Writer’s Music: Jim Parker

Music tells such marvelous stories. Sometimes, though, music written so perfectly for one story never fits anywhere else. Many of John Williams‘ themes, for instance, are cemented in their iconic-ness: Superman, Jaws, Indiana Jones, Star Wars–even Harry Potter. The themes for those characters fit. Period. For a sample of Williams’ work, this is a decent mix:

But then there’s the occasional surprise: an iconic sound that still produces a fresh image far removed from the music’s original universe.

Take Jim Parker‘s theme for Midsomer Murders. The original novels were written by an amazing old granny named Caroline Graham. Never have I seen point of view shifts performed so smoothly and so often than in her work–a “Lessons Learned” post is coming, I promise you. For now, though, let’s listen.

The discovery was something like an apple to the noggin. I had experienced a very, very weird dream brimming with potential for a kid’s adventure story, but I wasn’t capturing the bizarreness of the world: the details felt, well, lame, like a flannel-graph presentation for teenagers. I was desperately flipping through Hans Zimmer, The Beatles, The Who, and even Joel McNeely to get me into…well more like “out of.” I needed to feel the fall out of the humdrum and into the crazy. But without the right music, I just couldn’t get over the edge.

Now this is back when Biff and Bash were still wee and nursing. I often had a show locked’n’loaded in the player for late-night feedings. Weary of our home’s offerings, I had picked up Midsomer Murders from the library earlier that day. 2am: Biff and Bash are hungry. I situate the pillows, crook the boys to the breasts. On comes the title sequence and that clarinet like water in a shopping mall’s fountain: a quiet fluttering one only notices on the corner of perception. Then come the theremin and the strings. They float about like the bedsheet ghosts one hangs from trees on Halloween: eerie, a touch off, but not nightmare fuel. The sort of music for spooking kids, filling a night with as many giggles as shrieks…

YES! I could picture it all now: the kid stuck in the middle of nowhere who meets another bored kid who isn’t a proper kid at all, the trip down below to the goblin king and his mastery of giants–Brilliant, must write! But the boys are still nursing. Suckle faster, dammit!

It’s amazing what sights and sounds can spark up our imaginations, especially when we’re worn out by all that life requires of the grown-up. Let Jim Parker give you a break from adulthood and run loose as a kid, full of mischief for the humdrum village outside.

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33 thoughts on “Writer’s Music: Jim Parker

  1. That’s a coincidence as I spotted your post in the Reader just as I was about to put a sound art post up on the same theme’ish. You write better than me and you are right about the power of sound/music to invoke getting a feel for a story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well I don’t think I write better than you, but THANK you about agreeing with me in regards to the power of sound. I’ve met so many people who prefer to write in absolute silence. Silence drives me NUTS: my ears are always stretching for noise (there’s a weird image for you), or worse: in this house, silence means the boys are usually up to something bloody awful. The last time they were totally peaceful they nearly burned the house down.
      So yeah, not a fan of silence. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • You’re most welcome! Bo surprised me with one of their early CDs last year; much of the music is from the first two seasons. I was torn between writing about the series’ theme vs. writing about the theme Parker wrote for the village setting…dagnabit, I may just do that theme, too. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. 11.51am v 5.51am? Lord Zoolon beats me to the blog once again! I do believe he’s making a habit of this! Still, the Midsomer Murders theme tune certainly outshines the show itself (my subjective view, of course) which drives me to utter distraction…the Shires settings; the improbable murders; the script…give me that piece of music anytime.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, you think Midsomer unrealistic? Dear Sir, I grew up on MURDER, SHE WROTE starring beloved star Angela Lansbury. That show ran for…um…twelve seasons? Thirteen? Every season was twenty-some episodes, and nearly every episode had at least one murder. And yet people thought HER the essence of decency and kindness. Never mind the blood trail, folks–this mystery writer is so nice!
      And don’t get me started on how many murders took place in her little town of Cabot Cove. Population 600some. At least…gosh, four dozen people died in that town over a dozen years. Wouldn’t that murder-to-populace ratio make the town more dangerous than London?

      Liked by 2 people

      • Gosh you sound like my wife, she adores all those things like you. I think the only TV detective where the script matches the sublime music is/was Morse and it’s spin offs…indeed a new season of the young Morse, entitled Endeavour starts this very week. I shall certainly be watching that!

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      • I LOVED the Morse mysteries growing up–read’em all, watched what I could. Found the Lewis and Endeavor series to both be very enjoyable, too.
        And the music was–and is– aMAZing. xxxxx

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Totally with you on the power of sound. I could cry listening to Samuel Barber Adagio for Strings, adore all Henry Mancini’s work, Quincy Jone’s soundtracks are just phenomenal, Vaughan Williams must have been made out the threads of an Angel but his darker works, from the threads of the devil. I could go on. Too many people overlook the sheer genius that has gone into the work of creating music, including for the screen. Complex musical structures, the psychological impact of certain chords, haunting melodies, the parallels with some classical music and hugely successful contemporary songs. These songs are truly loaded and layered.
    What always fascinates me is that when artists are asked (documentaries) about how did a particular work of art ‘come about’, works that are universally understood to be one of the best in the history of time, they usually remark that it came to them in a dream or a eureka moment that is almost inexplicable, not linear to what they were doing. I don’t know what to say to that other than it happens a lot and I clock it.
    I do find, though, that while I can be inspired to write by remembering a piece of music or my writing can inspire and conjure up appropriate music for the work, I cannot write and listen at the same time. I don’t want to be distracted from picking up every single nuance. My imagination flows, then the work follows. Everyone’s different in their approach, but essentially I cannot work with sound in the background. Great post.

    The time now? I’ll take a leaf from George Orwell, “It was a bright cold day in (April), and the clocks were striking thirteen” 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, yes, I love how I can rely on certain composers to plant seeds in my imagination. I can appreciate your point, though, about distractions. It has happened to me where I turn the music off to finish a thought, or even forget to turn it on because the scene’s already tangible in my head. Other times, I’ll put a song on repeat so I can mentally rewind the scene and study all its angles. More often than not, though, I DO need that base of music. The impact of film upon the psyche, I suppose: only when the music swells can I move the camera in. If the music’s off, so are the lights on the set.

      I can’t wait to hunt down Vaughan Williams–he sounds promising, indeed. 🙂

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  4. What a fun choice! I may have to hunt for this one in the library- I love a good, quirky, improbable murder mystery. They bring up memories of the PBS “Mystery!” program (hosted by Diana Rigg before I knew her as a Bond girl, and led in by some bizarrely awesome Edward Gorey cartoons animated – Mom and Dad were always pretty strict about viewing, but somehow lots of murders surrounded by various and sundry affairs etc were ok. 😉 Thanks as always for the share and a new look at some music!

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL! We watched MYSTERY! too, and had some recorded on VHS Back when Vincent Price hosted. Oh yeah, Vincent. Price. And those Edward Gorey animations were always so awesome. 🙂 I have a few calendars and books–sooooooooo cool. I can’t help but wonder if Tim Burton’s been pouring over these to see what he can “re-imagine” for his own stuff… 😉

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  5. I enjoyed this post! I particularly liked your description of how the music evoked the scene in your mind so vividly, “. . .bored kid who isn’t a proper kid at all. . ..” Awesome! When I’m working on my novel I listen to my main character’s playlist: Dave Matthews, Ingrid Michaelson, and a little Jack Johnson. It’s not exactly theme music, but for whatever reason it helps keep me in the flow of her narrative. Thanks for the post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes! Sometimes there’s just a sound and a voice that helps keep us in tuned with our own. I love using the score to “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” to help me write my reflections. The language and music fit just so. 🙂 Thanks for reading!

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  6. Yes, it’s marvellous writing to music! I wrote a book off the back of a single song, which turned into a trilogy, which is now turning into a science fiction crime series… However, it’s interesting to note that at least half my creative writing students prefer to write in absolute silence.

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  7. Am I late to the Midsomer Murders party, or what? It’s great fun to read all the replies, especially from those familiar with MM & the freaky, theremin-imbued theme.

    On a separate note, we got back last night from snowy Tahoe and a huge rainstorm greeted us, complete with loss of power & a freezing house. We don’t have fancy heat at Chez SpyDy- just a wimpy wood stove and wimpy space heaters – the Munchkin had a glorious, brand-new furnace, and how I LOVED the sound of the heater coming on.

    Yesterday was the anniversary of my Dad’s death, something I wish I could have blocked out (and I would have actually forgotten it this year – well, the exact day, that is) except for my Mom’s 8 texts that were able to reach me during our drive, complete with pictures and candles. 😦 Sigh…

    And I STILL need to mail your belated birthday gift!
    Have faith in your ‘ol java addict friend here – I’m good for it! 😉

    Have I digressed enough as I usually do? Gotta keep the “let’s comment about all kinds of things except for the actual blog topic” tradition going!

    As you know, I was completely caught up with MM until Sgt. Gavin Troy took off. I’ve been meaning to return to the show, but I got hooked on a few series including “Glitch,” “Paranoid” (which has one of my fave Brit actors Lesley Sharp – truly magnificent) & “DCI Banks” which has several other favorite actors of mine: Stephen Tompkinson & Caroline Catz (“Doc Martin”) and the luminous, cheeky Andrea Lowe. I only have one more episode of “DCI Banks” and then I shall suffer a void in my life, which I shall fill with more MM!

    I’ll never forget the first time I heard the haunting, slightly disturbing MM theme song. I knew I had stumbled across something quite special! I still can’t believe the series is still going, at least as far as I can tell on Wikipedia.

    As great as the more recent episodes must be, nothing could ever top the acclaimed actress Elizabeth Spriggs and Richard Cant in the first-ever episode (“The Killings at Badger’s Drift”), as the diabolical mother and son Iris and Dennis Rainbird. Cant played the hilariously morbid tongue-in-cheek undertaker who drove the Porsche! Anyway, I’m being kicked off the computer and the power is flickering again – yikes! Sending you lots of love, my sweet scribe.

    XOXOXOOXOXOX
    Spy Dy a.k.a. the Queen of Digression!

    Liked by 1 person

    • OOOOH, those Rainbirds! Yes, the casting for the original run was top notch. I didn’t care a whole lot for the show after Gavin left, either. The next sergeant was really smarmy and kept hitting on Nettles’ daughter. The sergeant after THAT guy was a bit more down-to-earth–I think he’s still on the show?–but Gavin had a cocky innocence about him that made him fun to watch against Nettles’ seasoned self. There are SO many shows I haven’t touched because I can’t work and watch tv at the same time…ah well.
      No apologies for digressions, ever. 🙂 Had that kind of moment with my mom yesterday, too. She’s started seeing someone, a very nice man who was friends with her and dad both back when he was pastor in another part of the state. Mom and I talked a little about it–how there are these moments (finding his handwriting, going through his favorite movies) where Dad’s loss just slams the air out of our lungs. But that’s why it’s important we don’t continue on alone, you know? I told her I was happy for her, that I knew Dad wouldn’t want her to spend life alone, either. Mom’s finally healing. That makes Dad’s absence a little less painful. 🙂
      And stop worrying about belatedness! 🙂 You’ve been having rocking good adventureswith your family and editing. 🙂
      Glad you’re safe and sound with–I hope–heat in the house again.
      Love and hugs to you from the icy tundra ofWisconsin–Java Jean the Jumping…um…Jester of…Jubuliance!

      Ok you know, um, me. 🙂 xxxxx

      Liked by 1 person

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