The release of Stranger Things Season 2 has sparked an interesting discussion on Twitter recently, particularly in one of Erik Woods’ (Cinematic Sound Radio) tweets.
It was discussed whether the music of Stranger Things be bad storytelling or not. Opinions naturally vary. Interesting thing is, I hadn’t noticed any lack of effectiveness, and I’m a huge fan of the show. Since I usually agree with Erik Wood’s taste of music, I decided to dig deeper and asked him to pinpoint one or two scenes that he found were dramatically lacking, and he gladly came up with these two from Season One:
- Van Chase
- Eleven kills the Demogorgon
When I re-watched those key scenes I discovered he was absolutely right. The original music has almost no dramatic impact and seems to even go away when things get interesting or stunning or emotional. That’s when I thought, okay, let’s see if I can do it. Not to prove anyone right or wrong, just to see how things turn out with me composing an alternate score for these scenes.
As usual I started out at the piano developing themes and motives, because in order to make a scene work I want to be able to refer to some material that I’ve planted earlier (in drama writing this technique is called “planting and pay-off”. Musically it’s more or less the same, only that it works unconsciously). So I came up with motives, melodies and harmonies associated with
- the party (meaning Mike and his friends)
- Eleven (and her feelings for Mike)
- the Upside-Down (and everything evil on the show)
Because I was in a hurry and had no time to write anything down, I quickly recorded myself playing on the piano with my smartphone. Good for you because you can now watch. 🙂
The video contains a kind of main motif which might be the basis for a number of Upside-Down related scenes, then follows what I call “Innocent Theme” obviously a leitmotif for the kids and for Mike and Eleven in particular. Melodies like that don’t find their way into scores any more, and I don’t intend to use it as played on the piano, but it’s important for me to have all elements derived from something bigger, even if this “bigger thing” isn’t actually part of the score.