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The Truth and the Light: Music from the X-Files

Music to conduct autopsies by

"The Truth and the Light: Music from the X-Files" is the second musical CD to be spun off from Chris Carter's hit show, The X-Files. Unlike the first CD, which comprised original music inspired by the show, the 20 tracks on this CD are all taken directly from the show, which is scored each week by composer Mark Snow. These are the pieces that accompany X-Files regulars: flukemen and autopsies and abductions.

Total running time for the CD is about 48 minutes, and it begins with some spoken words written by X-Files progenitor Carter (more like an audio collage than an introductory narrative) which crescendo into the familiar, eerie whistling of the X-Files theme. All the music that follows is threaded with eposidic dialogue. The voices of X-Files familiars like Scully, Deep Throat and Skinner become noise elements themselves, drifting through an ether of harps and synthesizers.

As these selections are brief (about two minutes each), and were created to set a background mood against acting and dialogue, they are loosely structured and impressionistic. Theme songs, suites and operas -- these are musical forms that overtly define and have obvious frameworks. The music on this CD has industrial pings and electronic twangs and is more about sound than notes. It is the thick hum of machines at 3 a.m., when no one is left in the building but rats, roaches and nightwatchmen.

This is not easy-listening music. It's not music to crank up and it's not music to rock out to. It's music to play if you're drawing a picture of what you look like when you're dreaming -- it's moody and mildly threatening and as cryptic as crop circles. The sense that all audio elements are noise, rather than music, enables uncertainty and immediacy to drill down quickly into the listener's fight-or-flight responses.

The dialogue accompanying the music is muted and blurred, and the music takes precedence over it, a neat twist on what viewers experience when watching an actual episode. On this CD, when Mulder talks about his sister's abduction, the point of the series is made more clearly than the series itself can make it: this is just a minor ululation in the streaming river of running enigmas and conspiracies.

There are no real drawbacks to this CD -- it is what it is. This music is not the average soundtrack or big orchestra sound, and X-Files fans will intuitively know this. However, science fiction fans familiar and comfortable with philharmonic-like soundtracks from Star Trek to Star Wars may be a little unbalanced by the deconstructionalist approach of Snow. In the end, though, this is no great barrier.

The overall X-Files sound is like splicing the sound-shapes of Kronos Quartet with the macabre, nervy edge of The Toadies. This music freaked out my cat a little.

Source: Tamara I. Hladik; Science Fiction Weekly [http://www.scifi.com/sfw/issue32/random.html] 1996.

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