Music in films and television is nothing new. Orchestral scores or the simplest tones of a few instruments even less so, and we all know that the next iconic theme song is only one great composer away from getting stuck in our heads, but what can these soundtracks do outside of provide the films, video games and television shows they’re heard in with some outstanding emotional and dramatic weight? What other purposes can the combination of so many different instruments have that transcends their medium while staying true to their original intent? It’s simple: these pieces of music can inspire, motivate and best of all spark that creative flame inside of us and for me, I choose to use this medium to help my writing in ways that “normal” music just can’t compete with.
When it comes to soundtracks and the composers that create them, there’s a lot of effort put into the final product that helps whatever piece of entertainment they’re composing for shine and stand out from the pack. Whether it be to heighten a great action scene with bombastic drums and violins galore, ratchet up the tension with only a few tones and stingers in place, or help those water works fly during a pivotal and emotional beat, soundtracks in any medium have the hardest job in taking what we see visually – and what we gather from our characters vocally – and amplifying it tenfold. It’s a medium that is mostly overlooked by the casual member of the audience, really only noticed when there’s no music at all. To an extent, these scores are indirectly telling you how to feel and when to feel it, and when coupled with the visuals, sound cues, acting and script work, paint a beautifully detailed and layered piece of entertainment that does more than just entertain.
To me, soundtracks are the best way to minimize random thought while maximizing creative flow. Sure, I could pop on the radio or listen to my favorite band and their newest single as I gear up to start another writing session; I could even throw on an audio book or podcast and get lost in the words and ideas presented in them, but the problem with all of this is a simple one: it’s distracting. While this may not be the case for everyone, the last thing I need when I’m trying to finish up a scene or type up a blog such as this one is a distraction, especially when it pertains to trying to be creative, a process that’s difficult in and of itself without the added annoyance of some random music that might throw me off my game. My solution? “Time” by Hans Zimmer from the Inception soundtrack, the Back to the Future theme by Alan Silvestri, anything from Interstellar (Hans Zimmer and Christopher Nolan all the way!), even the newest Assassin’s Creed game soundtrack works. These scores, while powerful in their own right, act as creative background noise to almost every piece I write, allowing me to fully harness my ideas while not getting distracted by lyrics or shoddy production that “normal” music encompasses.
Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I can’t listen to my favorite band while writing or enjoy a new mix on Sound Cloud for a few hours – it’s all good music with varying degrees of uses, but while being creative I’ve found that instrumental soundtracks are the way to go if I want to write with something other than complete silence in the background. It’s a personal preference that I’ve found works for me more so than listening to anything else, and while some soundtracks aren’t worth wasting your creative juices on (almost every cookie-cutter Marvel film score comes to mind), most of the finest films, games and shows have equally as awesome scores that are just as effective as the product they come from. It’s in the emotions at play that the greatest soundtracks are able to latch onto and further enhance with the best part being that their power doesn’t fade when unmatched from your favorite movie or show; quite the opposite actually. Listening to these scores without the visual medium puts me in the mindset of being a filmmaker, of being part of the industry I’m striving to join. From the soaring trumpets of an uplifting theme to the goosebumps you get from the perfect mash-up of feeling and sound, soundtracks are my escape into a new world while I create my own. They are the life-blood of any good film, game or show, and being able to repurpose them for my own needs is just icing on the cake. They are a constant, subliminal reminder of why I’m writing in the first place, a reminder that one day I might be writing something that’ll get its own soundtrack, and to me, that’s something I can strive for each and every time I start up a new draft or hash out a few lines of pesky dialogue.
So the next time I settle in for a few hours of undisturbed key tapping, I’ll be clicking over to that “Writing Music” playlist on my Spotify and hitting shuffle, ready for the sounds of each composer as they help me get my creative juices flowing and put me in the mindset that I need to be in to get the best out of my work. It’s a fun addition to my creative process that many people in similar lines of work haven’t tapped into yet, so if you’ve enjoyed reading this blog at any point, you can thank Mr. Hans Zimmer and the glorious compositions he keeps cranking out!