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RACHEL PORTMAN: The Duchess extracts

Background
Film music started as live music played in cinemas by pianists or orchestras. The earliest film
music started c. 1916; by the mid-1920s composers such as Milhaud and Shostakovich produced
specific film scores. Techniques moved on with the first talkie, The Jazz Singer, (1927) and in
1928 The Air Circus established the technology of recording sound waves into the film itself,
ensuring synchronisation. The first film composers had all emigrated from Europe and their music
had its roots in 19th Century Romanticism. In the 1930s and 1940s major composers began to
compose film music, e.g. Prokofiev (Lieutenant Kij) and Walton (Henry V). Some composers, e.g.
Korngold, Steiner (Gone With The Wind 1949) and Herrmann specialised in film music.

Film music is a definitive contemporary vehicle for large-scale orchestral music. Composers are
able to experiment with avant-garde or atonal music and audiences are prepared to accept
difficult music when combined with visual images. Unlike other music, it is always subordinate
to the overall creative aim; at its best it works alongside narrative and visual elements. Music cues
are often short, with the only extended passages being longer scenes and the opening/closing titles.

Film music has several functions:


To depict (e.g. a battle scene)
To suggest place (use of the zither in The Third Man suggests Vienna)
To suggest time (Pride and Prejudice)
To enhance tension (Planet of the Apes: The Hunt)
To provide a comic commentary (Passport to Pimlico)
To enhance emotional impact (Schindlers List)
To suggest character or scene (use of Leitmotif, e.g. Star Wars)
To provide unity to a film through repeated motifs (use of Leitmotifs, e.g. Jaws).
To appear in the film itself (diagetic music, e.g. a stage band or pianist)
Leitmotifs originated with Wagner as a short musical idea that represents a person, place or
emotion. They often occur in the underscore to convey messages without need for direct reference
by the characters. Unlike in Wagner, the short nature of the cues gives no real opportunity for
extended development of ideas.

Rachel Portman (b.1960)


Rachel Portman is an English composer, born in Surrey and educated at Oxford. She specialises in
music for film, television and the stage and her credits include television work such as Oranges are
Not the Only Fruit, (1990), Four Days in July (1985) and Jim Hensons Storyteller (1988). Her films
(over 100 of them so far) include Chocolat (2000), Cider House Rules (1999) and Emma (1996), for
which she won an Oscar for best original score, the first female composer to win this award.
She has composed a childrens opera The Little Prince (2003) and a musical based on Little House
on the Prairie (2009). Although most of her work is film-centred, she has written a choral symphony
for the BBC Proms.
Her musical style is approachable and lyrical, with an emphasis on melody. She often includes lush,
string-based arrangements and avoids synthesised or electronic sounds. She composes at the piano
and does much of her own orchestration (not always the case in film music). She was awarded the
OBE in 2010.

The Duchess
This is an 18th Century costume drama released in 2008 and directed by Saul Gibb. It is based on
the controversial life of the real-life Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire (1757-1806)
and tells of her unhappy marriage, friendship with Lady Bess Foster and affair with the Whig
politician and future Prime Minister Charles Grey.

1
The music for the film includes both Portmans own underscore and movements by the
contemporary composers Beethoven and Haydn. Portmans music is not just a pastiche of the 18th
Century style but a modern, 21st Century adaptation of the Classical style combined with modern
film underscoring.

NB: All the cues are in short score.

The Duchess (Opening)


This music accompanies the title sequence.
Performing forces and The whole film score has a fairly limited orchestral palate, using
their handling instruments that would have been around at the time (Classical
period) and that might have been in the orchestra then.
Most of the melodic interest is in the upper strings throughout all
cues, with little independent writing for woodwind and horns;
they are used as harmonic fillers.
Most of the writing is restrained and non-virtuosic.
This cue is scored for strings, harp, woodwind and horns.
Opens with a harp playing the quaver motif that will appear
several times in the score.
Most of the melodic interest is in the upper strings.
Bowed and arpeggiated accompaniment ideas figure a lot in this
music (e.g. bars 1-25).
Solo violin takes the melody at bar 17 (Theme 2) and from then
alternates with tutti violins to play the melodies.

Structure Built on 3 themes, all in D major.


Bars 1-16 Theme A: violin melody with harp/string quaver
accompaniment and off-beat lower string chords.
Bars 17-34 Theme B: Solo violin melody, with continuing
quaver accompaniment.
Bars 35-43 Theme C: New idea based on an auxiliary note
motif (bars 35-36) followed by a solo violin idea
(bars 37-43) based on the end of Theme 2 (bars
12-13). This is the shortest section.

Tonality Whole cue is in a modal D major.


C natural (flattened 7th) suggests a mixolydian mode on D.
As in much diatonic film music, short cues do not allow much
room for modulation and tonal development.

Texture Mostly homophonic textures, with a melody and accompaniment.


The accompaniments use ostinato figures (e.g. the quaver figures
from 1-25 etc).
The ostinato pattern uses a recurring 5th.
Use of a tonic pedal in the middle section (bars 17-34).
2-bar held notes alternating tonic and dominant underpin the final
section (bars 35-43).

2
Melody Portman uses melodies made of 2, 4 or 8-bar units. Phrases are
even and phrase endings are clear and predictable.
Most of the melodies use conjunct movement.
Theme A is built on a 2-bar phrase (bars 1-2) modified by
sequence (3-4) and modified again (5-6) to lead into the upper,
descending phrase (7-8). This is then expanded to reach the end of
the section. This section is basically built on a triadic basis.
Section B is built around a D major triad, rising at first and then
descending stepwise from tonic to subdominant (bars 21-24),
including the flattened 7th (C natural) that gives the mixolydian
sound.
Section C has 2 phrases, both built on ideas from Section A; the
auxiliary idea from bar 2 is the basis of the melody of bars 35-36,
then the falling phrase from 12-13 is the basis for the solo violin
melody from bars 37-40.

Harmony Harmony for the whole score is predominantly tonal with modal
elements.
Portman avoids conventional functional harmonic progressions
and traditional cadences, giving the effect of non-functional
harmony at times.
Most of her chord choices are 3-note triads.
This cue, like others, uses a relatively small number of chords/ it
is based on a simple harmonic scheme, much of it using the
chords D major (tonic) and A minor (dominant minor).
A substantial amount of the piece is underpinned by the use of
pedal notes (the whole of Section B has a tonic pedal).

Tempo, Rhythm and Marked at crotchet = 116.


Metre Metre is 4/4, although it sounds as though there are 2 minim beats
in each bar.
Regular clear pulse.
Note values in the melody are simple and mostly unsyncopated,
apart from bars 10, 17 etc.
Some syncopation in the accompaniment (e.g. bars 1-14).

Mistake of Your Life


This music reflects the Duchesss loneliness and the state of her failing marriage.
Performing forces and Starts with violas, lower strings and timpani, all playing low and
their handling quietly, building up a sense of reflection and sadness.
As in the last cue, there are bowed, arpeggiated accompaniment
figures (bars 43-69) with strings and harp.
Piano introduced for the 2nd theme, using a simple mid-range
melody and ascending arpeggiated accompaniment, with strings,
woodwind and horns in the background.
Timpani play an ostinato pedal D during the introduction (1-18).
The cue ends with just strings.

3
Structure Alternates between 2 themes (A and B) after the introduction.
Bars 1-18: Introduction. Low string chords over bass and timpani
dominant pedal.
Bars 19-34: Theme A played twice, the 2nd time transposed up a
tone into Am.
Bars 35-42: Theme B piano melody accompanied by strings and
woodwind. Bars 39-42 are a sequentially lower version of 35-38.
Bars 43-59: Theme A played an 8ve higher than its original
version, this time with a crotchet countermelody based on 3rds
and an arpeggiated accompaniment. The end of the melody (bars
57-59) are modified to allow the extended dominant chord.
Bars 60-69: Theme B in a tutti version; the arpeggiated
accompaniment continues.
Bars 70-82: Based on Theme A, using the 1st phrase, played
twice, ending on an unresolved 6/4 chord.

Tonality In G minor.
A mixture of diatonic Gm (with F#) and modal passages (with F
naturals, e.g. Dm chord at bar 21).
Some shifts into Am (e.g. bars 27-34); not a prepared modulation,
just a side-step.
Final unresolved 2nd inversion chord leaves the music sounding
unfinished (not that uncommon in film music).

Texture Homophonic melody and accompaniment texture.


Timpani articulated pedal ostinato in the introduction, supported
by a sustained bass pedal.
Arpeggiated accompaniment figure enters at bar 43.

Melody 2 melodic ideas (themes).


Theme A (bars 19-26) is a rising stepwise figure, starting with the
1st 5 notes of Gm scale. In the 2nd phrase the 3rd interval is
expanded to a 5th to reach the upper 8ve. The melody is then
expanded by transposition into Am (bars 27-34).
Theme B is a piano idea, featuring auxiliary notes and a falling
minor 6th. It is extended by a descending sequence (bars 39-42).

Harmony Mostly tonal with occasion modal touches (F natural).


The opening reflects the slight increase in dissonance in the
darker cues; it uses dissonant minor 9ths and 11ths.
The extended chord V at bars 57-59 could be heard as an
imperfect cadence.
Theme A mostly built around the chords of Gm-Dm, with the
shifts to Am-Em when the music transposes.
Theme B has a chord progression of Gm-Eb-F-Dm, which
includes the modal flattened 7th chord.
The final 6/4 chord is an unconventional use of a 2nd inversion.

4
Tempo, Rhythm and Slow tempo, marked crotchet = 69.
Metre No real sense of pulse at the start, despite the (very quiet) timpani
ostinato.
Clear pulse from bar 19.
Each theme has repeated rhythms, giving it unity and helping to
define the structure.

Six Years Later


Sets a more optimistic tone with the waltz theme setting the scene after a time lapse of 6 years.
Performing forces and Scored for strings, woodwind and harp.
their handling Solo violin plays the same melody as in The Duchess (bars 35-41
of this cue).
Starts with pizzicato strings (bars 1-2), the same figure returns
arco at bar 24.
Oom-pah-pah accompaniment creates the waltz feel.
Ends with the harp repeating the ostinato 5th pattern from the
opening cue.

Structure Bars 1-2 Introduction creating the oom-pah-pah waltz


accompaniment in D major in pizzicato strings and harp.
Bars 3-23 Section A, based on triadic melodic ideas, combined
with a chromatic lower auxiliary note figure, which is extended
and treated sequentially in the 2nd part of the section (e.g. 10-11).
Bars 24-29 Link, based on the introduction, now played arco and
with the addition of an augmented D chord.
Bars 30-63 Section B, based on the opening cue. Starts with
material from The Duchess Theme A at bars 30-34, followed by
material from The Duchess Theme B at 35-50 and The Duchess
Theme C at 51-63.
Bars 64-66 Coda, using the quaver 5ths from the opening of The
Duchess.

Tonality In a modally inflected D major.


The modal influence is shown through use of C naturals, creating
the mixolydian feel (e.g. bar 3 for harmony, bar 22 or 37 for
melody).

Texture Melody and accompaniment texture.


Accompaniment varies between waltz style oom-pah-pah in
Section A and the syncopated rhythms of cue 1 when The Duchess
section is used as a basis for Section B.

Melody The opening phrase of Section A is based on a triadic idea, clearly


shown in bar 3, ascending and then descending through an 8ve.
Decorated at times with a lower auxiliary note (e.g. bar 6).
Melody of Section B is all taken from The Duchess.

5
Harmony Based around the chords of D major and Am (as in The Duchess).
This adds some ambivalence to the otherwise more upbeat melody
of Section A.
The link section (bars 24-29) uses a Ddim chord to add harmonic
colour.
Ends with held D chord, followed by the 5ths ostinato from The
Duchess played on harp over tonic in the cellos.

Tempo, Rhythm and 6/8 (compound duple) time at a tempo of crotchet = 60.
Metre This creates a more lively rhythmic feel, reinforced by the oom-
pah-pah accompaniment.
Phrases vary between starting on the 1st (bar 3) and 2nd (bar 6)
quavers of the bar.
The metre changes to 4/4 for Section B, as the music harks back
to the material from The Duchess.
The tempo increases to crotchet = 120 at that time and slows
down to crotchet = 72 for the coda.
Note values are quavers, crotchets and dotted crotchets for Section
A and some longer notes in Section B.

Never See Your Children Again


This reflects the scene where the Duke has discovered Georgianas affair with Charles Grey and
threatens to prevent her having any contact with her children.
Performing forces and Scored for strings and harp.
their handling Starts with a sustained held tonic in Dm, over which a dissonant
quaver figure gradually builds.
The 2-note quaver figure is taken over by harp at bar 26, which
maintains this motif until the end of the cue, over sustained
chords.
The timpani figure from Mistake of Your Life appears from bars
22-33, leading up to where the harp enters.

Structure Two sections.


Bars 1-21 (Section A) start with a mildly dissonant string quaver
figure over the very gradually descending bass line, followed (bar
7) by the entry of the slowly rising stepwise melody.
Bars 22-37 (Section B) begin with the timpani ostinato
introducing material from Mistake of Your Life. This section is
dominated by the 2-note quaver motif, heard in the harp.
The piece finishes on a dissonant unresolved chord (Gdim over
sustained D).

Tonality In D minor, although the consistent use of C naturals implies the


Dorian mode.
The final Gdim chord over D sustained in lower strings creates a
harmonically and tonally ambiguous and uncertain ending.

6
Texture Melody and accompaniment texture, although the melody is so
slow-moving that the accompaniment seems to be the only
moving part.
The sustained low notes underpin the entire texture.
The accompaniment of Section A and all of Section B are
dominated by the 2-note quaver motif.

Melody The melody is a slow moving ascending stepwise shape.


Accompanied by the rocking quaver figures all through the cue.
The melody does not appear to be the dominant element in this
cue.

Harmony The quavers in the 1st section contain dissonances (2nds) as well
as 3rds.
Harmonies at the end combine D pedal with a dissonant Db and a
sustained Gm triad, giving the effect of a Gdim chord.
This is preceded by descending harmonies starting at bar 26,
already over the tonic pedal that sustains to the end of the cue.

Tempo, Rhythm and Gently rocking 3/4 metre set at crotchet = 66, a slow tempo that
Metre reflects the grief in the scene.
This rocking movement is maintained throughout most of the
cue.
Other parts move in longer note values, often dotted minims
(whole bars).
The whole cue seems to be a slowing down of the action and a
reflection of the Duchesss reaction to her husbands threat.

End Titles
This cue provides a balance to the opening material of The Duchess.
Performing forces and Same as The Duchess.
their handling

Structure Similar in content and structure to The Duchess.


Bars 1-8: Shortened Theme A (just the 1st 8 bars).
Bars 9-24: Modified Theme B (original 4-bar phrases shortened to
2 bars, then modified and repeated).
Bars 25-40: Theme C modified and extended, with some rhythmic
augmentation.
Bars 41-50: Based on the auxiliary theme from bars 35-36 of The
Duchess.
Bars 51-56: Theme C acts as a coda.

Tonality Modal D major.


Same as The Duchess.

Texture Same as The Duchess.

7
Melody Mostly the same as The Duchess.
The original melody of Theme A is shortened by cutting the long
note at the end of each phrase.
Some slight rhythmic modifications to Section B and C.

Harmony Same as The Duchess.

Tempo, Rhythm and Same as The Duchess.


Metre

Glossary
Arco Playing an orchestral stringed instrument with the bow.
Auxiliary note A decorative note moving 1 step up or down from the principal note and
then returning to it (e.g. D-E-D).
Chromaticism The use of notes outside the key, or designed to destabilise the key/tonal
centre.
Cue Each separate piece of music in a film score is known as a cue.
Diatonic Term describing harmony or melody that stays within a given key.
Dissonance Notes or harmonies that clash, creating an ugly sound. Usually used to
create musical interest and tension.
Dorian mode A mode sounding like a minor scale with raised 6th and flattened 7th, (D-D
on a piano, using only white keys.
Homophony Chordal texture.
Melody and Texture with 1 clear melody (usually, but not always, at the top) and other
accompaniment parts that combine to create an accompaniment part.
Mixolydian mode Mode based on a major scale with a flattened 7th (G-G on a piano using
white keys only).
Modal Music that is in a mode, rather than a major or minor key.
Non-functional Chords or chord progressions that do not serve to establish a key or move
harmony the music towards the tonic but are employed for their sound or colour.
Orchestration Arranging a piano(usually) original piece to be played by an orchestra or
larger ensemble.
Ostinato Short recurring musical pattern.
Pastiche A musical (or artistic) piece that imitates the features of an earlier style.
Pedal note A long held (or repeated) note, usually in the bass, over which the
harmonies change. If the pedal note is repeated, rather than sustained, it
can be referred to as an articulated pedal. A pedal note at the top of the
texture is referred to as an inverted pedal.
Pizzicato Instruction to orchestral string players to pluck the strings, rather than
play with the bow.
Tonal Harmony that can be identified as being in a specific major or minor key.
Tutti Marking meaning everyone.
Underscore Music that plays in the background of a film scene.
Virtuosic Extremely technically challenging; a virtuoso is a renowned player of an
instrument, known for his/her technical brilliance and mastery.
6/4 chord 2nd inversion chord.

8
Practice Exam Questions
There are two sections in the written exam for Component 3: Appraising Music. Your set works
will come up in both sections.

Section A set works questions (Q1-3) will require you to analyse selections of the set works in
detail and to know the details of the score and the musical analysis you have done. Practice
questions for this section of the exam will be done in class. They will include aural listening
questions with skeleton scores, short answer responses and multiple choice questions.

Section B questions on set works (Q6) will be worth 30 marks and will be in essay format. Note
the format of each question and the way that every question asks you to refer to other relevant
music in your answer.

Example questions for Section B (Q6):

1. Evaluate the way in which Portman establishes atmosphere, time and place in Six Years
Later and Never See Your Children Again. Relate your discussion to other relevant works.
These may include set works, wider listening or other music. (30)

2. Evaluate Portmans use of melody, harmony and instrumentation in The Duchess


(Opening), Never See Your Children Again and End Titles, in relation to the films
historical subject matter. Relate your discussion to other relevant works. These may include
set works, wider listening or other music. (30)

3. Evaluate Portmans use of rhythm, metre and sonority in The Duchess (Opening) and
Mistake of Your Life, in relation to other film scores from historical romances. Relate your
discussion to other relevant works. These may include set works, wider listening or other
music. (30)

4. Evaluate Rachel Portmans use of melody, rhythm and instrumentation in The Duchess
(Opening) and Six Years Later, showing how these elements help to set the time and place
of the film. Relate your discussion to other relevant works. These may include set works,
wider listening or other music. (30)

5. Evaluate the use of melody, instrumentation and structure in Mistake of Your Life and
Never See Your Children Again, showing how these elements add to the key moments of
the film. Relate your discussion to other relevant works. These may include set works,
wider listening or other music. (30)

6. Evaluate Portmans use of melody, texture and tonality in Never See Your Children Again
and End Titles, in relation to other film music of the early 2000s. Relate your discussion to
other relevant works. These may include set works, wider listening or other music. (30)