I was twelve or thirteen years old when I got it – the Star Wars motion picture soundtrack, composed by John Williams, conducting the London Symphony Orchestra. It was a double LP, and contained extensive liner notes, explaining where each piece of incidental music occurred in the movie, how the pieces were composed and orchestrated, and so forth. I listened endlessly, and while the records are probably still at my parents’ house, I’m sure they’re pretty worn out by now.
That was in 1977 or 1978. If you haven’t noticed by now, the “Old” in Old RPM Daddy isn’t exactly a joke!
Since then, I’ve always listened closely to the music at the movies, and have collected quite a few motion picture soundtracks. I have come to understand, maybe a little, the important role music plays in movies. Of course, that goes for video games, too, and we could spend an entire post discussing (arguing?) which games had the greatest soundtracks.
But one thing I’ve always enjoyed while listening to this or that soundtrack is composing my own story to go with the music. From there, I started thinking about what a soundtrack to any of the stories on this site might sound like, if they were made into movies. This isn’t unprecedented. One writer I enjoy, Elspeth Aurilie, has a page on her blog with a Spotify playlist built around her characters (be sure to give a listen; it’s great fun!). Seeing Elspeth’s playlist made me want to do one of my own, so here it is, a playlist for “A Hand to Hold,“ built using selections from a number of other film soundtracks.
Having put the playlist up there to look at, let me explain which part of the story each selection is supposed to represent and why:
- The first track, from Jonny Greenwood’s soundtrack for Norwegian Wood, is meant to represent the beginning of the story, where Jot talks about the things he’d always remember and things he’d like to forget. Some of the memories are very painful, but he wants to keep them even so. I think this track reflects that mood fairly well.
- The second track is also from Norwegian Wood. I thought the piece conveyed a sense of motion, and would fit nicely in any scene where Jot is walking along.
- The third track is from Ryuichi Sakamoto’s soundtrack to Little Buddha. I thought this piece would work as background to “Troubled Times” in Part III of the story.
- The fourth track is from Michael Nyman’s soundtrack to The Piano. It’s a rather repetitive piece in a minor key, which I thought matched with Miki’s description of her life as a servant in “Lady Mara Calls You,” which is found in Part IV of the story.
- Track five is from the soundtrack to The Book Thief, by John Williams. This is a rather tender piece, which I thought might be a match for Jot and Miki’s reconciliation in “What Can You Do? What Can You Give?” or Jot and Miki waiting out a storm in “The Knife and the Brooch,” both in Part V of the story.
- The sixth track is another Michael Nyman piece from The Piano. When I listen to this one, I imagine an overhead shot of Jot and Miki struggling with hunger and exhaustion as they make their way to Riften, a scene from “The Final Steps,” in Part V of the story.
- Track seven goes back to The Book Thief. If you’ve ever seen the film, you’ll know where this music appears. It’s a heartbreaking piece, and here represents Jot realizing the awful truth at the end of Part V.
- The eighth track returns us to Little Buddha. I thought this was a very mournful piece, and I could see it as background for Jot saying his final farewell to his friend in “As Sparks Fly Upward,” which is in the conclusion to the story.
- The next-to-last track is another from Norwegian Wood. This piece makes me think of hope and healing, and here represents Jot’s slow recovery and growth, as seen in the “Families” section of the story’s conclusion.
- Finally, a last piece from The Book Thief: It’s another hopeful piece, one that points to eventual happiness. I thought it fit with the last section of the story, “There’s Always Room for More,” when Jot realizes that Miki has never really left him, and he has a chance to be happy if he only accepts it.
This isn’t a perfect list, of course. Some of the pieces are mighty long – longer than the scenes they’re supposed to compliment. Further, other people might have different ideas of which music might work best. If anyone has any ideas on music that might fit with this story, or any of the others, I’d be delighted to hear about it!