In This Month in Trailer Music, the team at Canada-based research project Trailaurality takes a look at the musical highlights of the past month’s film and TV trailer drops. Be sure to also check out the detailed breakdowns on their website!
Lucy in the Sky
It won’t surprise you to hear that the Noah Hawley-directed drama’s latest trailer features a soundtrack that is liberally inspired by the Beatles track of a similar name. Pieces of its famous, chromatically-inflected melody tumble through the first few frames; the trailer later adds strings and synth, subsequently swirling the motive in kaleidoscopic fragments. A triple meter at the 1:35 mark ramps up the intensity; at 2:16, a single violin remains, reflecting Lucy (Natalie Portman)’s sense of isolation back on earth after her sojourn in space. And by only alluding to the pre-existing song, this trailer provides a welcome alternative to the in-your-face cover song that has become so cliché in trailers.
The Secret Garden
Rather than a particular song or motif, the musical conceit for The Secret Garden hinges instead on what we might call a parallel key inflection, lending a distinct sense of epic wonder that complements the visuals. For the musicians out there, it’s the movement from the Eb major chord to the C major chord in the key of G minor—where a C minor would be expected and in-key—that creates this effect. You can hear it in most any trailer for the The Avengers series as it’s embedded in the main theme; it also features in a recent trailer for the second season of Westworld, which draws on Nirvana’s 1993 single, “Heart-Shaped Box.”
A quintessential example of how classical music is both embedded in and influenced by Hollywood film scoring and trailer music traditions, the “Dies Irae” (Day of Wrath) motif—of 13th Century Latin hymn vintage—features heavily in this sequel to The Shining. While of course not directed by Kubrick, the continuation of Dan Torrance’s (Ewan McGregor) story is nonetheless based on the official literary sequel by Stephen King, from 2013. Appearing in films as wide apart as It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) and The Lion King (1994), the use of this distinctively morbid melody also goes back to The Shining itself. As such, we also hear the original synth tone from that film in use, a technique that calls to mind other reboot/sequel franchises such as Halloween.
These are just a few of what we felt were the most interesting and / or attention-grabbing trailers released in the past month or so, especially in terms of their music and sound. Have a suggestion on what we should look at next time? Follow us @trailaurality and visit our weekly blog at trailaurality.com for even more analysis and discussion. See you next month!