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Soundtrack review: Lost – season 1 (Michael Giacchino, 2005)

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Soundtrack review: Lost – season 1 (Michael Giacchino, 2005)

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Yesterday was the 10thanniversary of the phenomenon that was Lost’s pilot episode. I hadn’t heard of Michael Giacchino 9 years ago, when I started watching Lost, but by the end of the first season, I was frantically looking him up and putting him on my watch list. Just as Lost had transformed the world if TV shows, his music created an identity that’s as easily recognizable as the island itself. The music might not have been perfect during the entire run of the show, but there are quite a few themes that are still with me.
From all the seasons, the first one is still closest to my heart, as is its music. Whatever happened later in the show, the first season in one of highest sentimental value for me, and the themes composed for this season are among my favorites from any TV show.  I remember how the first time I watched Lost, I got so hooked that I could stop for 16 hours. I watched the entire first season in one sitting, until 4 am, when I didn’t even know what was real and what was TV anymore and I went into withdrawal.
The music of Lost was all about the atmosphere. The Island was an unknown and scary place, and Giacchino provided the thrills, frights and emotions that populated it. He had time to develop his sharp, intense style, his trademark scary, fast string based cues that still pop up in his works. This is also where we got to know his special cue titles: most of them are puns and use character’s names in them (for example “The eyeland”, “Thinking Clairely”, “Booneral”, “Shannonigans”), and he still uses the same style of naming cues today.
When the island got scary, the music got really intense and stabbing, and I could actually relate to the characters. “Run like, um…hell?” or “Charlie hangs around” are the first that come to mind. I also love how it sounds like most of his cues have a cliffhanger of their own at the end, like a great episode of the show. You get an emotional cue, you’re all invested in it, and in the final seconds the mood changes and you get an entirely different vibe. This mirrored the scenes they were composed for…
…like the exact moment when the music first got to me. It’s one of those rare 6 star cues, a theme that broke my heart and made me connect with my favorite character even more…I was watching my favorite episode of the first season (“Deus ex machina”),an episode centered around and the character I had connected with the most, John Locke. I the flashbacks he was suffering one of the many dramas he suffered at the hands of his despicable father, while in present time on the island he had just caused the death of a friend, because of his strong faith in the island and in the signs it was showing him. The first notes of “Locke’d out again” start when he wakes up in the hospital where his father had abandoned him again. The cue continues till the end of the episode. It’s a wave cue; it uses the buildup that Hans Zimmer made an art form. Giacchino nailed it here. The piano starts slowly, like the first tears which have trouble falling. But once the flood gates are opened, the piano gets stronger and richer and accompanies the character’s collapse on a downward spiral of unbearable pain. The piano accompanies his cries of desperation, his furious pounding of fists at the entrance of the place which he discovered at the cost of his friend’s life. As the scene gets heavier strings accompany the piano and keep tearing at the viewer’s (and listener’s) heart until the wave breaks…the crying stops…the mood changes…and a light appears behind that door. Perfection…This one is my favorite cue from the entire six season run of Lost.
And a punch to the gut like “Locke’d out again” wouldn’t be as effective without a follow up to match it. The final scene of Lost’s first season is a scene I will remember all my life, because it’s one of my favorite scenes in TV history. And it’s all about the music. It’s a silent scene, not a single word is spoken for six minutes, it’s an unbelievably intense and emotional montage, and without Michael Giacchino’s brilliance, it wouldn’t have been nearly as powerful. The composer does half the work and replaces the actor’s lines with his music. That theme became the “Oceanic 815” theme, and it returned in later seasons of the show. It’s also a 6 star cue, the scene it completes shows the evolution of the character’s we’ve already grown to love: they show them getting on the doomed plane, greeting each other, each ridden with problems we now know, each with a story that got them on that place, a story we are now familiar with…We see the two main antagonists helping each other back then, with the innocence of a first meeting, all to the sound of a gentle and beautiful piano melody. Until, of course, a few seconds before the end when we get back to the island and everyone is different and the mood of the cue changes to menacing and frightening and the legendary first season ends…
Yes, this score has a great sentimental value to me because of the TV show, and a lot of its staying power comes from that. But Lost wouldn’t have been so dear to me without Michael Giacchino’s music. It was the ocean on which the island floated. “Lost: season 1” also makes for a great standalone listen that takes me back to the island and to the feelings I got watching the show. The themes are like a trigger for a flood of feelings…and any score that does that to me is a score I’ll cherish forever…
My ratings:
Cue rating: 76  / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 44 / 65
Album excellence: 67%
Cues to listen to:
Main title
Run like, um…hell?
Win one for the reaper
Thinking Clairly
Locke’d out again
Life and death
Shannonigans
Parting words
Oceanic 815

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Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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