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Anyone who has read this blog for any period of time knows of my passion for both music and movies.  I’ve talked at length about the power of music in our lives and the cultural significance of the cinema.  Thus, I suppose it is hardly a surprise to find that I am fascinated by the work done to both score a film and select or write songs for use within the  same film.

Scores of course are the things we most connect musically to most movies.  Who doesn’t envision X-Wings or Indy’s whip when they hear the music John Williams wrote for the “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” franchises?  The same can be said of hundreds of themes of themes written by not only Williams, but also composers like John Barry, Ennio Morricone, and many others.

But, in many ways the real brilliance of movie soundtracks is in the songs.  The strong connection between song and memory can forever change a song for us when we see it in a film.  Suddenly, when that song plays it conjures up images from the film, and can even change the underlying meanings in the song when it is in that context.

Don’t believe me?  Watch “Silence of the Lambs” and then listen to Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers sing “American Girl.”  Watch “Fallen” and then listen to The Rolling Stones sing “Time Is On My Side.”  It makes for an interesting experience.  There are countless other examples from movies and television.  The music becomes inextricably linked with the story it is helping to tell. 

There is of course the original song as well.  But, the tailor-made nature of these songs make them much less interesting.  Of course hearing these songs conjure up the films, they were written for that very purpose.  But, when a film takes a familiar song, one we have known for years, and breathes a different life into it, that’s when the real magic of music and memory are working.  The film has effectively, for good or ill, changed that song for us forever. 

The workings of the mind and the way it can rewire memory never ceases to fascinate.


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