|(Photo source: Art of the Title)|
In England, hiding behind the couch became a tradition for kids who grew up watching monsters chase after the Doctor and his companions on telly on Saturday night. But in America, those of us who grew up watching The Electric Company and 3-2-1 Contact back-to-back at 5pm on the local PBS station weren't exposed to Doctor Who on only one night of the week. Thanks to PBS, we were exposed to it every weeknight, right after the Bloodhound Gang would try to bust a cocaine ring or something. The Doctor Who opening titles meant that 3-2-1 Contact was over and it was time to change the channel as soon as possible because for a four-year-old like me, the Doctor Who title sequence--with its intense-looking, psychedelic slit-scan vortex FX, its photo of a somber-looking Tom Baker and that otherworldly piece of early electronica written by Ron Grainer and performed by BBC Radiophonic Workshop musician Delia Derbyshire--was scary as shit.
But unlike you Brits who yelped and cowered from the sight of giant pepper shakers with toilet plunger arms hollering "Exterminate!" at'cha boy, I didn't hide behind the couch whenever the Doctor Who titles came on. My brain merely shivered a little and then I switched to a different channel. That's how I rolled, and to me, the Doctor Who titles were scarier than any of the rubber monsters I would see a few years later, which was when I finally had the guts to get past those spooky and unsettling titles and watch the rest of the show.
"I remember as a child I was terrified by [the theme]. It just strikes fear into your very soul," noted British comedian Bill Bailey at the start of his "Docteur Qui" number during Bill Bailey's Remarkable Guide to the Orchestra, in which he amusingly broke it down on the piano and pointed out how Grainer's melody is basically Belgian jazz.
|Delia Derbyshire (top); Sarah Winter as Derbyshire in An Adventure in Space and Time (bottom)|
|(Photo source: SMOSH)|
One thing I've noticed about modern Doctor Who is that Murray Gold, who's been the show's composer since 2005, hasn't really referenced the Grainer theme, outside of the opening and closing titles and the "Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords" drumbeat motif that represents a certain old nemesis of the Doctor's. It's understandable because the Grainer theme doesn't really represent the Doctor as a heroic character--the theme's alien nature signifies that it's more of a theme about traveling through space and time and, like I said before, encountering the unknown--so Gold has written all-new themes to represent the heroism of the Doctor and his homies and emphasize the adventure side of this modernized and much less lethargically paced Doctor Who. These themes are more heroic-sounding than the Grainer piece, and because the BBC has given modern Doctor Who a bigger budget to work with, they're more cinematic and epic in tone and orchestration. (They also make for slightly more appealing listening than the mostly synthy and atonal score cues that were written for the show from the early '70s to the late '80s. Hardcore Doctor Who fans might enjoy that '70s-to-'80s section of the 50th Anniversary Collection album more than most listeners for nostalgic reasons, while others who are only familiar with Doctor Who in its present form might find that part of the compilation to be kind of grueling as music.)
The rousing "I Am the Doctor" motif Gold introduced in Matt Smith's first year as the Doctor is a good example of modern Doctor Who's cinematic sound, as is Gold's "All the Strange, Strange Creatures" motif from a couple of years before. "All the Strange, Strange Creatures," which reappears on the 50th Anniversary Collection album, is referred to as "The Trailer Music" because it was used in series 3 trailers, while I remember it best in an alternate form as the cue during the pivotal moment when an amnesiac professor played by special guest star Derek Jacobi regains his memory, and it turns out he's the long-unseen Master, the Moriarty to the Doctor's Sherlock.
"The Whitest Block Ever")
Before his breakout role in One False Move director Carl Franklin's 1995 Walter Mosley adaptation Devil in a Blue Dress as Mouse the trigger-happy thug ("If you ain't want him killed, why'd you leave him with me?"), Don Cheadle was known only as the uptight, by-the-book D.A. on Picket Fences--or for that one time he showed up as Will's best friend from the Philly streets really early on in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air's run. Devil in a Blue Dress was meant to be a Denzel Washington vehicle, but the unassuming-looking, average-sized Cheadle straight-up stole the flick, like how the equally unassuming-looking, modest-of-height Kendrick Lamar steals damn near every posse cut or collabo he guests on these days: with attitude, energy, calm and wit.
|(Photo source: The Blue Vial)|
The Devil in a Blue Dress theme that's in rotation during "The Whitest Block Ever" is one of only three score tracks on Columbia Records' Devil in a Blue Dress soundtrack album. While I wish the track contained a motif that reps Mouse, it's got the late Elmer Bernstein at his noirish best during his low-key and gorgeous-sounding motifs for Beals' Daphne Monet (is that an ondes Martenot I hear during her motif?) and Washington's Easy Rawlins.
gumshoes, especially ones of color like Easy or current Justified staff writer Leonard Chang's Allen Choice. Unless it's Yemana, Meldrick, Luther, the Major Case folks on The Wire, the diverse pack of detectives on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, a Shawn Ryan creation like the aforementioned Chicago Code or maybe Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park on Hawaii Five-0, we don't give a shit about the police.
Continuing on the femme fatale tip is the jazzy main theme Joseph Vitarelli wrote for Bridget Gregory, Linda Fiorentino's fast-thinking schemer in The Last Seduction, director John Dahl's 1994 neo-noir/fish-out-of-water comedy. Vitarelli's theme is one of my favorite elements of The Last Seduction because of its drum brush strokes and those piano and clarinet riffs that scream out New York, in as similar a fashion as Bridget's new but not-so-different small-town identity as Wendy Kroy does (the name's an anagram of New York). Actually, I added Vitarelli's theme to AFOS rotation back in November, but nobody listens to AFOS or reads this blog these days, so who gives a shit?
"Its main use in the film is at those points when a male character is being duped or has just realized that they have been fooled, usually by Bridget," wrote Butler in Jazz Noir. "The 'Foiling Men' theme consists of fast runs up and down a scale, suggesting a process that is too fast and dizzying for the men who are not fully aware of what is going on until it is too late."
"Foiling Men" is actually quite effective during the trailer because many of the clips show Bridget doing exactly that to the likes of her husband Clay (Bill Pullman) and her boytoy Mike (Peter Berg). But that Bridget half of the theme is just golden, as it perfectly encapsulates a couple of the things that make The Last Seduction as compelling a noir as Double Indemnity or Miller's Crossing: Bridget's intellect and her skills as a master manipulator.
"In The Last Seduction, Bridget's victory is achieved through her mental prowess. Moving away from the traditions of noir jazz, cool jazz is used in the film to underscore the intellectual qualities of Bridget and the lack of such qualities demonstrated by Mike and Clay," wrote Butler. "The film's use of jazz as something other than anguished and sexual underscore is original, however, particularly for film noir. Dahl and Vitarelli seem to have been aware of the themes that jazz has traditionally signified and recast them."
As the Red Bull Music Academy Twitter feed once said, your TV show wins if you get instrumental hip-hop artist FlyLo and his labelmate and frequent collaborator, the bassist known as Thundercat, to do the theme song. For the opening titles of the latest incarnation of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, which featured a theme by Schoolly D for its first seven seasons (damn, Aqua has been on for longer than that already?), the creators turned to a couple of other names from the hip-hop world: FlyLo, who's composed bumper music for Aqua's home network Adult Swim, and Thundercat. The duo's smooth-sounding theme, which FlyLo included as part of the free Ideas+drafts+loops compilation he dropped last week, is kind of an odd fit for such an anarchic and silly show, but it's a groove that's sicker than the blood in Carl Brutananadilewski's stool.
|(Photo source: David OReilly)|
Any piece of animation that concludes with dope end title music by FlyLo is a keeper in my book, like the recent all-3-D-animated Adventure Time episode "A Glitch Is a Glitch." "About That Time" is another track FlyLo threw onto his free Ideas+drafts+loops download last week, and both that "Glitch Is a Glitch" end title theme and his Aqua TV Show Show theme are making me really interested in watching director Trevor Nance's partially animated indie movie An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, which features a score written by FlyLo. Like I once said in one of my posts for Word Is Bond, I love it when the worlds of film or TV score music and hip-hop collide. FlyLo, whose Adult Swim bumper music is full of 8-bit bloops, came up with the perfect glitchy 8-bit closing theme for "A Glitch Is a Glitch," which has guest director David OReilly, the Irish animator behind 2010's "The External World," pitting Finn and Jake against Ice King and a computer virus the old man's using to delete everyone from Ooo so that he has the whole land to just himself and Princess Bubblegum, the teenage Candy Kingdom ruler he's continually--and creepily--spitting game at.
"The External World" was an inspired work of absurdist and very adult 3-D animation, and some of that short's random, TV-MA-rated strangeness seeped into "A Glitch Is a Glitch," particularly when PB wards off Ice King's advances by making out with her hand, one of several masturbation jokes the Frederator animators have somehow slipped past Cartoon Network's Standards and Practices department. I think someone at Frederator has a photo of a Cartoon Network censor guy with a sheep.