For life's little obsessions

Category Archives: Messy Essay

Level 3

Doctor Who

Image belongs to BBC

Show: Doctor Who, seasons 1-3

Network: BBC (BBC America in the US)

Composers: Murray Gold

WARNING: Contains major spoilers for all seasons.

All links open YouTube videos. Whovians, said videos may require tissues. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

The Doctor Who score is one of my all-time favorite TV scores. For one thing, it’s incredibly listen-able. I cannot tell you how often I put my ALL THE DOCTOR WHO playlist on continuous repeat (though I generally don’t finish it – there’s a lot!) It also lends itself very well to study. The majority of the cues are incredibly descriptive, and each episode introduces new themes to weave in amongst the ones we already recognize. And so, for our month long celebration of Doctor Who I’d like to take a look at the most prevalent of the themes – those that accompany the Doctor’s companions.

Continue reading

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Level 3

Doctor Who

Image belongs to BBC

Show: Doctor Who, seasons 1-3

Network: BBC (BBC America in the US)

Composers: Murray Gold

WARNING: Contains major spoilers for all seasons.

All links open YouTube videos. Whovians, said videos may require tissues. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!

The Doctor Who score is one of my all-time favorite TV scores. For one thing, it’s incredibly listen-able. I cannot tell you how often I put my ALL THE DOCTOR WHO playlist on continuous repeat (though I generally don’t finish it – there’s a lot!) It also lends itself very well to study. The majority of the cues are incredibly descriptive, and each episode introduces new themes to weave in amongst the ones we already recognize. And so, for our month long celebration of Doctor Who I’d like to take a look at the most prevalent of the themes – those that accompany the Doctor’s companions.

Continue reading


Level 3

Star Trek poster

Image belongs to the Paramount

Film: Star Trek (2009)

Studio: Paramount

Composers: Michael Giacchino

WARNING: Contains spoilers.

This is, quite possibly, one of the most difficult analyses I’ve done so far. There are so many complex layers to this score and an infinite number of possible meanings. As with all things I obsess over, I wanted to take it apart and find out what made it work, but it was so big that I had no idea where to even start! So, instead of taking the entire score as a whole, I’ll be breaking it down into pieces, and perhaps eventually working up to dealing with the entire thing.

I decided to start with my favorite track on the CD, “That New Car Smell” (opens a link to YouTube). Visually, it accompanies the conversation between the two Spocks towards the end of the film, so I’ve nicknamed it “Spock’s Theme.” There are traces of this theme throughout the film, but this is the first time we hear it in its entirety – a whole minute and a half devoted to developing it. From the very first time I heard it, I thought it was perfect for describing Spock. I wanted to understand why. Continue reading


Level 3

Sherlock poster

Image belongs to the BBC

Show: Sherlock seasons 1-2

Network: BBC (PBS in the US)

Composers: David Arnold & Michael Price

WARNING: Contains spoilers for both seasons.

One of my absolute favorite television scores is the one that accompanies the BBC re-envisioning of Sherlock Holmes. It is so incredibly clever and descriptive, full of little melodies and quirks perfect for an analyst to study. Continue reading


Level 1

One of the big questions I often am asked when I begin to explain my research interests is “Why film music?” Since I will probably be discussing film music a lot in my future Messy Essays, I thought I would take some time to explain.

Ever since I was very young I’ve been fascinated by music and stories (or if you want to be hoity-toity about it, music and narrative). I loved watching ballets and acting out the ones that I couldn’t find videos of. I would write stories to go with my music recitals, making sure that the tone of each piece followed the story arc (though I was the only one who would have known the difference). Later, when movies like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings came out, my fascination transferred to film music, and I’ve been studying it ever since.

The first thing that fascinates me about film music is the way it is used to compliment or subvert the action on the screen. Visual subliminal messaging is illegal, but aural subliminal messaging is alive and well – in a horror film, how do you know the bad guy is about to jump out? The music tells you! That’s a pretty general example, of course, but there are many other ways music can affect the audience, often without them noticing.

Admittedly, I study it for selfish reasons too. I love speculating and coming up with theories on what is going to happen in a movie or TV Show. When composers write to affect the subconscious of the audience, they inherently leave clues for the listener who knows where to pay attention. Or at least, I like to think so. Composer intention, like author intention for books, is a very tricky subject.

Eventually, I would love to find some unifying theory to apply to it all. If I can go to The Dark Knight Rises and come out thinking it was a “fairly typical score, nothing unusual” then there’s got to be some way of measuring what “Usual” is, right? But for now, I’m happy to stick to my small analyses and case studies. And, of course, discuss my theories with anyone who will listen!

A few examples of film scores I’ve studied, in case anyone’s interested in discussing them: Lord of the Rings, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog, Shrek (first movie only), Moulin Rouge,