Music and cinema have always been strongly linked. Everybody remember scenes like the shower one from “Psycho” (Alfred Hitchcook, 1960) with all the violins, violas and cellos shivering at the same time, the shark’s attack at the rhythm of the heavy tubas in “Jaws” (Steven Spielberg, 1975), the melancholic melody that opened “The Godfather” film (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972) or the unforgettable chords of “As time goes by” that made us dream a little more about the passionate affair between Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in “Casablanca”. These are only just a few examples of memorable motifs that film scores have given us.
It is true there are films with no music at all. For example: “Mogambo” (John Ford, 1953), “The Birds” (Alfred Hitchcook, 1963), “No country for Old Men” (Coen Brothers, 2007) or “Eraserhead” (David Lynch, 1977)…But these are not the common ones. Films pretend to relate daily adventures and misfortunes and, music has always been present in our routine lives, so it is impossible to omit it. And not only films that recount monotonous facts are full of music. Fantasy, terror, experimental and paranormal genres have melodies swarming around them too.
What makes a soundtrack a great one? What is the secret formula for the success? Besides being about musically rich compositions, I think they have to connect with the movie. They have to be coordinated, working together as one. Like seeing a ballet performance and forgetting there are 100 ballerinas up there. You only see one big mass moving as a whole. Well, that should also happen with the OST. They should not only be an interesting complement of the film. They should beam you up to the particular scene they are accompanying. Who could imagine mythical scenes like the one of “Play it again, Sam” (from the previous mentioned “Casablanca”) without the sound of the piano and the deep voice of the black singer? Would we feel the same anguish and melancholy that Ingrid Bergman felt with no music at all? Would Ingrid’s tears have the same sense in silence?
Who could forget the mild sound of Audrey Hepburn’s voice in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” while she strummed her guitar sitting in the window? Would George Peppard look at Audrey in the same intimate way without these beautiful chords? And what about Sylvester Stallone’s punches in “Rocky” (John G. Avildsen, 1976) following the rhythm of the motivating trumpets of “Gonna fly now”? Would they have the same strength and anger without the presence of this legendary tune? I recommend you to look for “The importance of John Williams” (who is the composer of great OST as “Jaws”, “Superman”, “Indiana Jones”, “E.T.” among many others), on YouTube and watch some mythical cinema scenes that have been detached from their original soundtracks. You will check the effect and will realize how important music is.
It is clear that sometimes soundtracks are more than a delicious selection of songs. They are just the suitable melodies for precise moments and, ladies and gentlemen, getting this is not as easy as it seems.
Through the next posts, Tune Love’s contributors want to show you the greatest soundtracks of the cinema history. The greatest ones, at least, for us. Do not forget we are humans and subjectivity is inherent. This is a personal selection. I am sure we will forget some, but there you are to remind us which ones are missed. We want this initiative to be dynamic and we would love to read your proposals.
Films have given us great soundtracks, or have soundtracks given us great films?