Mark Snow’s Score and other X-Files Musical Mastery

As promised, every week I’m bringing you new X-Files related posts in conjunction with the excitement for the new revival. If like me, you grew up with the show and simply can’t get enough, then please discuss the show here with me and other X-Philes like yourselves. Last week I brought you 10 lessons I learned watching The X-Files, including some particularly poignant moments. This week, let’s listen to some music that helped give those moments such profound emotion.

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There’s no better place to begin in a post like this than with the iconic theme:

Even people who have never seen an episode of The X-Files know this sound when they hear it. The high-pitched whistles and unmistakable echo have become synonymous with the show. Mark Snow once said in an interview that he was having trouble getting the theme just right, but a happy accident with a feedback machine led to the wonderful dadada dadada dadada that fills our hearts with joy. Let me say to the lucky children of this generation, that when I was a teenager, we didn’t have Netflix, or DVR, or Hulu, or YouTube to watch anything we wanted, whenever we wanted. And until I was 16, got my first job, and saved up $100 for my first collector’s edition DVD box set, I had to wait until two in the morning to watch X-Files reruns on SciFi (yes, before it was SyFy) This theme song was the sound I waited all day for.

Mark Snow didn’t only write the theme, but almost all of the music ever heard on the show throughout all nine seasons. One of my favorite pieces of his plays at the end of “Triangle” in season six when after a near death experience, Mulder tells Scully he loves her for the first time. Snow created a lighter, happier variation of The X-Files theme song, minus the creepy, slow overtones:

I don’t know if it’s just the emotionally charged scene behind it, but every time I hear this my heart nearly explodes with joy. If you were to express the concept or emotion of love musically, this is how you would do it. It’s light and happy, but also passionate and fierce at times. Contrariwise, Snow is a master at evoking tears of sadness. His “This is Not Happening” theme all but kills me, biting at the pain already inflicted by the scene it plays over: Scully discovering Mulder’s corpse, left behind by his alien abductors. Fans of the show know, that we got our beloved Mulder back thanks to alien physiology, but at the time, with Duchovny discussing leaving the show, he really might have been gone forever. At around 1:40 is where this one really starts breaking your heart:

But what The X-Files is most widely known for, is its horror factor, and Snow has no problem bringing the creep either:

The first time I heard this in the episode “Soft Light,” it was all I needed to give me Goosebumps, before even the first death occurred for the agents to investigate. So many of his themes are downright nightmare inducing, especially when you fall asleep watching your DVDs and then wake up to a horrifying picture on your menu screen accompanied by such an eerie tune.

It isn’t always Mark Snow alone, but a collaboration of writers and musicians, choosing the right music for the writing and story. In “Closure” when Mulder finally learns the tragic fate of his sister, Samantha, “My Weakness” by Moby is playing, and while this isn’t at all my type of music outside of the show, it was the absolute perfect piece for this scene. To illustrate this point, I’m using a video by XFyellowbee, one of my favorite Youtube fan vid makers. Yellowbee incorporates the song into one of many beautiful themes on the show: that souls reside eternally in starlight:

If you enjoy this video, be sure to check out more of Yellowbee’s compilations; you won’t be disappointed.

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Gillian Anderson used another Moby song, “Sky is Broken,” in an episode she wrote entitled “All Things.” In the episode, the song plays over a number of profound moments for Scully, where her world seems to slow down and she contemplates how every decision she’s made has ultimately led to her sitting on Mulder’s couch with him, a part of his quest.

At the end, it plays over a conversation between Mulder and Scully about fate, during which Scully falls asleep, and Mulder covers her with a blanket and pushes her hair behind her ear. Taking a moment to admire her face, and how lucky he is to have her in his life, his whole world slows down.

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In addition to the music you hear in the individual X-Files episodes, the show has spawned a soundtrack of pieces inspired by the show, though a few of them don’t necessarily make an appearance in the episodes. The first was entitled Songs in the Key of X, and featured incredibly fitting melodies for the theme of the show such as “Unmarked Helicopters” by Soul Coughing that one of my favorite characters, Max listens to in the episode “Max.” It also features “Red Right Hand” that can be heard playing in Duane Barry’s car after he’s kidnapped Scully, “Frenzy,” from the episode “Humbug” and my personal favorite, a Foo Fighters cover of Gary Numan’s “Down in the Park” that never appeared in an episode:

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I also just adore the artwork on Songs in the Key of X, but that’s a post for another day.

The second soundtrack, Fight The Future, was a product of the first X-Files feature film by the same name. Some of the more memorable tracks were the “Crystal Ship” cover by x , and “Walking After You” by the Foo Fighters, a song that never fails to make me remember the hallway scene where Scully tries to quit, and the almost kiss that follows. You can view both below:

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On the third soundtrack from the movie I Want To Believe, the clear winner is another spin on Mark Snow’s theme blending into an UNKLE song that fits perfectly the feel of the film, playing over the end credits:

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Some other favorites include:

“Come and go with me to that land” from “The Unnatural,” an episode written by David Duchovny. This song plays over Josh Exley’s death and then over Mulder and Scully playing baseball under the stars. I’d be lying if I said it never made me shed a tear.

“Walking in Memphis,” from “The Post Modern Prometheus” playing suring Mulder and Scully’s first dance. I always loved how Mulder doesn’t ask, but nervously sticks out his hand while bowing his head. As soon as Scully takes it, he pulls her in and doesn’t let go. Then of course there’s the black and white and the animated freeze frame finish: perfection.

“Twilight Time” from “Kill Switch,””Wonderful Wonderful” from “Home” are other standouts. I always find it so eerie when happy music plays over a brutal murder scene. On a lighter note, I also love when “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” plays over the gift exchange at the end of “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas.”

The photo I featured at the beginning of this post is the cover of The Truth and The Light album that was released for The X-Files 20th anniversary. I highly recommend it because it not only compiles all the best Mark Snow scores, but includes audio from the show including character quotes, and commentary by Executive Producer, Chris Carter.

The X-Files also inspires music. If you don’t believe me, ask Bree Sharp about her song “David Duchovny” that describes falling in love with Mulder while watching the show, or listen to Catatonia’s “Mulder and Scully.”

Philes, what are some of your favorite scores or musical moments in the show? Please comment below. until next week, you can check out my other X-Files related posts by clicking on The X-Files link under categories on the right hand side of the home page. Until then, don’t stop believing 🙂

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