Movie trailers have one goal: to capture your attention inside of a minute and make you want to see the film. They do this through clever tag lines, through showing some key scenes, and of course, through some emotive or pulse-pounding music. Several movies use music from the scores to introduce their premises and give you a preview of what to expect in the film. However, there are also those who compose 2 to 3 minute songs for the sole purpose of being used in a trailer. Some are extremely successful at it. Some of these songs have been used dozens and dozens of times over for numerous movies, each time exciting viewers as if it were brand new. These pieces can also work while writing a tense scene in a novel or when you are trying to write your back cover blurb or describe your book on your website.
Trailer songs are special because they capture you quickly and make you fall in love with them in the course of only a few moments. There are scenes in books that must do that, too. Sometimes all it can take is one pivotal moment between the characters or one thought from the character spoken out loud in order to pull your reader in. I’ve written dozens of scenes for writing projects while using music that I’ve found through watching movie trailers. Let me share with you eight of my favorites.
Nara – E.S. Posthumus: Probably one of the best recognized songs of this band. It has been used in countless trailers, examples being LOTR: The Two Towers, National Treasure, The Other Boleyn Girl, and the theme of the television show Cold Case. This song utilizes a serenity in one part of it with a building tension that begins dramatically afterward. One immediately gets in their image the scene of a battle about to be waged. I personally see a young warrior with a wife and child who is about to go off to battle. Their village has been destroyed by the enemy. This is their last chance to strike back and their victory could mean their ultimate survival. The odds however are against them. Nara is spectacularly composed, bringing to life images of a smoky, charred village against the backdrop of breath-taking mountains and pale blue skies filled with clouds. It’s with this song especially that nature’s beauty seems to pop out at me more and becomes easier for me to describe. When you are looking for something that simultaneously promotes the possibility of peace but also the dangers that come from trying to achieve it, look for this song.
Moving Mountains – Two Steps From Hell: The thing that I most love about this song is how mysterious it sounds in the beginning. The character has stepped into a world that they know so little about on a quest for vengeance. It’s the only thing that fuels them. They have to learn to trust others around them but don’t necessarily commit to this trust. They have to stay true to themselves. They can’t lose sight of their one goal. If they can achieve that, then they might finally be free of the guilt that haunts them. Moving Mountains was used in a ton of trailers for amazing movies and television shows (Game of Thrones, X-Men: First Class, Harry Potter, etc.) All characters have a dark side and it shows in this masterpiece from Two Steps From Hell.
Waking the Demon – Audiomachine: It was the quiet intensity of the first minute of this song that made me fall in love with it. Again, we are dealing with a dark piece, one dealing with transformation. The character who has always been upstanding and good is embracing a side of themselves that is new and embroiled in blackness. They are doing things they never thought they’d do one day. The song really heats up into some hard rock. In the midst of it, it kind of backs out into that quiet self-examination of the character. What have they turned into? It doesn’t last long though. They’ve already become that new person, that new creature. There is no turning back.
Liberty Shield – Immediate Music: I found this song years ago and it immediately became one of my favorites. I even made my own fake movie trailers for what is now Book 3 of the Monstrum Chronicles. It’s the choir that does it for me in this song. There is something so perfectly creepy about the notes they hit. I can’t get enough of it. This is definitely a high tension song with allot going on. This can be considered a triumph-through-tragedy song. And I can see it occurring at the end of a book rather than somewhere in the middle. Most commonly, I envision the protagonist defeating the antagonist only after someone they cared for has been killed. The song also foreshadows things to come. The fight isn’t completely over. Only a small battle has been won so far. There is a larger fight to wage in the future.
Mind Heist – Zack Hemsey: Honestly, it was tough to choose which song by Hemsey that I wanted to include in this blog. In the end, I stick by the one I’ve known the longest because I truly believe it’s one of the best out there. When all that you know is suddenly pulled away from you and you are thrust into a world where anything is possible, what do you do? This song is known for the low tuba blast that comes every once and a while as a type of shock reminder that things aren’t all that they seem. The first part of the song with the violins is the tension builder which is a signal of the first occurrence that things are out of place. It’s not until things heat up around 1:07 that we know there’s no going back. This song actually puts me on edge when I hear it. Your characters never know when something will happen, something that will challenge their perceptions of the world. It’s your job to throw them these situations as they negotiate through the novel. The frequency of them picks up as the song progresses and so, too, should it do so in your story.
Sleep Now – Hughes Hall: I’m not exaggerating when I say that this song is genius. I’ve listened to it so many times for my “Witherfall” project that I can’t even count them. This is from the trailer of the cult classic film, Dark City. It’s a film that I still have trouble understanding but still enjoyed. The twisted atmosphere was like an early Matrix crossed with Inception. This song is just so dark that one cannot feel entirely comfortable while listening to it. Amidst the chanting of “sleep now”, the thunder strikes, and the machine-like slamming sounds, there’s a place so cold and deep that almost no character would dare enter it. Witherfall is another project of mine that I started a couple years ago and desperately would like to finish. It dealt with characters who, while dealing with ordinary circumstances, gradually came under the impression that not everything was right in the world. Something was off balance. It’s a dark character study, a detective novel, and a ghost story all in one and I’d love to get back to it once things settle down a bit with the Monstrum Chronicles.
Half the Man – Threshold: Yet another song that I adore. This was used for the latest X-Men movie First Class. This song is the theme of a character conflicted by the outcome of their actions. They have done some terrible things all in the name of good but they don’t want to take responsibility for those actions. Now, they find that those outcomes are closing in on them, thinning the air they take for granted. Instead of accepting that what they’ve done is wrong, they flee further into their bad habits and choose to blame others. This song, like Moving Mountains and Waking the Demon, is a song about a character’s slow decent into darkness. This song is currently the inspiration of a certain character in The Monstrum Chronicles. Want to know which one? Too bad. You’ll have to wait and see. 🙂
Deep Shadows – Through The Lens (T.T.L): Yes. Any Hunger Games fans will clearly recognize this as the song that played in the trailer for the movie. And without this song, I doubt the trailer would have captivated us as much as it did. There’s the twinkling of piano keys almost like a music box alluding to innocent times, times of happiness. Then the violin bleeds into it with those few somber notes that immediately strike us in the heart. From there it picks up. But the violin is what did it for me when I saw the trailer. Having read the trilogy by Suzanne Collins, I understand why the musician chose to pick something so sad and yet, so isolated as that single violin stroke. The character is on their own and cannot trust anyone around them. They’ve been pushed into a situation in which they are entirely dependent on their own survival skills. Worst of all is that loneliness though. They’ve got no one but themselves to confide in.
Once again, there are so many brilliant trailer songs out there that I didn’t address. Perhaps later in the year there will be a part two…
Next week on Inspiration Through Music, I’ll be selecting one of my favorite musicians K.T. Tunstall! Several of Tunstall’s songs have been inspirations for scenes in various writing projects. Stay tuned ’til next week to find out more about them!
In other news, I’ve successfully reached the 300 follower mark on Twitter! Hooray! There are also 30 subscribers to The Monstrum Chronicles Blog! I thank you all for following, liking, and commenting. It really means allot to me that you guys find these posts interesting and I love hearing your feedback about them as well.