Posted by: Staff | 01.04.2010

Music from Where the Wild Things Are

AVA DUDANI ’12

We all know the plot of the classic children’s book Where the Wild Things Are, written and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. Most of us read it at one point or another throughout our childhood, so the public excitement was high when it was brought to our attention that the timeless tale was going to be brought to the big screen. The always quirky Spike Jonze was chosen to direct the film. It was Jonze’s job to turn this story into a world, give it an atmosphere, and make it unique.

The most prominent medium that Jonze used to achieve this goal was the soundtrack of the film. It can be described as playful, childlike, and whimsical while it also contains a slightly darker ambiance. It felt as if there was a decision made to give the general feel of this music a folksy-alternative twist, possibly to make the movie at large more relatable to kids our age. The entire soundtrack of the movie was written and performed by Karen O, from the alternative band, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, with help from the “Kids”, a cast of musicians from bands such as The Liars, Deerhunter, and The Raconteurs, as well as a chorus of actual children. The film score of the movie was written by Carter Burnwell, who also wrote the score for a little movie we’ve all come to know as Twilight.

Some tracks were energetic, such as “Rumpus” and “Heads up”. Some felt like lullabies that parents use to put their kids to sleep, like the recurring theme “Worried Shoes.” Ironically, the standout track from the movie, a re-recorded version of Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up”, is not included on the soundtrack. The song was to be used specifically in the trailer.

“I guess I got involved because of Spike, because I guess there is a childlike innocence about my music or my persona or whatever that he always just kind of dialed into,” O said in a short interview with MTV.com. “So I guess he thought I should make music for Where the Wild Things Are, and I kind of assembled a group of mostly rock musicians to make the music, including [YYY’s guitarist/keyboardist] Nick [Zinner] and [YYY’s drummer] Brian [Chase] to play on it. It was a really amazing experience.”

In addition to being the writer and director for Where the Wild Things Are, Spike Jonze was also the executive producer of the soundtrack. He has already made a name for himself in the music industry. He has directed and written for music videos such as Björk’s “It’s in Our Hands”, The Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage”, and R.E.M.’s “Crush with Eyeliner”.

The way music was used in Where the Wild Things Are gave the movie a true sense of emotion. As the footage of the movie gave us the plot, the music helped us understand just what the characters were feeling. It acted as yet another layer of excellence that added to what made the movie so great. Without it, the movie would not have been the same.

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