So, at the urging of a film director friend of mine, I’ve started a personal project that I’m calling “ReSCORE” … the purpose of the project is to take some of my favourite movie scenes, particularly ones where I thought music was particularly effectively used, and compose my own music for the scene. It is my hope that my “rescored” version will be at least as good as the original. I’ll leave that judgement call up to you, of course! Given that I’m just breaking into the film scoring business, my director friend feels that this effort will act as a sort of “demo reel” of the kind of work I’m capable of. I just think it’s a really cool way to hone my craft! I’ll be doing a number of these scenes over time, and will post them here as I complete them.
I’m really jazzed about this first one – the film is Peter Weir’s wonderful “Dead Poets Society”, the film where the world learned that Robin Williams wasn’t just a zany comedian, but could really act, as well.
The film overall is just sublime, but the one scene that sticks out in my memory is the suicide scene of the character of Neil. Neil, a sensitive and artistic soul withering under the dictatorial thumb of his ex-military father, has gone against his father’s wishes and acted in the school play (a performance of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, in which, ironically, Neil plays Puck, the free-spirit). In the scene before this, he is angrily informed by his father that he will be withdrawn from his current school tomorrow, sent to military college, and then to Harvard and a career as a doctor – his entire life pre-arranged by his overbearing father. Trapped and unable to reason with his father, Neil takes his own life, in a scene that is made all the more devastatingly effective, by Weir’s genius decision NOT to show the actual act, but only Neil’s slow, deliberate lead-up to it, cutting at the last moment to the father, startled awake by a noise. The music used in the original version of the scene was startling in its own right – Tibetan monks overtone chanting – a dark and alien sound, at once mysterious and sinister, setting the audience on edge and portending the inevitable outcome. Here is the original scene:
For my “rescored” version, I thought about what the scene meant to me, and I found that what I wanted to try to do was to evoke the desperation Neil was feeling, and try to make it more compassionate. The original score was striking, to be sure, but it didn’t seem to have much sympathy in it, and felt very dark. So I composed a piece for string quartet, with a low bell and large taiko drum used for emphasis at the beginning and end, the final huge strike of the taiko drum “standing in” for the sound that startles Neil’s father awake. The string quartet begins on a quiet, but discordant chord, and begins to very slowly build from there, each instrument of the 4 changing notes one at a time, in a step-wise fashion, which creates motion toward a resolution of the discordant harmony, but never actually resolves, though it seems to strain to, as it increases in intensity until finally ending up on a different, but equally discordant chord, and dying away behind the final strike on the taiko. I’m pleased with the result, I feel it emphasizes the pathos of Neil’s position more directly than the original. Here it is:
Please feel free to leave me comments letting me know which version you prefer! Until next time…