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The right honorable Doug Adams.

I was rooting through the corpse-strewn marshes of the Film Score Monthly message board (you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy) a few weeks back, and I came across a post from esteemed film music journalist Doug Adams (of the Music of the Lord of the Rings book fame). It was in the midst of a 2005 thread in which board members hotly debated whether Film Score Monthly could survive as an online venture (it has, and was my portal into writing about film music).

Dating your score

Dating your score

No, I speak not of the practice of courting a film score with aims of wooing it and, ultimately, entering into a common-law marriage with it—though that would be a great idea for a blog (and actually pursuing…with the right score, of course). I mean the practice of tying a score to a particular era/genre of popular music that, in years hence, dates the score and forever affiliates it with that era.


In Guardian article on The Hobbit‘s score, London Philharmonic percussionist Andy Barclay said:

“I always go to see films I’ve played on thinking, ‘I’ll listen out for that bit’; and then I get to the end and realise that I haven’t listened to the music, which is a compliment because you shouldn’t be. If you don’t notice it, then it’s probably been good.”

This is an age-old debate amongst us film music wonks, but Barclay’s comment gives me an excuse to revisit it today.

Why I listen to music

Why I listen to music

I’ve just finished reading Aaron Copland’s brilliant little book, What to Listen for in Music, which breaks down this amorphous, elusive art form into something chewable. It’s essentially a textbook of basic music theory condensed into a very succinct, breezy paperback, with doses of humble commentary by the great American composer. A passage that especially sparked thoughts for me was the following:

Why is it that the typical music lover of our day is seemingly so reluctant to consider a musical composition as, possibly, a challenging experience?…Most people seem to resent the controversial in music; they don’t want their listening habits disturbed. They use music as a couch; they want to be pillowed on it, relaxed and consoled for the stress of daily living. But serious music was never meant to be used as a soporific…It is meant to stir and excite you, to move you—it may even exhaust you.
When subtext is the soul

When M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs came out, I encountered several people (critics and acquaintances alike) who complained about the illogicality or plot holes in the alien invasion story. Let it be known that I find no such flaws, and I find it a perfectly thrilling “threat-from-worlds-beyond” tale. My real issue with such complaints, though, was that in dwelling on the invasion storyline, these people were failing to grasp what was, in my opinion, the actual story of Signs. Namely, the restoration of a man’s faith and family.