Wednesday, July 27, 2011

setting the mood: soundtrack

part two in setting the mood is all about music. so, for starters, i am of the mind that you NEED background music. it's like a social safety net--hides silence if there is a lull in the conversation, offers you a conversation topic if you are at a loss--but above all, music can help you set the tone for your party. so, here are some great principles for you to apply as you pick music for any kind of event!

1- consider soundtracks! often times movie or television soundtracks have done the work for you. if you liked the feeling you walked away with after a movie, chances are the soundtrack is one you'll really enjoy! so if you want your guests to walk away from a party with a similar feeling, consider featuring the soundtrack throughout your larger party playlist. having said that, be sure to eliminate the inevitable "susie finds out the bad news" or "mr. darcy fights with lizzie" that can sneak into any soundtrack. ;)

my hands-down, go-to soundtrack is from the movie "something's gotta give." lots of great french music, some classic jazz--every song on the album really captures that sophisticated, romantic, relaxed feeling--just like the movie. more of my favorite soundtracks are featured below...

2- consider your audience. if you've got lots of young kids, pick music that will be fun for them, but also be enjoyable for their parents. an older group? go with the classics -- like jazz standards performed by new artists. an indie crowd? steer clear of top 40 pop. do you want the party to feel upbeat? mellow? celebratory? pick accordingly. as a rule, dinner parties need to strike a balance between perky and mellow while hors d'oeuvres or cocktail parties need a bit more energy.
3- consider your theme. often times this rule can pick the playlist for you. if you are having a theme party of any kind, use music as an opportunity to tie everything together. i always think it's best to aim for "middle of the road" thematic music. for instance, if you are having a fancy bbq, or a western theme, shoot more toward carrie underwood or rascall flats, less toward billy ray cyrus. you never want to divide your group over the music--keeping things more middle of the road will ensure that your theme is highlighted, but you aren't isolating any of your guests with an extreme style of music.
4- consider the flow of your event. music has the unique ability to help you create a variety of moods throughout an event, so be mindful as you order your playlist.
as an example, this is how i would select the music for a classic dinner party:
as people arrive, select music that is calming, but perky. instrumental can be good (soundtracks in particular) but choose songs that are positive and help them relax, and ease in to the party mood. keep the volume just high enough so that any awkward silences existing between guests feel minimized.
during dinner, keep the volume low, but the music should be increasingly upbeat. you never want to reach the point of dance music, but ideally the music should be carrying you to a peak right toward the end of your entree. throw in a few "classics" or "throwbacks" that everyone knows, but haven't heard in ages. they are sure the keep the energy up, and who knows? maybe everyone will burst into song! ;)
as dessert and after-dinner coffee is served, start bringing the energy level down again. you can take things a bit lower than when guests arrived--but not so low they want to ask for a pillow and stay the night. keep things mellow and a bit interesting--a lot of times newer artists covering older songs are great as the evening winds down. songs feel familiar, but not entirely recognizable. but always, end somewhat mellow.

as far as specific recommendations---where do i begin???
so, i thought i'd feature the albums i look to as kind of "across the board" great music for a variety of age groups, but they certainly only scratch the surface.

...happy sophisticating...

this one is a more recent discovery for me--i love the tv show, parenthood, and finally thought to check out the soundtrack. utterly delightful! everything from bob dylan to amos lee, this is just an all around great soundtrack, with some fabulous party music.

strangely, this has become an oldie but a goodie, but the garden state soundtrack is just great music. crafted by zach braff himself, it was the best of the best, the newest and freshest when it first came out. now, it's still pretty stinkin' awesome. good "wind down the party" music.

once again, a fantastic zach braff creation. this one's a bit more upbeat, but equally fabulous.


mostly instrumental, with a few well chosen non-instrumentals. this has a very family-friendly, perky, good vibe. the talented composer, sondre lerche, is just so so good. this will just make you feel happy.


given the fact that this film featured a ten minute montage of paris in the 60s, you can bet the soundtrack is amazing. a few great instrumental pieces, but mostly fun, jazzy party music. it's just heavenly.

you can probably tell i have a thing for french music at this point, but the french are just SO great at capturing a feeling. carla bruni is no exception. and she's married to the president of france so, you know, she has that whole royalty thing going on.

earth, wind and fire are great for ramping up the energy. i'm telling you--everyone from small children to the grandparents will be singing along. one of those "i haven't heard this in AGES, i LOVE this song" artists.

i'm telling you--listen to an album like this and you will be amazed again at all of the incredible music michael jackson made. throw in a few "old school" classics and your guests will love it.

duh.

you'd be surprised how happy everyone becomes humming along to "every little thing...gonna be alright." just one or two, but you can't go wrong.

diana krall is the epitome. jazz classics, redone in the RIGHT way. i don't know what more to say--perfect at the start and end of the party. your guests will feel like they are in a movie.


had to end with james vincent mcmorrow, because he's my new fave. some of his music is better for the hosts to fall asleep to, but there are a handful of perfect "wind down the evening" songs that will have all of your guests asking "oh my gosh, who is this? this is amazing."

what are some of your go-to party songs?