Sunday, April 5, 2009

Lump in the Throat

(Another Piece Written for Film Score Monthly)

Maybe it’s a lump in the throat or a chill up your spine. Perhaps you feel the hair stand up on the back of your neck or you just get a good case of the shivers. Whichever way it manifests itself, there’s one piece of music that can still get to you, even after hearing the piece again and again and again.

And not just that feeling you got the first few times you heard that THX crescendo.

These are emotional moments, cues that invoke memories of a particularly poignant moment in a movie, or maybe just in your life. Moments that hit you sometimes for no logical reason at all.

For a long time, for me, it was “The Enterprise,” the rapturous cue from Star Trek: The Motion Picture. I’d turn it up good and loud and no matter how many times I heard it, when that bass rumbled at cue’s end, I’d feel it, that emotional rush. There’s something transcendent about that piece, and for a Trekkie nerd like me, that long, loving look at the starship during the film could never go on too long, especially not when accompanied by Goldsmith’s glorious music.

More recently, I keep getting the goosebumps whenever I listen to “All the Strange, Strange Creatures” from the Doctor Who Series 3 soundtrack. Here’s the thing. I didn’t cry at my wedding. I didn’t cry at the birth of my children. But when the Master returned on Doctor Who, I got chills, I got choked up, I started crying like a little girl. It was like a bolt coming straight from my childhood, a weird nostalgic vision of watching the Jon Pertwee Doctor battle wits with the Roger Delgado Master. And hearing that music reminds me of that moment, that amazing revelation that the Master had indeed survived to fight another day. Oh, by the way, spoiler alert.

Another that always affects me, although not in such a visceral way, is James Newton Howard’s Promised Land. The film, little seen, came out in 1988 and starred Kiefer Sutherland and Meg Ryan. I was living in L.A. at the time and saw the film in a theater on Van Nuys Boulevard, and when it was over, I walked directly across the street to a record store and immediately bought the cassette. There’s something soothing about the music for me. I associate it, I think, with that period of my life, when the world seemed wide open with possibilities and whenever I hear those first notes of "The Plymouth Waltz," I immediately feel just a bit more calm and centered. There’s almost a physical sensation of tension dropping away from me when I listen to the CD. It’s a powerful testament to the amazing ability of music to affect my mood. I think I’ll go turn it on right now.

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