Writer’s Music: John Carpenter


Let’s try something different.

Let’s try music we never tried before.

Music that has no roots in a film, though its creator does.

John Carpenter has been on my mind these past few days. I’ve been brainstorming up a bit of short fiction I wanted to share here to analyze the relationship between my immediate settings and the stories I create. While I have a sense of what I want to do, the rhythm’s still missing. The piece can’t afford to build too quickly; it’ll need a slow build to grip the readers. I need the readers to see the menace, know it’s coming, shake their fists at the protagonist as they cry, He’s right behind you!”

Aha! Just like Carpenter’s HalloweenThere’s a movie without flash or whimsy: everything’s done on a shoe-string budget while everyone gives their 200%. This is the movie that made Jamie Lee Curtis the Scream Queen, after all. And Carpenter’s score is legendary, as is his method. (“I’m the cheapest, and I know I’ll get it done on time,” He said. Sort of. Look, ask Bo, he’s read all about him.) Carpenter uses his synthesizer to score nearly all his movies. Sure, his melodies are simple, but they cement themselves into the audience’s memory, and fast. The theme for Halloween is nothing short of iconic, right up there with Superman and Batman.

But like John Williams, this can mean that the music lets a writer think of nothing else but Michael Myers walking down a shadowed street.

Enter the Lost Themes.

In the last few years Carpenter has produced two new albums of instrumental music totally unconnected to his films. They still keep his minimal style of percussion, synthesizer, and occasional piano. The result? Desired aural atmosphere without the Pavlovian reaction. Every track smacks of 80s: arcade tournaments and puffy vests, rolled-up denim and disco fries. Occasionally Kurt Russell in an eye patch appears in one’s imagination, but he’s too smart to interrupt the story at hand.

So, over the next week I’m going to see how far these albums can take a character I created years ago. He’s been kicking the table for his own story, but I was never sure what to do for a novel. Well, problem solved now.

We got work to do, Dorjan.

Let’s go.

39 thoughts on “Writer’s Music: John Carpenter

  1. AWESOME! I can’t wait to see what you do with this! More Jean Lee Fiction!!!
    The kiddos are big into John Carpenter. We were gifted a “soundtrack” mix a few years ago titled “John Carpenter’s HAMLET,” starring the 80s Arnold Schwartzeneger as the detective John Hamlet, David Boreanaz as his sidekick (Horatio, of course,) and…oh I forget who plays the vampire Polonius and the Werewolf Fortinbras, but you get the picture- it’s a scream. All of the tracks are retitled aptly, one of my favorites being “Flights of Bullets sing Claudius to his Rest.” I would absolutely pay money for that film, (if only it existed,) over 99% of the stuff that’s out there now πŸ˜‰ Anyways, there’s a random, completely unrelated John Carpenter link for you. You’re welcome.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Brilliant! I LOVE strong instrumental music to write to and this is a NEW composer I haven’t yet encountered – which is daft because I do, sort of, know some of his music, but that Vortex track has blown me away. Thank you so much for this, Jean:).

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a talented dude. I really like the sense of danger in his music. I happened to see Escape from LA recently, and at first I was like ha ha this is one of those so bad it’s good movies, but it actually was pretty good. It had some great moments of satire, and of course this soundtrack is iconic.

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    • Aren’t they, though? I know it’s a bit of a joke that in the 80s Carpenter would score his own movies because that saved him money, but the simply synthesizer just FITS his stories and films so well. And when you consider this is when everyone’s going ga-ga over John Williams’ epic scores for Indiana Jones or Return of the Jedi, Carpenter’s music suddenly achieves a degree of elegance in its simplicity. I mean, would you WANT an epic orchestra with sweeping brass to play while you hide in a closet from the psycho killer? Methinks not. πŸ™‚ Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

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