It’s only natural that when you think of music, your brain will probably immediately jump to the pop charts, R&B, rock or any of the other music released by singers, groups and bands.
The thing is, though, this kind of charting music actually only makes up a portion of the music produced globally. If you’re struggling to think of where else it might be found, don’t worry; the other part of music is often designed to not be noticed.
We’re talking about all the music that appears built into all kinds of media forms, the music that appears in the background to support the message being told. In this article, we’re going to explore just how many varieties there are and what goes into it.
While it’s absolutely coming more to the forefront in recent years now that so many people call themselves gamers, the music in video games is still quite overlooked as an art form, much like games themselves. However, the fact is, over the last couple of decades, the music in video games has evolved to be the equal of any other media form.
Take for instance the epic orchestral score behind one of the most successful games of the decade, Skyrim. The soundtrack is an award-winning composition, and to millions of players it’s as iconic as any national anthem at this stage. Similarly, the Halo suite of music is one of the most epic rock operas both in and out of gaming, spanning more than 10 games across that series.
Or on the other end you have the soundtrack behind Undertale, an 8-bit chiptune work that has produced some of the most appealing and emotionally powerful tunes of anything in that medium. You can even include something like Crypt of the Necrodancer in there, a game that revolves entirely around music, to the point where the player is rewarded for moving in time with the incredibly addictive background tracks on each level.
These are just the high-profile examples as well. Virtually every game that comes out these days has a specially-made soundtrack, from console games to mobile games and even casino games; the library of any of the best payout online casinos is filled with slots with remarkably high sound design quality in both their effects and backing music.
Sound designers in the gaming industry also now become as famous as the games they work in. For instance, the Final Fantasy series gave us the legendary composer Nobuo Uematsu, and Jeremy Soule is a veteran composer known for his Elder Scrolls work, including Skyrim that was mentioned earlier.
All of this isn’t even including the high-profile artists contributing to game soundtracks as far back as the early 2000s and soundtracks even appearing outside the games themselves. When you start having symphony orchestra nights entirely dedicated to singular games, it’s time to pay attention.
TV & Movie Music
For an example of something far more mainstream but still often overlooked, we have to look to both the big and small screens. It doesn’t matter if it’s subtle and emotional or epic and powerful, there’s a lot of music within TV and movies as high a quality as anything in the charts.
This isn’t just theme music, either. The incidental music and stings throughout any production are often just as highly crafted. Out of the top TV shows of all time, it’s hard to find one in the top 10 that doesn’t have an epic soundtrack behind it.
Take what’s arguably the greatest TV show ever made, The Sopranos. The show blended incredible atmospheric music with a curated selection of pop music old and new, and the soundtrack is still rated amongst the very top examples of its kind.
Then you have shows like The Simpsons, which not only has one of the most memorable theme songs of any TV series ever, but also several songs from within the show that have stood the test of time. Admittedly, most of these songs draw from the early ‘golden years’ of the show, but the point still stands.
Then we move to movies, where everything gets naturally more grand. The finest examples of epic music still remain within the fantasy genre, with The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars still as standouts.
For the latter, John Williams was at the musical helm for most of the long saga; he may not ever have been a chart topper, but any movie that he worked on had a golden seal of approval. Saving Private Ryan, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List and so many more have classic soundtracks, and from Star Wars, one listen to the monumental Duel of the Fates proves his credentials alone.
This may seem like something of a step-down in grandeur from the previous categories, but people often forget that the tunes, jingles and snippets of music in ads often come from a very technical placed.
Case in point, McDonald’s iconic ‘I’m Lovin’ It’ jingle was actually the brainchild of Pusha T, a now-Grammy nominated artist. State Farm’s ‘Like a Good Neighbor’ had none other than Barry Manilow behind it, and that isn’t even his only famous jingle contribution, with work on Band-Aid’s most famous campaign.
It’s easy to write off ad music, but it’s one of those ‘try it yourself’ tasks that would show you just how hard it is.
While this article has pulled out some key examples from each section, the fact is it only barely scratches the surface. It wouldn’t be particularly difficult to fill up a 6-hour playlist of video game songs or TV tunes alone, and that’s without even mentioning the deep and varied world of Japanese anime.
If you are starting out in music, it’s this exact reason to keep your horizons broad as to what influences you take in and how deeply you listen to music, no matter where it comes from. From games, TV, movies or even ads, there’s something to learn everywhere.
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