Everyone has their childhood memories. When it comes to horror, it will be the movies and TV series we grew up on. For me, a very high place on the list goes to the series “The X Files,” screened in the 90s at night on one of the leading TV channels. We must remember that at that time, the content supply was minimal: the Internet was in its infancy, there were no streaming or VOD services, And multi-channel television was minimal. That’s why we had to schedule in front of our fixed broadcast times, however challenging they may be. I still remember the excitement every time I sat on the sofa, turned off the lights, switched to the appropriate channel, and waited for the famous opening theme of “The X Files.”
I’m not sure I’ve seen all the episodes (however, it wasn’t widespread than to binge), and I missed the renewal – seasons 10 and 11 – from 2015. The movie could have been much better. So does it make sense that the most memorable thing for me from the “The X Files” mythology, aside from Mulder’s search for his sister and proof of the existence of aliens, is “The X Files” opening theme?
How Was The X Files Opening Theme Born?
The opening song of “The X Files” is the responsibility of the American composer Mike Snow, behind him an extensive career of almost five decades. Snow has composed soundtracks for movies (the latest being 2020’s “The New Mutants” from the X-MEN franchise), TV series, video games, and more, most of which aren’t well known to the general public. Undoubtedly, the peak of his work is the opening song of “The X Files.” Along with its iconic status to this day, it also achieved impressive success in the mid-1990s, at the same time as the rise of the series (which began to air in 1993). When the song was released as a UK single in 1996, it reached number 2 on the charts.
Mark Snow’s friendship with the series’s executive producer, R.W. Goodwin, is considered one of the main reasons all this magic happened. The creator of the series and the executive producer, Chris Carter, could not find suitable candidates to compose the opening melody. He tested more than ten people, including Snow, and explained to him the purpose: “I was looking for something that boy scouts could hum at the campfire, as a scary song,” Carter told January 2016 NPR Music interview. “You know, something akin to “The Twilight Zone.”
Goodwin knew that Snow was the right man for him because he lived closer to him than the other candidates. He urged him to come audition three times, but the production still needed to make the decision. In the end, the decision was made. Snow hesitated because the emerging series seemed too “strange” to him, but he accepted the job, started with the pilot episode, and accompanied it to the end. He is also responsible for the music in the other productions of the series, including the spin-off series “Millennium” which was not quite a success, the film “The X Files” from 1998, its sequel “The X Files: I Want to Believe” from 2008 and seasons 10-11.
Unlike many series that changed their opening themes over the seasons, fully or partially, in the case of “The X Files,” we hardly saw any changes. Throughout the series, Naima appears, and the same visual images, which include a spaceship, a distorted face, the FBI badges of the main characters, agents Mulder and Scully, a mysterious hand, and of course, the inscription “The Truth Is Out There,” which is so recognizable with the series. These visuals are presented in a stylish, dark, and mysterious manner, which adds to the overall atmosphere of the opening sequence and blends perfectly with the music.
Only after Mulder left the series did the creators slightly change the opening credits’ visual aspect. Another notable change was in the caption that appears at the end of the opening melody, which in some cases, was changed to better suit the theme of the specific chapter. Among others, captions such as “Trust No One,” “Everything Dies,” and “They’re Watching” appeared.
A Whistle, An Echo, And One Mistake
The theme song of “The X Files” is almost entirely instrumental. Undoubtedly, its most recognizable element is that creepy whistle, which repeats several times and puts us in the right atmosphere. The whistle was inspired by the famous guitar riff from the Smiths’ 1985 song How Soon Is Now?”. Snow tried different sound effects to create the sound he wanted, including violin, flute, or piano samples, but nothing worked. Ultimately, he found The solution: a sound model called the E-mu Proteus, combined with a defined sound called “Whistling Joe” from the product line of a company called Proteus.
He later said that he was “playing around” with the piece until his wife, Glynn heard the music and said that she sounded attractive to her. “She said, “You know, I’m a good whistler too. Maybe I could beef it up a little bit.” Snow recalled in an interview with New York Public Radio. She stood at the microphone, and in the end, the sound that appears in the final melody consists of the combination of Glynn’s voice with a machine.
Carter was also reportedly surprised by the piece. He expected to see more elements of that Smiths song and a bit more guitars but decided to accept Snow’s idea. He thought the sound would be “good,” though he may not have expected it to be so iconic. When the two presented the piece to people at the Fox network, they said the latter didn’t quite know how to respond. Ultimately, they left the decision up to Carter, who decided to go with it – and the rest is history.
Another interesting fact about “The X Files” opening theme is That the echo which repeats throughout was created by mistake. In the behind-the-scenes clips of the series, which accompanied the DVD of its first season, the creators said that they encountered difficulties in composing the series, which caused their frustration. At one point, Carter left the room helplessly, and Snow put his hand on the keyboard in frustration – creating an echo effect. When Carter returned to the room and heard the accidental result, he was elated. In the second episode, Snow was already in charge of the pleasantness from start to finish. He was almost exclusively responsible for the music along the way. He made his compositions digitally, that is, with samples of musical instruments.
This changed slightly in one of the episodes in the sixth season when they used real musicians. Also, for the two “The X Files” films, Snow was asked to create the music with real orchestral instruments, and in one case, with the Hollywood Studio Symphony. This orchestra is responsible for some very well-known soundtracks, such as the films “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Jurassic Park 3”, “The Chronicles of Narnia” ” and “Sucker Punch,” or the TV series “Lost.”
The Soundtrack Of “The X Files” – Not Just An Opening Theme
According to reports, Mark Snow was given a great deal of freedom in creating his music for “The X Files,” with the possible exception of the mythology episodes – episodes dealing with aliens, their desire to invade Earth, and the activities of the “Syndicate” organization that negotiates with them – which usually opened and closed the seasons. He had some flashes of brilliance, including using various props to create music (for example, inserting a children’s toy called Silly Putty and coins into the piano strings). Of course, over the years, all kinds of versions and remixes have appeared, but the original remains the classic, well-known, and probably the most successful version.
Although everyone mostly remembers the opening tune, and rightly so, the series had several other musical achievements. One of the familiar pleasantries is “Scully’s Theme,” which appeared for the first time in the episode that opened the eighth season and then in five more episodes. The mysterious music features a female solo, saying the words “We Are Near” repeatedly throughout the piece in a twisted way. Carter claims that this piece is one of Snow’s most successful works.
Many, many years have passed since the show. I watched thousands of movies and series, some have great scary songs or soundtrack. It’s hard to believe that I will return to watch the series that I primarily grew up on because, after all, there is enough more recent content that I have to keep up with. Still, now and then, I sin and listen to “The X Files” opening theme on YouTube. When it rarely appears on television or the radio, I stop everything and surrender again. There may not be another opening song with the same impression on me.