There are specific musical scores that when I hear them, I’m transported, not just to the movie, but to the particular time in my life when I saw it. Musical scores are an entire flashback-evoking time machine!
I remember within a milli-second of hearing the Main Title of Star Wars: A New Hope, where I was the first time I saw the movie, and I was a toddler!
My Uncle had the film in a can and a projector and would show the movie on a bare white wall of my grandparent’s house during family reunions. To this day, if I hear that burst of music, I’m suddenly pigtailed, sitting cross-legged on a shag carpet.
I have always loved movies and their musical scores. However, if my childhood had a soundtrack, the arrangements would be John Williams based! In fact, one of my iPhone playlists consists of nothing but John Williams movie soundtracks. Man, that guy can score, and that’s the point!
A single musical piece reveals an entire story, complete with a scene’s tone, mood, beginning, middle, and end. Each piece includes a hero, a lofty goal filled with both trepidation and hope, a conflict, and either a triumphant conclusion or a bitter end.
Music is a setup for characters. In three minutes, I know who the character is and what they are feeling. Afterward, whenever that character’s musical theme is played, even if it’s only a snippet surrounded by other music, I am automatically drawn and emotionally invested in the hero’s outcome. It’s brilliant!
I don’t know when the first musical score was created. However, I assume it came in the form of an organ set up in front of a theatre with thick red velvet curtains on either side of a vast white movie screen—before Talkies and after sepia-toned actors and their overtly dramatic arm gestures.
Thankfully, music, acting, and stories have evolved, not just for the big screen.
How many times are we transported by the slow brooding cello and warrior drumbeats of The Game of Thrones? We could be in our humdrum lives, pushing a grocery cart, dronelike looking through the endless amounts of condiments on aisle 7, when suddenly we hear that excellent Gaelic (or Celtic?) inspired beat and are transformed into the Mother of Dragons! Ta! Da! I will take that Avocado Oil Mayo and be done with it!
That reminds me, another playlist I’ve compiled consists of the composer, Ramin Djawadi, best known for scoring Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Batman Begins, Iron Man, and TV series like Game of Thrones and Westworld.
Whenever I hear Westworld’s season three Main Title, “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” via player piano, I’m once again thirteen years old!
Suddenly, I’m time machined back to 1987 and summer Girl’s Camp. My rebellious best friend at the time had smuggled in a tape player, complete with a Guns N’ Roses tape and headphones we shared. While the world around us sang Church hymns, we listened to the crooning of Axl Rose’s “Sweet Child O’ Mine.” Pure Bliss—until we sang too loud and got our cassette player and headphones taken away…
This is the power of music. This is the power that every columnist, novelist, memoirist, essayist, and screenplay writer is going for! Music does what writers work so hard to do—tell a story, move an audience, and make it stick!