Song of the Day #459: ‘Gabriel’s Oboe’ – Ennio Morricone

missionI have a philosophical objection to movie soundtracks. It traces back to my album fixation… I feel that if you’re introduced to some new songs you like via a movie soundtrack, it’s your responsibility to seek out those songs from the original source. Movie soundtracks are just a step above greatest hits collections in my book.

But I do have exceptions. And this week I’ll highlight a handful of songs from film soundtracks I’ve owned over the years.

The distinction I make between a worthy soundtrack and an unworthy one is this: a good soundtrack is not really about the songs, it’s about the movie.

In other words, if you’re buying the Forrest Gump soundtrack because it’s a quick and easy way to own a bunch of 70s hits you’ve always liked, that’s a bad thing. Jackson Browne’s ‘Running on Empty’ probably doesn’t put you into the world of Forrest Gump… it’s just a great song. So go buy Running on Empty and get the eight other great songs Jackson Browne released along with it.

On the other hand, the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, with its odd mix of surf rock, Kool & the Gang and Dusty Springfield, very much puts you into the world of Pulp Fiction. Those sounds wash over you and bring with them the images and emotions of the film. ‘Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon’ is a fine song in its own right, but you only want to own it because it brings with it the image of Uma Thurman’s fabulous dance. That’s why I want to own it, anyway.

I’m dealing with song soundtracks here, because with one exception those are the only kind I own. The one exception is the album that contains today’s SOTD, the soundtrack to The Mission. And this album flies in the face of my rule about song soundtracks because I don’t love this music because it reminds me of the film (though the film was quite effective). I just love the music. However, I’m not really breaking the rule by owning this because buying this soundtrack is the only way to own this music, as it was written expressly to accompany the film.

The truth is, I haven’t listened very often to more than the first few tracks of this album. And it’s today’s song, ‘Gabriel’s Oboe,’ that has always moved me the most. It’s just such a beautiful melody, so sad and wonderful, the sort of tune that sounds as if it’s always existed. I put this on a tape for my sister once and she considered walking down the aisle to a performance of it. My future brother-in-law vetoed the suggestion because, he argued, the song would lose much of its effectiveness without the drums and strings and he didn’t see hiring a full orchestra for the ceremony.

Even then he was picking on my musical selections! 😉

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #459: ‘Gabriel’s Oboe’ – Ennio Morricone

  1. Dana says:

    Ha–I don’t remember vetoing this selection. However, as wonderful as this song is, it does have a certain melancholy that may not have been quite right for walking down the aisle.:)

    Anyway, what generally annoys e about soundtrack albums is that you get a few of the songs you know and want, and then get about half an album of instrumentals that had played in the background of the film.

    As for the greatest hits analogy, I see your point, but, then again, I wouldn’t really be too hard on someone (like my wife) who bought the Big Chill soundtrack because she loved the collection of 60’s and 70’s songs it featured. I suppose the same argument could be made about Forrest Gump, which Amy also bought over my protest.

    Then, of course, you have the category of soundtracks that come from musicals, such as Beauty and the Beast, Grease, Tommy, Chicago, etc…And perhaps the best selling soundtrack of all time, Saturday Night Fever, stands as an exception because all or most of the songs were expressly written for the film.

    But, in general, I agree with your point that soundtracks are a waste of money. Thankfully, in the era of ITunes, we can now buy the one or two great songs from the movie, and skip the background music.

  2. Amy says:

    I don’t see this as an either/or scenario. It may be that one wants the soundtrack both because it contains a collection of songs one otherwise doesn’t own AND because it reminds one of a satisfying film experience. I don’t think I actually own all that many soundtracks (I’ll have to go scour my collection to be sure), but The Big Chill soundtrack certainly came right to mind. It’s absolutely true that I didn’t own “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” before buying the soundtrack, but I bought it both for that song and for the wonderful scene I always remember when I hear it. That may make Temptations fans upset, but I’m sure it pleases Lawrence Kasdan to no end. 🙂

    Meanwhile, while I don’t specifically remember seriously considering walking down the aisle to this music (as it is rather melancholy), I do recall how tranformed I felt the moment I heard it for the first time. I hadn’t yet seen The Mission, and Clay’s inclusion of this track made me go out and rent it immediately. It is as gorgeous and moving today as it was that first day I heard it all those years ago.

    So… I say own the music in whatever form you want to own it. I’ve checked – I have the soundracks to O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Grease, Curious George, Grosse Point Blank, The Big Chill, Forrest Gump, School of Rock, Jungle Fever, and (these last two are gonna kill you 🙂 Ray and Walk the Line. Out of those albums, the only ones that earn any time on the stereo (or have throughout the years) are Curious George, The Big Chill, Jungle Fever, and, for the couple of months after the movie ended, Walk the Line. In that last case, I bought the soundtrack because I loved the film far more than because I had to own some Johnny Cash music. As for the others, who wouldn’t want to listen to Jack Johnson or Stevie Wonder, regardless of whether you’re remember specific songs from each of those films?

  3. pegclifton says:

    What a beautiful piece of music, and I would have walked down the aisle to it as well if it were around then 🙂 I also thought of the Big Chill immediately–such great songs. I don’t think we own any soundtracks at all unless operas count.

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