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 🙂

The Foo Fighters and Creative Writing: Sonic Highways Review

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As a long time Foo Fighters fan, (I’m talking way back to the Kurt Cobain tragedy when I was just a kid, back to when Dave first formed the band, way back when they were doing covers for The X-Files soundtrack and much of their audience consisted of other X-Philes like me) I was first in line to buy their latest album, Sonic Highways. At the height of their popularity, the band created this masterpiece by traveling to eight U.S. cities famous for their influence on American music: Chicago, Washington D.C., Nashville, Austin, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Seattle, and New York City.  In each city, front man Dave Grohl interviewed local musicians on their struggles and successes in the industry, and used the journal he kept to write eight songs–one for each city they visited. He turned real words and emotions into lyrics, and created songs that are a heartfelt collaboration of various stories. If you want to hear someone’s story who was interviewed, you can listen to this album and know their story. That’s a remarkable thing. After all, as The Doctor says, “we’re all just stories in the end. Just make it a good one.” The band documented this journey in the HBO series, Sonic Highways, ending each episode with a live performance of that song, the lyrics flashing on screen for an immersive reading and listening experience. You can view the song “Something from Nothing” below.

 

The theme of secrets–the keys to happiness and peace in life–can be discovered throughout the entire album, much like the band’s metaphoric river running through multiple songs. You may have noticed the lyrics “There is a river I found / Into the wild / under the ground” in the video above. “Something From Nothing” is the first track on the album. This is an excerpt of lyrics from the final track, “I am a River:”

There is a secret
I found a secret
Behind a Soho door

There is a reason
I found a reason
Beneath the subway floor

I found the water
The devils water
and walked along its shore…

A river
A river
a river running under ground

A river
A river
Is that what you want?
Is that what you really want?

This closing song on the album ends with Dave repeatedly belting out “I am a river!” Ever since I first started listening to Sonic Highways I’ve loved everything the river symbolizes: travel, adventure, progress, new beginnings, and following dreams. This album transcends music-making and proves that Dave is not only a musician, but a writer–a creative visionary.

This is one of those albums where you’re never tempted to hit “skip.” I love every song on it, from the hard rock of “The Feast and The Famine” to the Jim Morrison-esque crooning of “Outside” and “Subterranean” to the songs that fall in the middle like “Congregation” and “In the Clear” to the vaguely All-You-Need-Is-Love-sounding conclusion of “What Did I do/God As My Witness.”

But beyond the musical and lyrical prowess of this album, I have to applaud Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters for stepping up above the status quo, and creating a new way to go about making albums. Dave has said in the past that he’s no fan of doing things the same way over and over again–why do anything at all if you’re not going to get bigger and better, and push the limits of your creative endeavors every time? That’s exactly what the band does in this album and documentary. They’ve written something special. Listen to the album; watch the documentary. You won’t be disappointed.

This album has so much musical fluidity and lyrical variety that it is not only one of the best albums the band has ever produced, but makes for a great writing soundtrack as well. For writers, certain music get’s the creative juices flowing. I  listened to this album dozens of times during the month of November, or as it’s known in writing circles, NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, and wrote almost an entire draft of a new novel (about a road trip, of course).

Creativity inspires creativity.

Thanks, Dave. I’ll write with you any time.