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Adam Young makes a fictional film score for 'The Spirit of St. Louis'

Adam Young of the band Owl City takes a break from pop music to write a film score every month based on historical events.
Adam Young of the band Owl City takes a break from pop music to write a film score every month based on historical events.
Brian Bradley

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Writing a film score can take months or even longer to complete, but Adam Young is writing one every month for the rest of this year. 

The Spirit of St. Louis

Young is mainly known for his electro-band Owl City, but he's taking a break from writing pop songs to write fictional film scores that are based on historical events. He started this passion project in February with his take on what a film about the Apollo 11 mission would sound like. 

The catch is that there is no film. Young is crafting the stories and score from research he's compiled on historical events. He’s also not releasing these scores for fans to buy. They’re streaming for free on his website. 

Young's score for April is called "The Spirit of St. Louis," which is about Charles Lindbergh's transatlantic flight from New York to Paris. (That story was originally told in a 1957 film starring Jimmy Stewart, with music by Franz Waxman.) The Frame's James Kim spoke with Young about what inspired him to take off an entire year to pursue this project, and what exactly goes into writing a score for a film that doesn't exist. 


What inspired you to write film scores based on historical events? 

There's something about historical moments that just have a mystery to them. For me, having been born in the '80s and growing up in the '90s, there's just something so fascinating about life in the past. That's why I've chosen some of these historical events. 

What was the idea behind the opening track, "Takeoff"? 

I approached the opening track the way I would approach a romantic comedy intro. It's very light and exciting, it's sort of giddy a little bit. I wanted to capture the feeling of flight and those butterflies you get right when you take off. 

I could definitely let my imagination run, and it's even fun to imagine what some other of my favorite composers might do. What would Hans Zimmer's version of Lindbergh's "Takeoff" sound like? 

Stars Appear

On the track, "Stars Appear," there's this brief moment where the sun's going down. And just the way that I imagine Lindbergh being up there, there's just this brief moment where everything is sort of right, and everything feels settling. There's no foreboding as to what might be up ahead. 

Fighting To Stay Awake

There's a point in the story where he's definitely having trouble keeping awake. At this point he's over the Atlantic Ocean and there's nothing to see — it's nighttime. I read that he actually descended to where he was a few feet above the water and flew like that for a long time to keep himself focused on what he's doing, because if he stops paying attention for a second, he could be gone. 

I can't imagine how tired he would be after 30-some hours, 20 of those in the air. I'm sure there's sort of a hump where you just have to get over that bit of the journey, where you just cannot keep your eyes open. So the track, "Fighting To Stay Awake," captures that. It's a little bit more gritty and a little bit more drone-y. It's this slow pulse that just feels like your eyelids are lead. 

Wheels Down

The last track is called, "Wheels Down." It's pretty self-explanatory, but I think it was [after] 33-and-a half hours, Charles Lindbergh touches down near Paris. I read that there was close to 100,000 people waiting for him because, remember, this was 1927 and air travel was a different world. So here's the first guy to fly solo across the Atlantic and all these folks show up to greet him and he's this instant hero. 

The track is very simple, it's very triumphant, and it's this sense of accomplishment. There were dangers, and there were storms, and he was about to fall asleep and all of these things and he made it. 

After you finished writing this score, was there a sense of relief, similar to what Lindbergh was feeling after he completed his flight?

The process of creating the album, "The Spirit of St. Louis," is definitely sort of a mirror of the actual journey. I think I was around 15 or 16 years old when I started to pay attention to film music. That was kind of the first music to inspire my love of music. Part of what I do musically is also under the project Owl City and I just put out an album last summer. 

I was in this moment where, before my schedule gets cluttered, I would love to pause for a second and look back at all these things that I wanted to do for a long time and put to bed something that I always wanted to finish. 

Adam Young will release his next film score on May 1.  

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