Saturday, March 20, 2010

You can read along with me in your book! (Or, starting at the beginning)

Quick, what's the first thing you think of when you see this picture?

Baaaaa-dum! Baaaaa-dum! Bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum (ad infinitum)!

Of course it is. Movie soundtracks are burned into your mind just as thoroughly as they're embedded in mine. I just think about them more often than you do. Case in point: you've probably said at some time, "I wish my life had a soundtrack like a movie." Well, mine does . . . at least in my mind. As far back as my memory can reach, that soundtrack has literally come from the soundtracks of the movies.

My family didn't go to the movies a lot when I was young, and most of my first eight or nine years were in the pre-VCR days -- or at least in the days before my family owned a VCR. What we did have was a lot of audio from movies, in the form of soundtrack albums themselves, and the book-and-record sets for kids that told the stories of Disney movies. (These later changed to book-and-tape sets, and now I guess the books read themselves with a chip or something . . . if they bother to make these anymore, now that kids can watch the DVDs of the actual movie any time.)

One of my early childhood memories involves twirling around on the living room floor with my sister, making ourselves dizzy by staring at the patterns on the green carpet runner while listening to the "April Shower" song from the Bambi soundtrack LP. I remember playing the record for the Nutcracker Suite and The Dance of the Hours as recorded for Fantasia a lot as well, and some musicals like The Sound of Music and The Music Man. At some point we got our hands on Dad's soundtrack album from 2001: A Space Odyssey. That was an ear-opener, as it were. More on that pretty soon, when I get to that score in this blog.

My earliest memory of going to a movie in the theatre is E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, which traumatized me for life and cemented my love of John Williams forever. I own, adore, and will write about that soundtrack, but I can hardly ever listen to it without crying, so it doesn't get a lot of rotation.

So, for all of the life that I can remember, I've been obsessed with the music of the cinema. Now I can hold forth on the greatness of semi-obscure composers like Basil Poledouris or film score specialty record labels like Varese Sarabande and Silva Screen Records. But there aren't too many people I can talk to about that sort of thing. I'm not a musicologist and have little formal training in music. I'm not quite hard core enough to hang out in forums for truly fanatical and knowledgeable film score geeks, and I always have things to say that may relate only tangentially to any particular score.

In January, my friend John started up his "Little Round Mirrors" blog, in which he's currently plowing through his mammoth DVD collection and writing about them, one by one. He and I are geeks of a feather, and we think in oddly similar ways sometimes. So, following the advice attributed to T. S. Eliot, or Picasso, or somebody, that great artists steal, I'm ripping off the concept wholesale and writing my way through my collection of film (and television!) scores and soundtracks. I don't even have a solid idea of how many I have, in formats ranging from vinyl to MP3 -- but I guess I'll find out. And you will, too. You'll probably find out more about me in the process, but let's not get all psychological about this just yet. For now, let's set down the ground rules and get to the fun part. On to post #2 . . .

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