The Sizzler Effect

What comes to mind when you think of the Sizzler? The “all you can eat” salad bar, right? Whether at the Sizzler or elsewhere, what once started out as a healthy alternative or addition to your meal became a gluttonous stuff-your-face replacement for quality food. That’s how I feel about the schedule of film music releases these days. I call this all-you-can-eat predicament “The Sizzler Effect.

We’re five weeks into the new year and I already feel bloated and stuffed. I still have 13 review copies waiting to be reviewed. I’ve only listened to one of the six scores I’ve purchased so far, and I’m waiting on six more to arrive in the mail. And this doesn’t even take into account the numerous scores I’ve simply passed on and will probably never hear.

There aren’t enough hours in the day to listen to all the film music I need to for this blog, much less the new and old titles I’d like to listen to simply for pleasure. I think this “Sizzler effect” is causing obesity among us film score fans.

Even when we’re weighted down by excessive amounts of music, we feverishly buy, buy, buy the new releases, preferably within minutes of the announcement. We pile our plates high with as much music as we can and then shovel it in hurriedly to make room for a second, third, and fourth helping. As long as they keep replenishing the stock, we keep going back for more.

As the hands grab for one title after another, the scores bleed into one another. Like crutons that have been dropped in the dressing, the music quickly becomes saturated before we’ve even had time to experience the original flavor. Our need for fresh music is so great that there’s always a new tray of tasteless, nutrition-less iceberg lettuce ready to replace the picked over tray so that the buffet always appears “fresh.”

But what constitutes fresh?

The sneeze guard doesn’t protect us from the leeches who troll online ready to spread their germs all over the “bounty” below. These are the ones who ruin our enjoyment of the meal before we’ve even had a chance to experience it. Who are never satisfied with or appreciative of what’s put before them and want continuous changes to their meal.

Have we entered an age where we take our film music for granted? Are we reaching a point where so many hands have picked at the food that there’s nothing left but the tattered remnants of  a meal that was inhaled and not enjoyed? Our musical meal is meant to be savored and relished, otherwise it’s just empty calories. And a helluva lot of calories at that.

Perhaps it’s not a problem at all since so many releases seem to be selling. But at what price? At what point do our musical arteries harden and cut off the musical life breath that us film score fans thrive on?

Or is it just me?

11 comments

  1. This is so astute, Jim, and it’s a constant frustration for me (even if I am, to some degree, part of the problem).

    My contribution to the problem is my insatiable hunger for MORE music and NEW music. I have thousands upon thousands of songs in my library, and yet I often feel like I have “nothing to listen to.” Poppycock!

    That’s my problem, though. And in the same way that I am currently reevaluating my attitude towards money (trying to start being a better manager of it, budgeting, prioritizing, avoiding debt, etc.), I’m trying to reevaluate my attitude towards my other possessions. Without a doubt, film music is the most precious material possession I own. I’m trying to start treating it as such, rather than as a trough full of slop ready for my hoggish consumption.

    The other side of the problem—not my fault—is the buttload of exciting releases being cranked out week after week by these boutique labels…at limited quantities. I realize that the logistics and economics of it all basically require these labels to do the limited releases, and I certainly don’t wish to appear ungrateful for the amazing reissues and complete/remastered scores they keep releasing. “We are living in a golden age,” as my friend often says.

    But the way the system works essentially forces us to buy up film scores like we’re at an all-you-can-eat buffet, else we miss out on a classic Jerry Goldsmith or John Williams release for THE REST OF ETERNITY! So we gobble it up, and before we’ve had a chance to digest the last album they go and release another one. And we HAVE to buy it now or forever hold our peace about it (i.e., never hear the music).

    It’s a crappy, bloated structure, but I don’t know how it can be any different in order for these labels to make any kind of profit. I can definitely change my own attitude towards “consumption”—show more restraint, treat each score with more care, chew more times before I swallow. But many of the CDs I want to purchase aren’t going to be there waiting for me when my self-disciplined, fine-dining palate is ready for them…so my only choices become gluttony or starvation, feast or famine.

    Who will save us from this curse of abundance??

    1. Nice way to work in the food metaphors! You did it with much more finesse than I did. :)

      Like you, I too am part of the problem. And I don’t know what the solution is, if there even is one.

      I personally only buy Golden Age releases (and I probably don’t “need” all those either) and those few other releases that really get me excited. I get all caught up in the frenzy initially like everyone else, but I’ve gotten better at weeding out what is not “essential.” I don’t need all the Goldsmiths and Williams’, even though I’m a fan of both composers. And I usually don’t feel like I’ve missed out. I’d rather leave the music for those who really want it.

      Maybe part of my personal solution means better time management on my part to listen to everything. But the last thing I want to do is treat listening to music like a business, even when that is PART of my business.

      My biggest fear is that the schedule will get so overloaded that eventually some of the boutique labels will suffer. I certainly don’t want that to happen as they each have found their own niche and supply great product in their respective areas.

      But maybe the market of film music fans (and its seemingly bottom-less well of disposable income) will be able to keep them all afloat.

      I guess we all deal with it in our way. And maybe it’s not a problem for the majority of fans. Nice to know I’m not alone though. :)

  2. this is my problem with everything related to my entertainment appetite. Between the movies, t.v. shows, music, video games, and comics- I barely have time to work, let alone sleep. It came to the point, where I took the day off from work just because of a release of a video game (Bioshock 2) so I can fully devote hours to it before my dvr starts crying for attention again… Indeed, not enough hours in the day.

    1. Taking a day off for the release of a video game… That actually cracked me up because I know exactly how you feel. I used to take every Oscar nomination day off so I could go buy the Original Score and Song nominees that I didn’t already have. (This is back in the days before the internet when you had to got a brick-and-mortar store.) Then I’d spend all day listening to them and figuring out what was going to go on my Oscar compilation tape (or CD) for the couple of friends I did it for.

      And I know what you mean about not enough time. It seems like it’s hard to find the hours to just sit back and relax and enjoy whatever entertainment outlet you choose. My attention always seems to be pulled in a hundred different directions, whether with work, the internet, or just my mind racing to other things.

      I’ve had horrible insomnia for years. I actually hate going to bed. I love sleeping (and especially napping) but going to bed means that the day is over and that there are no more hours to get done what I need (or want) to get done. In the old days when I went into an office, my at home time was filled with writing and other projects. Now it’s just one long mish-mash of time that’s always filled. And there’s still not enough hours in the day.

  3. Spot on. The image of an all-you-can-eat music era chimes perfectly with how I have been feeling lately. When I say lately, I mean in the last couple of years especially. Since the proliferation of mp3s and the easy access of music on the net, I have been feeling bloated repeatedly. It used to happen once in a while before but it has been recurring with the increasing amount of new/old/ limited releases of film music scores.

    I do appreciate the variety and especially since we have scores that aren’t only from North America or Western Europe but from all around the world now. I do feel that I need to be more careful and choose wisely. The amount of calories are staggering indeed!

    Lately, I have been watching what I have been eating (for health reasons) and that may have to be an inspiration to how I deal with my ravenous appetite for music (film music especially but I do crave a lot of other music too) I can treat myself with good vintage “wines” once in a while but not too much since I do have a budget to respect. I have a particularly fondness for new “dishes” I haven’t tried before and like to discover new music from composers that I haven’t heard of before. There is a limit though. There is so much music out there now. It is impossible to take it all. I just have to choose and listen to recommendations by the peers and dose it according to my own tastes. All that being said, I can’t forget the sweets!!! There is a slogan around where I live that says: “La modération a meilleur goût” which translates to “Moderation has a better taste”. That’s when I really savor and relish music , sitting down and listening – taking the time to appreciate it and digest it.

    1. I definitely think one of these reasons for this “obesity” is, as you say, mp3s. And that’s not to say that digital music is all bad. I love the ease and portability of it. But as I’ve discussed elsewhere, it also gives one the feeling of “empty calories.”

      “sitting down and listening – taking the time to appreciate it and digest it”…That’s the hardest part for me, I think. Film music has now become the background to what I “do”. Everything from walking to working, reading, and exercising. In other words, I’m also going someplace or doing something ELSE instead of focusing on the music. I find it more and more difficult to just sit down and actually listen to a score. For me, it’s not fair to the music and it certainly gets on my nerves sometimes.

      As you say, Martin, it is impossible to listen to all the new–and old–film scores out there. Time for me to start incorporating a little bit of “La modération a meilleur goût.” :)

  4. I empathize, identify, relate, and agree with all of you concerning your efforts to rein in your compulsion to listen to all the film music being released digitally and on CD’s. It’s a major whack on the wallet and does cause your musical sensitivities to become numb.

    As a test of self-restraint, I have committed to only purchasing soundtracks for films that I’ve actually seen, and only if there are a preponderance of cues that contain memorable music. But even with films that contain exciting scores, sometimes I’ll just the watch the movie over again, because the music may not thrill as much when it is divorced from its visual association with the film.

    If I were going to cheat, perhaps the only possible exception I might make to my self-imposed austerity program would be anything composed by Ennio Morricone. His musical imagination is just too fertile, too adventurous, for me to wait to see the films he wrote the music for. The fact that so many of them are Italian features that would have limited (if any) release in the United States would make it even easier to justify the exception! But I’ve managed to stick to my principles, even with Mr. Morricone’s works.

    The discipline has been yielded results. In this way I’ve been successful in curtailing my spending on film score CD’s, avoided over-saturating my ears and therefore diluting my passion for recorded film music.

    LOREN

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