I think I fell in love with the music of the movies before I ever actually set foot in a movie theater. My dad, an engineer by trade, loved movie music (still does, in fact). Our record player changer was always stacked with soundtracks — he was especially partial to the sweeping melodies of Maurice Jarre, David Lean's composer of choice for epics such as Lawrence of Arabia and Dr. Zhivago.
Our home was filled with the sounds of Richard Rogers' ballet "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" (from Words and Music), "Baby Elephant Walk" (from the John Wayne African adventure Hatari) and "Around the World," Victor Young's ballad from Around the World in 80 Days. I vividly remember Dad, one Sunday night, working mightily to synchronize our console radio to a TV simulcast of Walt Disney's Sleeping Beauty, so we could hear the Tchaikovsky score through something other than our old Philco TV's 3-inch speaker.
So when I finally got to go to a movie sometime in the late 1950s — and I do believe it was 80 Days, with its breathtaking Todd-A-O widescreen and stereophonic sound — for me the pictures and story were really a bonus feature. It was the music that made me feel at home, that truly enveloped me in a warm, comfortable embrace.
The best movie music sticks with you long after you leave the theater and sings its reprises at the most unexpected moments. A mountain drive conjures up the opening swells of "The Sound of Music." A drive past some columned mansion evokes "Tara's Theme." A rising crescent moon echoes with 2001's "Also sprach Zarathustra."
When AARP launched its Internet Radio channels last year, the idea of a Movies for Grownups music channel seemed to me a logical extension. After all, if you diligently search your broadcast radio dial you may well discover one or two surviving classical music stations. And down on the AM dial someone may still be spinning Big Band music or what they used to call "Beautiful Music," the stuff of Mantovani and Bert Kaempfert. But movie soundtracks, well, they seem to have disappeared from the airwaves completely — even in an age when some of the most evocative film music ever is still being produced: For proof, track down a recording of John Williams' new score for War Horse, or just about anything composed by Alexandre Desplat (Tree of Life, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close).
Doubtless, the Movies for Grownups music channel will get around to those works in due time. Right now, I'm happy to say it's something of a replica of my iPod playlist, a reunion with old friends; long-lost acquaintances who we first met long ago, in a darkened room.