This Mark Snow article was written by Adam Stevenson, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Zoe Anderson.
Gifted Julliard graduate and 19-time Emmy Awards nominee, Mark Snow, is perhaps one of the truly great American TV and Film composers. Scoring everything from primetime shows such as Smallville and One Tree Hill to film and video games; his most notable achievement is unquestionably his work on Chris Carter’s phenomenal supernatural mystery series The X-Files, one of the most instrumental of any television show scores. His intense and haunting orchestration acts as more than just a backdrop to the action on screen but becomes a character in its self, setting the eerie tone and drawing everyone from the average sci-fi fan to the most obsessed conspiracy theorist a-like. Snow’s 1996 album, ‘The Truth And The Light: Music From The X-Files’ covers his musical influence on the first three seasons of the critically acclaimed show by fusing together macabre tones with dialogue extracts from episodes.
‘Materia Primoris: The X-Files theme’ is possibly the most recognisable main title theme music ever composed. Released as a single in 1996, it achieved tremendous success even reaching number-one in the French charts. Its sombre feel and whistling overtone are unsettling, bleak and bordering on nightmarish, which sums up the whole show. The echoing key strokes were a late addition, only finding that perfect sound after Snow pressed down on his keyboard in frustration.
The melancholic expressionism on ‘Adflatus”/ “One Breath’ is one of the most moving pieces of music on the album. Gently mixing piano, cello and violins, while an extract of Dana Scully trying to recall a hazy memory of being powerless and blinded by bright light is played over the top. It’s a provocative piece that feels like it could have been composed by a more seasoned film composer such as Danny Elfman.
“Cantus Exico” comes across like a missing track from Twin Peaks, as like in David Lynch’s masterpiece, it portrays the unravelling nature of dread perfectly. The old metallic chimes of church bells and eerie synth are interjected by harsh beats on a drum and brashly played piano. It’s like a game of cat and mouse with a dark presence, shuttling back and forth, before ending with a piercing scream.
The best track on the album comes in the shape of ‘Lamenta’. At less than two minutes long and the most simplistic of tracks, it somehow encapsulates one of the show’s most important elements: truth. Its use of piano is perfectly matched with the snippets of dialogue used in its latter stages.
As an album, it is perhaps too niche to be considered great; it has moments of sublime genius throughout but its use of dialogue may discourage anyone but a fan to hold it in high regard. However, it takes and extremely talented person to push the boundaries of music and Snow’s influence on The X-Files is undeniable. His musical composition is the catalyst that was needed to push the buttons of its viewership and transform it into an unmissable experience. His ability to slip easily between soft and harsh tones set the scene for every mysterious moment in the show. It was his vision which dictated the pace of the show, whether or not we hid behind our hands with fear and suspense.