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!
The long-beep busy signal on phones is, in 2021, more a vestige of the analog era than something in our everyday lives. Its status as something of a spectre is put to use in this trailer, where a radio show host encounters a headless voice—what film academic Michel Chion calls the “acousmêtre”. This, along with the judicious use of static tones and other sounds, adds greatly to the palpable sense of terror, due in part to the feeling of lack of control as conveyed in this trailer’s edit.
Millennials and Gen Xers are most likely to remember the late-90s hit “All My Life” by K-Ci and JoJo, and those who know it are most likely to be impacted by this trailer. It casts Michael Ealy as a sports agent whose one-night stand with Hillary Swank’s undercover detective turns into a police investigation. This turn of events is reflected in the way the song is texturally manipulated, at times beyond the point of recognition—which mirrors the narrative quite well.
The Midnight Sky
Radiohead seems to be a bit of a favourite for using pre-existing music in trailers, which makes sense as their work checks multiple boxes for trailer music audiences: It’s atmospheric, it’s popular, and it’s malleable in orchestration. In Ghostwriter Music’s cover of “No Surprises”, we hear clean guitar lines not present in the original recording in this version. This is in addition to other orchestral embellishments, such as the typical epic music fare of choir and brass, in tandem with doubled rhythms.
The Human Voice
Helmed by Pedro Almodóvar, who is making his English-language film directorial debut, The Human Voice uses a string-based film track to principally drive the narrative in a trailer with, ironically, no human voices. Instead, we hear the strings deftly emulating Tilda Swinton’s wordless performance. It gives us a sense of the emotional narrative while withholding any real details about the short film—a refreshing change of pace for those who typically avoid the trailers for fear of spoilers.
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.
We offer these observations in the hope that our readers can find some distraction in this turbulent time through music and movies. Perhaps the music of the trailers we have reviewed will lead you on a virtual journey of discovery into its sources, which could open further worlds of sound to you. See you next month!