Discovering Music Through Games and Movies
Growing up in the seventies I was very fortunate to have exposure to a wide variety of music. My parents were older than most and therefore their personal frame of reference musically was the forties and fifties. During my youth there were a limited number of music programs on TV and radio, so I would often have to sit through an entire show just to hear the artists that I liked. As a result I have become familiar with a wide selection of musical genres and now have broad musical tastes. However although there is far more choice available these days, it doesn’t necessarily mean that audiences are more musically literate. Solely listening to a radio station or TV channel that exclusively plays a specific style or genre, can leave its listeners musically isolated.
Movies and games can often provide an invaluable window into types of music or songs from a specific era that the audience may not be familiar with. This is something I have become increasing aware of through the use of You Tube. The comments left under specific songs can be quite insightful and I’ve frequently read quotes along the lines of “I’m here because of [insert film or video game title here]”. I find it very reassuring that classic songs and music are finding new audiences in this manner and that people are widening their musical horizons as a result. So I thought it would be fun to list some examples of this.
The Ink Spots – I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire
The Ink Spots were an American vocal group popular in the 1930s and 1940s. Their simple ballads were driven by tenor Bill Kenny while the rest of the band provided harmony backings. At a time when racial segregation was still common place in the US, The Ink Spots found popular acclaim across multiple communities. Their songs have featured in games such as Mafia II and Bio Shock 1 & 2. But it is in the Fallout series that their work has found a home. I Don’t Want to Set the World on Fire, one of their finest songs, was used on the trailer and opening credits for Fallout 3.
Tiny Tim – Tiptoe Through the Tulips
Tiny Tim (born Herbert Khaury) was an American singer, ukulele player, and musical archivist who became popular during the late sixties and early seventies. After several successful albums he enjoyed some success as a TV personality. His most well-known work is a rendition of Tiptoe Through the Tulips which he sung in a distinctive high falsetto voice with lots of vibrato. Like many artists his star inevitably waned and he died in 1996. However he achieved posthumous success once again in 2011 when Tiptoe Through the Tulips was featured in the horror film Insidious. It added greatly to the films atmosphere, despite seeming an incongruous fit.
Tchaikovsky – Melodié, Op. 42, No. 3
Mélodie is the third movement of Souvenir d’un lieu cher composed byTchaikovsky for the violin and piano. It has featured numerous times in Frogwares Sherlock Holmes video games series. In titles such as Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened, and Sherlock Holmes versus Jack the Ripper, Mélodie is played in the background during scenes set in 221B Baker Street. It’s an exquisite piece that is ideally suited for use with the great detective and greatly adds to the games ambience.
The video above features Eugene Ugorski (violin) & Konstantin Lifschitz (piano) and is one of the best interpretations of Mélodie that I’ve heard.
Sonny Rollins – St. Thomas
St. Thomas is possibly the most recognizable instrumental in the repertoire of American jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins. I don’t claim to know a lot about jazz but Mr. Rollins is widely recognized as one of the most important and influential jazz musicians of his generation. If you want to become au fait with this genre of music then his body of work is a good starting point. St. Thomas featured as a track on the JNR 108.5 Radio Station in the video game Grand Theft Auto IV. It is a catchy and uplifting composition which suits the game curiously well.
Slim Whitman – I Remember You
Slim Whitman was an American country music singer, songwriter and instrumentalist. He was known for his yodelling abilities and his three octave range falsetto. His songs were often uncomplicated and focused on universal themes, yet his honest style and sublime vocals invariably made them true classics. He was greatly influential with a broad spectrum of artists from George Harrison to Michael Jackson. Rob Zombie chose to use I Remember You in his debut movie House of 1000 Corpses. It was a controversial choice but its use in such a film doesn’t in anyway detract from the succinct beauty of the song.