Are the birds gonna eat us, Mommy?
I'm currently on the tail end of a double-feature, having watched and still trying to digest the very confusing 'Number Seventeen' before writing up my notes about The Birds, which I watched nearly a week ago now, so I'm going to try something a little different in this post. One thing that really stood out about this film was the lack of a soundtrack. No musical score at all! That's very rare for any film and especially a film from this era. It does make perfect sense though, the unexplained attacks, never knowing when the next strike will occur, keeps you on the edge of your seat before any trouble begins, knowing it's coming but realising you'll have very little audio cue when it does. It makes you hyper-sensitive to all the bird noises in the background throughout the whole film, good and bad, trying to make out if they are conspiring, not knowing which one's to trust!
The beauty of the story is in the lack of explanation though. There is no need to explain why nature would turn on mankind… deep down, we already know why!
The Soundtrack : Re-imagined
As the film has no soundtrack, I thought I would have a go at creating one. Of course, most of these songs would not have existed when the film was made, but allegedly a remake is in the pipeline, so it will be interesting to see which way that film goes when it comes to the audio!
I've compiled the list below and there is also a full Spotify playlist available here if you want to play it all in one go!
Close To You
This wasn't really intended as a cliché, the piano solo version by St Project would lend itself well to the opening scene in San Francisco. What may appear to be a flirtatious encounter is actually Mitch messing Melanie around and so in the same sense that having no soundtrack could be disorientating, so could putting in a false song as the scene plays out to it's argumentative conclusion… It's just also convenient that the song references birds!
Although this song, by Sufjan Stevens, is actually an instrumental piece inspired by the busy traffic on the Brooklyn Queen's Expressway, I've always thought it sounded more like birds. The rushing and swooping, a group of starlings that have been disturbed and excited. Birds do feature often in Sufjan's lyrics and it has been rumoured that he is keen to make an album entirely about birds, so it's no surprise that this song should sound that way!
This song just jumps right in, relentless and apocalyptic. In many ways it reminds me of the beginning of War of the Worlds, but by reducing the orchestra to a quartet it has a more scratchy and raw quality which seems more befitting of a natural invasion that's closer to home rather then alien beings!
Quartetto no. 4
This song IS The Birds… clawing, cawing, scratching, flapping, crowing, screaming, twitching, watching, plotting, scheming. It twists and turns, holds back, attacks, retreats, comes back again, will it ever end? It's a proper horror song and if I remade the birds I would probably use this as the starting point!
Strangely enough, there aren't any Magpies in Hitchcock's version of The Birds. This offering by The Unthanks dos have an eerie quality to it though and I think would suit the scene where the crows are all gathered in the playground, ready to attack but holding back while their numbers strengthen. I believe the technical term for a group of crows is a 'murder' of crows so well played My Hitchcock, well played! I've also purchased a copy of Daphne Du Maurier's 'The Birds and Other Short Stories' to read and the folk feel of this song lends itself to the Cornish setting in the original story!
And if you like the Unthanks then check out their other take on a song about a bird 'King of Rome'. As it's about the bond between a man and his racing pigeon it's not really suitable this time around but a beautiful song, and one of my favourites, none the less.
Op. 110a Allegro
This song WOULD have been around when The Birds was filmed and for some reason, just listening to it takes me back to the attack scenes in the film. I don't know why, but it does. As if it were the soundtrack that was lying under the surface the whole time, never needing to be played as visually and audibly the birds were filling in all the missing notes…
The other song that would have been available to use at the time. This classic by Greig is a lesser known song that sits snuggly in a suite between two very well known pieces of his… 'Morning' and 'In the Hall of the Mountain King' and a third slightly better known 'Anitra's Dance' (look them up, you'll have heard them!). For some reason this piece doesn't seem to rate as highly, maybe because it's slow and lamenting, but it's perfectly eerie and final for the last scene in The Birds, as our heroes drive away, not into the beauty of the sunset but into the unknown of it…
The Birds (reprise)
I'll just let Elbow's lyric's do the explaining of this one. Play it over the end credits and you're done!
The birds are the keepers of our secret
As they saw us where we lay
In the deepest grass of springtime
In a reckless guilty haze
Did they sing a million blessings
As they watched us slowly part?
Do they keep those final kisses
In their tiny racing hearts