I've often done this, usually when collecting a specific composer's work. I'll familiarize myself with a score without having seen the film it was composed for.
Recently I saw Cape Fear (1961) for the first time, which was excellent, and it was interesting seeing how Herrmann's score was applied to the film. Usually I had scenes or action in my mind for particular cues that were very different or pretty close to what was on film. It's almost like reading a book before you see the film adaptation.
I think another instance of this for me was with Goldsmith's score for The Satan Bug (1965), and because the FSM CD had some cues with sfx it almost ended up like a radio play and my imagination had even more fuel to conjure up images.
I think this is what happens to most of us. When I started collecting scores in the 80s I only puchased scores I liked from watching the movies. Oftenly there was some disapointment for the album missing some cues I had liked in the movie or being completely different recordings.
Gradually, as I became more familiar with the composers I liked more, I started buying scores without having seen the movies and, nowadays, probably most of the scores I have are from movies I have not seen and when I watch a movie I'm usually already familiar with its score.
Definitely have done this, usually in expectation of enjoying the film, but one that comes to mind is, "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty." Found the score CD at the thrift shop for $1, hadn't even heard of the film, but read a few reviews and figured it was worth a shot. Now it's one of my favorite weird scores for an obscure film that typically flies under the radar.
Films make no difference to me in my enjoyment of soundtrack albums. I own sountracks to many I've seen, and many I've not. It's all about how it works as its own thing, as a singular, conceptual listening experience.
Yeah, often it's easier to get the score than to see a particular film.
What were some surprises you've all had as to how the music was used when finally seeing a film? Or maybe the surprise could be that a certain cue wasn't used.
One case that sort of surprised me was in "Jupiter Ascending". I had loved the soundtrack and decided to watch (the terrible) film. One of the tracks I liked was "I Hate My Life" with its 'epic' ending - then I was surprised watching the movie and discovering that this music scored Mila Kunis cleaning toilets...
I finally saw Enter the Dragon 20 years after picking up the soundtrack, which is one of my all-time favorite movie scores. My fondness for the score made the experience of seeing the movie immeasurably more enjoyable. It was a blast.
I had the CD to Jurassic Park a whole month before the movie came out here in the UK, so I was very familiar with the music by the time the film came out. I still remember playing Journey to the Island and hearing the theme for the first time. It blew me away. And also the music for the Raptors and wondering what the scenes were going to be like.
I agree with the assessment that for many of us, this constitutes 70-80% of our respective collections! For example, I love Elmer Bernstein's music and ran across the option of at long last watching both SLIPSTREAM and SATURN 3 (via Tubi), the former of these being one of my absolute favorites of his scores.
In the case of SLIPSTREAM, Bernstein's music is featured prominently and provides the uneven but earnest movie an epic feel on a shoestring budget. With SATURN 3, so much of Bernstein's music was cut that the movie really suffers for it, while also overall being a nonsensical, turgid mess to endure.
Ironically, ALL of my initial soundtrack forays were because my friends and I wanted back ground music to play while we played with army men in the sandbox. The local library had LPs which I recorded from the speaker with my tape recorder and that would be our music. At the time the selection was really limited (70s), but I started to enjoy the listening experience of Jerry Goldsmith, John Williams, and John Barry late in the day with headphones in my room. I grew to LOVE orchestral music of this type... and thus my journey began.
I didn't start actually seeing the films associated with the albums until some years later. Capricorn One was such a surprise when I saw it for the first time .
One thing that's fun is a soundtrack album that I own (or have listened to excerpts several times) - but it never "clicked" with me. That is, until I finally see the movie in question. Then there's that "Oh yeah! I actually know this music!" sensation, and sometimes that score finally sounds really good once you hear it within the film itself.
If you hear the music first, you will form your own impressions. Then it may well seem "wrong" when you hear it where it actually belongs. I abhor the practice but understand why it's bound to happen sometimes.
It is fun to see all the motifs and themes come together with the imagery on film. But I do understand the trepidation about not forming a separate impression. I find with my limited soundtrack buying budget I tend to get more scores that I love because of the movie. Although there are those composers who I'll take a chance on because of their impeccable record. There have been occasions where I've been pleasantly surprised that the music somehow communicated the camera movement before I'd seen the film, and whatever was in my head, turned out to be right, like a zoom or a tilt. Zdenek Liska's score for Mala Morska Vila (The Little Mermaid) did that for me.
I knew Flesh + Blood quite well before seeing the movie. It was very interesting to finally have the visuals and dialogue to go with the vivid music Poledouris had written.
Basic Instinct is an interesting case. I'd listened to the score a few times before seeing the movie. I must know Goldsmith's sensibilities better than I'd previously realized because I instantly knew "Night Life" had been written for a car chase.
There are many others, including Cherry 2000, but these are the ones that really stand out.