Friday, May 23, 2008

Music for millions

TCM showed Jaws last night, as part of a night of Steven Spielberg movies. I won't go into detail about the movie, since virtually everybody knows the plot, even if they haven't seen the movie before. I think a lot of that is down to the John Williams score. The low, thumping strings that presage the arrival of the great white shark have become iconic even outside the context of the movie itself, becoming almost a metaphor for impending danger.

Jaws is a prime example of just how important music is to the movies. If you mix and match scores and put the right score together with the wrong movie, the result is going to be a mess. The music to Jaws, for example, would probably work fairly well with the famous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. The reverse is almost true; the high-pitched strings we hear when Janet Leigh is getting stabbed would fit will with the slashing of the shark, although Bernard Herrmann's Psycho score doesn't have the built-in suspense that John Williams gives the shark by starting out with a lower pitch and a slower tempo, only building his way up to the faster, higher pitches (but not as high as what Herrmann used) when we actually see the sharks.

Then there are the scores that work great in their own movies, but would be dreadful for Jaws. Erich Korngold wrote one of Hollywood's most memorable scores for the 1938 classic The Adventures of Robin Hood. It fits the hand-to-hand combat of medieval knights like a glove, but is far too rousing for fighting a shark. Likewise, the John Williams score would be completely wrong for Robin Hood. I can just imagine Williams' doo doo, doo doo theme swelling up, and hitting the higher notes over Errol Flynn's flight on a vine, and stopping long enough for Flynn to tell Olivia de Havilland, "Welcome to Sherwood, milady!" I shudder just thinking about it.

And then, there are the stirring, but rather more sedate, tones in Max Steiner's score to Gone With the Wind. Just hearing the opening few notes is enough to put you at antebellum Tara. But Quint trying to harpoon the shark over that music? Or Scarlett O'Hara's first meeting with Rhett Butler after the shark's theme? Well, some might say Rhett Butler was a bit of a shark. The only other mental image it gives me, though, is that of Butterfly McQueen on the Orca, her high-pitched voice saying, "I don't know nothin' 'bout killin' no sharks!"

What movies' scores would you like to switch?


Black Min said...

Music helps us relax. Music brings joy and laughter. Music brings something interesting. I created the ringtone from the famous songs. Ringtones that people like to hear and install at my home page:

I need your comment to improve my ringtone better. Free quality ringtones for people around the world. Thank you!

Sophie Grace said...

Nice post.Thanks for sharing this valuable information.Carry on. Visit my site webstagram to read more blogs on instagram.