Case Analysis

"Symphony in X-minor"

CD review for "The X-Files: Volume 2" box set
By Alexander Grodzinski
Page Editor: Bellefleur

This years situation with Alexander Grodzinski’s review is rather unique for The X-Files Lexicon, one can find his wonderful work from 2011 here, but in addition to writing another in depth review for the new release, Alex also had the privilege to conduct an e-mail interview with Mr. Snow in relation to the new release, which you can find here. This interview is a by product of the overall excellent work Alex has done for the site, it demonstrates a confidence and acts as a testament to the care Alex has shown in his past assessment, we hope you’ll enjoy this. (Matt Allair)

September 10, 2013, marked the twentieth anniversary of The X-Files’ launch as a television show. So, what better date to release the second volume of The X-Files music by Mark Snow? The first volume, released in May 2011, gained high interest within The X-Files’ fan base but also with soundtrack collectors that aren’t huge fans of the show per se. The pressing was limited to 3,000 copies, and the set finally sold out in 2012. Since then, people who missed it were looking around the internet to find a copy of the set. Sometimes it shows up again on Ebay or the Amazon Marketplace, but unfortunately most of time for unreasonable prices.

The success of the set seemed to be a surprise for the producers at La-La-Land Records as well. Shortly after the release of volume one, MV Gerhardt said that the second volume will most likely be limited to just 2,000 copies. But the first set kept selling until all 3,000 units were gone. It’s with no surprise that the now-released second volume is again limited to 3,000 copies.

The first volume contained lots of fan favorites. Overall it concentrated on the more melodic stuff that Mark Snow wrote for the show. Some fans were a little bit disappointed by that, since they were longing to hear Snow’s dark and moody textures from the show. Back then, La-La-Land Records promised that the second volume would be for those dark-mood lovers, and they kept their word.

The X-Files: Volume Two again consists of four CDs, every CD again packed with almost eighty minutes of music each. It covers the following episodes:

Eve Soft Light
Young At Heart  F. Emasculata
E.B.E.  The Blessing Way
Tooms   Paper Clip
Born Again Clyde Bruckman´s Final Response
Blood       Grotesque
Die Hand Die Verletzt  Talitha Cumi
Colony        Herrenvolk
End Game  Home
Tunguska  
Terma      All Souls
Tempus Fugit  S.R. 819
Gethsemane    Biogenesis
Redux   Theef
Redux II    Requiem
The Red And The Black 4-D
Existence  Deadalive

Not only was The X-Files a groundbreaking show in terms of storytelling, but also the use and style of Mark Snow’s music keeps influencing mystery and thriller shows nowadays. In the rich booklet of the second set, Chris Carter states, “Through nine seasons and over 200 episodes, Mark Snow’s haunting, entrancing, otherworldly music provided the atmosphere for much good and original work... The lattice of theme and melody provided gossamer for the skeleton of a complicated and emotional search for the truth – and to hear them disembodied here is to understand it wasn’t only Mulder and Scully’s hearts we bared each week, but the heart of Mark Snow, master storyteller.”

“Chris Carter at first didn’t want anything whatsoever that was a melody. It was just vapors and sustained sound design – ambient stuff – and he wanted it everywhere!” said Mark Snow. In fact, Chris Carter went a step further and gave the instruction in the final mix to make Snow’s music louder than you would normally do. This led to several arguments with the sound effects guys, who weren’t amused at all to have the music almost louder than the sound effects. But due to Carter’s wish the music is always present in every episode of the show without distracting from what’s happening on screen. It made the music even more a part of the show and the two hard to separate from each other. Just watch the episode “X-Cops,” which has no music at all, since it’s supposed to be reality TV in the style of the popular American show “Cops.” The lack of music almost creates a feeling of “Am I really watching The X-Files?” It worked without the music, but I think everybody was delighted when Mark Snow returned with the following episode.

As mentioned before, the second set focuses more on Snow’s dark textures, with the more melodic stuff appearing almost only on disc four. Also, “The X-Files Theme,” which was the opener and closer of every disc on volume one, was left off at the end of discs one and three. But that’s a very reasonable choice. I mean, how often can you put the same theme onto several discs in the same set? Mark Snow did some minor changes on the theme over the period of nine seasons, but I guess we now have all these slightly different versions covered. What could be next? On the double CD of Mark Snow’s music for Chris Carter’s second show, Millennium (released by La-La-Land Records in 2008), we got the main theme as a vocal version, sung by the composer himself. It was not meant to be serious, but it was hilarious nevertheless. So maybe a sung “X-Files Theme” next time?

Surprisingly enough Mark Snow didn’t use the iconic main theme very often within the episodes. Looking back, it was a smart choice – every time the theme comes up, it makes the moment special, since Snow didn’t use it every time Mulder and Scully were on screen.

Another change from the first set is that the presented episodes are not necessarily in chronological order. Some slight changes were made to have a better listening experience. And it is truly a different experience than volume one.

The first disc takes us into the deep and dark realms of Snow’s ambient sound design. Starting off with music from “Eve,” from the first note on we are drawn into the unsettling world of The X-Files. Snow’s dark string patches evoke a fine chill, adding some airy breath of choir at the end of the track “Meet Your Clone.” With “Young at Heart” we get to hear one of Mark’s most chilling and spookiest scores from the show. The haunting piano is followed by a sequence of pulsating percussion and unsettling drone sounds, combined with a chanting choir, that gets a sense of redemption in the track “Shot in the Crowd.”

At the end of the track “Swimming with Sharks” from “E.B.E.” we hear a piano figure, which Snow would use more often afterward. It appears most of the time when we see something that has to do with the conspiracy; the appearance of the character Deep Throat is also sometimes accompanied with that piano figure. And it also appears in the first X-Files movie. The following track starts again with the piano figure, shadowed by dark ambient textures laid on top if it.

After “Squeeze,” which introduced one of The X-Files’ most popular villains, Eugene Victor Tooms, he returned in the episode “Tooms.” “Squeeze” was covered on the first-volume set, leaving “Tooms” for volume two. The plucked string cluster from “Squeeze” returns in the track “Druid Hill,” recalling Tooms’ presence from the first episode. A pulsating two-note motif occurs that Snow uses not only for Tooms but also for giving the audience a feeling of his presence, even when he is not on screen.

In season two, “Blood” has a more electronic-dissonant approach musically. The track “Drive for Blood” has truly some driving percussion, with a high percussive sound that reminds the listener of blood dripping. I don’t know if that was the intention, but it just comes to mind listening to the track.

“Die Hand Die Verletzt,” German for “The Hand That Wounds,” presents one of Snow’s demonic scores. “Prayer” underlines the scene in the teaser where the teachers are gathering for their satanic Sabbath. Dark, brooding sounds are combined with a choir, as the teachers chant “Sein ist die Hand die verletzt” (“His is the hand that wounds!”). The dark choir returns in “Suicide Exam,” representing the Lord of Darkness forcing a student to slit her own throat, and it continues throughout the track “Snake Hold.” Despite already having a German title, this episode was renamed in Germany, where it’s called “Satan.” Maybe they thought this would be catchier. Also, there is a flaw in the track list of the set, where the episode’s title misses the last letter, reading only “Die Hand Die Verletz.” The last letter is missing everywhere on the set, also in the booklet. According to La-La-Land Records, this was the title that was written on the information they got from Twentieth Century Fox. Strangely enough the title was never written without the last letter, not in the episode guides, books, DVD sets, or places around the internet. So it seems to be most unlikely that official information from Twentieth Century Fox would spell the title wrong. But of course this doesn’t hurt the listening experience at all.

With “Colony” we get the music to one of the most beloved two-part episodes of The X-Files. Starting off very differently from the dark satanic chants we heard only a track before, “Hypothermia” provides pulsating electronic percussion sounds. A bass note, played throughout this and the following cue, evokes the minimalistic electronic scores by John Carpenter. The follow-up, “End Game,” concludes the episode “Colony.” In “Scully’s Discovery/Mulder’s E-Mail Message/Skinner Helps Scully” we hear some cues combined into a suite from the episode’s climax. This is continued in the next track, “Showdown/Saving Mulder/Faith to Keep Looking,” with a running time of over eleven minutes, which also concludes disc one.

Disc two again starts with the “X-Files Theme,” presented in a mix slightly different from the mix on the first disc. With the second disc, the mood lightens up. Well, a little bit. We get to hear more of Snow’s string pads that were so typical for the show. “Spontaneous Combustion” is a good example of that, as well as the following track, “Shadow on the Wall,” where the string pads are accompanied by a piano motif.

The dark and brooding atmosphere returns in “Flesh on Bone” from the episode “F. Emasculata.” The music for this episode again shows more of Snow’s pulsating use of percussion, less melodic, more rhythm oriented. This is also the point with the track “Blown Up and Beaten” from “The Blessing Way,” the opener of season three. “Paper Clip,” part three of the three-part sequence that began with season two’s finale “Anasazi” and continued with “The Blessing Way,” starts out with the track “Smoky Gets in Your Eyes.” Slow, weaving strings and drone sounds are accompanying the meeting of the conspirators as they discuss the failed murder attempt on Scully. Scully’s sister was killed instead, after being mistaken for Scully. The track “Sacrifice/Skinner Gets Skinned” opens with a warm piano motif, played over mourning string pads, ending with harsh percussion work, as Skinner gets attacked by Alex Krycek, who steals evidence from him.

Another very well-loved episode is without a doubt “Clyde Bruckman’s Final Repose.” Written by Darin Morgan, it has the ingredients of every Darin Morgan episode: we get to laugh, we see strange characters doing bizarre things, and in the end there will be relief for either Mulder and Scully or the main character of the episode. The music is much brighter and more playful now. “Yappi” introduces the eccentric psychic Yappi, who enters the crime scene and senses “negative energy” coming from Mulder. Clyde Bruckman discovers the killer’s latest victim in his dumpster, and the track “Dumpster” ends with strings, piano, and harp.

More choir work is on its way in the track “Fries and Faith,” as Jeremiah Smith, the mysterious healer, uses his powers to heal people after a shooting spree in a restaurant. The episode is “Talitha Cumi,” the finale of season three.

“Home” marks another popular episode of the show, even named by Mark Snow himself as one of his most remembered episodes. It tells the story of the inbred Peacock family, who harbor a very dark secret. The track “Newborn” is from the episode’s teaser, in which a misshapen woman gives birth to a deformed baby. Snow adds energy to the scene with harsh percussion and a simple motif played by violins, which will ultimately appear again later in that episode.

 “Worm Rock” from “Tunguska” presents one of Snow’s longest cues written for The X-Files. Running almost thirteen minutes, the track accompanies several scenes, until Mulder is infected by the black oil in a Russian gulag in the track “Chicken Wire Wrap.” The track begins with a two-note chord progression of synth strings beneath piano arpeggios, a motif that Snow will use again later in this and the following seasons. Disc two ends with the end credits version of the “X-Files Theme.”

We hear the “X-Files Theme” again with the start of disc three. Again, it’s a slightly different mix, this time used in season seven. “Terma” continues the story from “Tunguska,” and as Mulder is recovering from the infection with the black oil, we hear that two-note chord progression from “Tunguska” again in the track “Black Vermiform.” “Fire of Terma” concludes the episode with subdued synths and driving percussion.

Max Fenig returns in the episode “Tempus Fugit,” as Mulder suspects the crash of an airliner may have been caused by a UFO, since former alien abductee Max was on board. Mournful synth pads underline the scene when Mulder and Scully visit the crash site in “Pieces.” The music becomes almost spiritual in the track “Nine Minutes,” as Mulder walks through lines of corpses wrapped in yellow body bags. He is clearly affected by the loss of human life, caused by the abduction of Max Fenig. Snow uses mournful strings and brings a soft choir into the music, giving the scene a sense of grieving.

 In the fourth season’s finale, “Gethsemane,” Mulder is confronted by Michael Kritschgau, who claims that all the alien mythos is just a hoax, made up by the US government to cover up military-industrial experimentation. “Thawed” begins with Snow’s soft string patterns, accompanied by a warm piano motif – after all, the music is more and more drifting away from the bleak and brooding ambient music that Snow used during the first two seasons.

“At first he [Chris Carter] was talking about ambient, atmospheric, basic synth-pad material, and that’s what I did at the beginning. Eventually I opened it up. Chris didn’t mind, and after the first year he just let me go off on my own. As the years went on, it became more musical and less sound-design oriented.” – Mark Snow

“Deep Dupe” underlines the final scene of “Gethsemane,” when Mulder is led to believe that he was used to spread the alien mythology so that the government could cover up the real matter, military-industrial experimentation. Snow’s music evokes a sense of grief as Mulder despairs at his own betrayal, sitting alone in his apartment.

Requested from fans for the first volume already, “Redux” and “Redux II” make their premiere on disc three of volume two. Presented with two tracks, “Little Vials of Proof” and “Remission,” it shows Mark Snow’s ability to create suspenseful underscore, as well as his melodic approach, as not only have the main characters developed further, but also the audience watching them for almost five years at this point has too.

Disc three ends with “The Red and the Black.” “Lil’ Cabin in Quebec” includes a distinctive high sound, playing a motif that was used again in scenes with the Cigarette-Smoking Man (CSM). It can also be heard at the end of season five’s finale, “The End,” when CSM sets Mulder’s office on fire (covered on the first volume).

Disc four starts with yet another version of the “X-Files Theme,” this time the mix from season nine. All in all, disc four contains the most melodic tracks on volume two. It starts out with the cue “Baptism” from the episode “All Souls.” A church-like feel is provided by a haunting choir, as a priest conducts a baptism on a handicapped girl who will later be found kneeling on the street at night with her eyes gone. “Four Faces” marks the return of the hymn heard in “Baptism,” as Scully turns to her priest, searching for spiritual truth. Gregorianesque chanting is heard later in the track, as Scully faces the final encounter with the four-faced Seraphim.

In “S.R. 819” it’s Skinner’s life that is in danger. Infected with a deadly microorganism, he must rely on the help of Mulder and Scully, searching for the cure. The tracks “Orgell” and “Bill of Health” are held together by Snow’s beautiful piano work, which occurs now and then to provide warm motifs.

“Biogenesis” marks the finale of season six, adding another piece to the story arc, when an extraterrestrial artifact is discovered on the Ivory Coast. The markings on the artifact spell out the human genome, and as the camera pulls up from Scully standing on the beach of the Ivory Coast, it is revealed that the artifact is just a piece of a large alien aircraft, buried in the sand. The track “Map of Genome” underlines the scene, starting with soft suspenseful strings and cumulating into a big finale, as the aircraft is revealed.

With the track “Voodoo Doll” from season seven’s “Theef” we return to the more sinister and dark atmospheres of Snow’s music. It contains some wild string and percussion clusters as well as ghostly solo vocals, ending with a melancholic piano piece.

“Requiem” marks the finale of season seven, bringing several story events to an end, since it wasn’t clear if The X-Files would be renewed for another season. Mulder disappears at the end of the episode, following the wish of actor David Duchovny, who wasn’t very keen on the idea of returning in the part for yet another season. Starting with more suspense music, “Déjà Vu” ends with a mourning string piece, as Mulder and Scully talk to one of the original alien abductees from their first case in season one. With “Ray” we get the most beautiful piece of music from the episode, as Scully has a quiet moment with the baby of the abductee and later on a brief talk with Mulder, who claims that staying on the X-Files would be too dangerous for Scully. Soft strings weave into a beautiful piano piece; the strings return just before the cue steps down into the realms of chill and horror.

Making a giant leap into season nine, we get the track “Pulling the Plug” from “4-D.” It was from this episode that J.J. Abrams, creator of Lost and Alias, might have gotten his idea for his own show Fringe. The FBI agents in Fringe are also dealing with a parallel dimension, which is almost an exact duplicate of our world. Apart from other parallels to The X-Files, “4-D” came to my mind when I first saw Fringe. With Mulder gone and Scully being more of a supporting character, Agents Doggett and Reyes are in focus of most of this season-nine episode. When Doggett gets shot in the head while pursuing a killer, Reyes finds out that the killer has the ability to travel between two dimensions and that it isn’t “her” Agent Doggett who now lies paralyzed in a hospital bed but the Agent Doggett from the parallel dimension. The track’s title, “Pulling the Plug,” refers to the only solution that the other Agent Doggett has to offer. Reyes has to turn off his life support system and let him die in order to “restore” the Agent Doggett from this dimension. Mark Snow scores the scene with grieving piano and a breathing-like sound that resembles Doggett’s machines, as Reyes turns off the power and Doggett dies peacefully.

“Existence,” season eight’s finale, is presented here with its complete showdown, ranging from the scene on the remote ranch where Scully is supposed to give birth to her baby, where Reyes is attacked by Billy Miles, now an alien super-soldier, to Mulder’s and Skinner’s encounter with Knowle Rohrer at the FBI Headquarters and the car chase in the parking garage, to Scully finally giving birth to her child William, to Mulder getting to the remote farm just in time to see his child. In the final track of “Existence,” “Under Investigation,” we hear Scully’s theme again, which Snow composed for the season’s opener, “Within.” Performed by a solo trumpet as Mulder and Scully share a kiss while holding their baby, it gives a warm and emotional conclusion to the eighth year of The X-Files.”

The final episode on the set is “DeadAlive,” which starts with the track “Deep Six.” It’s the scene at Mulder’s funeral, the teaser of this episode. Again we hear Scully’s theme as she grieves for the loss of Mulder. “AliveAlive” presents the final scenes of the episode, as Mulder, whose body has been exhumed, recovers in a hospital. And as he and Scully share the final tender moment together, we get to hear one of these very rare uses of the “X-Files Theme” within an episode’s score.

The fourth disc closes again with the “X-Files Theme” in its end-credits version, before the “I made this!” tag line from Carter’s Ten Thirteen Productions leads to the famous Twentieth Century Fox fanfare.

It took two years after the first volume had been released, but now we can hold the second volume in our hands. Mark Snow signed 400 copies of the set; they were sold out within fifteen minutes. The sales are doing well again on the second set, so it was no surprise that La-La-Land Records already announced a volume three. According to MV Gerhardt this is set to be released in 2014. If that’s really happening next year, who knows? But nevertheless it’s fantastic that we have the chance to get Mark Snow’s music from the show. Volumes one and two span over eight discs, and there is still so much music left to be discovered. If I could make a wish, I would say, “Please include music from ‘3,’ ‘Audrey Pauley,’ and ‘Daemonicus’ in volume three!”

The set comes again in black cardboard, this time having “The X-Files – Music by Mark Snow” printed in green onto the box, as opposite to the silver print of volume one. The cardboard, however, has slightly smaller measurements than the one covering volume one. Because of that it looks a little bit strange on the shelf next to volume one.

The set comes with a rich booklet, including in-depth liner notes and track-by-track analysis by Randall D. Larson, and features comments from show creator Chris Carter and writer/producers Frank Spotnitz, Glen Morgan, and James Wong. Overall the artwork is designed to fit the artwork from volume one, which is based on the design of the first editions of The X-Files DVD boxes.

What better way to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the show than with four more discs of music by the great Mark Snow? So get your copy as long as it’s available, and enjoy the music to one of the greatest TV shows of all time.

THE X-FILES VOLUME 2 - 4 CD SET
MUSIC BY MARK SNOW
LLLCD 1270
LIMITED EDITION OF 3000 UNITS
RETAIL PRICE: $49.98

PRODUCED BY MARK SNOW, NICK REDMAN AND MIKE JOFFE
MASTERED BY JAMES NELSON
LINER NOTES BY RANDALL LARSON
ART DIRECTION BY MARK BANNING

Disc One

1. THE X-FILES Main Title
(Season 1) 0:47

1X11 - EVE
2. Swinging Dead Daddy 1:26
3. Meet Your Clone 1:19
4. Attached 0:53

1X16 - YOUNG AT HEART
5. The Eyes Don't Lie 1:46
6. Ain't Dead Yet 4:03
7. Youth 3:37
8. Shot in the Crowd 2:29

1X17 - E.B.E.
9. Swimming With Sharks 5:14
10. Here We Go 2:42

1X21 - TOOMS
11. Druid Hill 2:42
12. Rats & Babes 1:59
13. Toilet Tooms 5:49

1X22 - BORN AGAIN
14. Psycho-Electric Attack 6:27

2X03 - BLOOD
15. Drive for Blood 3:26

2X14 - DIE HAND DIE VERLETZT
16. Prayer 0:45
17. Suicide Exam 2:34
18. Snake Hold 1:22

2X16 - COLONY
19. Hypothermia 2:43
20. Alta 2:35

2X17 - END GAME
21. Scully's Discovery/Mulder's E-Mail
Message/Skinner Helps Scully 8:19
22. Showdown/Saving Mulder/
Faith to Keep Looking 11:18

Disc One Total Time: 74:49
Disc Two

1. THE X-FILES Main Title
(2nd Season) 0:49

2X23 - SOFT LIGHT
2. Eaten by Light 2:44
3. Spontaneous Combustion 4:39
4. Shadow on the Wall 2:21

2X22 - F. EMASCULATA
5. Flesh on Bone 4:31
6. Pustule Package 3:21

3X01 - THE BLESSING WAY
7. Blown Up and Beaten 2:50

3X02 - PAPER CLIP
8. Smoky Gets in Your Eyes 2:52
9. Outmined 2:23
10. Sacrifice/
Skinner Gets Skinned 4:04

3X04 - CLYDE BRUCKMAN'S
FINAL REPOSE
11. Yappi 2:18
12. Dumpster 3:00

3X14 - GROTESQUE
13. Disarmed 1:28

3X24 - TALITHA CUMI
14. Fries and Faith 2:38
15. Discreet Distance 3:04

4X01 - HERRENVOLK
16. Needle Neck 6:54

4X02 - HOME
17. Newborn 2:11

4X09 - TUNGUSKA
18. Worm Rock 12:48
19. Chicken Wire Wrap 7:57

20. THE X-FILES End Credits (Extended #1) 0:35
Disc Two Total Time: 74:23
Disc Three

1. THE X-FILES Main Title
(7th Season) 0:35

4X10 - TERMA
2. Black Vermiform 6:03
3. Fire of Terma 8:47

4X17 - TEMPUS FUGIT
4. Pieces 6:28
5. Nine Minutes 3:24

4X24 - GETHSEMANE
6. Trails 5:37
7. Thawed 11:30
8. Deep Dupe 4:17

5X01 - REDUX
9. Little Vials of Proof 8:23

5X02 - REDUX II
10. Remission 5:42

5X14 - THE RED AND THE BLACK
11. Red Letter 2:46
12. Resist or Serve 3:45
13. Lil' Cabin in Quebec 8:42

Disc Three Total Time: 76:35
Disc Four

1. THE X - FILES Main Title
(9th Season) 0:36

5X17 - ALL SOULS
2. Baptism 3:45
3. Four Faces 7:28

6X09 - S.R. 819
4: Orgell 2:26
5. Bill of Health 4:29

6X22 - BIOGENESIS
6. Map of the Genome 4:00

7X14 - THEEF
7. Voodoo Doll 7:19

7X22 - REQUIEM
8. D j  vu 3:55
9. Ray 5:09

9X04 - 4-D
10. Pulling the Plug 9:00

8X21 - EXISTENCE
11. Something Feels Off 3:03
12. Replicant Revolution 6:21
13. Under Investigation 3:14

8X15 - DEADALIVE
14. Deep Six 2:53
15. AliveAlive 11:03

16. THE X-FILES End Credits
(1st Season) 0:30
17. I Made This / 20th Century Fox Fanfare* 0:08

* - Music By Alfred Newman
Disc Four Total Time: 76:04

Total Set Running Time: 298:27

Available at La La Land Records

2011 here