I 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! 😉