How the Soundtrack from Gia Coppola’s Palo Alto Chemically Altered my Brain


By Chloe Brown

29 songs that have intense gutturally emotional connotations, that’s what makes up the coming-of-age story that is Palo Alto (2013). Designed and curated by Devonte Hynes, the creator of the critically acclaimed band Blood Orange; the Palo Alto soundtrack encapsulates the beauty and uncertainty of what teenage life is like growing up in American suburbia. All of the music stands as solid pieces alone, yet when intertwined with the complex and candid moments within the film, a new complex emotional entity is created. Further encapsulating a more dynamic and tangible idea of what teenagehood could be. The score is mainly created around rhythmic, ethereal synths; combined with grand and toy piano melodies to produce songs that reflect on the innocence and naivety of youth, while complicating it with the rhythm, tempo, and pitch. Thus producing pieces of music that encapsulate the utter confusion and curiosity associated with this point in life.

The main characters Teddy and Alex sit in a car; drinking, smoking, and arguing about what it would mean if each other were kings in their own kingdoms. When Alex jolts the car into the wall of the parking garage they’re sitting in. Just because. Cue the title credit and the song “Soccer Fields” by Devonte Hynes, it’s a rhythmic and light tune, surrounding a repeating frame of toy piano and synthetic drums. The song facilitates a whimsical, almost nostalgic feel that, while mixed with Alex’s yelps of joy and adrenaline versus Teddy’s disdain for the situation, produces a sort of familiarity and empathy within the viewer. The score promotes this ability to relate to the situation at hand, which creates a further intensified bond between the film and the audience. The song creates this eerily familiar feeling that one has been in these exact moments before, of blatant rebellion.

The song also bridges the two young boys’ adrenaline-pumping experience to April, a teenage girl smoking a cigarette at her soccer practice. An act of defiance in an otherwise socially regulated situation. The song introduces us to April’s questionable attraction and relationship with Mr.B, who is her soccer coach and boss. The song welcomes the scary, awkward self-discovering experiences of teenagehood and sets the precedent that these actions are universal in a sense. Ultimately allowing the audience to find a sense of themself and their coming-of-age experiences in the music and film when met with this song that promotes familiarity and safety in the unknown of life.

Even just this one song off the score alludes to the infinite possibilities of deeper connection and emotional pull that Hynes is able to achieve through this mastery of scoring Palo Alto. A movie that makes a spectacle out of the mundanity of young adulthood. By Hynes creating these synthetic, repetitive, graceful pieces of music, the connection between the coming of age and idyllic music is made. This then formulates a dynamic interaction between the audience and the film in itself, having the audience then score their own coming-of-age experiences with the hums of Devonte Hynes. Creating their own sort of Palo Alto.


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