Music from television and film scores has stood on its own musical feet for decades. The movie musical may well be the first source for memorable scores. Rogers and Hammerstein’s string of theatrical productions that subsequently were translated to the big screen include notable soundtracks from South Pacific, Oklahoma! and the Sound of Music.
But contemporary television and film soundtracks have produced some of the most memorable musical pieces in recording history. The long-running 60s television series Mission: Impossible is synonymous with its theme composition, a Lalo Schifrin creation.
MASH featured another notable theme score that was a mainstream favorite in the 70s.
Schifrin is just one of dozens of notable film composers whose specialty is writing the music to accompany the story line and visuals. Their compositions are a distinctive form from a simple soundtrack. Orchestral scores are often used to aurally support epic action movies such as the Titanic and Gone with the Wind, surely one of the most widely recognized original film scores.
Contemporary film soundtracks are often a carefully selected array of tracks that complement the movie’s ambience and theme. Most movies have some sort of musical track running behind them at all times adding another texture to the action or scene. Some soundtracks are so on-target and infectious that they draw a wide audience. The Matrix, 8 Mile, Saturday Night Fever, and O Brother Where Art Thou? are samples of movie soundtracks that are both memorable and able to capitalize on their genre as soundtracks and sub-genres for their appeal to particular music tastes.
Following in the footsteps of film soundtracks, contemporary television has discovered the applicability of the soundtrack as dramatic device. Current popular TV hits such as Gray’s Anatomy and Ugly Betty profit from their use of alternative rock tracks to build drama and engage audiences whose musical tastes run along the lines of The Fray, Snow Patrol, KT Tunstall, and Jamie Lidell.
The power of advertising should not be overlooked. In the last decade music has been employed as a tool to appeal to particular audiences. Automobile manufacturers were among the first to realize the potential by combining contemporary electronic dance segments. Geico uses a memorable lyric segment off of Royksopp’s “Remind Me” to drive home their quirky Caveman theme. Target regularly changes up their ads to include indie music intended to help brand the company’s hipster image; they have used music from Jamie Lidell, The Concretes, and The 88.
Characters from TV and movies such as Borat, Austin Powers, Homer Simpson and others add fun sounds every time you get a call. Often times a catchy phrase will put you in a good mood, even if it's your boss calling.