I’ve been a fan of David Collins’ podcasting work since the days of the tremendous Star Wars Oxygen. In addition to broadening my appreciation of the music of John Williams, the show gave me food for thought on a series of Star Wars music columns I wrote back in 2015. Oxygen was a perfect mix of accessible and informative content, making music theory and analysis as approachable as possible.
I say “was” because Star Wars Oxygen‘s parent show, Rebel Force Radio, came under fire for toxic comments about gender and fandom earlier this year. In addition to losing a panel hosting gig at the Star Wars Celebration convention, Rebel Force Radio lost a great deal of good will. All of this was compounded by the outlet’s indignant response to the collective discourse, which was reason enough for me to stop supporting their content.
The downside to the controversy was that Star Wars Oxygen effectively went dark. It should be noted that David Collins was never directly associated with the comments, and by all accounts he proceeded to distance himself from Rebel Force Radio. Nevertheless, I was very bummed out that one of my favorite podcasts probably wasn’t coming back.
So it was to my great surprise that Collins would return to podcasting, this time partnering with How Stuff Works on a solo format. Collins’ new show, The Soundtrack Show, does everything Star Wars Oxygen did: it provides historical context, theory, and analysis of the film scores it features, and while Collins would begin his run by distilling his Star Wars work into shorter digests, he soon branched out into other franchises and composers.
As of late, The Soundtrack Show has gotten into the spirit of the season, highlighting music from horror and other October-friendly films. An episode on the music of Halloween breaks down John Carpenter’s effective minimalism. The show’s primer on Universal Studios’ monster movies is a staggeringly concise piece of film music history, calling out the presence of Swan Lake in early films like Dracula and The Mummy and analyzing Franz Waxman’s precedent-setting work on Bride of Frankenstein.
Yesterday, I listened to Collins dive into Elmer Berstein’s score for Ghostbusters, how it blends together horrific and comedic motifs. In the first episode (yes, this show is that thorough), Collins illustrates how the Ghostbusters’ jaunty main riff can sound scary or upbeat depending on the arrangement. He also uses some quick theory to point out why the demonic theme for the film’s uber-demon Gozer terrified me as a kid.
What’s most impressive about The Soundtrack Show is its attention to scoring details. Early in the movie, Bill Murray stages a faux investigation of Sigourney Weaver’s apartment as a cheap pick-up attempt. In a spirited bit of improvisation, he jingles two keys on the piano. Bernstein takes a comedic aside from Bill Murray’s Peter Venkman, jokingly jingling piano keys, and turns that moment into its own motif in his score.
“They hate that” is a hilarious aside in the film, but Collins points out how Bernstein actually repurposes two-notes of bullshit into a miniature theme for Venkman. I’ve seen Ghostbusters dozens of times and never noticed that once. Details like that can still blow your hair back, especially in a classic movie that’s often renowned for its nothing-ness.
A major pet peeve of mine is analyzing film music without the context in which it’s featured, and had I only listened to Bernstein’s music in isolation, I never could have picked up on this aspect. The Soundtrack Show never forgets that the music it features is in service of something else. That element alone makes it worth listening. Its host’s pedigree and endless positivity are an added bonus.
- The Soundtrack Show is available through Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, and at soundtrackpodcast.com.