About two months ago, I did an ITM blog on music from 90’s films. I tried to focus on some that weren’t as well-known as others. I soon found though that I had a list just overflowing with wonderful music and decided that I would write a follow up blog to the category. Here is that blog post!
This week, I still found myself overwhelmed with how many brilliant soundtrack scores there were during the 90’s. It was just a different era for movies. I’ve noticed that many movies that come out now are much, much darker. The trend has kind of gone that way. Dark television shows, dark literature, dark films, dark video games… it’s all very hot right now. I found myself gravitating toward that type of quiet and chilling music when I went back through some old albums, searching for music to share. And being a dark fiction writer, how could I not? Today, I have 9 songs from different films that are worth a listen. Maybe you, too, will be inspired.
Syncopes: Gabriel Yared – The Talented Mr. Ripley: I have to credit this film for its disturbing main character and ultimately brilliant plot. Or rather I should praise Patricia Highsmith who wrote the book (which I read after seeing the movie.) This song harps on anxiety and tension. The character is finally realizing that their back is against the wall and they have no options left. Everything that they’ve fought for is circling the drain. They only have one choice and it goes against all of their principals. They must kill again. But for the wrong reasons. With a heart full of sorrow, they set out to accomplish the deed, one that will ensure them physical freedom but will also possess them with eternal guilt. This piece has a part of it that almost sounds like a lullaby as well. I tend to think that the relationship between these two characters is more in the way of being familial or at least being very close. Perhaps the character being targeted is like a father or son to our protagonist which makes it all the more difficult for him. *Another song to listen to from this soundtrack is the wonderfully dark “Crazy Tom”.
Libera Me: American Boy’s Choir – Interview With the Vampire: Time to be blunt. Children scare me sometimes. (Okay, most of the time.) It’s a known fact about me. So every time I hear this song, with its eerie boy chorus singing these ancient words, my shoulders are instantly covered in goosebumps. Despite the creepiness of it, it’s a gorgeous piece on the soundtrack for “Interview With the Vampire,” one of Anne Rice’s masterpieces. To me this seems like a logical choice to compliment a scene where a character has awoken to a new world, one where it seems as though innocence is lost. Children, who are normally so full of innocence, suddenly sound unearthly and therefore things the character recognizes are not necessarily as they seem. The song’s lyrics translate into a character asking to be delivered from death by God on the day of judgement. It’s almost a plea in the way it’s sung. And the irony is that the character has already died, and death isn’t what they thought it would be.
End Titles: John Corigliano – The Red Violin: Okay, before we begin, can I just get something off my chest? This soundtrack was nominated for a Grammy Award and it lost. What did it lose to, you ask? IT LOST TO THE MUSIC FROM A BUG’S LIFE! WHAT!? *clears throat* Okay. I’m good now. This movie details the past owners of a mysterious red violin that shows up at an auction. It’s a wonderful concept and the movie’s soundtrack was soul piercing. I actually used this music for a time while working on “Aequitas”. Reid has been a Councilman for the last sixty years, and it has become him. Justice is what he believes in and what he fights for. He believes somehow that something good can come out of being the creature he now is. But instead, everything is suddenly taken from him. With that, comes a profound sorrow and isolation that he’s only known once before.
Remembering Petticoat Lane: John Williams – Jurassic Park: Most everyone who thinks ‘Jurassic Park’ will be reminded of the grand sweeping theme to the film that begins when the helicopter carrying the main characters comes in view of Isla Nublar. However, once more, I feel as though John Williams’s lighter, more delicate tracks for this film went unnoticed. Prime example is this piece here where John Hammond recalls his flea circus he used to have many years ago. Similarly when I listen to this song, I find a character recalling a moment in life when they had big dreams and aspirations. It was a moment that they were still hopeful, still believed in the innocence of the world and the possibilities of creating something that would show people how ingenious they are. But now, something terrible has become of their hopes and dreams and there’s nothing they can do to control it as it spirals out of control. There’s a deep shame in this. The music box style of this song creates an instant comfort and a willingness to return to a time when things were safer.
A Whisper of a Thrill: Thomas Newman – Meet Joe Black: One of the movies that I can’t help but cry every time I watch. This song is very romantic. To me, it plays during the moment when two characters who have been dancing around a relationship finally come together. Both have secrets, both have things that could make or break whatever relationship they have. The problems of the inevitable relationship outweigh the good things in it. But they still come together and kiss in spite of what may be. Passion is too strong and too tempting for them not to ignore. The here and now is what lifts them out of their own sadness. Just for once, both feel as though they are lighter than air and the weights are lifted from their shoulders. Either this is the beginning of a relationship that will last a lifetime… or it will simply go out in the first gust of wind, its smoke trailing as the only reminder that it ever happened.
Run To The Church: James Newton Howard – The Sixth Sense: A movie that redefined the paranormal thriller, The Sixth Sense was spine-tingling, and played with our emotions as it did our fears. This particular piece accompanies a characters search for the truth. As they find themselves visiting locations they’d normally never visit and speaking to people they’d ordinarily never speak to, they begin to realize that they are shifting, that they are willing to do whatever it takes to understand this puzzle. It’s a self-identifying moment as well as it is a doggedness to ensure that whatever they are investigating is solved and answers are given.
American Beauty: Thomas Newman – American Beauty: Thomas Newman really is a musical genius. This song is probably one of the most easily identified pieces from the movie “American Beauty.” The first thing I note about this song is its beautiful simplicity. What do we perceive as beautiful? What does society perceive as beautiful? There’s a woman who is viewing herself in the mirror. She has been crying. It’s her third day home from the hospital and as she traces her hand over the scar over her heart, she tries to reintroduce herself to her own body. It’s changed. It’s no longer the same. And despite the scar, the stitches and all of its apparent ugliness, she’s still alive. And life is beautiful. That’s something to appreciate. And the longer she looks at the scar, the more she realizes it isn’t ugly. It’s a sign that she survived. A sign that she triumphed over great odds. It’s a beautiful symbol of her strength and adversity.
Heart Attack: Alan Silvestri – Contact: In my opinion, this movie has been largely ignored, despite it’s gripping story, emotional characters, and brilliant score by Alan Silvestri. Based on the book by Carl Sagan, Contact is about one woman’s search for contact with an extraterrestrial life form and her interactions with her father that inspired her. This particular track is quiet but it’s fragile piano notes hit home. A character has discovered that someone close to her has died. The shock it sends through her is catastrophic and her fear peaks as she makes her way through the house toward where she last saw her loved one, knowing that they are dead. For some reason, out of all the other gorgeous tracks I’ve mentioned, it’s this particular one that really hits me. It’s so powerful in spite of its delicate melody.
Prologue: Alan Menken – Beauty and the Beast: Finally. A song from a Disney movie. I grew up in the 90’s. My entire childhood is consumed by classic Disney movies. One of my favorites has always been “Beauty and the Beast”. If you’ve seen the movie, you know the song because it literally snatches you and pulls you in when the first colorful images stain the screen. For me, what I enjoy most about this song is the combination of the high trickling piano notes and the low brass directly afterward. It tells me that despite this place which is filled with beauty and wonder, a darkness lurks, one that few have ever seen. The darkness is threatening but also holds a secret, one that may be the key to our protagonists quest. Drawn in by the allure of the location and the idea of learning more about the secret, he braves the tales of the darkness and enters the realm.
Next week on Inspiration Through Music, we’ll be going back even further than the 90’s. We’ll look at a man who’s songs have inspired many. I actually disliked his music up until last year (when I finally came to my senses). The one and only Bob Dylan will be next week. Stay tuned!