Refreshingly Simple – a Soundtrack Analysis of STRANGER THINGS Season 1


Oswald Iten


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Accompanying text

Companion piece to a longer article on the music of STRANGER THINGS (Duffer Brothers, 2016) for the print edition of


In this video essay, I focus on how the synth score by Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein affects our perception of the relationship between Eleven and Mike in Season 1 of STRANGER THINGS.
Since there are many deliberate parallels to the friendship of E.T. and Elliot and since specific traits of a score often stand out more clearly when contrasted with different musical choices, I lined up some of the key sequences of Season 1 with corresponding E.T. (Spielberg, 1982) scenes. Although I was pretty sure that some of it would work, I was positively amazed how precisely the swapped scores matched up – sometimes for almost three minutes without re-aligning. So from these large chunks of “re-scored” scenes I have created this comparison video in the hope of gaining new insight into both works.

I also chose John Williams’s E.T. score because it is one of the most effective and I already know it inside out. And like STRANGER THINGS it came out of a close director-composer collaboration. So when I talk about decisions by Williams or Dixon/Stein, I also mean Spielberg or the Duffer brothers respectively.
Besides, I also played around with the scores of FIRESTARTER, GOONIES and UNDER THE SKIN, but that’s for some other time…


*This video makes “fair use” of copyrighted material for analytical and educational purposes only!*