Whenever she’s had a few too many, Rebecca is quick to remind me “Al Jolson is greater than Jesus,” and I don’t disagree. She knows I have an acute sensitivity to music and, between the two of us, we have a formidable collection of records in our library.
And because we are slaves, body and soul, to our hunger for all things McKittrick, our collection has come to include every piece of music played inside the hotel that we have been able to identify. We’d thought we’d take this opportunity to share this part of our collection with you.
What follows is an exhaustive list of all the incidental music that appears in Sleep No More, including notes as to the major action that accompanies each piece of music and, where applicable, very cursory analysis.
Before we go on, I would like you to please note a few things:
- While we are confident that we have been able to accurately identify the pieces mentioned herein (as well as accurately noted their accompanying events), we cannot be absolutely sure that this list is exhaustive. So, if you feel as though we’ve missed one, please let us know!
- I have neglected to include the few ambient pieces featured on the show (e.g. the low hum that rumbles through the labyrinth on the fifth floor; the low, two-note figure, that scores the first confrontation between Agnes and the Porter, itself most likely derived from a figure in the score to Vertigo; the twinkly, record-scratched music box piece that plays in the Macduffs’ apartment on a loop during quiet moments; etc.). This is for two reasons. Firstly, whereas I have identified with confidence the pieces listed herein, I cannot say the same for the ambient works, which are all but unrecognizable as heard in the show. Secondly, despite the fact that all the ambient pieces can be safely said to be original compositions arranged by the sound designers themselves, they are most likely derivative works (i.e. heavy distortions of brief samples of the music cited below—particularly the Bernard Herrmann scores), and therefore already are covered in some form herein.
With that in mind, let’s get on with it.
I. The Macbeths
The music that scores the plot line of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth is an extremely important element of the show, as it informs our perception of the emotions and intentions of these main characters. A large portion of this soundtrack consists of the music of Bernard Herrmann, whose Hitchcock scores are intimately woven into the most poignant moments of the show.
To begin with, we have “I’ll Never Smile Again” by Tommy Dorsey, which plays in the lobby while Macbeth receives his prophesy from the witches. While the original song was a lament by a new widow about the death of her husband, the song here takes the form of a prophetic warning of the bloody chain of events that Macbeth is about initiate. His ambition takes a dramatic toll on each of the lives within the McKittrick, in ways ranging from the romantic to the fatal.
The Macbeths’ first duet of the cycle is scored by three pieces from Herrmann’s score to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, namely “The Hotel Room,” “The Package,” “The Window,” and “The City,” in that order. The scene unfolds in the Macbeths’ bedroom, wherein Lady Macbeth overpowers Macbeth and they tentatively unite in their plan to murder Duncan. The scene ends with a broken Macbeth placing shoes on his wife’s feet before she leaves to attend the ball.
During the ball held by Lady Macbeth in Duncan’s honor, we hear a three-song suite, consisting of a slightly sped-up and abridged “Tuxedo Junction” by Glenn Miller, which bleeds into “Boulder Bluff” by Glenn Miller and eventually “Sandman” by Benny Goodman. It is during this ball that Lady Macbeth is able seduce Duncan (while Macbeth watches), laying the groundwork for her eventual poisoning of the unsuspecting king.
After Macbeth, leaves the ball to return to his room, furious at Lady Macbeth’s behavior, “Carlotta’s Portrait” from Vertigo plays. He shuffles around the room, reading and re-reading his original letter to his wife. The sudden arrival of Lady Macbeth does nothing to break the tension, and they begin to have an anxious struggle during which she is able to convince him to follow through on their plan. As the song comes to a close, Lady Macbeth and Macbeth find themselves on the bed, and she thrusts her finger out in the distance. Macbeth leaves to go murder Duncan.
Immediately thereafter, “The Window” and “The Package” from Psycho play as Lady Macbeth waits in her room. She attempts to balance on the lip of the bathtub, and flies about the room with dread and anxiety. The music comes to a stop as a far off “alarum bell” rings.
Much of the rest of Lady Macbeth’s “soundtrack” is either soundless or ambient, but Macbeth soon finds himself in the “replica bar” of Gallow Green, where he is sucked into a witches’ Sabbath of orgiastic, bacchanalian proportions. The music that plays there, in marked contrast to the Herrmann scores or the period music that scores the rest of the show, is a grimy jungle/breakbeat suite that infuses the orgy with a lecherous and vigorous quality. The music consists of a mix of “Reece” by Ed Rush & Optical and “Mute (Jokers of the Scene Remix)” by The Brash.
Immediately after the rave, when Macbeth comes to his senses and storms across Gallow Green toward the speakeasy, an excerpt from “The Nightmare and Dawn” from Vertigo (from about 0:37 to 2:20) blares through the streets. Fuming with rage and paranoia at the thought of Banquo’s issue potentially reigning in the kingdom, he enters the speakeasy intent upon murdering him.
The music that plays during the banquet consists of a medley of excerpts from the soundtrack to David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive by Angelo Badalamenti, namely “Diner” (with the closing orchestral crash corresponding with Banquo’s ghost sitting down at the table) and “Mr. Roque/Betty’s Theme” (with the odd high-pitched reverberation corresponding with Macbeth’s and Banquo’s ironic toast).
Immediately after the banquet, an orchestral suite (which we’ll refer to hereinafter as the “Hitchcock Suite”) plays in almost every floor and room of the hotel that not only brings all the stories to an emotional climax, but also serves to restart all of the characters’ cycles. This consists of the following: “The First Floor” from Psycho, the last few minutes of “The Nightmare and Dawn” from Vertigo, the first few minutes of “The Diamond Revealed” from Family Plot (a Hitchcock film to which John Williams did the score), and “Prelude/Nightmare” from Vertigo. Over the course of this suite, so much happens within the hotel that it would be a needless digression to list them all, but suffice it to say that pivotal events occur to nearly every character during this time.
II. The Speakeasy and Gallow Green
This soundtrack, which we will tentatively call the “Speakeasy soundtrack” is the sequence of incidental music that emerges from the large radio in the Gallow Green speakeasy. It is notable for being wholly made up of diagetic music, and seeing as this particular soundtrack can be heard simultaneously in several “indoor” places in Gallow Green, it appears to represent a sort of radio station, the source of which is unknown to us. The speakeasy soundtrack also plays in Mac Crínáin & Reid Detective Agency, W.B. Robertson & Sons Funeral Home, M. Fulton Tailor’s and Bargarran Taxidermy.
We begin with “Every Night About This Time” by the Ink Spots. In an ironic play on the title, each cycle begins again with this song, as the Bartender walks into the speakeasy to clean up the mess from the cycle before. It should be noted that, in those rare instances when Nurse Shaw visits the speakeasy to share a drink with the Bartender, this is the song that is usually playing in the background. Meanwhile, next door, Agnes enters Fulton’s shop, and the latter tries clumsily to seduce her.
Next, “I’ll Never Smile Again” by the Ink Spots plays in the speakeasy somewhat simultaneously with the Tommy Dorsey version of this tune that plays down in the hotel lobby (See Section I, supra). The Bartender continues to clean the bar, and pours out a glass of champagne in preparation for the arrival of Sexy Witch. Meanwhile, back in M. Fulton Tailors, Fulton finishes his attempt to seduce Agnes and chases her out into the street. One can easily see the irony of the song’s title in the context of these two simultaneous failed seductions.
Next on the soundtrack is “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie” by the Ink Spots, during which the Bartender is sexually teased and tortured by Sexy Witch within the speakeasy. Meanwhile, Bargarran the taxidermist sits in his shop. He undoes the lining of his coat sleeve and places a bird skull in the coat pocket, along with a note that says “
Banquo traitor.” Before the song comes to a close, Bargarran heads across the street to Fulton’s shop and drops the coat off to be mended.
While the Bartender continues to dance with Sexy Witch on the pool table to “Maybe” by the Ink Spots, Agnes is leaving the “Plant this seed” note in the Detective agency. Across town, Fulton mends Bargarran’s coat, while Bargarran himself watches Fulton from his store counter, ostensibly tidying up his shop and arranging his tools.
Bargarran, upon returning to the tailor’s, intimidates Fulton into taking the bird skull and note, while “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano” by the Ink Spots plays—make what you will of the potential significance of the title with respect to this exchange. Meanwhile, the Bartender enters the funeral home and dances a solo atop the mortuary slab.
The Bartender goes into the detective agency and seals the blackbird from Reid’s desk to the tune of “Alone With My Dreams” by Jack Buchanan. He then reads Agnes’ note and accordingly dials down to the lobby to speak with her. Immediately thereafter, he goes to the taxidermist’s to give the blackbird to Bargarran. While this occurs, Fulton performs a charm on the bird skull in the funeral home.
Fulton enters the speakeasy, where “Now That I Found You” by Jack Buchanan is on the radio, to confront the Bartender. They search each other for witch’s marks and have a very tense confrontation that includes the service of a potentially poisoned shot of liquor.
“You Forgot Your Gloves” by Jack Buchanan, interestingly enough, begins just as Fulton heads down to the hotel lobby to retrieve his coat. Meanwhile, the Bartender sits alone in the speakeasy.
As “Weep No More My Baby” by Jack Buchanan comes on the speakeasy radio, the Bartender plays a devious card game with the Guest and drinks a shot with them. Meanwhile, Agnes walks into the detective agency, looking for information about her sister, Grace, whereupon she is confronted by an exasperated Malcolm.
Agnes’ confrontation with Malcolm turns into a bewitched seduction, as they dance to “Hallelujah I Love Him So” by Peggy Lee, and he chases her out into the street where they kiss again. She then heads to the speakeasy and sits down with the Bartender. They share a drink together before Boy Witch interrupts the proceedings.
Around the time the music changes to “Close Your Eyes” by Ray Noble and His Orchestra, ft. Al Bowlly, Agnes leaves the speakeasy in a fright and goes to make a locket charm in the tailor’s. Bartender bounces Boy Witch into the locked box. Bargarran is confronted by Lady Macduff in his shop. Fulton, having buried the bird skull in the graveyard, returns to the funeral home.
Fulton performs an “autopsy” on Sexy Witch to “Moonglow” by Jack Teagarden, that ends in a shock. The Bartender dances briefly with Bald Witch before going to the detective agency to steal the crime scene photos from Malcolm’s cork board. Agnes continues making her locket in the tailor’s.
Fulton watches as the witches converge upon the “replica bar” while “Why Don’t You Do Right?” by Peggy Lee plays, and stays in the street to see a possessed Macbeth wander after them (in most instances, Fulton then takes this as his cue to walk down the alleyway and observe the rave for himself. Shortly thereafter, Macduff, Malcolm and Banquo converge upon the speakeasy and explore their suspicions toward each other regarding Duncan’s murder.
The Bartender watches Macduff, Malcolm and Banquo play a peculiar card game to “My Man” by Peggy Lee, during which their suspicions about each other are brought to an agonizing tension. Meanwhile, across town, Fulton steals the blackbird from Bargarran’s shop and returns to his own shop to perform a charm with it.
Macbeth storms into the speakeasy, interrupting the card game as “On the Sunny Side of the Street” by Ted Lewis comes on. The volume of the music is lowered significantly, only to be replaced by ambient noise, as Macbeth assaults and murders Banquo. Meanwhile, at the tailor’s, Fulton finishes his ritual with the blackbird.
Here, curiously, the soundtrack appears to start over for a bit as the cycle winds down, and “Every Night About This Time” by the Ink Spots plays. Fulton returns the blackbird to the detective agency, then heads to the funeral home, where he watches Macbeth and Lady Macbeth rave in the street. It is also during this song that Banquo awakens and leaves the speakeasy.
Fulton returns to his shop to clean up his space, and we hear “I’ll Never Smile Again” by the Ink Spots for the second time in the cycle.There is a distinct parallelism here, as this marks the second time that Fulton returns to his store, dejected. We are no doubt meant to draw a parallel between his failure to seduce Agnes—a failure that leaves her vulnerable to Hecate’s machinations—and his shock and dejection at having seen the rave, knowing full well that, despite his efforts, he was unable to thwart the evil that surrounds him.
Bargarran storms into Fulton’s shop to confront him while “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie” by the Ink Spots plays again, and though Fulton tries to run away, they end up fighting in the street. After Fulton escapes, Bargarran searches through Fulton’s shop. This song, like the last, is meant to highlight a parallel. When the song first plays, Bargarran destroys the hem of his coat and presents it to Fulton as a ruse for planting the bird skull on his person. This time, Bargarran returns, knowing that Fulton has performed a ritual to divest the skull of its power, and has taken the skull who-knows-where; one might say the power, or at least the possession over this seemingly important artifact, has been reversed.
III. Hecate’s “Replica Bar”
In Hecate’s Gallow Green hideout, which consists of a dead, darkened, worn-out husk of the Manderley Bar through which we enter the hotel,
While heavily distorted, a close listen will reveal that this is indeed Tony Bennett’s voice singing “Is That All There Is?” (pay close attention to the way he says “Is that all there is to a fire?” and especially the long outro).
After this quite significant musical moment, there is a little-noticed soundtrack that plays during the middle portion of the cycle. Seeing as Hecate is largely absent during this time, usually in her lair performing serial “one-on-ones,” the music that plays here is not meant to underscore any action, though each of the songs is vaguely thematic and tells us something about the goings-on within the hotel.
After Hecate enters her lair for the first one-on-one of her cycle, “Weep No More, My Baby” by Ray Noble and His Orchestra, ft. Al Bowlly plays. The title appears to be a sly reference not only to Hecate’s avocation of harvesting the tears of others, but also to the common medieval belief that witches were unable to produce tears.
“When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano” by Glenn Miller is likely a cursory reference to the prevalence bird motif within the show, which we’ve discussed before.
Next plays “Slumber Song” by Glenn Miller. While I cannot speculate as to the thematic significance of this song (should one even exist), it should be mentioned that this song appears in several other instances throughout the cycle—it also plays in Nurse Shaw’s office in the King James Sanitorium and in the Macduffs’ apartment.
“A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” by Glenn Miller is another cursory reference to the prevalence bird motif within the show, which we’ve discussed before.
The song that concludes this section of Hecate’s cycle—“That Old Black Magic” by Glenn Miller—is such an on-the-nose musical cue in the context of this show that it warrants no explanation.
Shortly thereafter, during the rave “Reece” by Ed Rush & Optical and “Mute (Jokers of the Scene Remix)” by The Brash Well after the rave, the “Hitchcock Suite” plays as Hecate goes on her “walkabout” through Gallow Green.
IV. The Macduffs’ Flat
The Macduffs’ apartment has its own soundtrack that sometimes compliments the impression we are meant to get that Lady Macduff is, at least in part, a very maternal, protective woman.
“Goodnight Children Everywhere” by Vera Lynn begins just as Macduff comes home to find his wife scratching at the face of the Madonna statue on their china closet. They share a dance during which he is able to coax her down and into the parlor.
“Lights Out” by Greta Keller plays as they perform their duet amongst the couches in the parlor. Lady Macduff, clearly showing withdrawal symptoms, does not manage to calm down until the song draws a close, and “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” by Glenn Miller comes on. Macduff and his wife then begin to dress themselves for the ball.
Much later in the cycle, after a long stretch of silence and ambient music, three songs, “Let Us Be Sweethearts” by Leslie “Hutch” Hutchinson, “You Stepped Out of a Dream” by Glenn Miller, and “Slumber Song” by Glenn Miller play in the apartment. During this time, Catherine Campbell visits to tidy up the place, though she isn’t afraid to express her contempt for the Macduffs while she is there.
After the maid has left, the “Hitchcock Suite” resounds through the empty apartment, with a freshly reincarnated Lady Macduff returning there only shortly before the music fades away.
V. King James Sanitorium
The sanitorium seems to have two major sources of music, the large hedge maze, where Nurse Shaw and Matron Lang share some interactions, and Nurse Shaw’s office, where surprisingly little happens. Nonetheless, this is a (no doubt incomplete) account of the incidental music that occurs within the sanitorium.
Early in the cycle, when Matron Lang first steps from her hut to wander the maze, she comes upon a column and scrawls on it in chalk. She is interrupted, however, by a bright white light, which causes her to collapse. She is found shortly thereafter by Nurse Shaw, who walks her back to the hut to share a moment of comfort and empathy together. As this action plays out, the piece “Destiny” from Constantine by Brian Tyler and Klaus Badelt resounds through the maze.
There is a small radio in Nurse Shaw’s office that, for the most part, is silent, but occasionally plays some pop music. Around the middle of the cycle, “Guilty” by Ray Noble and His Orchestra ft. Al Bowlly plays, followed immediately by “Slumber Song” by Glenn Miller. Now, while Nurse Shaw’s cycle is highly variable, one of the few actions she performs in every cycle is that she will go to her office and carve out patterns and messages from the medical dictionary there. It is the “Slumber Song” which accompanies this action.
During this process, the alarum bell rings over the loudspeakers, and Nurse Shaw is interrupted from her work. She gets up from the office and wanders through the maze toward the Matron’s hut. They then perform their beautiful “mirror dance” through the hedges while “Humanity” from Constantine by Brian Tyler and Klaus Badelt plays.
Later on in the cycle, a long silence in the hospital is interrupted by “It’s a Sin to Tell a Lie” by the Ink Spots, which resounds from Nurse Shaw’s office, followed immediately thereafter by “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” by Glenn Miller.
At the end of the cycle, the “Hitchcock Suite” can be heard paying from the floors below.
VI. McKittrick Hotel Lobby
The hotel lobby is largely silent with respect to identifiable incidental music, but the few moments of sound are so significant that they deserve a mention.
“I’ll Never Smile Again” by Tommy Dorsey. (See Section II, supra)
“Is That All There Is?” by Peggy Lee. Our first taste of the Porter’s unrequited love (and perhaps also fear) of Boy Witch occurs during this iconic scene, where Boy Witch hops on stage and, having just been slathered below the eyes with Vick’s Vapo-Rub, lip-synchs a teary-eyed rendition of the song. This is simultaneous with Hecate’s own version of the song, playing upstairs. (See Section III, supra)
During the ball, the sound of the music coming from downstairs—namely “Tuxedo Junction” by Glenn Miller, “Boulder Bluff” by Glenn Miller, and “Sandman” by Benny Goodman—resounds through the lobby as the Porter dances about.
Shortly after the ball ends, Banquo arrives to receive his prophecy from the Porter and Sexy Witch, the latter of whom manhandles him and charms his eyes to sleep. This all occurs while “The Window” and “The Porch” from Psycho play.
Much later on, we hear a slightly distorted version of “Moonlight Becomes You” by Glenn Miller, which plays whilst an intoxicated Lady Macduff wanders the lobby in a heartbreaking stupor, during which she stands before the mirrored dresser, trying on dresses and baby clothes. Immediately after the song fades away, Lady Macduff, having recovered some of her lucidity, walks into the restaurant of the lobby, where she sits and waits for the arrival of Catherine Campbell, who again tempts her with the milk tincture. The song that plays here, appropriately enough, is “Temptation” from Psycho.
VII. Miscellaneous Music
In this section we will mention the few musical cues that occur in various places that do not, in any major sense, have a constant soundtrack.
For one, we have the prominent theme that accompanies the Guest’s entrance to the Manderley. The music heard in this dark labyrinth is the "Prelude" to Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much by Bernard Herrmann.
One major cue occurs early in the cycle in the Gallow Green High Street. After Agnes leaves Fulton’s shop, Fulton chases her out into the street with flowers and candy. As he leans in to try and kiss her again, there is a very brief swell of music—the first few measures of Franz Waxman’s “Opening and Main Theme” from Hitchcock’s Rebecca—that fades away as quickly as it begins.
A little while afterward, we can hear a bit of music in Duncan’s bedroom. As far as we can tell, Duncan’s bedroom has its own soundtrack, although, for the most part, the source of the music seems to be one very, very faint-sounding speaker in the far corner of his bed, which tends to play only music that is heard somewhere else in the hotel. For example, the very faint sounds of “The Hotel Room” can be heard during Duncan’s morning prayers, while the same music is playing upstairs in the Macbeth’s bedroom. In addition, when no one else is in the room, an almost imperceptibly faint rendition of “Slumber Song” by Glenn Miller plays at the same time a much louder iteration of it is playing upstairs in the Macduffs’ Apartment. These little moments of synchronicity I will leave to you to find, as I imagine they are rare enough not to impact our reading of the show too much; although the point could be made that this apparent synchronicity is meant to signify Duncan’s kingship—i.e. that he (ideally) surveys all that occurs under his auspices.
This point notwithstanding, there are some musical moments in Duncan’s room that are far less ambiguous and perplexing. During his shaving scene with Malcolm, for instance, two songs can be heard: “Moonlight Becomes You” by Glenn Miller and “Frenesi” by Glenn Miller. Once the latter fades away, the loud music from the ballroom can be heard, overpowering all other sound in the bedroom.
Much later on, in the ballroom, there is a beautiful moment where Catherine Campbell wakes up the dead Duncan with a kiss, and they dance in the ballroom to “Moonlight Becomes You” by Glenn Miller. It is a tender moment that ends with a twinge of guilt and heartbreak—and that fact that this music also accompanies Lady Macduff’s stupor upstairs adds a touch of irony to Mrs. Campbell’s all-too-brief moment of joy and eventual dejection.
And finally, we come to the exit music, which pays after Macbeth is hanged and the actors usher the Guests back to the Manderley, which is “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” by Glenn Miller.
And there you have it. This is our humble attempt at an exhaustive account of songs featured within the McKittrick Hotel. If you have any corrections or additions (or questions), feel free to let us know.
Until next time, my lovelies.
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