford fall in love without the tender scores moving them together in Out Of Africa?
Whenever I think about the Pirates of the Caribbean films, I hear the Hans Zimmer soundtracks. John Williams’ scoring for the Star Wars Saga is iconic. Sometimes when I’m angry, I pretend the Darth Vader music accompanies my march to confrontation. It’s most empowering.
Where would Bogey and Bergman be without “As Time Goes By?” That song played as big a role in Casablanca as Peter Lorre did. Speaking of the music as a character, I adore the owl mariachis in Rango. Their asides with the Spanish guitars and trumpets are hysterical.
When I write, I incorporate music into my stories, too. When I wrote about the pirate Jean Lafitte, I constantly listened to “Jupiter” from The Planets Suite by Gustav Holst. To me the music embodies a buoyant power and enchanting tempo, just like the gentleman pirate himself. My romantic comedy, Fake Jake, incorporates several styles of dance music, from ballet to disco to country western.
My older son composes music on his computer, and when I heard one of his songs last week, I asked if I could use it for a book trailer. You’ll hear it soon!
Music sets the tone, not only for the unfolding story, but for our minds as well. What are your favorite soundtracks? I want to listen, too!
That’s a wrap for this Toast to Cinema. Thanks for reading!