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5 Ways “This American Life” Can Work For You – Act 5 – Create Your Life Soundtrack & Theme Song

Posted by denisefisher on February 6, 2009

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“From WBEZ Chicago and Public Radio International, it’s This American Life. I’m Ira Glass ….” Our program today – Life Needs A Soundtrack.

Last night, I was watching a PBS show, in which the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor was being awarded posthumously to George Carlin (who died in June 2008, only a week after learning that he would be receiving the honor). There was an all-star cast of fellow comedians featured, each of whom came on stage to tell their stories and memories of the honoree. As each guest star emerged from behind the curtains to make their presentation, the band played a musical introduction appropriate for the spotlighted comedian that was coming on stage. Several of the stars had easily recognizable theme songs from their TV shows – Rescue Me for Denis Leary, and The Daily Show theme song for Jon Stewart. But even for the stars who were without an associated TV show, there was a song chosen to identify them musically, in their entrance. When Lewis Black came on stage, the band played a rendition of the Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black. And though I didn’t recognize the song, by name, that was played for Joan Rivers’ entrance, it was a diva-like piece, reminiscent of music from the Jackie Gleason Show (if you’re old enough to remember it).

Each time I heard a new song, I thought to myself, “I want to have a recognizable theme song. I want to have a piece of music that is so closely associated with my identity that when people hear it, they think of me.” When you hear the tune Hail to the Chief, you know who is getting ready to enter the room. I want to experience that kind of musical recognition. Never mind that I don’t have the status or profile to elicit instant celebrity among the masses. That doesn’t mean I can’t have a theme song.

I have similar feelings about wanting a soundtrack for the stories in my life. A musical soundtrack adds depth, intensity, and purpose to whatever you’re doing. It inspires you to live life fully and snap out of that zombie/slacker fog. You can’t lounge around doing nothing when your soundtrack is playing in the background. That’s a call for action – the cameras are rolling – you’re on! Film makers understand this. The visual story is expanded to another dimension with the addition of a well-chosen soundtrack. The acting is more poignant, the adventure more vivid, and the emotions more engaging. Wouldn’t it be a much more exciting way to live you life?

Which brings me back to the stories on This American Life. As I previously mentioned, in the first post of this series, one of the coolest aspects of this program’s format is its musical interludes. Not only the music between the acts, but the strains that are strategically played in the background at just the right moments, or in between scenes to give you pause for reflection on what you just heard or to set the stage for what’s coming up.

Any one’s American Life would be enhanced by a soundtrack of that quality.

Pay close attention to the music that accompanies the stories of This American Life, and notice how it sets the tone and carries the theme of the show. Then start collecting the musical selections that you’d use to enhance your life story and the pursuits you engage in. The right mood music can give you the confidence you need to fill the role of motivated exercise person or personal planner.

Learn the subtle lesson that’s demonstrated each week on This American Life – that music can have a profound impact on the quality of your life. And a perfect theme song and soundtrack will motivate you to become the celebrity star of your own aspirations.

Bonus benefit: These episodes (and their associated musical interludes) are great to take with you, in portable format, for extended travels or long periods of waiting. They will keep you awake and alert during long drives home for the holidays, and you’re likely to arrive in a cheerful mood, rather than being stressed out. You probably won’t hear Hail to the Chief when you walk in the door, but you can play your appointed theme song on queue and plant the seed for future entrances.

Here are a few links to episodes with captivating themes and soundtracks, from the extensive archive collection at the This American Life website:

#339 Break Up

#166 Nobody’s Family Is Going To Change

#323 The Super

#341 How To Talk To Kids

#47 Christmas and Commerce

You can listen to the streaming version of the program for free. You can also download a free podcast of the program’s most recent broadcast. Downloads of previous episodes can be downloaded for a mere 95 cents each, and your purchase of these, as well as CDs and other merchandise available at the website helps to support the program. Of course you could also show your support by making a financial contribution. If you are as much an admirer of the show as I am, that’s what you’d do. I did.

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One Response to “5 Ways “This American Life” Can Work For You – Act 5 – Create Your Life Soundtrack & Theme Song”

  1. […] DeniseFischer blog entry addresses the music on This American Life. She points out how the music really adds to the theme of […]

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