COLUMN: How to create the perfect soundtrack

Friday, January 28, 2011 | 11:38 a.m. CST; updated 4:09 p.m. CST, Saturday, January 29, 2011

COLUMBIA — I have never seen “The Big Chill.”

I do know that Kevin Kline, Glenn Close, Jeff Goldblum (I’m now two for two on Jeff Goldblum references in my columns) and friends occupy some white wicker furniture and rock some classic '80s ensembles on the cover of the soundtrack.

However, as a child, one of my absolute favorite things to do was pop my parents’ “The Big Chill” soundtrack into my red-and-blue Walkman and jam out to some Motown classics. I have vivid memories of being surrounded by hockey moms and excited fathers during my brother’s games while my 9-year-old self contently bobbed her blond head to “Good Lovin’” by The Rascals or “My Girl” by The Temptations, oblivious to the goals being scored and children getting checked.

While pondering what scenes accompanied these soothing '60s tunes in the album’s film counterpart, I decided early on in life that my dream job is to be the person who decides what music goes with a film.  Unlike my experience with “The Big Chill,” many of my favorite movies are my favorites because of the music or a particular song.

“Dazed and Confused” wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable without the sounds of the American '70s.

Watching the Hoover clan road trip in their yellow VW van in "Little Miss Sunshine" couldn’t be as fun as it is without DeVotchKa and Sufjan Stevens taking us on the journey.

The Portuguese covers of classic Bowie songs are part of the quirky appeal of “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.”

And the “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” experience (Yes, it is an experience.) would be forever different without “Moon River.”

An ideal day for this lucky — and somewhat made up — profession consists of watching fantastic movies sans music followed by a scroll through iTunes or a surf on the Web to find the perfect song for the perfect moment.

This dream faded during my punk phase in middle school (By punk, I mean I wore red Converse shoes and listened to Blink-182.), however it again stirred inside me while watching melodramatic teen shows in high school.  Alexandra Patsavas, who has worked as the music supervisor for “The O.C.,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Gossip Girl” quickly became my music-meshed-with-television superhero.

LCD Soundsystem, Ryan Adams, Bloc Party and Death Cab for Cutie gave my 15-year-old ears a beautiful blend of indie overload. All the while, I was able to watch Marisa overdose in Mexico and Seth chase Summer oh-so-adorably. Even today, when I catch an episode of “Gossip Girl,” I am content because Matt and Kim or The Ting Tings serve as the musical accompaniment of the underage drinking and scandal.

Now if I were given this dream job, there would of course be rules. As Spider-Man taught me, “with great power comes great responsibility.”

1. One Beatles song on every soundtrack. It can and should be done.

2. No Creed. Or Nickelback. Period.

 3. When in doubt, listen to the "Garden State" soundtrack and ask WWZBD? (What would Zach Braff do?)

4. Always remember the command of a composer. Although I love The Who, could they have replaced the genius of John Williams in "Star Wars"? Of course not. I shouldn’t have even typed the question, for it is so blasphemous.

5. Unfortunately, be mindful of commercials. While The Black Keys are among my most played bands, we don’t want the audience thinking only of a popular Zales commercial during a poignant scene. Case in point, Stephen Colbert’s “sell-out off” featuring this band and Ezra Koenig of Vampire Weekend (clip starts at the 5:14 mark below).

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
MeTunes - Grammy Vote - Dan Auerbach, Patrick Carney & Ezra Koenig
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog Video Archive


6. Lyrics matter. “Arizona” by Kings of Leon might have just the feel you’re going for in its sound, but it is about a whorehouse. Few scenes work with these words.

I know it’s a big job. But I can do it. I will strive to create movie moments with the same memorable drama as Judd Nelson’s triumphant departure in “The Breakfast Club” with “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” transcending through the end of the brat pack classic, or Natalie Portman and Jude Law's sexy slow-motion walk to “The Blower’s Daughter” by Damien Rice in “Closer.” And who could forget the Elton John sing-along to “Tiny Dancer” in “Almost Famous”?

So Hollywood, throw a television series or the next big movie my way, and I’ll create the soundtrack to end all soundtracks. It will be the type of album that another 9-year-old girl who must endure countless sibling sporting events can revel in and enjoy for years to come.  

Amanda Koellner is a senior in the magazine sequence at the Missouri School of Journalism. She is a columnist and community conversationalist for the Missourian and a music department editor for Vox.

Like what you see here? Become a member.

Show Me the Errors (What's this?)

Report corrections or additions here. Leave comments below here.

You must be logged in to participate in the Show Me the Errors contest.


Leave a comment

Speak up and join the conversation! Make sure to follow the guidelines outlined below and register with our site. You must be logged in to comment. (Our full comment policy is here.)

  • Don't use obscene, profane or vulgar language.
  • Don't use language that makes personal attacks on fellow commenters or discriminates based on race, religion, gender or ethnicity.
  • Use your real first and last name when registering on the website. It will be published with every comment. (Read why we ask for that here.)
  • Don’t solicit or promote businesses.

We are not able to monitor every comment that comes through. If you see something objectionable, please click the "Report comment" link.

You must be logged in to comment.

Forget your password?

Don't have an account? Register here.