Like prime time TV series, daytime soap operas have their own music libraries written by in-house composers, and for the past 45 years, Days of Our Lives has built up a large library of music that reflects the changing styles of writing, and this 2-dsic collection focuses on material written more or less within the last ten years by composers Ken Corday and D. Brent Nelson. (Music and songs from prior seasons were released in a 2005 disc from Varese Sarabande.)
Daytime soaps have used stock music from other sources (feature films, for example), but with characters and whole families that have been a part of a show for decades, composers have a lot of material from which to draw and create compelling cues.
The titles of many tracks read like stock tracks – “Desire,” “The Attack,”, and “On the Run” for example – and while the average length of each cue in this luxurious 2-disc set tends to hover around a minute and a half, both CDs provide an excellent sampling of the composers’ skills, the show’s music style, and the dramatic arcs of the characters. (Oh yeah – and the inimitable title theme with narration.)
The fine details woven into the music is what will help sell the scores beyond the Days of Our Lives audience, and as well it should, because Corday and Nelson are very dexterous with chamber, electronic, and orchestral music.
CD1’s emphasis is on melody and intimate instrumentations, and there are plenty of moods conveyed by the soft flute and guitar duet in cues like “An Everlasting Love,” or the tinkling dreaminess of “Discovery,” with its delicate and haunting female voices.
Solo violin provides an eerie, introspective quality in “Who is John Black?” and it also reflects the composers’ approach to writing for the series’ characters: to match the reams of dialogue, raw emotions, and big close-ups of men and women in tormented relationships (or idyllic love suddenly under threat),
The more emotional cues emphasize harmonic relationships thru 2-3 instruments, usually with one dominant solo driving the melody’s tone, and soft electronic sounds that sometimes give cues a bit more sonic depth, or add an edge of dreaminess (which makes sense when the core of any soap opera is people who fall in and out of love, struggle with rejection or intense courtships with epic bed battles in satin sheets.
Most of CD1’s cues are short statements on these events, often with piano, guitar, flute, but the odd up-tempo electric guitar (“Office Affair”) shakes up things to ensure the the CD’s mood doesn’t hover in one place. Later cuts like “Desire” add percussion and driving electric bass, and there’s brief moments of straight melancholy, as in the waltz-like “Theme for a Princess,” running a meatier three minutes.
CD2’s focus is on action, which covers more familiar terrain – chase, suspicious behaviour, and cliffhangers. Corday and Nelson tend to use more electronics for their cues, and the CD’s tight editing has tracks flowing into each other, making tight little movements in suites fixating on “Sam’s Revenge Stan,” “Lethal Injection of Stefano Dimera,” “Stalking and Manipulation of EJ Dimera,” “Stefano and Colleen Brady,” “The Morgue,” “Searching for the Salem Killer,” and “Kidnapping and Escape.”
Even if one hasn’t seen a minute of the series, the suites have their own narrative, and the brevity of cues feel like scene changes as things become more dire. Electric guitar and synth drums dominate the first suite, whereas drones support piano figures and eddying guitar and synth strings in the second suite.
The low electronics and vocals in “Stalking” clearly emphasize thickening tension as a target is tailed and becoming very vulnerable, and some of the synth emulations include vintage bass tones redolent of John Carpenter’s own suspense/horror tracks from the mid- to late-eighties. A flanging bass ostinato and thickening drums recalls a bit of Tangerine Dream, and the suite closes on a pulsing action beat with some interplay between electric guitar and bass.
More atmospheric cues like “Searching for Colleen Brady” offer a blend of Asian flute, synth effects and sustained piano hits, and the aforementioned “On the Run” is a great fusion of retro synth bass and electric violin, with ambient tones comprised of blurry vocals and strings.
The feel of these cutes is fat analogue, yet they aren’t dated not sound like tinny emulations because the composers create clean, lean musical statements with a perfect balance between analogue, acoustic, and electronic sounds. To further the comment made by album sequencer Ric Kohlbeck in the booklet liner notes, ‘on a good sound system or quality headphones, this release does sound very, very cool.’
Whether it’s the delicate themes, tense cuts, or disorienting suspense cues from the series, fans and soundtrack fans will be pleased with the music’s quality, and the set’s genuine sense of romance, and fun.
© 2010 Mark R. Hasan