The Snow Files - The Film Music of Mark Snow
During the first years of the series and prior to any well-known commercial
release of Mark Snow's television scores, we began to search for a soundtrack
that would accompany the highly successful The X-Files and, despite
huge commercial success for the series and a devoted internet audience
that demanded an album, nothing had been released. Rumours of an album
circulated through the fan community for years. In 1996, the soundtrack
to accompany the series was finally produced and the market was then
flooded with what seemed to be a hurried series of releases, including
Snow's own and other artists' remixes that were almost unlistenable.
While DJ Dado's X-Files (remix) single enjoyed commercial success
and substantial radio airplay (in the UK at least), the subsequent Snow
release failed to inspire repeated listening to any significant degree
outside the diehard internet X-Philes who viewed Snow's X-Files
score Truth & The Light and individual themes as their mantra.
Unfortunately, the movie soundtrack was equally uninspiring.
Initially drawn to the title by Mark Snow's name and the X-Files
theme, we were delighted to learn about Sonic Images' compilation of
his film music. Entitled, The Snow Files (SID-8902, 1999), the
album contains 14 tracks spanning a significant cross-section of the
composer's career and includes over 70 minutes of delightful music.
The accompanying illustrated booklet includes comprehensive liner notes
by Randall Larson (Soundtrack Magazine) incorporating Snow's
own quotes that provide useful background on each of the tracks and
their associated films.
Instrumentally very strong and deeply rooted in classical themes with
a contemporary flair, ethereal female vocals drift in and out during
several of the various tracks. Unlike the prior releases of his scores,
the result is a highly listenable album with depth and range but without
abrupt changes. Individual tracks flow from one to another as the overall
theme is developed. The music is consistently intriguing, drawing the
listener deeper into it from beginning to end.
The album is divided into four major segments following the highly
contemporary and vocal-oriented opening track, "La Femme Nikita -
Main Theme" (Club Mix). Moody in its own right, the vocals and instrumentals
do an excellent job of building a main title into a highly accessible
version drawing the listener into the album from the outset. Two short
titles in the Bonus Track segment of the album share a similar, yet
lighter style. "Dark Justice - Main Theme" is certainly the most
upbeat, rocky and enjoyable tracks on the album that struck us immediately
as one we'd want a lot more of. "Max Headroom - The Lost Theme"
is another contemporary track and, although quite short, is worthy of
The Darkness And Desire segment of the album like the one that
follows contains four tracks from different sources. "Conundrum -
Love Theme" (1996) with it's soft piano and synthesizer backing
is carried by Cassandra Crossland's gentle yet erotic vocalise. The
moods within "Seduced And Betrayed - The Dark Waltz" (1995) are
created with spiraling strings and woodwinds and serve to heighten the
soft loving side of Susan Lucci's character while further illustrating
the danger of deception that lurks below. A similar, yet far darker,
theme was written for Meredith Baxter's character in "A Woman Scorned
- The Betty Broderick Story: The Murder" (1992). The segment concludes
with "Caroline At Midnight - Main Title" (1994). Immediately
Snow-like in its similarity to themes used within The X-Files,
the bluesy muted trumpet, so evident in steamy 'film noir' detective
films, sets the theme aside from the others on the album.
The Love And Hope segment contains mainly brighter and more hopeful
themes. With harmonica underscoring the theme of the American frontier,
woodwinds and strings illustrate the landscape in "The Substitute
Wife - Main Title" (1994). Country or folk music style strings and
woodwinds are supported by the sound of a full orchestra to develop
the melody in "Oldest Living Confederate Widow - Having A Baby/All
About Ned" (1994). An attractive track, the recording lacks typical
Sonic Images quality in its 'scratchiness.' A big and bold orchestra
and marching drums produces a magestic sound to introduce the parachutists
in "Smoke Jumpers - The Rescue" (1996). The track is highly reminscent
of the main titles in Basil Polodourus' Wind and Stanislas Syrewicz'
True Blue. As in these other works, Snow develops a softer, human
side within the track. In the most moving track of the segment, Snow
uses a full orchestra and electronics to create the big 'at sea' sound
of "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea - Arctic Night Walk" (1997)
with major mood swings and melodies delivered on the largest of scales
in a style similar to Jerry Goldsmith and Basil Poledourus.
The Music Is Out There segment opens with "Disturbing Behavior
- Main Title" (1998) which incorporates several styles including
choral phasing and a bell tree to develop the drama to accompany the
film. A 31-minute concert suite of music based on available recordings
was developed by John Beal in "Suite From The X Files" which
concludes this segment. From the liner notes Beal says, "I selected
what I felt to be the best of Mark's techniques from the show, and created
a suite which would simulate the experience of an episode from start
to finish. I tried to be as true to Mark's incredible sense of soundscape
and the wonderful way he introduces classic film scoring techniques
into this totally new form of musical composition." Indeed the piece
captures the essence of an entire episode yet it is highly listenable,
never boring, always drawing the listener further into the work, by
returning to the themes used within the television series.
The Bonus Tracks segment includes three short tracks. "Dark
Justice - Main Theme" (1991) is characterised by a rock and roll
rhythm with some heavy chorus samples. It develops into an ultra-modern,
contemporary sounding track that we'd like to hear a lot more of. In
"Max Headroom - The Lost Theme" (1987), listeners are exposed
to the theme Snow wrote for the TV series that wasn't used. It melds
"techno-pop, industrial rock and futuristic glitz for synths and percussion"
into a highly listenable tune, and again one that we would like to hear
a lot more of. The album closes with the zany "Pee-Wee's Playhouse
- Bye Bye" track. A short 0:33 track demonstrates that Snow isn't
all atmosphere and ambience—he used sped-up samples to create the miniature
sound wthin this funny little closing clip.
With its vast range of sounds that span the composer's quarter century
of film music, The Snow Files is an excellent production and
perhaps the first highly listenable collection of Mark Snow's work.
Sonic Images has done an excellent job with the packaging of the content.
The brave inclusion of a 30-minute suite amidst shorter tracks from
outside Snow's X-Files career has effectively illustrated the
depth and breadth of his work in one recording. The thoughtfully produced
booklet with notes by Randall Larson and recording quality, aside from
one poorly recorded track ("Oldest Living Confederate Widow"),
is outstanding and typical of Sonic Images' releases. Highly evocative
and well thoughtout, with a good range of styles and memorable melodies,
the album will suit a wide vareity of tastes and is therefore certainly
worth a journey—give it a listen soon.
Source: Russell W. Elliot; Musical Discoveries [ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/rwelliot/marksnow.htm],
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