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Why Do We Like Film Music?


During summers in the early to mid 1990s, I worked at a grocery store on Martha’s Vineyard while also doing the earliest newsletter editions of FSM.


Through reaching out to various composers and album producers, I met Jonathan Sheffer, who had conducted Alien3 for Elliot Goldenthal and done a few scores of his own. He was about to vacation on the Vineyard in a house not far from my mom’s. So set up, and had, a pleasant lunch. I was 19, and he was very nice and gracious.


I remember in the car he asked me, why do people like film music? It’s pretty well known and accepted in 2023 that people like soundtracks and that doing so is reasonably hip—it brings to mind the worldwide adulation for John Williams, and Hans Zimmer playing electric guitar at Coachella. But it was much less so in 1993.


He wasn’t being dismissive, but genuinely asking—he came from a conservatory background, film work was new to him, and he was surprised to learn that people collected this stuff, and was curious as to why.


What I remember is that I actually had an answer (yay!):


I explained that we fall in love with films, and the music is something we use to remember and re-experience the emotional content of the stories. (Unlike all the other aspects of filmmaking you can appreciate in isolation—sets, costumes, visual effects, cinematography—music is relatively abstract, but very emotional.)


And, after a while, we grow to like the styles and the composers...and seek out scores independent of the films.


I remember him finding this interesting and reasonable, and I was glad I had been able to shed some light on it.


It continues to be my answer today.

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