Monday, October 11, 2021

It's More than the Theme Song

When I think of music in the movies, two things come to mind. The first is theme song, especially if it became a commercial hit, examples being some of the award winning tunes from the Bond franchise - "For Your Eyes' Only", "Goldfinger", "All Time High" and "Live and Let Die". Most people are familiar with "Rain Drops keep Falling on my Head" from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Two of my all time favorites are "Memories" from The Way we Were and "Moon River" from Breakfast at Tiffanys. There was a wonderful song called "Moondust" from (of all movies!!) Meatballs. If you not familiar with it, and a doubt you are probably not, Google it.

The second musical memory of a movie is the overture. Whether it is the opening credits of My Fair Lady or the sweeping production at the beginning of Gone With the Wind, these compositions set the mood for the movie. Rogers and Hammerstein are probably best known for their overtures.

However, I recently realized the most important music in a film is not the theme song stuck in your mind for days or the grand orchestral production of the first minutes. It is the score. The music that sets the scenes that we rarely pay attention to, yet it is a major part of the movie going experience.

Last week I was walking and decided to "listen" to a movie. By the time I got back to my place, I was enthralled. The movie, not a block buster, but a decent film, was a totally different experience with just the dialogue and the score. Since I had seen the film several times, I was very familiar with the characters and setting. But the score, which no doubt influenced my experience the earlier times I had seen the film, was initially lost in my consciousness. However, it was this very music that carried the movie. All the action, the feelings, and suspense could be followed by just listening to the score. Now I truly appreciate the Academy Award Winners in the category of "Best Score".  

And just in case, one doesn't know the difference between a movie's theme song and its score:  "[The score] is probably so called from the vertical scoring lines that connect successive related staves. A score may contain the single part for a solo work or the many parts that make up an orchestral or ensemble composition".

When I was quite young, I remember my father explaining the concept of a movie score to me. He had me listen to the score only (no dialogue) of Peter and the Wolf. I could tell just by the music that something bad was going to happen or things were going well or there was some expectation. The music carried the emotions of the story. It was a great lesson that I put away in my mind, along with his tutorials on how to select a great book by its binding and what to look for when buying an Angus cow. 

But, like many of those valuable things Daddy taught me, I was a bit slow to really appreciate the lesson. Yes, it took me 50 something years to truly appreciate his lesson on scoring. Now I just wonder how many valuable things my father taught me that I have long forgotten or failed to appreciate at the time. 

Perhaps the lessons were much like the score of film. As I go through life they provide the background, the richness, and enjoyment of my daily experience - I am just not conscious of it. "Let's say it was the moon dust, that hides behind the moonlight, that fell and set us free with its moon dust melody."

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