Credit Overture-Credits

A nit to briefly pick, inspired by my Corona stroll down old movie lane:

Modern musicals’ forsaking of overtures has been much lamented, but few wax nostalgic about extended opening credits that serve to highlight a movie’s score .

Armchair cultural critics would probably hypothesize this (downward) trend is due to diminished and ever-diminishing attention spans and an increased and ever-increasing need for instant satisfaction in the ADD-era (would that be the social media era now? The TikTok era?? How do you do, fellow kids???). As the theory goes, we’re ravenously impatient to get to the good stuff, the reason we’re here. But chopping off musical primers — for this or any other purpose — overlooks what they can add.

At least in regards to theatrical overtures, this defense has been previously outlined and diagrammed to no end. But the same gripes are mostly mute over the demise of text-based opening-credits accompanied by a movie’s score. By text-based, I mean the music doesn’t underscore dynamic visuals, dialogue, plot mechanizations, etc. Without anything to focus on besides rolling words, this vocational scroll over a static-ish background could make space to draw the audience’s attention to the music. If a movie starts with a now-usual “MOMENTS BEFORE THE CLIMAX!!!” sequence, the score — possibly even the main theme — might be cranking, but it’s one amongst many sensory stimuli inundating the viewer. And that’s how a majority of scores operate nowadays; in seamless conjunction with other components, often unnoticeable.

But standout scores can also, you know, stand out; they can be literally remarkable, not one ingredient amongst many, but a vital part of the recipe where, without it, the overall cinematic flavor just wouldn’t be the same. If a movie’s opening moments are dedicated to introducing the audience to the music and familiarizing them with it, they can become old pals, primed to pick up on its return — overt and/or subtle — throughout the movie, perhaps keying them into thinking about how the score functions, what it contributes, and the additional layers it creates. Dr. No’s opening credits spark such a relationship, as does Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters‘s to Philip Glass’ compositions.

Don’t get me wrong, such opening-credit scores still rear their head on occasion (for instance, I watched The Daytrippers this week), but it’s still more of a pastime than a contemporary fixture.

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