There aren’t many rules in our house – but a big one is to not have the music too loud unless we all agree, unless it’s party time, unless I’m in the house alone. And to not have competing sounds – no music blasting in one room with a TV still on somewhere else, all computers muted if someone is listening to an album…that sort of thing.
When it’s time to compromise I have one very simple rule I’ve put in place for myself: If In Doubt, OST!
OST: Original Soundtrack – score. It used to be mostly just movie scores. But with this perpetual golden age of TV you’ll find a good many of the great TV shows have killer soundtracks too. My most listened to genre outside of jazz is Soundtrack. I love the source music compilations, I’m a big collector of 80s movie soundtracks, or was when I was a big collector of vinyl. But, particularly, I love a good score. This is my classical music. Morricone is the master, the maestro. But there are so many others.
One of my favourite film composers is Cliff Martinez. He’s made so many incredible film scores but he does TV too – The Knick, Too Old To Die Young and most recently the Amazon series, The Wilds. I first heard Martinez when I bought a $ 1 CD of the music from the film Sex, Lies & Videotape. But by the time I really got into him (mostly because of his connection to Steven Soderbergh and particularly due to his scores for The Limey and Traffic) I would learn that he was a one-time drummer for The Red Hot Chili Peppers (he’s on their first two albums) and he played in the band The Dickies (they made the soundtrack to Killer Klowns From Outer Space by the way) and he worked with Captain Beefheart. I became obsessed with Martinez.
And then my friend Rhian Sheehan (an amazing film composer by the way) introduced me to the music of Solaris.
A new rule came into play – The Solaris Rule.
Until I heard Martinez’ incredible music for the remake of Solaris I had always made sure to see the film if I liked the score; or more likely it was actually because of seeing a film that I would check out the movie’s music.
But Solaris changed things. I might never see that film – it’s been nearly 20 years and I’m not rushing to see it. But the music is one of my go to albums. If in doubt, Solaris!
Many years ago Rhian loaned me his CD copy – he all but warned me to guard it with my life. Back in those days there was almost no streaming, and the CD was fetching stupid money, $100 a copy. Now it’s everywhere, I share you a link to it here, you’ve already heard it perhaps because it’s on Spotify and YouTube and wherever else. It was reissued on fancy vinyl (you can get it in various colours…) It’s always funny to think of music as once being the most precious commodity.
There are a lot of great Martinez scores. He branched out from only working with Soderbergh. He made beautiful music for The Lincoln Lawyer, Drive, Spring Breakers, Only God Forgives, The Neon Demon, Game Night and Hotel Artemis. In fact his new Soderbergh is Nicholas Winding Refn. Making music for a half dozen film and TV projects – including a few I named there. Sometimes his score is the very best thing about the film (I feel like that was certainly the case with Only God Forgives and it’s probably true of The Neon Demon also).
If Martinez is on the album’s spine, I’m listening. I might see the film first, or I might be curious to see it because I’ve heard the music already but I’m no longer the sort of completist that has to watch the picture just to see how the music helped shaped it, or to see the images that assisted in the creation of the music. I can enjoy the music in its own space, removed from the visual context that provided the inspiration or at least the impetus.
There are other composers I’ll listen to no matter what: Clint Mansell, Thomas Newman, Lisa Gerrard, Hildur Guðnadóttir, the late Jóhann Jóhannsson (R.I.P.), Angelo Badalamenti, Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, Jocelyn Pook, Abel Korzeniowski, Michael Nyman, well in fact the list is pretty long…
But it all started because of Cliff Martinez. Before the Solaris soundtrack I was hemmed in. I made myself watch all sorts of terrible movies because I loved the music – or because I was aware of a significant composer’s involvement in the movie’s soundtrack. Ridiculous? Probably. But I’m free now. And it means that I get to hear a lot of amazing music – and still watch some terrible films from time to time (with full awareness usually, and by bad tactical error at other times).
Biggest shocker in recent years was loving Tracey Thorn’s music for The Falling so much that I just felt I had to see the film. You’ll see from my review that I felt happy enough to write about the music having not then seen the movie. But then something niggled and so I watched an awful, pretentious load of rotten art-wank.
So sometimes it’s best to just stick with the music. Other times it’s absolutely seeing the film that triggers the need to hear the music on its own. But I say, either way, when in doubt, OST!