Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Perfect Murder CD

A few weeks ago I was franticly running around on a Friday afternoon, trying to get everything ready for a murder mystery party that I'd be hosting later that evening. The previous night my printer had malfunctioned and so I was way behind in printing out all the necessary documents for the guests to play. However, I managed to get off work early on Friday and was trying to make the proverbial "comeback."

When I made it to the grocery store, just a few hours before the party, I was in a major hurry because I still had documents to print and other arrangements to make before 16 hungry people expecting a well-planned mystery would arrive.

I usually like to leisurely make my way around a grocery store, but this time I was all business -- no time to
pout about deceptive advertising, analyze the social dynamics of my surroundings (people watch), marvel at all the colorful cereal boxes, reminisce about how grocery stores were better "back in the day," dream about how grocery stores could be improved in the future, or even take pity on the guy stuck with the messy clean-up in aisle 7 .

Now granted, I'm not one to brag, especially on the World Wide Web, but I've gotta say that I made some great time in that grocery store. I mean, yeah, I still took my sweet time in certan areas, but for the most part, I was bookin' it.

I was so proud of myself that when I was ready to check out, I tried to do a careful calculation as to which line would go fastest so that I could finish the job strong. (Side note: Does anyone remember the Simpsons episode where Abu uses his expertise to guide Marge to the fastest-moving line in the grocery store? I always think about that when I'm getting ready to check out.) Anyway, I soon find what I consider to be the best line and get in it. After about 5 minutes of waiting it's finally my turn to start loading my items onto the conveyor belt while the person in front of me is paying. After a few more minutes all of my items are on the counter and it's about time for my groceries to be scanned. I go to reach for my wallet and -- funny thing -- it's not there. Check my other pocket... not there either. Check my original pocket again, still not there. Wildly check all of my pockets and look suspiciously at the person behind me... nothing.

Now, let me remind you, the last time I was in this big of a hurry at a grocery store was never. If it hadn't been for my unexpected printer problems, I wouldn't be in such a hurry this time either, but no time for second guessing. I hurriedly reload my cart, apologize to the cashier, say that I'll push my cart to the side and get my wallet from the car (long story as to why my wallet was in my car).

Another 20 minutes later, I had finally checked out. One positive that came out of it was that on my 2nd time through the line a nice lady gave me a $5 coupon. However, upon getting home, I realized I had forgotten the ice. (Thanks to Tony the Aussie pirate and Lisa the German Cuckoo
clock maker for picking up the ice!)

I've written quite a bit so far in this post, but I am getting to a point. Now where was I? Oh yes, if Tony & Lisa hadn't picked up the ice, I wouldn't have had time to download and burn five songs onto a CD for the party -- and even at that, I barely managed it. (The purpose of this CD was to provide about 15 minutes of "sleuth music" while the guests wrote up their solutions to the night's mystery game.) While I had researched a few songs earlier in the week, I hadn't made any firm decisions on them until about 20 minutes before the party at which point I started downloading and burning like there was no tomorrow. I put a little thought into the
order in which I'd put the songs on the CD, but not much. Definitely no time for second guessing. In fact, the first time I put the CD in the player and turned it on was at the party... I wasn't even sure it had burned properly. Fortunately, it had.

Okay, so I've now written even more since the last time I commented on this post's length, but I've finally reached my point: This CD that I whipped together in 10 minutes is perfect! (Well, it's perfect for a murder mystery dinner party, anyway.) The only thing is that I didn't notice
this until long after the party was over. So what's the CD you ask?

It's these five songs in this order:

1. The Pink Panther Theme (Original Version) by Harry Mancini & his Orchestra
2. The Peter Gunn Theme by Ray Anthony (Dragnet's music)
3. Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror: Christopher Docks by Slovak Radio Symphony
4. Perry Mason TV theme

5. Murder She Wrote TV theme

So, what makes this perfect? Oh, let me count the ways...

Well, let's face it, if you want to get people in the mood for sleuthing, you've gotta start with the Pink Panther. This is a no-brainer.

Second, it turns out that the Pink Panther is the purr-fect table setter for the Peter Gunn Theme. While the Panther is a well-balanced, easygoing song, the Gunn fires much bravado and is in your face; it calls to your attention the seriousness of the matter. After all, we're talking about life and death here.

Third, the Sherlock song is quite a change of pace from the Gunn theme in that it's an orchestra and it's both softer and slower. However, I would argue that the intensity does not drop off. If you pay attention to the song, it's rather creepy. The "story" told by the instruments in the song seems to be that of a man lurking in corridors, slowly moving in on his prey, and ultimately emerging from the shadows -- the inevitable is about to happen.

Fourth, there's this amazing transition from the Sherlock song to the Perry Mason song. I'd like to take credit for this, but I can't because I had never even heard the end of the Sherlock song before I burned it onto the CD. I'm serious. I had been in such a hurry that after I had heard the first minute of the Sherlock song I was like, "Okay, this is both different and creepy, now let's git 'er done!" Anyway, after the Sherlock song ends with the killer appearing, the Perry Mason song begins with the killer making the kill. As a matter of fact, the start of the Perry Mason song sounds as though it belongs at the end of the Sherlock song!

Fifth, once in full swing, the Perry Mason song is both stylin' and smooth. The good guys are now on the case. Things are going to be all right. (Well, things will be "all right" in the sense that you feel confident that the killer will likely be caught. But admittedly, things probably won't be "all right" for Professor Plum who was already found in the Hall with the Knife in his back.)

Sixth, oh, wait a second. I've got to set this one up. Okay, so I originally wanted the Jeopardy song as the last song on the CD. You see, my plan was to play the CD as people wrote up their solutions to the crime, so by placing Jeopardy last, people would (A) laugh and (B) know that time was running out and they needed to finish up. However, I couldn't find the Jeopardy theme on iTunes, so I scratched that and gave up any hope of having a song that would be a good ending. But in hindsight, the Jeopardy song would have messed everything up. Sure, it would have been fine for the party, but it would have rendered the CD "cheesy" in the long run. As it turned out, Murder She Wrote's theme was great (oops, I mean perfect) for the ending. From the song's start, it seems to be working on bringing closure; for the most part, the song is cheery (with a few twists) and after it reaches its conclusion you're left feeling as though you got a good show -- and holding your head a little higher.

But like I've said, I can't take credit for planning this CD. I was only aiming to get about 15 minutes worth of music together so I could play it as people wrote up their answers at the end. After I had hurriedly decided on downloading those 5 songs, I even more quickly decided on how to order them using the following logic:

1. As stated before, Pink Panther going first was a no-brainer.
2. Perry Mason and Peter Gunn were too much alike (in my mind) so they had to be separated by at least one song. Neither seemed like a good ending, so I just randomly put Gunn in the 2-hole and had Mason bat clean-up (4th). I've since come to appreciate the differences between these two songs (hey, I never said I was musically gifted).
3. Sherlock definitely couldn't go at the end because it was "the creepy one" (at least the part I had listened to was creepy), so that had to go in the 3-spot.
4. Only the finale was left, so that's where I put Murder She Wrote, even though at the time I would have much rather had Jeopardy there.

Aside from this long story about the CD, I think it's also worth mentioning that the murder mystery theme I used was "The Disappearance of Death" written by Jack Pachuta. This murder mystery game was well-written, but perhaps the most pleasant surprise was that the author was so available. Seriously, he responded immediately and in detail to both of my e-mails. He also gives out his phone number with the promise of answering your questions for free up to half an hour. Pretty cool.

To top it all off, Jack Pachuta is leading a murder mystery cruise next spring. While I won't be going, I couldn't help but notice that one of the stops is in Costa Rica. =)

And so, there you have it. If you're planning a murder mystery party, perhaps you've gotten a few helpful hints from this post. I'd also like to say that "The Perfect Murder CD" can be played repeatedly in the background as your guests arrive and begin mingling. However, make sure to turn the CD off once the mystery gets into full swing. Don't turn the CD back on until people are writing up their answers at the end. Serves 6-100 people.



middle westy said...


lisa :) said...

And here I was thinking it was something you had picked up at a music store. Thanks for the effort and it really was perfect too (especially the Murder She Wrote ending). You rock Greg!
- Gretel ;)

Greg said...

Thanks. =)

Lisa, I was inspired in part by your "Pavlov" post and Jason's comments on it. That got me to thinking about something foolish I had done recently (got in a busy line w/o my wallet).