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.
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?