One of the many great strengths for Chuck, and a Josh Schwartz trademark, are the songs chosen that makeup the soundtrack. This topic was covered in my previous column which you can read here.
This time out the focus will be on the original cues or soundtrack written for the show by music composer Tim Jones. Oft times over shadowed by the Chuck soundtrack, Tim Jones has written some exquisite pieces of music that enhance moments and have become an invisible character throughout the show; the theme for the Chuck character being the most recognizable.
The process of how Tim Jones goes about turning his compositions into music is quite fascinating and, for me, quite different than how I envisioned it would be. When Gray Jones, the ChuckTV podcast guru, went to Los Angeles last September, he spent a couple of days with Tim getting to watch him work scoring an episode. You can check out how Tim does that here – and in even more detail here.
While the Chuck soundtrack is used to great effect to heighten scenes they are not written specifically for the show. If a more precise piece of music is wanted for a scene to bring out the full emotional impact then Tim Jones is the man chosen to create those musical beats.
Not being privy to Tim’s music documentation I ask Tim’s forgiveness ahead of time for arbitrarily devising my own names for the following compositional pieces. They are based on the emotional effect I believe he was aiming for.
Picking out individual pieces is difficult as some cues are used in only one episode while others appear in multiple episodes. The following is a list of the cues that are my personal favourites. Please feel free to add your favorite music score moments in the comments.
Comedy Theme: many instances at the BuyMore. Poppy, electronic beat.
Melancholy theme: Chuck Vs The Wookie – the Lisa moment from the end. Piano piece.
Triumphant theme: multiple episodes played when Chuck saves the day. Could also be considered the Chuck/hero theme with that familar blare of trumpets as the opening bars of music.
Reflective theme: Chuck Vs The BreakUp â€“ when Sarah goes to apologize to Casey after the train station scene and as she approaches Chuck at the fountain before they talk. Piano with a low bass synthesizer undertone.
Drama theme: Chuck Vs The Broken Heart â€“ the last 5 minutes with Sarah and Casey being ordered to bunker Chuck through Sarah telling Chuck they have to run to the closing moments as they drive away in Sarah’s Porsche. Wide range of music employing drums, strings, and brass.
Suspense theme: Chuck Vs The Predator* â€“ when Chuck is held captive by Vincent and is seen through the hotel window by Sarah and Casey.
*A standout episode for Tim. This episode is rife with pieces of his compositions employing a variety of musical sounds to enhance the overall danger level.
Music is an important, and overlooked, tool in the film and television creative toolbox. When used effectively it can elevate a scene to higher heights by providing the desired emotional context. It helps the joyous moments soar. It makes the sad moments ache harder in our hearts. It makes the action scenes pump even more adrenaline into our systems.
Music scoring is akin to an emotional conductor to aid and guide the audience through a story. It is often the bridge between our hearts and minds as we see the images on the screen. Chuck is fortunate indeed to have the talented Tim Jones on board to build those bridges.