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Luka

The many uses of Dies irae

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Hello everyone!

After watching this video from Vox:

 

I felt inspired to make a thread about the many Dies Irae uses in movies.

It has always been something I enjoy spotting in soundtracks.

 

This guy already started a list on this other video:

 

In this last video, we can read about three different types of the motive.

 

Type 1  Full statement

Not only the first notes, but the full theme of the original Dies irae chant.

 

Type 2  Stinger

Probably the most common one. It represents most of the time the four first notes of the Dies irae original chant.

 

Type 3  Ostinato

Often provides a certain energy and intensity to a scene. It is rarely foregrounded in the mix, and the four notes are sometimes inverted.

 

 

 

So if you think of any other uses of Dies irae in movies or tv shows, please add them to this thread. (I'm sure you will, there are so many!) And if you can, write down which type you think it belongs to. :)

Or maybe you can think of another type that doesn't fit with those three?

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8 hours ago, Luka said:

So if you think of any other uses of Dies irae in movies or tv shows, please add them to this thread. (I'm sure you will, there are so many!) 

 

 

I was surprised there are already that many! And several by John Williams!

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My current favourite I can think of is Orphans of Doom from Conan, a very slow choral rendition moving beyond the first 4 notes but developing into different material before long.

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6 hours ago, Holko said:

My current favourite I can think of is Orphans of Doom from Conan, a very slow choral rendition moving beyond the first 4 notes but developing into different material before long.

 

Could you find it on YouTube with a timecode? I'd like to hear it :)

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Ah, I had actually thought of the Close Encounters example before I watched the above video. It's probably one of my favourite of many neat moments in that score.

 

 

Also interesting to note that the part at 1:17 is reminiscent to this:

 

Which is of course going off of Stravinsky:

 

They're all kind of connected.

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When you have a musical idea as short and simple as the Dies Irae "stinger", it gets very hard to tell when a composer intentionally references the Dies Irae, or when - is his attempt to evoke similar ideas of impending doom - has just stumbled upon a similar (or indeed the same) couple of notes.

 

Its the equivalent of a generic piece of dialogue in a script. Characters exclaim, for instance, "no!" in many films, but you'd hardly call it a reference. Its just a generic piece of language. There's no intentionality there.

 

I seem to recall Shore (or was it Adams?) who said that the scores contain no intentional quotes of the Dies Irae. 

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I don't think it has to be intentional. I hear Dies Irae loud and clear. And as Shark has noted, I think Shore was well aware enough, especially considering he was practically composing an opera to picture, of Dies Irae and it's connotations of death, doom and demise. 

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According to Doug Adams:

 

Quote

Shore did not intend the Descending Third motif as any sort of Dies Irae quote. in fact, I've often wondered if it's the black-hooded riders, more than the music itself, that conjure this association. There's simply not THAT much in common, musically speaking. Both lines tend to begin on the third scale degree and somehow descend. But then, so does the opening to Beethoven's Fifth. In scale degrees:

DIES IRAE: 3 2 3 1 2 7 1 1

SHORE: 3 1 2 7 1 6 7 5

BEETHOVEN: 3 3 3 1 2 2 2 7

Looking at it this way, the Shore would appear to have more in musically common with the Beethoven that the Dies Irae. Obviously, it's once again unintentional.

 

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If I write a piece of music where an element is similar to a famous musical idea, whether intentional or not, I have to choices: either accept that listeners will label it as inspired by, a variation, a hommage, or something similar, or I can rewrite it to sound less similar. 

 

Btw, Adams "forgets" the important factor of rhythm in his analysis, which makes Beethoven's 5th the least similar of the three for a casual listener.

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13 hours ago, The Illustrious Jerry said:

Which is of course going off of Stravinsky:



 

They're all kind of connected.

 

Wow! It's The Intersection Scene from WOTW. Williams must listen to a lot of Stravinsky, influences throughout so many of his scores in so many different modulations. 

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On 9/21/2019 at 5:50 PM, Chen G. said:

According to Doug Adams:

 

 

 

The Beethoven example does not really fit. In that numerical notation, it would be 

 

555 3 444 2 

 

(it's in C minor, and starts on the note G, which is the 5th note of the scale). So, the Beethoven example has nothing to do with the Dies Irae, except that they are both in a minor key.

 

In my opinion, there is indeed a similarity between the Shore example and the Dies Irae, which is partially due to a similar rhythm (just in the beginning, then the Dies Irae melody goes on quite differently), and partially due to the modal melody (in both cases, in D minor). However, it's definitely not a "quote", and it's the kind of similarity that can happen by chance, or by a kind of subconscious choice by the composer. If Shore said that it was not done intentionally, I surely believe him (not that there would be anything wrong otherwise).

 

Another interesting example that might recall of the Dies Irae, because of the rhythm and, again, a modal melody in D minor, is from Mike Oldfield's instrumental piece "Tubular Bells", at 6:56 in this video:

 

 

 

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