The World Championship is my second re-scoring project. I recently asked a few folks if they knew of any good movies that suffered from certain cues that didn’t really fit the scene as well as they could have. I was immediately presented with a suggestion from multiple movie buffs: A Knight’s Tale. Amusingly, this was another film scored by Carter Burwell, whom I have nothing against and who has written some fine scores over the years.
So naturally, I bought the DVD and watched it through a couple of times. It was immediately apparent to me why they recommended this movie, because there are several scenes that aren’t scored and are instead set to pop music. Considering how this is a (very compelling) story set in the middle ages about a Knight with humble origins, I was perplexed at this creative decision. While the lighthearted comedy aspect of this film was certainly not lost on me (nor the obvious decision of the director to make the movie appeal to modern movie-goers who may not have a love for Medieval history), the fact remained that the inclusion of this music was, at every point, jarring and totally took me out of the moment. It destroyed any hope the movie had of presenting an authentic medieval atmosphere, which is something a movie set in medieval times really should have regardless of target audience. The goal wasn’t to totally ignore the period, right? Just to provide a modern twist, no? What was even more puzzling was that these songs were, in every case, around two decades out of date, seemingly clashing with the director’s attempt to appear “current.”
At any rate, I was on board with attempting a re-score…but I was unsure as to what scene I was going to score and indeed how I would score it. After all, there is an original score in this movie that is actually pretty good when it’s given a chance to spread its wings. But I eventually settled on this parade, because I had yet to try my hand at an epic brass fanfare/march. Also, when I watched this scene again (allowing my mind to grasp at possibilities), I instantly started pasting this wonderful track over the scene in my head:
If you haven’t seen the Star Wars prequel trilogy, this is the cue that accompanies the Flag Parade at the podrace (a sporting event). The similarities know no bounds!
But of course, this was just a jumping off point, as I had some other ideas about how this cue would be constructed. For starters, there were already a couple of interesting musical ideas in the original score. So I took from both of these and built my cue with the underpinnings of these ideas. It is my hope that this approach made the cue more thematically and musically “seamless” in its presentation (that is, made it seem like it was written by the same guy for the same movie).
I backed off from the pomp when the main character sees the kid, because that’s a very internal, personal thing that is happening and has nothing to do with the jubilation around him. I started with strings only, then backed off further with a nice flute duet.
Another hit point I really enjoyed scoring was “the Girls,” when the main character looks up and sees several fair maidens trying to get his attention as he rides by. Initially, I was writing things that struck me as too cute or too silly, so I added a layer of elegance by giving the melody to the violas, cellos and clarinets among the frills in the high woodwinds and glockenspiel. Now it’s probably my favorite part (except for the horn chorale immediately leading up to it, where the whole thing modulates).
Of course, the influence of John Williams’ Flag Parade shouldn’t be lost on anyone. Some of the orchestration was heavily borrowed from that cue. See if you can spot those moments for yourself. I did learn a lot about orchestrating a huge fanfare…some of it isn’t perfect, but now I know what to avoid next time.
One last cool thing about this project was that it marked the first time I ever conducted an ensemble to a picture. I can honestly say that the experience was challenging. It’s a lot to keep track of! I ended up having to make a few tweaks after the mastering to make some of the tempos work out the way I wanted them to.
In spite of the necessity of the aforementioned tweaks, it turned out very well and it’s an experience I’ll never forget! Thanks once again go to the Arapahoe Philharmonic for letting me take up valuable rehearsal time during Thanksgiving week to record my pieces!
EDIT: This was one of the pieces that got me into SMPTV for the 2014-2015 year! Thanks again, Arapahoe Philharmonic!