Published July 09, 2008
Music is an integral element of the hit television series House, MD. Music is often used to propel the narrative, as well as provide both solace and enjoyment to the series’ central character. Dr. Gregory House is a musician, and one gets the strong impression that his music is more than a casual hobby.
He plays several instruments, including piano, guitar (he owns several vintage models, including a “Flying V,” a Dobro, and a Gibson Jumbo acoustic), and owns a banjo. And, House was even seen repairing his own guitar in “The Right Stuff” after Wilson cruelly broke it. I just have all sorts of respect for the character for undertaking such an intricate and complex task — and for the writer who gave the musicians in the audience such a subtle little Easter egg. And no, it is not a common thing for people to repair their own guitars!
Of course, it certainly helps that Hugh Laurie, who plays the complex Dr. Gregory House, is an accomplished musician and composer, often lending his own musical talents to the series’ score — and lending credibility to House’s musical gifts.
In an interview during season two with NPR’s Elvis Mitchell, Laurie suggested that despite his cynical, sarcastic, crude demeanor, music provides a sort of emotional language for House, one that he uses primarily, but not exclusively, in isolation.
House’s musical interest extends beyond performance. He maintains an audiophile’s sound system both at home and in his office and keeps his iPod close at hand. But it is his dual (office and home) Sota turntables (which are incredibly expensive) and penchant for his vinyl collection of classic jazz, blues, and classic rock that suggest the important role music plays in House’s life. In times of stress, he is often shown in his office, eyes closed, lying on the floor or in his Eames chair, listening, transported by music of all genres.
House’s personal musical tastes are as eclectic as the musical choices that overlay the series’ trademark dialogue-free montages, which move the story forward, hit emotional notes that House himself hasn’t the ability to express, and set a tone and context for the scenes they illuminate.
In any event, here is my “essential” soundtrack for House: musical moments from the show, that when heard, evoke specific images of scenes and emotions from the show, from House’s inner life, and his never-ending turmoil — and occasionally, unbridled joy.
Caveat: I tend to gravitate toward the more melancholy and moody beats of the show, rather than its quirkiness and comedy, and my musical selections reflect that preference. A complete listing of songs used in the series is available at the official site’s music feature. Asterisked selections are included on the official House soundtrack album.
* “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”, Rolling Stones (Pilot episode, “Honeymoon,” “Meaning”) — Very nearly an unofficial anthem for the series, it has been referenced musically and in dialogue throughout the series’ run, meaning different things at different times. In the pilot episode, House uses the words of the “philosopher” Jagger to tell dean of medicine Lisa Cuddy that he has no intention of fulfilling his tedious obligation in the hospital’s free clinic. “You can’t always get what you want,” he tells her. But later, after pulling his privileges without warning, an angry House bursts into her office. “I looked up that philosopher Jagger,” she zings. “And you know, you’re right: you can’t always get what you want. But sometimes,” she continues, quoting the song’s lyrics, “you just might get what you need.” Check and mate. Defeated, House gives in to Cuddy’s clinic demands.