While many of us returned to seeing music live this year, we also continued to enjoy original shows and music from the comfort of our couches. Classical music makes always makes an appearance here and there on the small screen, and this year was no exception. From climaxes built up throughout an entire season to little nods sung in phone messages, here are 8 musical moments we enjoyed. You can find them all in our Spotify playlist, linked below.
Tokyo Olympic Opening Ceremonies: A Montage Of Video Games
Based on Tokyo's representation at the previous summer Olympic closing ceremonies, it was no secret to spectators that video games would feature prominently in the traditional showcase of the host country's past. Japan has produced many of the world's most popular video game titles, and the memorable soundtracks were featured as countries' competitors entered the arena. This was a huge moment for fans of video game music, as their favorites took center-stage.
Only Murders in the Building: Theo's Perspective
The episode's titular "Boy in 6B" is Theo Dimas, who is deaf. The entire episode's dialogue is nonverbal - either in sign language, or unheard (until the winking "We did it!" at the end). While ambient noise often occurs, the only other noise for the hearing-audience is the music from Siddhartha Khosla.
Link: Hear more from Khosla in our Behind the Playlist series.
Ted Lasso: Dr. Sharon Sings "Tonight" from West Side Story
In an episode full of terrific musical cues (especially Down By The Riverside during Isaac's ballet-like turn with hair trimmers) Dr. Sharon Fieldstone's message to Ted was just a tiny flash that had a huge effect. After suffering a concussion in a bicycle accident the team's therapist is finally vulnerable toward Coach Lasso - leaving a string of taunting voice messages, including one where she sings a bit of Leonard Bernstein (even if Lasso credits it to lyricist Sondheim). It's a brief moment, but it opens a door for Ted to finally make a connection. It's hard not to fall for Ted's charm, but Dr. Sharon is one of the few characters who sees the jokes and cheer as a suit of armor for someone carrying a heavy emotional burden - just as her own stiff professionalism allows her to detach outside of work. And when she opens up, so does he.
Great Performances: Michael Bruce scores a filmed Romeo and Juliet
One of the many productions taken offstage due to the pandemic was the National Theatre's Romeo and Juliet. It made its way to television in an innovative and polished production. The setting's seamless transition from present-day actors to an immersive production is aided by the somewhat futuristic score by composer Michael Bruce. Shakespeare's plays have been reinvented time and again, and that is especially true for Romeo and Juliet. So watching it feel fresh and new was exciting. Theatre has been one of the last cultural institutions to feel like it has reopened during the pandemic, and this performance left audiences eager to get back into their seats.
Link: Watch Romeo and Juliet online with PBS.
The Harder They Fall: Pretty Yende's performance
With Jay-Z as a co-producer and Jeymes Samuel as director, it's no surprise that the soundtrack to this Netflix film is full of musical excellence. From the beginning of the creative process Samuel incorporated music into scenes, shot for shot. And he is a self-described fan of South African soprano Pretty Yende, whose voice enters toward the end. According to an interview in The South African, Samuel said that he wanted to show how Yende's music could stand in the same "sonic landscape" as Jay-Z. In the Netflix Playlist breakdown of the score, Simon describes Yende's aria Three and Thirty Years as an encapsulation of the "whole story of the movie."
Squid Game: Waking Up With Haydn
Composer Jung Jae-il was responsible for keeping the suspense alive throughout the game-based horror show, but the game's participants are kept off-balance by Joseph Haydn and Johann Strauss. While the Blue Danube is part of the scene as the games are explained to contestants, the breakout is the third movement of Haydn's trumpet concerto, which acts as an alarm clock. Spotify has seen a massive increase in listening to recordings of the concerto since the show aired. When Haydn wrote the piece the trumpet as we know it was still being developed. While the composer may have predicted the instrument coming into fashion, even the famously mischievous Haydn likely could not have foreseen the concerto's joy being a predecessor to such terrors.
Loki: Classic Loki Finds His Glorious Purpose
After an entire season of hints of Wagner's dramatic string lines that tell of Valkyries, the "big hero" moment in Marvel's Loki doesn't come from Tom Hiddleston's variant on the character. Instead its so-called Classic Loki - an older, wiser version of the character, played by Richard E. Grant - who achieves his "glorious purpose" in the most dramatic fashion. It's possibly a coincidence that it's an evocation of Ride of the Valkyries, a chorus whose Wagnerian sopranos usher those who have died in battle to glory in Valhalla. Classic Loki conjures the image of the now-fallen Asgard as an on-field distraction. He is accompanied by Natalie Holt's own glorious music, with the triumphant brass we didn't even realize we were waiting for.
Link: Take a closer look at the soundtrack to Loki with composer Natalie Holt and director Kate Herron.
*spoiler ahead for And Just Like That*
And Just Like That: Beethoven and a Peloton ride
Lily's piano recital at the Manhattan School of Music showed the incredible talent Charlotte's eldest daughter has acquired since the last Sex and the City film. Her dramatic performance of the third movement of Beethoven's Sonata No. 14 "Moonlight" was juxtaposed with the "big" twist of the new series - when "and just like that" Mr. Big rode his way into a heart attack. (note: Peloton has responded to the incident, and then backtracked as allegations about the behavior of actor Chris Noth have resurfaced). This is the second time that Ludwig van Beethoven has played a role in the love saga of Carrie Bradshaw and Mr. Big. In the first film of the series Beethoven's letter to his "Immortal Beloved" was a motif, including a recitation at their wedding - "ever thine, ever mine, ever ours." So I couldn't help but wonder if this was a full-on callback to the start of their marriage. However given what happens, the connection may just be the title of the movement. As J. Preston becomes agitated, we both see and hear presto agitato.