The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name

Mom: What do you want for Easter?
Me: The soundtrack for CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND!
(Blank stare from Mom.)
Mom: What’s a soundtrack?
(Equally blank—and incredulous-—-stare from me.)

We had few traditions in our house. But every Easter, Mom would buy my brother, sister, and me one present to mark the day. Mom truly had no idea what a soundtrack was, but she did as directed.

Hopped up on circus peanuts (my Easter confection of choice—you know, those orange, spongy confections with the pseudo-banana/stale cotton candy taste that no one likes except me), I found the LP not-so surreptitiously hidden behind some books. I thanked her, ran to my room, and unwrapped my third soundtrack in less than a year.

And so it is written…

My first exposure to film music came from playing my father’s old sheet music on the piano. While every other young piano student stumbled through Mozart or Beethoven, I pounded my way through ANASTASIA, THE APARTMENT, and EXODUS. But Scott Joplin gave me the most joy. I heard THE STING in my head but what came out of the soundboard stung anyone within hearing distance.

It’s a long way from ragtime to the demonic mutterings of THE OMEN. I pulled together every bit of allowance money I had to buy this LP, my first soundtrack purchase. I’m sure my parents were worried and my brother and sister probably thought I was nuts, but Jerry Goldsmith’s atonal, creepy whisperings, grunts, and chants burrowed their way into my soul and I was damned if I was going to continue listening to my Carpenters and Elton John albums.

A full-fledged film score fan was born.

Alone again naturally…

In the pre-Internet days, we film score fans were isolated, alone with our Korngold, Steiner, and Williams. My friends were caught up in this new thing called “disco,” while the fanfare from STAR WARS boomed from my stereo and I plunked out D-E-C-C-G on the piano, calling the Mother Ship to come rescue me.

Fueled by my Oscar obsession, I later force-fed mixed tapes of nominated songs and film scores in 12-minute mini-suites to a couple of friends who were also Oscar obsessed. They grudgingly listened, more out of friendship and to help them win their Oscar pool than from any interest in film music.

Stifle yourself!

In grad school in the mid-80s, hair band ballads and New Wave techno-pop ruled in Austin. As I cruised around in my Mazda, OUT OF AFRICA and THE MISSION poured languidly out of my sunroof, muffled by the humid Texas air. Even with tens of thousands of students on campus,

As a grad student majoring in clarinet performance, my fellow music majors questioned my desire to program recitals around Miklos Rozsa’s Sonatina, Alex North’s Pasttime Suite, or Bernard Herrmann’s Souvenir de Voyage clarinet quintet. What worth did these pieces have when they were composed by mere film composers?

Around the world in 11,984 days

In 33 years of film music obsession, it took the advance of the Internet before I ever actually discussed film music in any depth with another human being. Yet as wonderful as the message boards, chat rooms, and forums have been, I can still count the number of film score fans I’ve met in person on both hands and still have fingers left over. That being said, when/if I ever make it to Los Angeles, Florida or Australia, I now have relationships with other fans who I can call on and it will be like meeting a long lost friend.

Way back in 1978, I don’t think Mom knew what to make of my new-found film music, and I’m not sure she knows what to make of it today. I continue to pursue my love of film music, a love that has overtaken every other form of music. There’s not a day that goes by without listening to at least one full score. I now nostalgically look back on those years as a form of intense study that unknowingly prepared me for the Internet age and the chance to share my passion with you, my readers.

What are your stories? How have you nurtured your love of film music?

  1. Jim If you ever get out to So Cal please let know.It would be fun showing you around.

    1. I was supposed to come for the FSM event a few weeks ago. Glad I didn’t since I needed a new laptop and my dog just racked up $900 in vet bills. But someday…

  2. By the way I almost went to North Texas State for their jazz program in the late 60’s early 70′, but I had to chose between music and psychology, and I took psych, some times I wonder about that . I used to sight read everything, sure can’t now . Man you can lose that so fast.

    1. I don’t think I can sight read any more either, at least not with any grace. There are certainly days I miss playing. One of these days maybe I’ll take it up again, but not while I’m living in a cramped NYC apartment. :)

  3. Jim, I just discovered your website. I’ve been looking for years now, for a sort of chatroom for filmscore lovers. It was something like “filmus”. The originator, was a professor at a university. The name escapes me. Are you familiar with this website? I can’t seem to find it anymore, which makes me think it’s no longer in existence. I was a member of it for about three years. At any rate, if you can help me, I’d really appreciate it.

    Thanks.

    Arlene

    1. Hi Arlene, thanks for commenting. This isn’t really a chatroom, per se, but I’m happy you found the site! :)

      I’ve never heard of “filmus,” or anything close to that. Anybody else?

      There are plenty of other chatrooms for film score lovers though: Film Score Monthly, Main Titles, Intrada, Tracksounds, Soundtrack Geek, and probably many more that I’ve forgotten. You might want to check out any and all of those. If anyone has any others, feel free to add in the comments below.

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