Monday, April 19, 2010

Tunes for Tots, better known as Child Labor (Goddess images included)

Saraswati, Hindu goddess of knowledge, creativity and openness

I have a great love affair with films. I grew up watching movies with my mother, a huge film buff who could name the year, the director, and the actors in almost any film from the 1940s and onward. So, while most parents take their kids to the park, I would take my little 5-year-old charmer to a Yugoslvian film with subtitles. (yes, she reminds me of this often!) Or, we'll spend a lazy Sunday making cookies and laying on my bed and watching four films back to back.

One thing we both do is turn down the volume when the scene gets tense, and we'll keep watching. Sometimes we have to change it, and have been known run out of the room if a scene gets too heavy. That's because music can make you feel. All musicians know that. And combined with visuals, movie music is just simply this: POWERFUL... it can leave you breathless, bring tears to your eyes, or scare the royal crap out of you. Music in film creates texture and meaning, and communicates to the viewer not only what to feel, but how to feel it. Like I said... powerful.

I have a tremendous appreciation for traditional musicals (Oklahoma, The Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, West Side Story, Grease); they're a genre all their own. But film soundtracks are different beasts -- whether original compositions or licensed tracks. Everyone knows the Tier-1 stunners like John Williams, Patrick Doyle and Ennio Morricone, or classic themes like Jaws (John Williams), Rocky (Bill Conti)  and Halloween (Dan Wyman/John Carpenter). When we think of those, how can you deny that music compositions drive the film, and sometimes even carry it?
  • The Godfather (Nino Rota)
  • Lord of the Rings (Howard Shore)
  • Blade Runner (Vangelis)
  • Jean de Florette (Jean-Claude Petit, Giuseppe Verdi)
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Leos Janacek)
  • The Mission (Ennio Morricone)
I've spent the last few weeks diving into my secret stash of potential soundtrack CDs and getting leads from friends and industry contacts. After weeks of listening, making CDs, and playing tracks over and over at my desk and in my car, it was finally time to choose. (I confess, the whole process was becoming emotional to me, and probably was the most symbolic and important choice I could make for the film, outside of hiring the DP and choosing the cast.)

It was a lovely Sunday morning and I was driving Miss O to dance class. She had the clipboard on her lap and as we did the 45+ minute drive she put in CD after CD and cross-referenced the song titles with the scenes. After some deliberation, we would select the song and she'd mark it down. There were some tracks that I really liked. In fact, I liked most of them, which is why they were on the shortlist. But she didn't have any emotional attachment to it. She was quick with a "no way" and actually confirmed my decision on some that I was wavering on. By the time we arrived at the banjar (the Balinese community house), we had all of our tracks, and some alternates, selected and ready for prime-time.

Hindu Goddess Durga (Goddess of Multi-Tasking)
This, my friends, is the great art of multi-tasking. Child labor included gratis. The contribution of Miss O for her invaluable input on the song selection and her endless patience and energy is priceless. Sample tracks to be posted later.

Now, on to licensing... whew.

In addition to those listed above, I do have a few soundtrack favorites from the "licensed song" category, if anyone's interested. Probably one of the most integrated and poignant soundtracks is Magnolia, written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson. Just stunning. I don't own the CD, but I probably should pick it up one of these days.
  1. Stop Making Sense
  2. Repo Man
  3. Magnolia
  4. O Brother Where Art Thou
  5. Amadeus
  6. Let It Be
  7. Pulp Fiction
  8. American Graffiti
  9. Purple Rain
  10. The Graduate
  11. Saturday Night Fever
  12. Quadrophenia


  1. If you're into Morricone, you should check out my Spaghetti Western Concept Rap album, called "Showdown at the BK Corral." It's basically a Spaghetti Western over 9 tracks - very influenced by Morricone. I'd love to hear what you think of it! You can download it for free at