Monday, June 9, 2014

For Narnia, and For Aslan!

Come take a musical journey into the world of Narnia. The soundtrack of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is Harry Gregson-Williams’s instrumental score for the movie. Marking the composer’s third collaboration with director Andrew Adamson (after both Shrek films), this score is also one of the more mature works from Gregson-Williams, best known for his work on family films (logos). The music is magnificent and fits in the current style popular for grand epics. The music takes us through the softest, visual moments soaring over scenic mountains to the most intense, loudest peaks in the battle scene. There are seventeen tracks in the movie score. Many musical, artistic elements are evident in the track, “The Battle,” playing in the movie clip. This is the final battle in Narnia, where Peter and his army, including his brother, Edmund, his sisters, and Aslan (the great lion), set out to defeat the White Witch. During the recording process, Gregson-Williams employed the 75-piece Hollywood Studio Symphony Orchestra, along with a 140-member choir and other solo musicians (logos). The score includes the use of percussion, and electronic music, such as in the final battle scene where the White Witch’s sword pierces Edmund.

            The music in “The Battle” is very distinct.  It has several themes, and takes the listener into the brightest corners of the imagination, promising fantasy, adventures, and magic. According to Understanding Movies by Louis Gianetti, “Music can be used as foreshadowing, especially when the dramatic context doesn’t permit a director to prepare an audience for an event” (214). “The Battle” foreshadows events during the intense fighting of the two armies. Using horns and trumpets along with a full choir, the music causes tension and conveys feelings of anticipation of the terrible things that are to come (pathos). The battle scene music supports the theme of heroism with passionate instruments playing pulse-quickening, powerful, flowing music building to a peak. The music of Aslan’s army and the White Witch‘s army sound completely different from one another. When Aslan’s army appears on the screen, trumpets and other horns can be heard, which is more uplifting than the music with the Witch’s army. The viewer knows from the music, which is the “good” army, or the one viewers should be rooting for to win (logos). The music signaling the appearance of the White Witch or any of her army sounds much lower and darker in sound. There are no trumpets or other uplifting instruments to be heard, which creates a more dramatic feel to the music. It is like the viewer can feel the Witch’s intentions to slay the opposing army (pathos). Hearing this music lets the viewer know that this is the “evil” or “dark” army (logos).  The next distinct theme in the track is the silence before major dramatic action in the scene, as when the two armies are standing, facing each other, when Peter’s horse is shot down, or when the White Witch stabs Edmund. These brief pauses in the music add tension as they anticipate what is going to happen next (pathos). The main theme music of the movie, the one that people can identify as The Chronicles of Narnia when heard alone, or not when watching the movie, is played the most often throughout the track (ethos). This portion of the unique music is dramatic, and engages the viewer as they watch the battle. The viewer feel as if they are there watching the battle (pathos). If the viewer has seen this movie several times or knows the music fairly well, this main theme music is the part most likely to be hum to (ethos). The way Gregson-Williams balances a sweet, uplifting beat in some parts of this track, with the deeper, darker, themes around the White Witch and her dark army in “The Battle” provides changes in the mood for scenes that can be felt.
The score can be eerie, but there are also of beautiful tones going on underneath the surface, with percussion and bell-like instruments, which bring to mind both light sounds of wonder and childish amazement, and the crackle of crumbling ice (the intense dark world of the White Witch) (pathos). It would be a very different experience to watch the battle without the music in the background. Without music, all that would be heard are battle cries, grunts, and clashing of metal. The music in the scene intensifies the battle as a whole.
Overall, the music is intense and stirs so many emotions (fear, anger, sadness, anticipation) in any viewer, as huge battle scene music should.  According the article, Music and Mood, “Songs are scored numerically, on the basis of dramatic relevance, effectiveness, craftsmanship and ‘creative substance’ (page A25).”  While that is how songs are scored for Oscars, “The Battle” will receive a score of either one, two, or three clipboards depending on their overall quality. Out of three possible clipboards, I would give the “The Battle” two clipboards. I truly feel that this score encompasses ethos, pathos, and logos evenly within the music. The music shows logos by letting the viewer know who is good and who is evil. The music shows ethos if someone knows who Harry Gregson-Williams is or knows any of his other music. It also shows ethos if the viewer appreciates the main theme of the music that is repeated several times. Finally, the music shows pathos throughout the entire scene. Considering that this is a battle scene, it is expected to bring about much emotion in any viewer. The score, “The Battle,” perfectly depicts the action going on, or what is about to happen in every aspect of the music. This music is so recognizable and is even heard throughout the second movie, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, during some of its battle scenes. As much as I would have liked to give this score three clipboards, some viewers may think that it is too predictable, repetitive, or even slow to take effect.
I loved the movie, and this supporting soundtrack of this scene is emotional, beautiful, and will bring back the movie’s best moments to any listener. “The Battle” music wraps up the scene with a triumphant and uplifting close, and makes an undeniable contribution to the feel of the scene and to the entire feel of the film, leaving the viewer wanting more (pathos).

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