Music. Spy Music.

Posted on June 4, 2009 at 2:06 pm, by Ben

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Have you ever noticed how all spy/secret agent music sounds kinda similar? If you didn’t before, you definitely will after hearing this little orchestration and arrangement exercise I put together recently. Obviously, most of the musical material was pulled from a selection of works that I felt characterized the “spy music” genre well. As it turns out, most of this “spy music” is so similar in form and style that many of the melodies, harmonies and rhythms are compatible and interchangeable with those of other spy films… giving me the opportunity to mash together a slew of musical content from a wealth of differing sources.

The first commenter on this post to correctly recognize every element I intentionally copied included in this mix will receive a free download of The Return of the Daughters Original Soundtrack.

23 Comments

  • If I were to list every Bond moive, and include Get Smart in the mix that would about cover it.
    All the Bond themes are different yet so similar I can not differentiate between them to identify which movie they represent.

    Love the site Ben – keep up the good work.
    In His service,
    Bart

    Posted by Bart van der Wee on June 4th, 2009 at 3:34 pm
  • Fantastic fun music! Every time I think I hear a theme from a film I loose it and it starts to sound like another peace! I think I heard Get Smart, Mission Impossible, Hawaii 50, and… SpyKids?

    Posted by Dallas on June 4th, 2009 at 4:35 pm
  • The Incredibles and Mission Impossible are in there for sure. Fun stuff 🙂

    Posted by John-Clay on June 4th, 2009 at 5:36 pm
  • For sure – Bond, Mission Impossible, Secret Agent Man, The Incredibles, and Get Smart.

    Possibly – Spykids, Hawaii 5-0

    IThis is what I hear as I listen to it, in order – The Incredibles, Bond?, The Incredibles, Cant’ tell, Get Smart, Bond?, Mission Impossible, Secret Agent Man, The Incredibles, Mission Impossible/The Incredibles/Something Else, Can’t tell, Bond, The Incredibles.

    Posted by Jeremiah on June 4th, 2009 at 7:23 pm
  • Good guesses, everyone!

    So far Jeremiah has been the closest, but there is still at least one musical element no one has mentioned yet. Here’s a tip: “Get Smart” is not in this mix (at least not intentionally).

    Just to clarify, most of what I know about the Spy film genre I’ve learned through studying their scores, so like many of you, I’ve never seen most of these films.

    Posted by admin on June 5th, 2009 at 5:11 pm
  • I can only wish I knew. The only spy movies I have seen are The Incredibles and Get Smart. I don’t know if Inspector Gadget counts as a spy movie, but I only saw that when I was a kid.
    Oh, I wish I knew!!!! 🙁
    For a millisecond I thought I heard National Treasure, but that’s not a spy movie.
    Keep guessing everyone else!
    ~Kay Morris

    Posted by Kay Morris on June 5th, 2009 at 7:45 pm
  • Hello,
    This has been fun trying to come up with the correct answers. We have been agonizing that we wouldn’t be able to figure out and post in time before someone came up with the right answers 😀 We aren’t completely sure if we got it because we think we might still be missing one more element. However, this is what we came up with so far: (some that were already mentioned) Mission Impossible, The Incredibles, OO7 (James Bond), Secret Agent Man, and the possible missing element… Peter Gunn (or something else composed by Henry Mancini).

    Good luck to everyone. It’s been fun and we’ve really enjoyed looking at the website. ~Beth and Lindsey~

    Posted by Elizabeth & Lindsey (sisters) on June 6th, 2009 at 4:12 pm
  • Here is what I think I hear : mission impossible, 007, the incredibles, Secret Agent Man, The Saint, Peter Gunn, The Avengers, and I think thats all I hear in your spy music but not in the order I have written above.

    Posted by Kwende Kiemle on June 7th, 2009 at 12:32 am
  • If you are asking what musical elements were copied here is what we came up with:

    fast paced jazz elements in a minor key
    short, repetitive, undefined themes that rise rapidly in intensity, then end suddenly with little to no resolution.
    tremolos
    a section of 5/4 in the middle
    high piano/piccolo/horn obligados over a very rhythmic bass
    overlapping rhythms, but mostly a syncopated dotted quarter, eighth rhythm
    fade in, and fade out
    the chord at the end does not resolve

    Posted by NR on June 7th, 2009 at 9:20 pm
  • NR,

    These are correct and astute observations, but perhaps I was unclear in what I meant by “elements.” I meant musical content taken directly from a specific film or song, like a melodic “element”, chord progression, or motif. The challenge was for people to see how many specific pre-existing “elements” they could recognize and point out accurately.

    If that wasn’t clear, I apologize.

    Posted by admin on June 8th, 2009 at 1:18 pm
  • I forgot to add one theme in my comment earlier : I spy

    I think your music is great no matter what some people may say.

    Posted by Kwende Kiemle on June 8th, 2009 at 10:32 pm
  • I just heard the theme to I Spy, and came here to ad it to my list, but then I saw that Kwende beat me.

    Posted by Jeremiah on June 9th, 2009 at 12:12 pm
  • I’m interested to know if you copied the soundtracks but composed this yourself, or did you stick together the actual soundtracks for this medley?

    Thanks!

    Posted by John-Clay on June 14th, 2009 at 10:38 pm
  • I completely re-created and re-orchestrated the music from scratch, sequencing and arranging it on the computer.

    Posted by admin on June 14th, 2009 at 10:43 pm
  • When you study film scores, do you transcribe from the audio soundtracks, study piano reduction scores, or do you have access to actual orchestral scores? Or all of the above?

    Transcribing by ear has been a terrific exercise for me; I recommend it to anyone who wants to improve their musicianship on any level or simply to enhance their listening experience. It has proved beneficial to me when analyzing music, composing, and improvising.

    Posted by Molly on June 15th, 2009 at 9:27 am
  • Molly,

    What do you mean when you say “transcribe?” Do you mean listening to music and writing the notes down on paper as they are played?

    Kyle

    Posted by Kyle Shepherd on June 16th, 2009 at 11:03 pm
  • Yes, that’s what I mean. 🙂 Transcribing means to copy on paper what you hear. You can transcribe rhythms, melodies, harmonies, instruments, solo passages, whatever you want really!
    I do it under many circumstances; say I want to play a certain piece but I don’t have the sheet music, or I want to study someone’s improvised passage, or I’m trying to understand how a composer accomplished a mixed meter feel or polyphony that I liked, something like that. It’s very hard work at times; you have to repeat the recording over and over and think through every element of the music, but it’s quite rewarding. It strengthens your ear and provides a lot of theory instruction!

    Posted by Molly on June 17th, 2009 at 10:37 am
  • Molly,

    usually when I break down a score I’m training my ear to focus on the individual elements of the piece, so at the moment I rarely transcribe from audio (though I’m sure it would be a great exercise), and it’s virtually impossible to find orchestral sheet music for most films.

    Piano transcriptions are only so good, but it is pretty easy to get a hold of the orchestral scores to classical works, which can be almost as instructive.

    Posted by admin on June 17th, 2009 at 1:26 pm
  • I believe I heard : “James Bond” (007), “Mission Impossible”, and “The Incredibles” in this composition. Maybe also some “Spy Kids”?

    – Josh

    Posted by Joshua on June 17th, 2009 at 4:53 pm
  • I hear The Incredibles, James Bond, Mission Impossible, Hawaii 50, Secret Agent Man and Pink Panther.
    I’m enjoying and greatly benefiting from this blog; thank you for your work!

    Posted by Elizabeth Fry on June 25th, 2009 at 1:07 pm
  • I think I hear a small part of the Prisoner theme in there also.

    Posted by Kwende Kiemle on October 13th, 2009 at 9:45 am
  • Is your spy track completely sequenced?

    Posted by Summer McClendon on March 24th, 2011 at 10:02 am
  • Yes, none of the musical elements in here were live recorded, they are all sampled.

    Posted by admin on March 24th, 2011 at 3:33 pm