Musical immersion is something I do when I want, desperately, to be creative but just don’t have the time or stamina to do it. Work is a great example. I listen to headphones whenever possible to keep myself focused on the job, because music does that for me. But sometimes I just have an itch to make something (crafters out there understand this) and can’t scratch it at that time. So I listen to particular types of music that allow my creativity to… how do I put this… feed and be satisfied until such time as I can do something about it. I let my stifled energy feed of the genius of other creative masters until I can make my own masterpiece (or at least a masterpiece to me).
My favorite genre of music is film scores. The music is specifically written to put feeling into the movie, to tell us when to cry, when to feel scared, when to be relieved. It adds an extra level to the actors’ abilities, or gives them the air of more talent than they have. Many of my favorites are from movies I could not stand, but the composer was just too good to be ignored. Now, I love pop music, rock, rap, R&B, gospel, and even country and tejano. These have great rhythms, and tell stories that are catchy. But a good score makes me feel.
During those times when I have no time to do anything creative, I love to listen to music that makes me feel creative. I have five go-to film composers that are my source of sanity when I have too much work to do to make something of my own. These are Rachel Portman, Basil Poledouris, Ennio Morricone, John Barry, and my favorite, John Williams (the links are to YouTube videos of my favorite songs from their catalogs). Each one brings a different flavor to the table, which I use to slake whichever creative energy is being stifled. Of course, if you want to do musical immersion, you can choose whatever music gets you going. I will try to describe how and why I use the composers, but sometimes it is hard to put into words how they make me feel. So forgive me if some of this makes no sense to you.
“We All Complete” from the movie Never Let Me Go
Rachel Portman is great at the melancholy music, and can take a simple theme to great lengths, which add depth to the movies she is a part of. Her movies include: The Joy Luck Club, Chocolat, The Cider House Rules, Never Let Me Go, The Manchurian Candidate, The Duchess, and Grey Gardens. I go to her when I want to be writing but cannot. My stories are often mired in morality tales, and her sensitivity give me the gravitas I crave when I write.
“Crystal Palace” from the movie Conan the Destroyer
Basil Poledouris is a grand, expansive writer. He uses a strong base for a catchy melody, and then expands it gradually throughout the song, until you are surrounded by his vision. His credits include: The Blue Lagoon, The original Conan movies, Red Dawn, RoboCop, Quigley Down Under, and Starship Troopers. As you can see, he is very versatile as well. I choose Mr. Poledouris when I scrapbook. His titles are varied enough that I can find something for whatever I want to scrapbook about. And his ability to form pictures through the sometimes overwhelming use of orchestra is perfect for converting a few pictures into a beautiful page.
“Gabriel’s Oboe” and “The Falls” from the movie The Mission
My father first turned me on to this movie, which is one of his favorites. The absolute beauty of Ennio Morricone’s soundtrack made me a fan for life. It is almost heartbreaking.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1-rHdSWZLpQ “Ecstacy of Gold” from the movie The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly
Ennio Morricone gets two entries in this list because he is the most diverse composer in my favorites box. He uses such unique ideas in his music, he is my eclectic guru. His catalog includes: The Dollars spaghetti western trilogy, The Canterbury Tales, Once Upon a Time in America, Red Sonja, and The Mission. He is an Italian composer, and most of his stuff I have never seen and can barely pronounce (his list is huge on IMDB.com). In this song, Mr. Morricone takes a simple theme, repeats it, and adds a soprano, some choir wa-waahs, and driving drums to give a feel of desperation that lets you know exactly what those guys are feeling in that scene. It is a great song for when I just don’t know what I want to do, but want to do something truly unique.
“Cry, the Beloved Country” from the movie Cry, the Beloved Country
John Barry is a very romantic writer, and believe it or not my go to guy for baking. Movies that benefitted from this trademark style include: several James Bond movies, Born Free, Somewhere in Time, Out of Africa, Dances with Wolves, and Cry, the Beloved Country. His signature style, in my opinion, is to take a simple melody and make it more complex through the use of instruments rather than through harmonies and filler. The melody pulls itself into the orchestra, instead of being held up by it, and creates an expansive feel, as witnessed by the movies he has done. Simple ingredients and simple directions to make a wonderful palette, full of flavor and a sense of place. Exactly what I want in my baking.
“Superman” from the movie Superman
John Williams is my favorite! His use of French horns first drew me to him, because I loved to play his music myself. You probably already know a bunch of his hits, because he collaborates with Steven Spielberg a lot. But here is a sample of his enormous catalog: E.T., the Indiana Jones movies, the Star Wars sextet, the Christopher Reeves Superman movies, Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the first three Harry Potter Movies, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Patriot, Hook, Far and Away… the list of things I love from him is too long to put here. I go to John Williams for both writing and music composition. His blending of a full orchestra into one strong voice, separating them into a cacophony of matching sounds, and bringing them back together is better than anything I can do.
“Prologue” from the very underrated movie Hook
“Olympic Fanfare” from the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles
Who could NOT love this song? Ah! Just writing about him makes me want to go listen to a whole soundtrack right now. I have to go immerse myself. You have fun finding your own immersion songs. The list is half the creative fun, you know.
And his masterful use of brass instruments to give a feeling of power and dignity for the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles has become the theme music for the games ever since.