Unsung Heroes

Have you ever watched a deleted scene from a movie and felt that there was something missing? Chances are that scene didn’t have any music. Soundtracks often go unnoticed by people when they are present, but without them movies would be lacking a vital element to make the stories truly come alive.

Music plays many roles in the things we watch. It can identify a character, a setting, or a significant event. Throughout the film, that music will remind the audience of whatever has been associated with that theme. This can be useful in subtle ways, like when the protagonist is thinking about their love interest. We don’t need them to say who they are thinking about if the score for the love interest starts playing. Whether we pay attention or not, we will pick up on the auditory clues and intuitively know what is happening.

Another crucial aspect of movie scores is giving the viewers emotional cues. The music tells us how we are supposed to be feeling and plays a huge part in setting the mood. Can you imagine if fanfare was playing during a death scene? Or if a sweeping ballad was underscoring a series of prat falls? They just don’t work. Those scenes would become jarring and unappealing. The emotions that we feel while watching a movie are significantly enhanced with the right kind of music. Even scenes like in the Lord of the Rings movies when they are journeying across the mountains. The music makes us feel the excitement of adventure and the epic importance of the journey. Without the score to provide us with that emotional boost, watching people hike would not be nearly as exciting.

It’s not just scores that bring a movie to life, but soundtracks as well. What’s the difference, you ask? A score is orchestral music composed for the movie that is usually meant to exist subtly under the dialogue and action. Soundtracks are pieces of music chosen to be in the movie that are usually contemporary with lyrics. While they can be used under dialogue and action, they are more typically for montages and transitions.

The right choice of a popular song can perfectly encapsulate a moment or call forth an emotion for the audience. A lot of the music I enjoy, I first discovered from watching a movie or TV show. I would fall in love with the soundtrack music and have to look up what the songs were so I could buy them or borrow from the library!

Many movies use both scores and soundtracks to round out the storytelling of the movie. Take Guardians of the Galaxy as an example. We have an excellent score that is full of sweeping heroic pieces, tense escape music, and more poignant emotional pieces. Then there is the amazing soundtrack based on the main character’s cassette tape. These are all songs from the 1970s that are not only great songs, but are significant to the character. The audience knows that he has been listening to these songs all his life, and we are able to further identify with him through the soundtrack.

Movies just wouldn’t be the same without music. Scores and soundtracks are integral to the characters, story, and overall emotional depth. Movie music is one of my favourite things to listen to and fortunately the library helps keep me supplied with excellent score and soundtrack options. If you are interested in listening to some, just check out WPL’s collection!

— Ashley T.

Listen Up!

I love nothing more than discovering new musicians and being the one to introduce these amazing artists to other music lovers!

Leon Bridges is my latest ‘find’ and his debut album Coming Home is a treat for the ears!! Released in 2015, it is garnering a lot of critical acclaim. Stylistically, Bridges could be likened to ’60s soul with overtones of Rhythm and Blues. Bridges, along with co-writers Austin Michael Jenkins, Joshua Block and Chris Vivion, takes the listener back to the early days of R & B reminiscent of Otis Redding and Sam Cooke. Jeff Dazey’s magnificent saxophone had me swooning. It is said that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach… the way to mine is the sensuality of the saxophone! Let the sultry sound melt your heart in Lisa Sawyer… it’s visceral!!! If you are looking for a gospel fix, River will take you down! For a quick peek at this amazing artist, check out Tiny Desk Concert. This album is a treasure and I can hardly wait for his next release which is slated for sometime in 2018.

baziniCanada’s own Bobby Bazini is another young singer-songwriter lighting up the airwaves with a voice that moves between husky and deep-chested to soft and melodious. Hailing from Quebec, his latest album Summer is Gone has a soul/folk feel and his lyrics add another level of depth and richness, pulling the listener into his emotional rendering of these songs. Bazini has created an album full of songs that cover the spectrum for emotive style allowing him to showcase his powerfully stirring voice. This is the third album Bazini has released in his career and he is showing no sign of slowing down.

— Nancy C.

Lightfoot

I’m in the midst of a Gordon Lightfoot love affair. Well, okay, not with him personally, but with his music, life and times.

Awhile back, I placed a hold on the new book Lightfoot by Canadian music journalist Nicholas Jennings, and had to wait a bit as there were a number of people ahead of me. I guess there are lots of Gordon Lightfoot fans are out there! Finally, it was my turn.

Besides reading the book, I’m also listening to his music and watching some of his performances on YouTube. I feel I’m taking part in a Gordon Lightfoot-fest, a feast for the eyes and ears — and mind and heart as well.

In Lightfoot, Jennings traces the unlikely trajectory of a kid from Orillia, Ontario to international super star. It’s clear from reading Lightfoot — just in case you didn’t already know — how enormously talented this Canadian singer-songwriter is.

The book strikes a good balance between Lightfoot’s personal life and his music, though as a songwriter there is obviously considerable overlap between the two. Jennings gives a good, nuanced account of who the singer really is. Despite some personal demons (alcoholic excesses being pretty high up on the list), Lightfoot comes across as a decent guy with a lot of personal and musical integrity.

I have borrowed some CDs (WPL has a good selection) and can honestly say it has been a delight to rediscover his music. It’s so real, so genuine. I think my all-time favourite Gordon Lightfoot song has to be “If You Could Read my Mind.” Other greats are “Early Morning Rain,” “The Last Time I Saw Her,” “I Heard You Talking in Your Sleep” and oh, so many others. I love his rich, melodic voice.

Lightfoot is a great read but might I also suggest you check out some of his timeless music as well. Maybe start (or rediscover) your own love affair with Gordon Lightfoot.

BTW, Gordon Lightfoot is scheduled to appear at the Centre in the Square November 22, 2018. I have my ticket bought. I will be there.

— Penny D.

It’s All About Pi(e)

We live in a great city for celebrating Pi Day (March 14). I’m not entirely sure when the idea to full-on celebrate the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter began but any celebration is a good thing and I love this one.

Each year we are surrounded by celebrations of 3.14. The University of Waterloo marks the occasion in multiple faculties as do groups at Wilfrid Laurier University, Conestoga College and our Main Library’s neighbours, the Perimeter Institute. It’s everywhere and it’s so much fun.

There’s no shortage of people in Waterloo who might feel inclined to get involved in the classic “How many digits of Pi can you recite?” contest and I’m sure that they don’t need to be convinced to enjoy sweet or savoury pies in a tribute to the day.

When I think of Pi I must confess that I think of pie and this in turn gets me thinking of some of my very favourite music. On the WPL shelves we have one of the most beautiful CDs from American singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles. It’s full of gorgeous songs that she created for the 2015 Broadway musical, Waitress. Just put it on repeat. Once you get started you won’t be able to stop singing along and thinking about friendship, family, love, heartache and baking. Great news too! The Mirvish theatre schedule includes a production of Waitress for summer 2019.

You can also borrow the 2007 movie that the musical is based on. The film has a fabulous cast – Keri Russell and Nathan Fillion – and seems like a standard Southern rom-com (one character is even named ‘Earl’) but it has so much more depth. Treat yourself to a generous slice of pie and some time watching The Waitress.

Should you actually want to learn how to bake your own delicious pie, we have many books to offer you recipes and guidance. You could select a classic cookbook like Joy of Cooking or pick something a little more modern like Iron Chef Alex Guarnaschelli’s The Home Cook: recipes to know by heart. I have read that she includes a personal favourite in there called “dark chocolate rum pie”. Oh. Yum.

So, whether you want to sing, eat, bake, or learn more about the magic of Pi, we will be happy to help you celebrate – and maybe we’ll sing you a song too.

— Penny M.

On the road again

The library’s music collection has been coming in handy lately as I’ve been taking quite a few solo road trips and the music available on the radio has become repetitive when I hear it for hours each week.  I do try to find new stations to listen to as I drive and also rely on CBC for much of my in-car entertainment but some of their content can be a bit ‘unusual’ depending on the time of day. Anna Maria Tremonti can usually be a lock for at least 45 minutes of good listening but recently she was talking to people about the pros and cons of eating human placenta and the producers chose to include audiotape of how it could be prepared on a grill!  I had to turn it off and use my carefully planned WPL road trip music collection instead.

Here is the beauty of using the WPL collection. It contains music for every one of my mercurial moods which can change so quickly depending on the weather – if it is sunny I sometimes feel like a deep dive into the music of my teen years and pull out a wonderful Greatest Hits collection we have from the Cure. If the 401 is rainy then I might feel like singing something a bit less bright but still from the same era and naturally gravitate to Morrissey and the thrill of “What difference does it make” from their self-titled album The Smiths. It’s just lovely stuff for a gloomy day. And I never have a problem with a bit of The Clash. The voice of Mick Jones is not weather dependent. I just grab the jewel case from my pile on the passenger seat, pop it in,  and hit ‘play’.

Our music collection allows me to go back to the ‘80s, stock up on the ‘70s with classics that my oldest brother liked to sing, maybe a bit of Jim Croce’s “Time in a bottle” and “Bad, bad Leroy brown”, or even grab some CDs that remind me of the music my mother talks about when she reminisces about dating our father. She has a great story about going to see Bill Haley and His Comets when they came to play in Hamilton.  I always imagine her wearing a lovely dress with a massive skirt and I know, because she has told me the story a few times, that our father and his friends were wearing their nicest suits and had their hair slicked back.  Talk about a great memory.  So, when I play a CD like Bill Haley’s, you know that it makes the car ride go more quickly and it doesn’t really matter what the weather or the traffic is like.

Another favourite section for me in the music collection is soundtracks because, occasionally, I am coming home from a long day in the later hours and I am not at my best and need a melodious boost. The only thing that can keep me energized on those days is great music and the offerings of CBC later in the evening tend to become fairly sedate and pop radio is absolutely disappointing.  Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran are fabulous in the daylight but cannot help me at all once the sun goes down. I turn to Broadway musicals every time. West Side Story is enjoying it’s 60th anniversary this year and I think this adds an extra snap when I sing my favourite tunes from the driver’s seat of my little car. Or, sometimes I imagine that I am Gordon MacRae just singing my heart out in the middle of the fields of Oklahoma. I’m not really picky about what I sing and sometimes I’ll choose to play a great compilation album that we have on the shelves called Somewhere over the rainbow because it has all of the greatest voices – Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, Betty Hutton, Louis Jourdan, Bing Crosby and Jane Powell – and you can just play it on shuffle and never hit a bad song.  morrisseyS’ wonderful.

And, we get new music every week here at the library so, if I am in the mood to play recently released music by the contemporaries of Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift I can take them on the road with me too.  I’m pretty sure that I’ll still prefer Fred & Judy over Ed & Taylor but I’m glad that the WPL music collection gives me the choice.

-Penny M.