“Sometimes it’s almost undetectable, like when you don’t even think about what a good match the music is to the film until much later, or you can’t get it out of your head after watching,” says musician Chelsea Wolfe about what makes a good movie score or soundtrack.
“I like when a film score trickles into the atmosphere of the scene,” she continues, “blending in with the droning sounds or pops and clicks of the space, and it takes a minute to realize that it’s even there. But then I also love when the music set to a scene is intentionally overwhelming or intense.”
Wolfe, whose fifth studio album “Abyss” was one of 2015’s best heavy albums, focused on her favorite movie scores for a recent episode of her monthly RBMA Radio show, “Hypnos Hour,” which airs every third Monday of the month at 6 p.m. EST. So we wanted to talk to her more about how film music has inspired her own creative vision and unique sound.
“I approach music cinematically, but without overthinking it,” Wolfe says. “Often when I’m writing a song I’ll close my eyes and just play guitar and sing, and I’m transported. There are shapes and images behind my eyes, and when I open them again I’m surprised to find the daylight still there, like coming out of a dark theater in the middle of the day.”
We also asked Wolfe to tell us about her favorite movie scores, which include work by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood and Coachella 2017 performer Hans Zimmer. Check out her picks below and be sure to listen to Wolfe’s RBMA Radio show each month for a deeper look into the music she loves.
1. “Romeo & Juliet” (Soundtrack: Various artists)
“I’m starting off with this one because it was also the soundtrack to my teenage years. The movie came out like a week before my 13th birthday and I had my birthday party at the theater to see it. I adored the movie and listened to the soundtrack nonstop for a long time — so many good songs on there! My favorites were Radiohead’s ‘Talk Show Host’ and Garbage’s ’#1 Crush.’”
2. “There Will Be Blood” (Score: Jonny Greenwood)
“You can really feel Jonny Greenwood through this soundtrack. It couldn’t be more perfect for this movie. There’s nothing I can really say other than: If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it.”
3. “Cave of Forgotten Dreams” (Score: Ernst Reijseger)
“I’m such a huge fan of Werner Herzog films and also the soundtracks. ‘Encounters at the End of the World’ is another great one. Sometimes he’ll just hang on a scene and allow you to explore something visually while this perfect piece of music plays. And his voice itself is so comforting and pleasing to the ears that it becomes part of the soundtrack.”
4. “Interstellar” (Score: Hans Zimmer)
“The score Hans Zimmer created for ‘Interstellar’ really made the movie. It’s so emotional and at times uncomfortable, and it pulls the story forward. I read that this project began in a very instinctual way, as the director only gave him one page of the script and asked him to write something based on that to begin with. It ended up being something really personal, which set the tone for this whole big science fiction movie. I love that kind of collaboration and trust. Also, much of it was recorded on a massive organ at a church in London, which is so cool.”
5. “The American Astronaut” (Soundtrack: The Billy Nayer Show)
“There’s a great scene in the bar bathroom when a friend of the main character sends two guys to sing a song and mess with him while he’s in the stall wondering what the hell is going on. That whole movie is pretty glorious and weird. The soundtrack is such a visceral part of it all.”