I have sort of an obsession with cinematic scores. Sure, I got a film minor during undergrad, but I did that because I was hoping to learn more about screenwriting (not learn all about theory, which is exactly what happened). But I don’t think that background is what inspired my in-depth obsession with a fantastically composed score, for films, television and video game soundtracks. It is directly inspired by the amazing ability scores have to invoke emotion that stays with you, even when removed from its natural setting.
For example, every time I hear The Bridge of Khazad-Dûm, from The Fellowship of the Ring, my eyes tear up. When the drums beat and the chanting of the all-male choir solos, I get goosebumps all over and my heart starts to race, because the pace is constantly picking up, reflecting the mad rush out of Moria. And my heart begins to grow heavy, as I know what heartbreak this mad pace is going to be broken up by, through the wip of a Balrog of Morgorth.
You see, I felt all these emotions when I first watched this scene, yet even listening to this track right now and writing down these words, the same emotions are happening and I’m not fully focused on these words. As the track progresses, I picture the Fellowship running across the bridge. I can see Frodo’s face as he cries out in anguish, hear his heartbreaking cry echoing, even though it isn’t featured in the track. I even stopped writing as the pace was broken in the track, literal goosebumps on my arms, as my eyes welled up with tears, as I pictured Gandalf’s fall. I didn’t continue writing this until the track was over, my emotional experience, well, experienced.
I’m not making this up, people.
This happens to me all the time. These scores are more than instruments and beautiful or harsh voices creating music. All combined, scores are the literal materialization of emotions and experiences. Once heard and associated with an experience–blowing my nose after my favorite character died–or a scene–the final killing blow–or an emotion–getting goosebumps regardless how many times I’ve heard such haunting music–that connection last no matter how many times I listen to the score, how many times I watch it within the film or video game it belongs to.
It just blows my mind how powerful scores are yet how underappreciated they are. Half the time, I’ll go see a film I know nothing about simply for the promising score. Or, a film I saw that I was thought good, was only good because the score wasn’t up to par. My favorite film class, I remember watching a documentary where they had a segment showing scenes with the music and scenes without it. The difference was fantastic, because some of the strongest scene are made not because of the performances or what is happening in regards to the plot, but by the music that complement and completes them.
So, because I want to nerd out and I want to share some of my favorite scores with you. I’m going to simply list out some of the most powerful ones that pop into my head at this moment. I’m sure I’ll have more posts in the future that are just lists of scores that I love and have been affected by. I’d love to hear some of your favorites, too, and why! 🙂
Simple and Clean: This song is my childhood. It’s the title track for the first Kingdom Hearts installment and honestly, how can you not sing along and just want to go hang out with Donald and Goofy forever after hearing this song?
Everything Skyrim: I will forever worship Jeromy Soule for the music he has brought to this game. The amount of times I’ve listened to this soundtrack boggles my mind. My favorites, in particular, are Skyrim atmospheres (which you know is impressive for a score when I want to listen to the atmospheres) and Sovngarde. The pure manliness in the latter is just fantastic.
Speaking of manliness, if you don’t get chill listening to The Misty Mountains Cold, you aren’t doing it right.
The heartbreak that is Mass Effect: If you’ve played the games, you know how traumatic an experience that is. I listen to Leaving Earth on repeat often, because I enjoy pain, apparently. It is just so haunting and literally hurts my heart to listen to, but also, just freakin’ moves me. An End Once and For All is very similar. Or I’d Be Lost Without You. Gosh, ALL THE FEELS.
Assassin’s Creed Revelations: I’ve only played the first game, but my brother introduced me to this theme song and it is the sole reason I want to play Revelations.
EVERY FREAKIN’ THOMAS NEWTON SONG: I have a bunch of favorite composers. Howard Shore. Hans Zimmer. Philip Glass. Jeromy Soule. But Thomas Newman absolutely takes the cake. Finding Nemo? American Beauty? A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS!? Favorite track is definitely The Letter That Never Came.
Theme Music: There are quite a few theme songs that, when I hear them, it feels like a warm blanket wrapped around you on a really cold day. Or a embrace that whispers, “Welcome Home.” Some of these include Sherlock theme, the Mass Effect theme, Dragon Age theme and a bunch of others I can’t think of right now.
Oh, and the entire Pride and Prejudice score. I bought the CD, I am so in love with every aspect of this score. It convinces me I was born during the wrong era.
I know I am forgetting so many of my favorites. I know that will lead to multiple posts in the future, some that could be as short as, “Oh, and don’t forget about X track by Y composer from Z film. It’s fantastic.” But there is a reason why my favorite category to watch at the Academy Awards (aside from Best Screenplay) is Best Score. Music is so powerful and the emotions I feel regarding all of these tracks, amongst thousands of others, is why I am so thankful for the composers out there that work the magic that they do. Sincerely, thank you.