Friday, 5 June 2009

TV Show Music

    I like soundtracks, for both film and TV, which I think stems from my love of making mix tapes/CDs, but I often find it frustrating when you are watching something and a song sounds great but you just don’t know who it is. In the past it would quite often take me a while to find out who it was, usually by searching online. However, a couple of days ago when searching for songs that I had heard on Friday Night Lights I discovered a superb website called TV Show Music. It has both past and present shows on there, including The OC, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gossip Girl, Friday Night Lights and even reality shows such as The Hills, as well as many others. The aspect of this site that I really liked was that it not only has track listings for episodes but also what scene the song is played in, as well as links to where you can download the tracks and a player to hear the track (the downfall of this feature is that it is for US only users).

    So now that I have finally found a site that will help me find the tracks that I hear and love on TV, I wanted to write a little on the shows that have featured great music that has expanded my CD collection a little more and why certain shows have soundtracks that enhance the viewing pleasure. First off I need to unburden myself with the potential original source for my love of TV soundtracks which comes I think from Dawson’s Creek (and yes I owned both CDs), the teen drama is a usual source of new music and as I will review is a trend that is prevalent today;


The OC/Gossip Girl: Josh Schwartz has made it his ‘thing’ it would seem to associate his programming with new and exciting music. This works on several levels, it means that his shows that are about young and trendy teenagers also have external elements that feature this criteria but it also allows outside product synergy that, from a commercial aspect benefits both the shows and the bands on the CDs. Once again I own both shows albums, and both have led me to new bands, although I must admit I got a band opinion of Phantom Planet from the OC theme song, as it is a song I don’t really like, however after hearing other Phantom Planet tracks on Gossip Girl (primarily Raise the Dead in ‘The Serena Also Rises’) I have fallen in love with their music.


Chuck: Yes another Josh Schwartz show but one that doesn’t necessarily use music as a promotional aspect of the programme, primarily because it is a different age range of characters and the setting is not focused on the lifestyles of the rich. However out of the three Schwartz helmed shows it is Chuck that has me often looking up the artists who feature in the songs that are played. It also blends music that is both current and other songs that deserve their place in pop culture history (‘Hip to be Square’, ‘Once in a Lifetime’ and the songs performed by Jeffster: ‘Africa’ and ‘Mr Roboto’). Also Bon Iver has been used beautifully in several episodes in season 2 that made me fall in love again with ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’. Chuck also introduced to The Thermals who I think are awesome.


Friday Night Lights: Just to reiterate it is FNL that led me to find, and I must say that the range of tracks that this programme uses is both impressive and important in creating the world of Dillon, Texas. The music of Explosions in the Sky is perhaps the key to this example as they have been used throughout the three seasons of the show and it personifies the feelings of the town through the beautiful and hopeful instrumental music. The other music that is used throughout is contemporary, and it ranges from acoustic guitar music to more hip hop related songs. As it is set in a small town in Texas there has also been some more traditional county music performance particularly at the wedding at the end of season 3 which demonstrates why this show has been hailed for its realism, by using real Texan performers in a real Texan setting.


Alias/ Lost/ Fringe: Most of the music in these three JJ Abrams associated shows is by composer Michael Giacchino, who creates music that fits so perfectly with the tone of these shows. It is rare for a television show to be scored by a live orchestra but Giacchino does just this and it is this quality that makes his music an important feature of these shows. With Lost he says that he won’t read the scripts, he just reacts musically to what it happening on screen and it is this organic work method that I think makes the music in Lost the dramatic and often tense sounding what it is. That he also used parts of the plane that was used in the pilot episode as percussion instruments also shows how the music is a part of the show.


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