Interstellar and Jurasic Park: Compering Cocepts of Filming

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Through this essay, I will be exploring 2 scores from the movies Interstellar and Jurassic Park. The former was composed by Hans Zimmer and the latter by John Williams.

Christopher Nolan first approached Hans Zimmer to write the score for Interstellar. Nolan didn’t want the music associated with any clichés of the science-fiction genre and wanted to “engage Hans in a very creative process”.To achieve this, Nolan forwarded Zimmer fragments of dialogue Nolan had written for the film along with a few basic ideas of a connection between parent and child. Zimmer was given one day to write his inceptive thoughts and present them to Nolan. The score visits multiple themes such as the relationship between Cooper and his daughter Murph, the theme of love, the theme of action, the theme of inspiration, the theme of control and the the theme of dedication.

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The theme of relationship between Murph and Cooper is heard when the focus is on the relationship between the daughter and father. It seems to start before the film can properly start which suggests the importance of the theme’s coalition with the narrative. The most evident signal of the theme’s association occurs in the emotional scene when Cooper, a former NASA pilot, says his goodbyes to his child before leaving his family to be a part of the interstellar mission to save life. The melody of the theme begins with a very long note that lies above the bass to create a sense of foreboding and suggests a feeling of vastness which imitates the huge distance that will separate Cooper and Murph.

The theme is supported by a sustained bass note that sounds the dominant note of the scale. With dominant bass notes, we can assume that they will, eventually, resolve to the first note of the scale so when Zimmer sustains the dominant pedal at length we can sense an avoidance of a particular situation or intention. This almost resembles the distance Murph feels during Cooper’s absence. The theme also picks apart the harder parts and the less happy aspects of Murph and Cooper’s relationships through the use of major and minor chords. While the theme begins in the major, which creates this foundation of love the relationship is built on, it is immediately followed by minor which almost echoes the hardships and strains on their relationship which relates to the resentment Murph holds against her father for abandoning her.

The theme of inspiration and fascination is visited constantly throughout the movies- for example the point when Cooper sees a message by an unknown being and when Cooper and Mann try and find habitable destinations. The most identifiable feature of this theme is the continual recurrence of a single melodic pitch and it’s sustained accompaniment. The accompaniment sustains a major chord along with a dissonance produced by the raise of the scale. This scale is known to be associated with the enigmatic and mysterious. The scenes this theme occurs in definitely invoke a sense of mystery

Another theme that revolves hugely around the movie is that of love and action. As one of the main themes it has two different meanings and uses, each of which is consolidated by its orchestration. The theme is dived into two components consisting of a melody. And a repeating harmonic progression. The melody is based on a repetitive two note motive played on the organ whilst the harmonic progression is accompanied by a bass that rises by two steps and then falls by one. We first hear it when Cooper and his two children are chasing down a drone together. This is one of the few times they are amalgamated as a family who are all sowing the same thing and enjoying. 

The love is more evident when Cooper sees messages from his last years on earth and is reminded of the most important experiences that a have transpired throughout his life which leaves him in tears. Again, we hear and feel the love when Cooper and Murph communicate through the dimensions. This echoes the strength of their bond. The final, yet most crucial appearance of this theme is when Murph and Cooper finally find their ways back to each other towards the end of the movie.Though the theme’s two uses are contrasting in meaning, its musical construction helps to understand why it works both ways. The theme is set in a minor mode and is supported by a bass line that progresses from scale degree 6, up to 7, and up once more to 1. In minor keys, scale degree 6 falls down to 5 since the latter employs a kind of gravitational draw that attracts 6 towards it.

 The pull is especially strong in minor since the distance between 6 and 5 is a mere half step, or semitone. As with gravity in the physical world, breaking free of a gravitational pull requires a good deal of energy, and with the bass motion from 6 to 7, there is a sense that a substantial amount of energy is being exerted, an energy that we could even say continues in the rise from 7 up to 1.This sense of battling to escape some great hurdle is present in both the “love” and “action” forms of the theme. The final theme Hans Zimmer explores is control and dedication. This application of the theme is heard when things are under control despite the desperate situation during the visit to the NASA base.

Usually, the theme is heard in positions where the protagonists are aiming towards some instantaneous goal. This goal could refer to a scientific breakthrough, for example, when Murph tries to figure out the “ghost” in her room, or when Cooper tries his best and is determined to find a way to communicate with his daughter across the dimensions. Yet, this determination could a,so be see through physical attributes, as when Murph is trying to convince Tom to leave the farm for his own safety or when Cooper is struggling to survive the toxic gas flooding his helmet on one of the planets. Despite the differences in the individual scenarios above, they all share the feeling of aspiring to achieve a clear and immediate goal. 

The theme is structured like someone is trying to climb this hill of musical notes and they face a slow ascent with lots of struggle: it begins on the first note of the scale as a kind of foundation base, and the next note moves to the second note of the scale before it stops. The next phrase reaches a note higher to scale degree 3 before it seems to lose confidence and fall back down to 2. The third phrase actually launches the melody up to scale degree 5, but suffers the same fate as the previous phrase as it sinks from 3 to 2 at its end. Only with the fourth phrase does the music reach up to 4 and finally 5 as a concluding summit to the theme. This sort of progressive back-and-forth between rising and falling motions is typical of themes used to illustrate a sense of struggle.

Interstellar is a beautiful film with an emotional story of love unravelling before us. This theme is the core theme and further emphasises the bond shared between family. In addition, the film uses music to highlight the enigmatic and thrilling nature of it with dual themes . Hans Zimmer also manages to draw out the wonder and fascination evoked from the movie and uses it as a completely different theme. The score provides an effective insight for the film by linking various events and characters. In conclusion, Zimmer’s score and the music to interstellar helps us understand the different aspects that make this film exceptional. The next tune I will be analysing is the theme from Jurassic Park written by John Williams.

The film was released in 1993 and almost nstantly ecame a huge hit reaching over $900 million. It’s realistic portrayal of the dinosaurs blew the audience away and continued to raise a whole new bar. It became so popular that, the name “Raptors was chosen for the new basketball team representing Toronto in 1993. In the film, we first hear the “Theme from Jurassic Park” when the characters in the truck first see a brachiosaur. The music played a humongous role in making the movie one of the best the world has ever seen.

As a whole, the theme uses the same melodic material throughout. So we are completely focused on the same musical idea, just as we are completely focused on the sight of the first dinosaur.In addition, the entire theme is divided into two huge and similar halves, each of which becomes intense nearer the end. The theme begins in a mid to low register. The melody particular begins below middle C, but rises into higher octaves as the theme continues. with each phrase there is a louder dynamic, more rhythmic activity, and more instruments added to the texture. All of this reaches a climax at the end of each half of the theme. The first of these climaxes is simultaneous with the brachiosaur crashing back down to the ground after reaching some leaves high up in a tree. This thunderous impact isn’t just a physical one but also an emotional one, as we marvel at the enormity of this magnificent creature.

William’s choice of instruments also impacts and influences the emotional theme. He begins with a stress on the middle to low range of both the orchestra and of the individual instruments. For example, as it is heard in the film, the theme opens with strings, winds, and French horns, but there aren’t any high instruments. So the strings, the violas, cellos, and double basses play but the violins remain silent. Similarly the winds, the clarinets and bassoons play while the oboes and flutes do not. There is also an absence of any loud brass instruments . A Choir without lyrics is also heard. These particular instruments create feelings that are not only warm and soothing, but help you feel a sensation of astonishment and wonder when you listen to the music.

The emotional content of the theme also derives from Williams’ use of harmony. Most of the chords he writes are the major chords found in a major key. No minor chords are heard which leaves a smooth and warm sound left. At a couple of key moments, Williams also makes use of a chord is not a part of the major scale of the theme, but an altered form of the seventh scale degree. This doesn’t fit and stands out from the piece just like the dinosaurs stand out.The rhythm of this theme also helps us understand why the music works so well with this scene. To begin with, the rhythm of the melody is a more complex version of the rhythm in the accompaniment. So, when the accompaniment sounds a note, the melody also sounds one at the same time. This kind of rhythmic alignment between melody and accompaniment creates a very chordal texture.

The theme also heavily relies on dotted rhythms both fast and slow: This use of dotted rhythms, especially in this relatively slow tempo, gives the music a sense of grandeur and majesty that suits that of the dinosaur we see in their scene.The melody to this theme is based largely on a simple three-note motive. this motive continually returns to its starting point which creates the feeling that we haven’t actually moved at all, especially when it is used in a quick rhythm as it is here. The Bb that the motive revolves around is the key note of the scale the piece is based on. 

The tonic note is usually the end goal of a melody and is generally a point of rest. So, starting with the tonic creates a soothing feeling of calm in the theme. And the repeated use of the neighbour note figure keeps us bound to this tonic, as though we are in a trance just by listening to the music, just as each character is captivated by the sight of the dinosaur.This melody is also written in a very singable way. For one thing, it moves almost entirely in scale steps of a second and small leaps of a third. There are a few large leaps , especially near the ends of phrases, where they provide a sense of height to the melodic line. Most of the melody uses relatively slow rhythms. With these feature, the melody almost seems like a vocal piece but a real song with lyrics would have distracted the audience from the dialogue and image of the dinosaur. This piece, written in a vocal style accompanies this scene beautifully and we associate this sound to that of seeing the first dinosaur in the movie which will become very famous.      

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