Picture The Sound

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Picture the scene. Or, in this case, the sound.

You’re listening and/or singing along to the soundtrack of that stage show you love, getting – in my case – an impressive 87% of the lyrics right.

When an email drops into your inbox to tell you said show is set to close in a matter of months.

You immediately tell everyone you know and who you think might care. This doesn’t take long.

And then you rush to see if you can book tickets for the final announced performance.

If they’re not already completely sold out, they’ve at least tripled in price.

So you resign yourself to settling on listening to the soundtrack on repeat forevermore.

Rest assured, I know we have all been and are going through much, much worse. But this was my reality a few weeks back when my favourite musical announced it would be closing on the West End after what will have been a very successful five year run. And I was embarrassed for being as sad as I was.

See, around the time the producers announced the show will be closing, there was a lot of buzz around the imminent release of a new album by a very popular and highly accomplished solo artist.

Let’s call her Sailor Twift.

I was struck by how excited Sailor’s fans were and how reassuring it must be to know you have more to come from a person whose music you admire so much, and which has perhaps carried you through some of your most significant life events. I wasn’t sure if I could relate however, largely because, I never really listen to music.

Even as a kid, unless I was in a dance class or at a party or in a shop, I’d rarely actively stop to listen to music, usually preferring to watch a TV show or a film in my downtime or, when I started working in the industry and making my own money, going to the theatre. I don’t know that I’d even know where to start with listening to music. I never know the name of songs.

I always need it played to me it before I (maybe) recognise it – and I am preposterously overwhelmed by the question, ‘What type of music are you into?’

Although, that’s not entirely true. I do know because I do like music. I love it.

And whilst I might not actively engage with music like so many others, I hear it. I see it. See, most of my favourite music comes from soundtracks. It does mean I have varied taste.

I love the soundtracks to…
Wild Child
(2008)

and About Time (2013)…

as much as I do the ones to Pride (2014)…

… and just about anything ever released by the MCU.

And: I’ve watched Grey’s Anatomy religiously since it first aired in 2005. So you bet I love every iteration of How to Save a Life that’s ever been breathed into existence. Indeed, whilst I consider them family given how often I hear their voices in my head, I wouldn’t recognise Tegan or Sara if they walked past me in the street, which is a shame because I’d love to thank them for providing the soundtrack to my life for the last…ahem…17 years and counting.

But at least I have the series to go back to and watch over and over and over. And – you get the idea: so I can hear the songs in situ, the score to characters so three-dimensional, they feel like real people in my life.

I’d be lying therefore if I said I wasn’t experiencing low-level grief at the closing of my favourite stage show early next year.

Music has the power to root us in a moment, to show us we’re not alone in feeling the myriad feelings weare both cursed and honoured to feel in tandem at any one time. And it can help us make sense of the world around us. Music also has the ability to tell stories.

And when we associate it so deeply to the stories of characters who we might relate to on a very deep level for any number of reasons, it can be difficult knowing there’s no more music coming.

You can listen to a soundtrack over and over, you can watch reruns, but it’s not live. You don’t get the same hit of whatever that feeling is when a person sings a line, or a musician plays a melody that speaks directly to you and encapsulates everything you’re feeling in a single note. You miss out on the rawness and danger of a live performance and, frankly, you might prefer the way one performer sings a song to the one singing it on the copy of the soundtrack you have access to.

Where I relish in the mourning period of my favourite shows ending – I fully intend to wear a black veil for a month when Grey’s Anatomy (finally…) ends – I hadn’t really considered, until the recent closure announcement came amidst the celebrations of Twift’s new album, that there is also a sadness in saying goodbye to soundtrack and music that is hugely responsible for bringing a favourite show and its characters to life.

We only get to hear them aid the telling of a story for the first time once.

This is as beautiful as it is sad.

Soundtracks offer us a memory to link a song to forever, a place to go back to. So, maybe where I thought I was choosing to watch a show or a film in my downtime while my friends were clambering over each other to get their ears on the hottest new album, I was listening to music the whole time.

At this point, I submit this piece, I close my computer, and I place my head awkwardly against a moving car window (it’s probably got rain on it) as the notes of Sleepless Night’s cover of Ruby Blue rise.

Fade to black.


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dutchg8r
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November 22, 2022 9:35 am

Fantastic debut; welcome welcome A.Donnachie!!!

I enjoyed this because it got me to stop and consider all the other ways music can impact a person aside from via radio (which has always been my default). MrDutch is a massive fan of the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack, which has never resonated with me and I always dismissed until he got into it. It was interesting for me to witness firsthand how it impacts him, and opened my mind to being understanding of the emotions musical theater can bring to others – even if I personally get nothing out of it!

It’s kind of like taking pictures of the Grand Canyon where you can look at the picture for years later and go – yep, I was there. Or you can take a mule ride to the canyon floor and have LIVED it, no pictures required, right?

My immediate thought when typing that was a business trip I took to Denver a few years ago. It was my first time ever to the Rockies. The 4 of us who traveled from DC would just stand in awe for several minutes in the parking lot every morning before heading out for the day, because the vista of the mountains was just so incredible. And every day was clear skies. I could take pictures, but it doesn’t take away my memory of standing there and gazing in awe. One night we went out to dinner in some town in the foothills. It was after sunset when we came out to walk around town a bit, and I happened to look up at the sky. And it was just the most amazing color of deep, rich blue I’d ever seen from the way the sunset was being impacted by the mountains. No camera shot could ever do it justice, so we just took it in for those few minutes. I still remember it as vividly as if it just happened 5 minutes ago.

That’s what I equate to those who love the musical theater. Hopefully your show may be revived in the future. 🙂

JJ Live At Leeds
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November 22, 2022 12:49 pm
Reply to  dutchg8r

Love this description of the Rockies. At the same time I’m both in awe and envious of your experience. Maybe one day…..

LinkCrawford
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November 22, 2022 3:06 pm
Reply to  dutchg8r

We got the “Phantom of the Opera” soundtrack probably more than a decade before we ever saw it. It’s okaaaay. Except for “Music of the Night”. That song is powerful-good.

cappiethedog
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November 22, 2022 10:15 pm
Reply to  LinkCrawford

I don’t want to throw shade at Andrew Lloyd Webber, but Elvis Costello does on “God’s Comic”. I like “Music of the Night”, too.

thegue
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November 22, 2022 10:49 am

Welcome to the Big Show, Donnachie!

Great read – Dutch’s comments below remind me of watching Phantom of the Opera in Philly, sitting next to a family with two young daughters, and the girls were BELTING EVERY SONG OUT!!

It was adorable.

The musical was good as well.

lovethisconcept
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November 22, 2022 12:03 pm

Welcome to TNOCS! Glad to have you. Having lived in rural places most of my life, musical theater was not really on my radar until the inevitable movie was made. I have always loved musicals as movies, both stage adaptations and originals. When someone complains that people don’t really just stop in the middle of everything and sing, I tell them they know the wrong people.

Phylum of Alexandria
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November 22, 2022 12:32 pm

Welcome to the TNOCs community!
This is a great intro post. It zeroes in on some subtly powerful dimensions of our daily lives and how we cope with our various stressors.

There is a real sense of grief that we feel when something we relied on is no longer there, even if it’s a musical production that closes, a band that breaks up, or a certain fantasy author who is still nowhere near completing his next book, even after 11 years (no, I’m not at all bitter)…

But, on the flip side, I wouldn’t envy the Swifties all that much. One thing we’ve all become super reliant on is access to everything. Whatever cultural artifact we might think of ready for download or shipment at the stroke of some keys.

Obviously, such access brings a lot of good to our lives, but there is also value in scarcity. Value in waiting, and anticipating, and moving on, and then finally getting hit with that thing that you’ve secretly still been waiting for since whenever–finally you get it again! And it’s glorious. It makes communing with that art even more special.

Not gonna lie, this is how I used to feel about the Star Wars films. And I’m sad that the sense of specialness is no longer there, because access is so easy now. It’s everywhere.

Given that, maybe I should make peace with a certain fantasy author, encourage him to write what inspires him most, and tell myself that should that next book ever come–it’s guaranteed to be so much better than the rushed abomination that HBO aired. And it will have been worth the wait!

Virgindog
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November 22, 2022 12:40 pm

Speaking of access to everything, I just saw a video of my favorite band half an hour ago. It’s from 1970 and I’d never seen it before. I never even new it existed. 52 years later, there it is. I’m blown away.

Access to everything can be a beautiful thing.

Phylum of Alexandria
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November 22, 2022 12:48 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

Certainly! Even with respect to something as inconsequential as old video game soundtracks, the fact that I can easily access full soundtracks to obscure games I played decades ago–and such access is now considered rather mundane–is truly a marvel.

But, as with every new technological advance, there are trade-offs.

Still, lookadis! Magic!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chtiP7Q6AwM

Virgindog
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November 22, 2022 12:35 pm

I haven’t seen a single episode of Grey’s Anatomy but I understand the importance of a good soundtrack album. Sometimes I hear the albums before seeing the show and that always seems to be a disappointment. The show rarely lives up to the soundtrack. But seeing the show first seems to make the soundtrack even better. 

Or is that just me?

Good debut, A. Hope to read more from you!

Phylum of Alexandria
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November 22, 2022 12:56 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

Hmm..I’m not sure if I have ever listened to a movie soundtrack before seeing the film.

Other than Broadway musicals, maybe the closest that I’ve got is hearing the soundtrack to Penelope Spheeris’ documentary The Decline of Western Civilization before seeing the movie. In that case, seeing the bands perform dramatically enhanced my enjoyment of the music.

When I first listened to Black Flag’s songs on the CD, I could barely hear Ron Reyes’ vocals in the mix. But when I saw how he’s actually fending off a whole sea of bodies trying to pummel him and also sing, I realized it’s a miracle that the band sounded as good as they did.

Last edited 11 days ago by Phylum of Alexandria
Phylum of Alexandria
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November 23, 2022 7:05 am

Update: Original scores are a bit different; I can think of a few. I owned the Koyaanisqatsi soundtrack several years before the movie was made available to me. And I still have never seen Young Adam, for which David Byrne wrote a great soundtrack.

But in terms of the pop/rock curated playlist approach to soundtracks, I still can’t think of any that I got into before the movie.

Edit: One just came to me! I have still never seen Stand By Me, but I grew up with the soundtrack in my house. In fact, if it weren’t for that soundtrack (and Dirty Dancing), I would have hardly had any exposure to classic 50s and 60s stuff as a young kid.

Last edited 11 days ago by Phylum of Alexandria
lovethisconcept
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November 22, 2022 3:32 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

Do you remember the debacle with the early release of the soundtrack to one of the Star Wars films? There was a song called “Qui-Gon’s Noble End” and another called “Qui-Gon’s Funeral”. Bit of a spoiler there. Good reason to see the movie first.

JJ Live At Leeds
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November 22, 2022 12:48 pm

Welcome to TNOCS, great debut!

It seems that one of the trade offs in the streaming age is that Netflix / Prime whoever are more trigger happy to can a show if its no longer meeting their secret metrics. Its a toss up between low level grief and annoyance when something I’ve invested time in and enjoyed is brought to a close with no resolution – so long The OA, Santa Clarita Diet, The Tick, Patriot, GLOW and many more.

When not being canned, TV is a great source of discovering new and old music. In recent years Lovesick (a British comedy on Netflix) and Master of None (first two seasons) had fantastic soundtracks that dig into a variety of genres with new and established artists while avoiding anything too obvious. Whoever was in charge of music on those shows was really on it. Across three seasons of Lovesick I compiled a playlist with over 6 hours of music, much of which was new to me.

I recently saw Grease in the West End for the first time. Personally I preferred Mary Poppins The Musical that we saw a few months before but there was a quite mature couple sat not far from us who were really into it. So into it that she was up and out of her seat, dancing, taking videos and annoying the people sat beside and behind them. The usher had to come and have a word with them and they didn’t return to their seats for the second half.

Hope your show gets a revival or you find something else to fill the gap.

LinkCrawford
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November 22, 2022 3:09 pm

Nice debut!

I’m weird about musicals/showtunes. I don’t prefer to watch them, but once I do, I usually really like the soundtracks…usually BETTER than I like the plays themselves. My wife and I saw Cats in the 90s. Mrs. Crawford loved it. Me…not so much. (I have since figured out that if I had turned to face the back of the theater so I could pay more attention to the music and less to the kitty-cats on stage that I would have enjoyed it more).

I played clarinet through my first year in college (and a little here and there since). My favorite musical experience was playing in the pit orchestra for my high school productions. Music from “The Music Man” is seared into my memory and I love it.

I should pay more attention to soundtrack music. I undoubtedly would like it better than I like pop music of the last couple decades.

Last edited 11 days ago by LinkCrawford
Virgindog
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November 22, 2022 3:19 pm
Reply to  LinkCrawford

Especially since a lot of current soundtracks use songs from the 60s, 70s, and 80s.

LinkCrawford
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November 22, 2022 3:23 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

That IS true :). I remember the movie Guardians of the Galaxy starting off with a cassette tape playing “I’m Not in Love” by 10cc and being delighted.

But even regular soundtrack music. It’s usually classical-ish music, but with decades of pop music sensibilities sneaking into the mix. Some of it is fantastic instrumental music.

mt58
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November 22, 2022 3:59 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

Indeed. I got a kick during the layout session when I saw the track list for the Pride soundtrack.

What century are we in again?  😃 

cappiethedog
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November 22, 2022 10:08 pm

Great article, A. Donnachie.

The soundtrack to Until the End of the World introduced me to three artists that are among my favorites to this day. Just have to give a shout-out to Canadian singer-songwriter Jane Siberry, because if I don’t nobody will. Siberry also contributed a song that played over the end credits of The Crow. People may like “It Can’t Rain All the Time”, but it did nothing to boost her album sales. Can’t name the title of the song, can’t name the artist, but Crow fans have a good memory of the song because it completes the film experience, but not on an especially peripheral level.

I learned something invaluable from your soundtrack choices. Paul Buchanan is the frontman for The Blue Nile. I wasn’t aware he released a solo album.

I own the Original London Cast albums for Les Miserables and Chess and, and, and…no, that’s it.

cappiethedog
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November 22, 2022 10:11 pm
Reply to  cappiethedog

*but only on a peripheral level. Ack!

Pauly Steyreen
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November 22, 2022 11:43 pm
Reply to  cappiethedog

Holy shit, you read my mind cappie!

Pauly Steyreen
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November 22, 2022 11:43 pm

Wim Wenders’ Until the End of the World soundtrack.

— mic drop —

Last edited 11 days ago by Pauly Steyreen
cappiethedog
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November 23, 2022 2:24 am
Reply to  Pauly Steyreen

Not enough talk about that Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds song.

Pauly Steyreen
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November 23, 2022 9:59 am
Reply to  cappiethedog

F- yeah!

It was a miracle I even got out of Longwood alive…

Edith G
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November 23, 2022 6:24 pm

Great debut A. Donnachie, welcome to this community. I’m not big fan of musicals, although many years ago my sister invited me to see a musical created in my country, I think people calls them “jukebox musicals” because they are made of existing popular songs. After watching the musical, she bought on iTunes the soundtrack.

About “Grey’s Anatomy”, I used to watch it I don’t until which season, I think it was before McDreamy’s death. In the first seasons production did a well use of music in between scenes, but at some point I thought that some songs were put just because, and with no relation with the scene. In its heyday, it was a good vehicle for promoting emerging artists.

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