Storytelling in tune. Finding the perfect soundtrack for your film.

It’s there in the name. No fuss, a clear call to action: Travel Oregon.

Of course, here at Story & Heart we wonder why there even needs to be such a call—isn’t it a well-known truth that Oregon is a heart-stoppingly gorgeous place? That this blocky state nestled in the upper corner of the country seems to be full of transplants for a reason?

People come to Oregon because they know we’re in tune with our surroundings.

Although we may just be biased.

Travel Oregon, the state’s best resource for all things adventure and inspiration Oregon-based, has joined forces with Wieden+Kennedy to tell Oregon’s story with a passion and purview that will bring the wonders of our 98,446 square miles to life in ways most other corners of our nation never even knew possible.

Gorgeous scenics, incredible vistas, wonderful treasures to be discovered in every one of those square miles—this much is obvious. They have the footage to prove it. There is little doubt that to attract some visitors, attractive shots will do the trick.

Travel Oregon was interested in something more than just doing the trick.

To truly make “The Seven Wonders of Oregon” campaign a storytelling venture, W+K found a soundtrack through our good friends at Marmoset that both accompanied the majesty of Oregon, and enhanced it in ways that no post-production, voice over, or camera technique could. 

The perfect piece of music will complete a narrative: not only reinforce the character, emotions, pacing, and arc of the story, it will give the story context—within place, within history, and within each of our lives.

Through telling the story of Oregon’s many wonders, they are telling your story too:

And we invite you to not just see them, but experience them. Because our Wonders aren’t just for taking pictures of—to truly say you’ve seen our Wonders, you have to get out of the car, hike down from the scenic vista and feel them beneath your feet.

What’s more, there’s no big secret to soundtrack success, just a deep understanding of how integral music is to a story’s natural elements.

If we hear music as its own story—sharing the same pathos, plotting, and physical pieces as any other—we can see how most visual stories are incomplete without it.

In the case of “Boys” by Bryan John Appleby, everything about the song, from its instrumentation to its narrative insides, serves the story Travel Oregon is trying to tell.

The reason you now want to go camping at the lip of Crater Lake? The two—the sound and the visual story—have worked inextricably in sync.

Here are the 3 storytelling elements essential to choosing the music that will best carry your visual story to places it wouldn't go on its own.   

1. Character and emotion.

“Seven Wonders” introduces two main characters: Oregon, of course, the state bristling with grandeur, and you—the traveler—the one who must take all that grandeur to heart. That large portions of the film are shot in first-person places the viewer directly inside that relationship. These are characters thrown wildly together.

In that sense, “The Seven Wonders of Oregon” is both an adventure and a romance.

Through identifying with whom an audience will most relate (character), as well as what the objective of the story will be (emotion), a story finds purpose.

A soundtrack must have the same central character, and by extension emotion, as the visual story it strives to enhance. Then the story and the soundtrack will share a common purpose.

Marmoset's interactive search tools let you filter songs to match the mood of your story.

Marmoset's interactive search tools let you filter songs to match the mood of your story.

“Boys” starts simply: plaintive acoustic fingerpicking reveals Oregon, in all of its seven wonderful facets, and you, the wanderer. The characters are separate, a bit alone.

Thus, the first half of “The Seven Wonders” parses chimes from a plinking piano, light snare brushes from a curious bit of negative space...until the viewer’s feet literally touch the water of Crater Lake. There “Boys” launches into a rustic stomp, celebrating the rambunctious coupling of man and nature.

Without the song’s vaulting from pensive to pistoning, from ruminative to romp, the meeting of its characters—you and Oregon—wouldn’t bear the same kind of ecstasy. And that’s the point, right?

Music does so much more than emphasize a story’s objective: it makes that objective worth the whole journey it took for you to get there.

You and the wonders of Oregon are compelled to finally meet feet-first, and then to fall madly in love.

It's crucial to think about where this music will take these characters. How will it bind their lives, and therefore their stories, in ways the audience could never have imagined?

2. Pace and arc.

Speaking of that journey, pacing can be a cutthroat business in the business of such short pieces as “Seven Wonders”. A few mis-paced seconds will make or break an audience’s attentiveness.

When it comes to music, pace is beats per minute or tempo, but in the context of a story, pacing defines how the whole path, from beginning to middle to end, will move. Think of it like a line graph, like an arc. Pacing does not define the objective, but the manner in which one arrives at the objective. It’s the overall feel of the journey—the general flow of our characters’ quest.

Music is perhaps the purest demonstration of a story’s pace. The way it takes an audience from beginning to end is all precision, all primal math.

It helps to think of your story as a left-to-right line graph. Where do the rises and falls of your story take place? Using the Arc™ search filter, you can search for songs that have a similar arc to really push your story forward.

It helps to think of your story as a left-to-right line graph. Where do the rises and falls of your story take place? Using the Arc™ search filter, you can search for songs that have a similar arc to really push your story forward.

In “Seven Wonders”, our characters’ paths will eventually diverge—you the explorer will soon explore Oregon—but it’s Appleby’s song that measures the steps it takes to come together, and distills that count into a mood.

We begin with a tiptoe. We let the scale of the landscape sink in: magnificent spectacle vs. tiny human bodies. Notes coalesce more and more, and then, in one exhilarating crashing of sight and sound, the picture and music leap into intense motion—before, settling on the Travel Oregon logo card, we linger on a sustained note. The line graph has risen gradually from the x-axis, climaxed, and executed a beautiful swan dive back to the axis again.

By understanding a story’s pace and narrative arc—the tone and plotting of its journey—we send the audience in the right direction, toward the right goal. The right music ensures the audience will end up exactly where we want them.

Steadily we’re carried by the song, from anticipation to relief. By traveling Oregon, “Seven Wonders” winks, it’ll be like scratching the sweetest itch on which you’ve ever laid a fingernail. “Boys” takes you by the hand, and makes sure you’re not scratching in the wrong place.

It's important to envision how your story will compel its characters from beginning to end, from point A to point Z. Think of "accompaniment" literally: Will your soundtrack share the same path, from first note to last?

3. Arrangement and production.

On the surface, arrangement and production embody very literal ideas in music: instrumentation, genre, recording space, recording equipment, and technical ability.

Which in many ways makes arrangement and production the most vital elements to selecting the right musical accompaniment for your film.

A story demands context. It requires space. How a song sounds—the way in which it was recorded, as well as where and when—firmly plants a song within a specific place, and by extension gives a story all the context it will ever need.

Like easter eggs? Us too. Head on over to Marmoset and hover over each of these instruments to hear exactly the sounds they make. And while you're there, make your own tune. :)

Like easter eggs? Us too. Head on over to Marmoset and hover over each of these instruments to hear exactly the sounds they make. And while you're there, make your own tune. :)

“Boys” is mostly acoustic, with little in the way of production meddling or intrusive overdubbing. Electronic instrumentation is all but absent, and even when the song ramps into a big unified pounding of toms, throbbing piano, and booming bass, the overall feeling is still loose, rough around the edges.

Ramshackle, but charming, “Boys” bears the identity of a warm, comfortable arrangement behind generally laid back production. It was recorded among friends, maybe, far from an expensive studio. People picked up instruments as they saw fit. People trusted each other to do right by the song.

In “The Seven Wonders of Oregon”, Oregon is the story’s place, of course. But the context of its story goes so much deeper: Travel Oregon wants you to feel like Oregon can be your home.

“Boys” makes this feeling tactile. It’s inviting and intimate—but expansive. It sounds both old and new—so is a little bit timeless. The way the song is arranged and produced brings the magnificent scope of Oregon’s wonder down to a very human level.

Your story is one of many, part of a complex web of experiences, narratives, and lives. In all of that, where does your story fit? What is it's setting—not just where, but when? How did it get there?

You must make sure that your soundtrack can clearly convey that same context. Does it inhabit the same space, that same time? 

If a soundtrack is in tune with a story, it can do so more than enhance a narrative. It can define every facet of that story—its purpose, its path, and its place—in an absolutely new way.

In other words, the visuals will make you want to come to Oregon, but the music will make you want to stay.

To explore more of Marmoset's catalog and check out how they can assist you in taking your story to the next level, head over to www.marmosetmusic.com.

To hear, see, and learn about the lush, lovely work of Bryan John Appleby, find out more at www.bryanjohnappleby.com.

And finally, to refresh yourself on the nuts and bolts of solid soundtrack supervision, make sure you watch the latest tutorial from our friends at Wistia: Choosing Music for Your Video.

Have you encountered a soundtrack recently that’s taken a film to new heights? Or even one that seemed to steer the visual story in unexpected directions? Share in the comments below.