The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments of Film Music

I have the utmost respect for the Bible—at least as source material for entertaining, pompous 1950s costume dramas—but something within me urged me to adapt these into something hopefully we all can understand. (Some may argue it was the work of Satan, which might be appropriate given my love for THE OMEN.) If I were to write MY personal ten commandments of film music, it would be a very different list. Instead, I have interpreted the Old Testament’s biblical laws with my outlook on the current state of film music fandom. The list isn’t meant as sacrilegious. (How could it be when it comes from a non-believing heathen like me?) Just accept it in the spirit of fun with which it was written.

“So it shall be written, so it shall be done.”

Thou shalt have no other gods before Goldsmith.

Or so it would seem.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven CD-Rs.

As the CD production schedule shrinks, particularly for new soundtracks, a lot of labels have instituted CD-Rs instead of factory-pressed CDs. A stroll through the message boards finds opinions both pro and con for them. I’ve bought a couple and while the sound quality has been fine, there is something cheap about them. Given that there is a limited amount of space in my Manhattan cave, I think I’ll stick to downloads.

Thou shalt not take the name of Goldsmith thy God in vain.

In tandem with the first commandment, God forbid you should question the output of any composer, Jerry Goldsmith in particular. Differing opinions are not allowed and non-believers will be sacrificed at the altar.

Remember the release day, to keep it holy.

Announce it too early and the swarms of locusts will descend on the label. Postpone a particular release change the date and a rain of vitriolic hail will fall on your heads. Hell hath no fury like a film music fan scorned.

Honor thy music and thy composers: that thy days may be long.

Film composers write music for film first—not fans. And just because that particular composer didn’t write the perfect 45- or 60-minute listening experience doesn’t mean that he/she is untalented or that the music has no value. Composers often work under tough conditions, having to subsume their musical vision to that of directors, producers and/or studio execs. If the music works in the film, then the composer has done his/her job. The least we can do is give the music our attention and respect. Not every score will be worthy of that, but we as film music fans owe that to the talented individuals who brighten our days with their musical gifts.

Thou shalt not kill the CD.

As downloads become more and more prevalent, film music fans are freaking out. How will they color coordinate the spines on their shelves? How can they make other fans jealous on message boards? How will they get composer autographs that they’ll either never look at again or resell for a profit? We’ve all spent a LOT of money over the years building our collections and they obviously mean a lot to us, as well they should. But if your enjoyment of film music is wrapped up in a piece of polycarbonate plastic, it might be time to pray for guidance. I bet even God, I mean Goldsmith, would back me up on this one. In other news, significant others the world over breathe a sigh of relief.

Thou shalt not commit adultery on a single disc.

Two different scores on a single disc stresses film music fans out. Mixing composers is tantamount to a sin. How will fans know how to file the CD on their shelves?

Thou shalt not steal.

From Prokofiev, Holst, or Orff, much less from other film composers, at least without proper credit. You can wrap it in different orchestrations or other musical window dressing, but theft should be punishable by stoning.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

Lies, lies, lies, yeah… Pointing fingers and name calling on message boards. What is this? Junior high?

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s collection.

Seriously. In this case, at least, size doesn’t matter. Besides, who has time to listen to it all? I’ve got roughly 3,000 or so soundtracks. If I listened to one a day every day year after year, well, you can do the math. Each person’s collection reflects that person’s taste. And if you missed a particular release, it’s probably going to pop up again somewhere down the line. And if you’re lucky, it’ll have 20 extra seconds and “improved sound”.

What are your ten commandments of film music?

  1. Jim: A GREAT view of film music, and very funny in a Godly way. :) :) :)

    Always look forward to you Nine (or Ten) on the Ninth. Happy New Year and continued success.

  2. I could hear Chuck Heston’s already powerful but further electronically amplified voice belowing these sacred commandments as I read them.

    Gave me chills.

    Nice one Jim.

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