Sunday morning music

A discussion with another writer brought today’s topic to mind.  She told me she selects background music with specific reference to the genre in which she’s writing.  For example, if she’s writing fantasy, she’ll play music from a movie in that genre, or general music that focuses on that sort of theme.  She’ll even tailor the music to suit the specific scene (so that, say, a battle scene will involve fairly martial, warrior-type music, perhaps from Scandinavian thrash metal groups).  I don’t take it that far, but I realized that I do pick music to write to so that the former “fits” the subject for the day.  If I’m writing a battle, I don’t play lullabies!

That started me thinking.  In cinematic entertainment, the theme music and sound effects often make or break the movie.  Who could watch, say, Tom & Jerry cartoons without them?  Their absence would ruin the cartoons.  See (and hear) for yourself.

In a more serious vein, think of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.  The music is so intimately a part of its portrayal that it’s impossible to imagine the movies without their soundtrack.  That can be said of many movies, of course, but it’s particularly true of the LOTR trilogy.  Here’s a video containing the entire soundtrack, labeled as to scene.  (You’ll find the list, complete with timestamps, at the original YouTube listing).  Pick a couple of scenes you know well, watch them on YouTube by searching for them (or use your own copies of the movies), then listen to the music alone (on this video) without watching the visuals.  Both are so intertwined that neither completely makes sense without the other.

Definitely makes you think.  To what extent are our lives themselves framed by their “soundtrack” – the “theme music” to our everyday lives?  Take a big-city dweller.  If you took away the sounds he was used to – traffic, car horns, the hustle and bustle of so many people all around him – would his life be the same?  Would he seek to “insulate” himself from, say, country sounds by recreating “city sounds” around him?  Is that why so many holiday resorts resemble nothing more than the same overcrowded, noisy cities from where they draw their clientele?

That’s also a thought for writers.  When we write, are we subconsciously composing the “theme music” for our scenes by selectively using words?  Are we choosing them for the way in which they resonate with our readers, the emotions they evoke, the reactions they produce?

Food for thought.



  1. As a programmer, my work has a soundtrack, but limited lyrics, because words don't go well with coding. The more instrumental, the better.

    So I listen to classical, ambient, sythn or EDM. My current project listening features Boris Brejcha, which amazes some of my younger/older cohorts. But I enjoy the music and it fits the mood of the work.

  2. I'd commend two episodes of Buffy for brilliant work with the soundtrack.

    [Spoiler alter, although I'm not sure it's needed for stuff from two decades ago]

    In Hush (Season 4, Episode 10), the characters lose the ability to speak about 15 minutes in, so all you have to tell the story is the visuals, plus the soundtrack.

    And in The Body (Season 5, episode 16), after the first few minutes there's no music soundtrack at all. You hear the sounds of what's taking place — but no musical background. It's really subtle — but works brilliantly.

  3. I wonder if the rise of rail transportation with its distinctive rhythms of the engine, the wheels, and the rails had anything to do with the rise of more complex rhythms in music. What little I know of popular music before the mid nineteenth century has fairly simple rhythmic structure, but then came the slightly more complex rhythms of Ragtime and the much more complex rhythms of Jazz.

  4. Hey Peter;

    When I "do" my Monday Music on my blog, I usually have an association with it. If I was somewhere for the first time and I hear the song and I will always associate it with that event, for example "Voices Carry" by Til Tuesday, I heard the song for the first time and it was 1985 and it was summer, and it was raining and I had the air conditioning on. I still associate that song with that event. Songs are soundtracks of our lives and they tell a story or an event that makes it personal.

  5. When my wife moved from her suburban home,with six other kids, traffic on a major two-lane road by the house, to my small country village-type neigbhorhood, quiet, maybe three cars all day, and my dad who would watch the noon news, then turn the tee-wee off till 6, nearly drove her nuts! 😎

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