What Are Your Favorite Songs That Lived Beyond the Film?

“A good theme — like the ‘Pink Panther’ or ‘Baby Elephant Walk’ — can work all the way through the picture, which is what I did with them. So, for me, a good melody is not just a pretty tune.” – Henry Mancini

Music’s presence in a film or television show can completely transform the audience experience. It can set the scene, heighten emotions, provide context clues, and so much more. Every now and then, a piece of music can even take on a life of its own, creating a legacy beyond its cinematic origins.

To celebrate some pieces from the pictures and Soundfly’s newest course, Intro to Scoring for Film and TV, Carter and I sat down with composer, pianist, and Soundfly CEO, Ian Temple, to discuss “Songs That Lived Beyond The Film” — honoring music that elevated the script it came from and then wrote its own.

The episode is anchored by selections from the catalogs of Bill Conti, Isaac Hayes, Henry Mancini, and Johnny Mercer.

Listen to Episode 54 of Themes and Variation in its entirety right here:

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Episode 54 Highlights

1. Carter on how Bill Conti’s whim led to a major cinematic win.

Carter: “So he was working as a ghost writer on scores for spaghetti westerns when he was hired to compose Rocky. Rocky, famously super low budget film. And he just on a whim was like, ‘Yeah, I guess I’ll, I’ll do this.’ And then it became huge.”

2. Ian on how hi hats became one of the Shaft soundtrack’s key components.

Ian: “Isaac Hayes talks about how Gordon Parks came to him and was like, ‘Look, you gotta get it into the character. You’ve gotta like write this music for John Shaft. He needs a theme. He’s relentless. He’s charismatic. He’s got swagger.’ And so Isaac Hayes is like, ‘Cool. His theme is gonna be hi hats.’”

3. Mahea shares one of the many things she admires about the lyrics of Johnny Mercer.

Mahea: “He has this way of incorporating colloquialisms in his lyrics and making them sound like poetry. He’ll use the most beautiful metaphor and then he’ll have a line like: ‘Wherever you’re going, I’m going your way.’ That’s just a thing a person would say.

Join the Conversation

One of our favorite things about our podcast is the fact that the conversation around each theme is so much bigger than the episode itself. We’d love to hear which songs you would have chosen for this episode! Share them with us on Twitter or, if you’re a Soundfly subscriber, in the #podcast channel on Slack.

Plus, with every new episode of Themes and Variation, we launch a new Spotify playlist that includes the songs mentioned in this episode and more. Here’s this episode’s Spotify playlist!

We’ll see you in a couple weeks with a new theme, new guests, and some new songs to break down. If you have any comments, questions, or theme suggestions, drops us a (bass) line at [email protected]!

And remember to check out Soundfly’s brand new course, Intro to Scoring for Film and TV, out now!

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