Thursday, 10 May 2012

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein


"Investigating the Relationship of Music and Image" - Jon Brooks

Contents

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein Motion Picture Soundtrack Cover Art
- Film information
- Introduction
- Style and Concepts
- Soundtrack
- Breakdown and Investigation
- Conclusion
- References
- Bibliography

Film Information

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein:
(1994)
Music Composed by:
Patrick Doyle
Directed and Produced by:
Kenneth Branagh
Starring:
Robert De Niro - The Creation
Kenneth Branagh - Victor Frankenstein
Helena Bonham Carter - Elizabeth
Tom Hulce - Henry Clerval
lan Holm - Baron Frankenstein
John Cleese - Dr. Waldeman
Aidan Quinn - Captain Robert Walton
Picture Duration: 118 minutes (approx.)
Soundtrack Duration: 69 minutes, 55 seconds (Plus source music and shorter cues not included on the soundtrack recording).
Percentage of music scored to film: 60%
Victor Frankenstein’s research enables him to create a ‘monster’ from various body parts. Subsequently, Victor rejects him. The monster’s recognition of its own presence, loneliness and knowledge of creation, fuels a furious disposition of revenge. Kenneth Branagh guides us through the story of Victor’s quest for knowledge, and the creatures search for his ‘father’.

Introduction

The central subject matter of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein exists in man’s obsession with the power of immoral creation. This type of film requires sophisticated scoring techniques because of the nature and characteristics of the plot. The film medium, since its inception, has allowed for a realisation of fictional concepts and ideas, and therefore, has sought to create alternate realities through the use of striking visual images and musical scores. In this context, the music suggests a reality that is not possible for the image alone to capture.

Style and Concepts

Before filming began, Kenneth Branagh had asked Patrick Doyle to write a melody to the words of Byron’s poem, ‘So We’ll Go No More A Roving’ (Ref 1). The initial plan was to feature a song during the ballroom scene. This idea was eventually discarded, but the theme remained.
Like many other film scores, Patrick Doyle’s score is based around the leitmotif technique. Not every character has their own theme, but the significant amount of thematic development makes it possible and appropriate to attach similar material to the required scenes. The main theme, featured in its entirety is during ‘The Wedding Night’ scene. As this leitmotif theme occurs throughout, Doyle’s creativity excels as he produces a fully orchestrated score and develops the ideal cues to connote the appropriate mood for the specific scenes.

Soundtrack

Running time: (69’55")
NB: Source music is not included on the soundtrack.
Track 1: To Think Of A Story (3:28)
Track 2: What’s Out There? (2:52)
Track 3: There’s An Answer (4:37)
Track 4: I Won’t If You Won’t (1:58)
Track 5: A Perilous Direction (3:20)
Track 6: A Risk Worth Taking (3:18)
Track 7: Victor Begins (0:54)
Track 8: Even If You Die (2:16)
Track 9: The Creation (2:00)
Track 10: Evil Stitched To Evil (4:43)
Track 11: The Escape (1:47)
Track 12: The Reunion (0:45)
Track 13: The Journal (1:04)
Track 14: Friendless (2:09)
Track 15: William! (2:44)
Track 16: Death Of Justine/Sea Of Ice (3:54)
Track 17: Yes I Speak (5:37)
Track 18: God Forgive Me (0:57)
Track 19: Please Wait (3:21)
Track 20: The Honeymoon (1:16)
Track 21: The Wedding Night (2:05)
Track 22: Elizabeth (4:11)
Track 23: She’s Beautiful (3:36)
Track 24: He Was My Father (6:10) 

Breakdown and Investigation

In the first scene Captain Robert Walton (obsessed with reaching the North Pole), with his crew and ship, crash into an iceberg during a turbulent storm. Tracks one and two dramatically accompany the storm and later set the scene by displaying a sense of mystery, darkness and the fear of the unknown as the crew begin to hear strange noises somewhere out in the distance. Sparse excerpts of the main theme are introduced in these tracks with which a recurring chattering and spiky woodwind motif appears that compliments the cold and icy images and help to establish the setting. The audience then begins to discover what the unknown is in the format of a story, which is related by Victor Frankenstein as he appears from the snowy, frozen landscape. Delicate, but dynamic underscore accompanies this scene.
The mood of the music then shifts with the scene change to a lighter and more joyous time in Victor’s life (as a child). Here the audience is introduced to the first cue of source music (unfortunately not on the CD soundtrack), as Victor dances with his mother just before Elizabeth’s arrival and introduction (Victor’s adopted sister). Doyle suitably transforms his main theme into a baroque style dance on the harpsichord as if being performed by one of the characters (Justine) on set. Music then underscores and stitches the scenes from Victor’s childhood to approximately fifteen years on with slower and more reflective music mainly featuring strings and woodwind. Source music is used again for another dance, this time the theme seems to draw influences from composers such as, Bach, Haydn and Mozart, in places sounding like the development from a Sonata making use of the ‘classical’ alberti bass which also features ornamented baroque melodic lines and counterpoint. As Victor’s story unfolds, the audience experience his family life, research, and soon his obsession with solving the problem of death. Death is introduced for the first time when his mother dies. Three years later, whilst visiting her gravestone, in a soliloquy he vows, "no one need ever die, I will stop this ..... I will stop this .... I promise". During Victor’s field experiment in the company of Elizabeth, Justine and Willi, the score begins to create an exciting and playful quality, out of which a magical orchestral moment emerges (track three - 4:01) that compliments the visuals and narrative during the experiment’s results. A few scenes later more source music accompanies Victor’s leaving ball, out of which a more substantial form of the main theme creeps in as the audience begin to perceive what seems to be the beginning of an intimate relationship between Victor and Elizabeth. Victor then proposes to her, and she accepts.
We are then transported to Ingolstadt to where he is to continue his studies. As he enters the rented cathedral-like attic, a short and energetic arpeggio orientated brass figure is announced. Although not on the soundtrack, it is rather similar to the beginning of track seven. The presence of this cue is as if to magnify or hint of what is to become within the attic. From here on, the score assumes a darker role in the production.
Victor manages to acquire the journals of Dr. Waldeman who has just been stabbed by a patient. Doyle stings this scene in a most suitable fashion, incorporating bawling brass stabs and startling rasping trills from the horn section. These journals assist Victor in his quest to create life and fulfill his research. Thinking in the chance that lives can be saved from his experiments; to him, his work is justified. The criminal gets the death sentence (hanging). As he is propelled from his footing, Doyle’s brass motif (beginning of track six) suitably portrays the emotional reaction the audience visualises: a burst of anguish and a sense of inescapable doom. This seems to relate to, and justify Deryck Cooke’s theory (1959), that particular pitch sequences (‘basic terms’) have a one-to-one correspondence with specific emotions. (Ref 2) For example:
Doh-re-mi-re (Minor) - Burst of anguish, which then dies away.
Doh-re-mi-re-doh (Minor) - A sense of inescapable doom.
Gabriel (1978), found no significant pattern of agreement with Cooke’s descriptions and their emotional content (Ref 3). But surely this depends on the context. If these ‘basic terms’ are harmonised, developed and orchestrated in an appropriate manner, then an understanding may be achieved. In this case, Patrick Doyle’s brass figure relates very closely to that of both the examples above and are executed in the most appropriate manner.
Victor is now capable of creating life, and whatever the consequences, he will continue. This is portrayed in track six, ‘A Risk Worth Taking’. Half way through the track a gloomy rendition of part of the main theme is sounded from a solo french horn combined with strings as Elizabeth begins to worry about Victor and decides to go to him. The cue leaves the audience in a state of suspense.
Track eight accompanies Victor’s preparation for the creation of ‘the monster’ using "raw materials" by "stitching evil to evil". Exhausted, he falls asleep, only to be woken by a knock at the door - that of Henry and Victor’s fiancĂ©, Elizabeth. Both are warning him of the epidemic. Elizabeth enters and is shocked to see how Victor is living. Urging him to leave, she pleads for the cancellation of his project due to the plague. He refuses, thus putting the importance of his project above her and even his own life. Subsequently the accompanying cue even though solemn, is remarkably delicate and beautiful, as once again the main theme materializes. Upon her distraught and intense departure, trumpets cry out of the orchestration incorporating wailing appoggiaturas. Research demonstrated by Professor John Sloboda, a psychologist at the University of Keele, found that the use of appoggiatura’s was a device commonly known to be associated with tears. (Ref 4) This device functions extremely well with the pace and mood of the drama.
Victor realises what he has done and so his intentions become more frantic and serious. The music at this point (track nine) breaks into possibly one of Doyle’s most exciting cues for the film. Both the score and visuals depict Victor’s firm determination to continue with his work. The pacing is most notably increased; defined by the films editing and Victor’s energy, plus the scores use of rapid accompaniment whilst propelling a wonderfully syncopated and rhythmically driven cue. Due to the complex orchestration, it is difficult to pinpoint specific influences, only to draw to the conclusion that Doyle’s originality is at his most creative. Unfortunately for the film music lover, the SFX cover the subtleties in the score even though the music is featured quite heavily. For example, without listening to the soundtrack alone it is almost impossible to distinguish the presence of an organ amongst the mix.
When his creation (Robert De Niro) is complete, he sees that it is dysfunctional and that his work resulted in an abomination. Swells by flutes, strings and trumpets (possibly organ too!) lead up to a swift violin passage, which accompanies a vision of Victor’s monstrous mistake;
"who hangs suspended like Christ on the Cross from the rafters" (Ref 5). He vows to destroy his creation the next morning.
Victor is woken by the creation whilst ‘it’ attempts to escape. Whilst on the rampage in the streets, the film seems to subtly impose that the audience be inclined to show the creation a little sympathy. When Victor discovers his creation has escaped he is drained and falls ill. Henry his colleague cares for his health. Whilst recovering, Elizabeth comes back. A piano solo by her in the next room awakens him. This piano music used as source, is Doyle’s main theme, but once again, unfortunately not included on the soundtrack. This evolves and flourishes into more thematic string material (track twelve) as he apologises for his behavior upon their reunion.
The creation finds Victor’s journal in the coat he took from the attic. Swells by the trumpets, strings and flutes accompany this scene (track thirteen). The first time the audience heard this haunting and glacial sounding device was when it accompanied the creation hanging from the rafters in the attic. It seems that Doyle intended for the audience to associate this theme with the creation’s presence and also with the journal.
Track fourteen, ‘Friendless’, directs the audience to sympathise with the creation’s loneliness. Meanwhile, Victor has moved back to Geneva with Elizabeth to marry. From the journal, the monster begins to discover how he was created. Utterly distraught and furious, he swears his revenge. Subsequently the music cue shifts with the creation’s emotion. From here, the pace of the drama really increases.
The search for Victor’s younger brother (Willi) is accompanied by track fifteen, which exudes worry, anticipation and finally an acknowledgement of his death (killed by the creation). This scene serves as a semi-climax and triggers some of the most intense emotions. Justine is wrongly accused for Willi’s murder and is hung. Doyle’s hit point a minute into track fifteen’s cue is perfectly crafted and dramatically modulates on target when the rope is fully extended, representing the images and enhancing Justine’s neck being broken. The creation then demands Victor to meet him on the Sea of Ice. Underscoring this meeting, the creation spills his soul to his ‘father’.
Track nineteen unfolds the most substantial figure of the main theme so far. Beautifully crafted for strings, this romantic orchestration accompanies Victor’s struggle to keep Elizabeth.
Music accompanying ‘The Honeymoon’ (track twenty) is quick and brooding, as if they know the creation is following, which, of course, ‘it’ is. In the love scene (track twenty one), the audience is finally presented with the beautiful main theme in its entirety. The rich, lavish score, boasts much emotional content. Delicate harmonies and drifting progressions are marvelously orchestrated and certainly supplement the darker cues on the soundtrack. Like many of the other tracks, even if taken out of context, it would be likely to prove a success.
The drama takes its final dark tum. Victor makes a reluctant promise to create a partner for the ‘monster’. The creation has realised that Victor has broken his promise, and that costs him the life of Elizabeth. Using his research skills once again, he brings her back to life with parts of Justine and herself. The music in this scene (track twenty three) begins with an atmospheric approach out of which emerges a dramatic response from both the characters and score. Realising what has happened, with much grief, the new creation (Elizabeth) kills herself.
The final scene takes place on the ship, as seen in the very beginning, as Victor concludes the story. Through exhaustion, he then dies. Shortly after, the creation appears and explains to the ships crew that Victor was his father. The creation then announces that he is done with man and accompanies Victor’s body which is burning on an iceberg which serves as a funeral pyre. Track twenty four underscores this entire section. Doyle’s use of suspensions and dissonance make the doom evident. The two-note motive applied to the trumpets, previously implemented at Justine’s and Willi’s death, are once again exploited and enhance the visuals and intended emotional reaction. This track incorporates a compilation of all the thematic material and main themes to bookend the drama and decently brings things to a close.

Conclusion

From the beginning, it was clear that the film demanded such a score; one that incorporates a large orchestra to enable the "specific orchestral effects in order to match many grand images on screen" (Ref 6). Patrick Doyle’s leitmotif concept works superbly within the construct of the film. With thorough knowledge of the sounds a symphony orchestra is capable of producing, he creates some of the most appropriate cues to accompany the images and drama. The main theme plus all the subsequent thematic development effectively characterise the drama of Victor’s story as well as romanticise the adventures of the ‘creation’. This approach allowed the film form to dictate the score form which in tum also benefited significantly from the blending of source music. Doyle interchanges from source into score, and vice versa, quite subtly making sure that the transfer is not noticeable or distracting to the audience. To attain the intended emotions, Doyle’s score makes full use of ‘psycho physical variables’. Balkwill & Thompson (1999) found in their research that "Listeners relied upon the only resource at their disposal: psycho physical cues" (Ref 7). For example, variables that consisted of divergent tempi, rhythmic complexities, melody, harmonic progressions, timbres and specific tessituras. Doyle carefully crafted these variables to elicit the required mood and pace knowing that an emotional response from the audience was essential in establishing the success of the film. Unfortunately the film was not as successful as some would have liked. Dispersed throughout the film is evidence of Branagh’s creativity and Doyle suitably portrays this. Occasionally, the audience may feel the visuals and score over dramatise the plot, but as a whole, the combined images and score pull through and produce a most entertaining drama, which reflect both the horrors and the beauties of this specific genre.

References

#1: Patrick Doyle’s Notes - Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Soundtrack. Sleeve notes, September 1994.
#2: Cooke, D. (1959) ‘Melodic line and emotion’, Psychology of Music, Vol. 28. No.2. p.139
#3: Gabriel, C. (1978) ‘An experimental study of Deryck Cooke’s theory of music and meaning’, Psychology of Music, Vol. 6. p.13-20.
#4: Sloboda, John (1996) ‘ABC Radio National — Health Report Transcript’ Music and Emotions. Monday 1st April. (Presenter Robin Hughes). (Web site source listed in bibliography).
#5: Patrick Doyle’s Notes - Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Soundtrack. Sleeve notes, September 1994.
#6: Patrick Doyle’s Notes - Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Soundtrack. Sleeve notes, September 1994.
#7: L-L & Thompson, W. F., (1999) ‘A cross-cultural investigation of the perception of emotion in music: Psycho physical and cultural cues’. Music Perception, Vol. 17. No.1. p. 58.

Bibliography

Balkwill, L-L & Thompson, W. F., (1999) ‘A cross-cultural investigation of the perception of emotion in music: Psycho physical and cultural cues’. Music Perception, Vol. 17. No.1. p.43-64.
Cooke, D. (1959) ‘Melodic line and emotion’, Psychology of Music, Vol. 28. No.2. p.139
Gabriel, C. (1978) ‘An experimental study of Deryck Cooke’s theory of music and meaning’, Psychology of Music, Vol. 6. p.l3-20.
Patrick Doyle’s Notes - Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Soundtrack. Sleeve notes, September 1994.

Website

Sloboda, John (1996) - http://www.abc.net.au/rn/talls/8.30/healthrpt/hstories/hr010401.htm (content expired)

Discography

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Patrick Doyle Epic Soundtrax (477987 2)

Video

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Kenneth Branagh VHS CC7527