Album Review & Score Analysis by Frank Lehman
I haven’t had such a good first reaction to a score for a long time. This is true, unabated, glorious, gorgeous Williams. The family theme is incredibly beautiful. Track 8 is seeping with emotion. The Patriot theme…as uplifting a theme I have heard not! Harpsichord+Harp? Brilliant! Yes, let me be the first to say that musically the main line is similar to the Amistad theme, but that is my one and only quasi-complaint. It still sounds amazing! The album is cohesive, coherent and flows very well. And that little piano bit we all heard in the CNN interview is but a minor motif that is played by a brass choir for anyone who hasn’t heard it.
Here are some things I think are great about the score.
1. Two great themes. Family theme is massively beautiful, and, may I say, quite original. Doesn’t particularly sound like anything else he’s written before. And the main theme is extremely uplifting, powerful. Simple, yet vastly effective.
2. This isn’t boring material. I know most of you were getting bored of the long, intellectual Williams scores (not me. I love them all). You can tell from the first track that this is enthralling music. Each track has a thrust, be it action, anticipation, tragedy, or dramatic. The score also has lots of little nuances that most of us haven’t started picking up on – like several running motifs and themes besides the main ones.
3. This is new, original, different sounding Williams. We have never been treated with this kind of genre before. While you can hear similiarities to old stuff Williams has written like Sleepers or Nixon, there’s plenty stuff you’ve never heard (probably) Williams do before. Huge church bells ambiently tolling, fife lines, fiddle themes, strange musical techniques and more experimentation.
4. Of course, for you seasoned Williams fans, one can pick out all the little nuances that make Williams’ music his own. Thickly orchestrated brass choruses, lone trumpet lines, running low string lines, that homesy kind of feeling he evokes on the strings. And of course, there are the references to other scores which can be fun (if you put out of your mind any thoughts of self-plagerism). I hear Amistad and The Unfinished Journey in the theme, Reivers and Home Alone in track 3, Sleepers somewhere, and even a little Star Wars during the action sequences.
5. You know that you’ll grow to know it better with more listenings. And when you finally know a score, you usually attach some kind of overall emotional feeling to it that you experience each time you listen to it. The more you listen to a score, the more you learn about it, come to accept it, and enjoy it on more levels than you did at the beginning.
6. We might have to wait another year or some long, indeterminite break where we get no new Williams. So lets enjoy this stuff now!
MUSIC IN THE MOVIE
**Possible Spoiler Warning**
I saw the Patriot at the movies and was very impressed. I think it was a powerful, well done movie, with maybe some excess gore, but carefully constructed and moving in general. But you all want to hear about the score, not the film…
Let’s just start by saying that, yes, of course, there is a lot of music missing from the soundtrack CD. Some reallly nice cues are missing, like the scene at the beginning when Martin is at the gravestone or some upbeat calyso sounding Island Rhythms during the beach celebration. You hear a great deal more development of the two lesser themes on the CD – The War Motif, played on the solo trumpet. You hear it when something really bad or tragic happens during the movie, in the moments when Martin is regretting his past, that kind of stuff. The second developed minor theme is that Brass Chorale you hear in the opening track towards the end (you know, the one Williams played on the Piano). In the movie, it represents hopefullness about the Revolutionary cause.
The score, is, for the most part, extremely effective. The theme everyone has previously associated with the family element is really more of a love theme between Gabriel and Anne. During the (major spoiler) wedding scene, Williams takes full advantage of the Recorder, giving the love theme a big rendition. The Patriot theme is actually rather sparse in the movie. You hear it mostly towards the end, but because of its scarcity, the emotional impact of when it is used is greatly highened. I’m sure all you Williams fans noticed how a triumphant rendition of the Patriot theme rolls in just before his name shows up in the opening credits…
There are, however, some small awkward moments in the movie that may have been scored differently. There is plenty of fifing going on during the battle scenes, so much that you kinda wish they’d give The British Grenadiers a rest, or at least a concert arrangement. Some highly emotional scenes are without score, or are scored with fifes in the background. I don’t know whose fault this is, but I guess it isn’t a major gripe. It is mood setting.
Overall, the score works very well with the movie, and having heard it, the music on the CD has a much greater impact. There’s plenty more to learn and experience about the score by watching the movie instead of listening to the CD, and now I appreciate it more. Those who hated, or were dissapointed with the score as heard on the CD should give the movie a shot.
The release of Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich’s The Patriot provided Williams fans with a much anticipated and very controversial score from the maestro. While rumors of Dave Arnold’s involvement and rejection still float about, most attention was given to John’s score. For some, it represented Williams at his peak ability, while others saw it as pure hack-meat. 5 months after its release, coinciding with the film’s video release, talk of the score has simmered down slightly, and now a more objective and critical eye can be given to the score.
The Patriot score is one of contrasts. To a large degree, it marks the culmination of all of Williams’s maturing styles into one big, cohesive melting pot. We hear his heavy brass choruses, developed during Saving Private Ryan, his surging string passages from Born on the Forth of July, his authentic touch of ethnically and historically tinged music, ranging from use of the harpsichord to steel drums, which was a defining trend of the nineties, and even the dark, pulsing action cues with which he first experimented with in The Lost World and the disturbing modernism from Sleepers. But The Patriot also marks Williams growing trend to return to his grand, epic style of scoring, something that was clamorously missing until Episode One came about. Williams gives us rousing marches, sweeping love themes and powerful moments of sheer “saccharine” emotion that delighted the more sentimental side of Williams fans as much as the mature writing appealed to their cerebral side.
As he always does, Williams binds The Patriot together with a network of carefully and closely-knit themes and motifs throughout the score. Three main themes comprise the recurring thematic material of the score.
1. THE PATRIOT MARCH: This is Williams energetic and rousing theme for Benjamin Martin and the Colonial Cause. Full of orchestral regalia, ranging from the martial snare line to the ‘Yankee-doodle’ style fife line, the fanfaric march perfectly fits the movie’s theme of patriotism and American spirit, and is played whenever such a sense is required in the film. The march itself is split into three subsections: the main march line, a series of upward moving major intervals similar to the Freedom theme from Amistad, the slightly more emotionally gripping minor line which immediately precedes the main march, and the solo line, probably the most inspiring part of the theme, in which Williams fully exploits the powerful nature of the transition from 1st to 4th chord.
2. THE LOVE THEME: Though often associated with the Martin family in general, the love theme from Patriot largely accompanies the romance between Anne and Gabriel. It is a beautiful folksy melody with just a touch of Celtic influence, immediately conjuring images of benign warmth and kindness. Fully developed in the opening track on the OST, the love theme also gets a complete rendition on the track “Anne and Gabriel” as well as numerous appearances throughout the rest of the score in a variety of interesting guises. My personal favorite aspect of the score.
3. “I HAVE LONG FEARED…”: This oft-appearing motif consists purely of a short chromatic trumpet solo. Profoundly disturbing and regretful, it creates a sense of tension when conjured up. In the movie, it is associated with Benjamin Martin’s shameful experience in the French and Indian War, but also is used whenever personal casualty as a result of vicious war comes up, and also forming a desperate variation during the climactic “Martin versus Tavington” track. Much like the solo trumpet theme from BOT4, “I Have Long Feared…” functions as an elegy for the dead.
In addition to those main themes, Williams also wrote several other recurring motifs and ideas for the characters and moods of the film.
1. THE AMERICAN CAUSE: A lengthy theme that can be heard during the final portion of the opening track, the American Cause track is a heavily Copland influenced piece of Americana. It was also our first taste of the score, with Williams playing the theme on piano during a CNN interview in May. Depending on its presentation, the theme can sound noble and enthusiastic to downright awkward. One reviewer compared the theme to the sounds a flock of geese make. Inside the score, the American Cause goes through multiple variations, once getting a rendition on solo clarinet. It seems to represent the military aspect of the fight for American Revolution, and also accompanies the discovery of a tattered American flag by Gabriel.
2. TAVINGTON: The villain Tavington gets a very undeveloped musical idea, which is only heard on the soundtrack once in “Tavington’s Trap.” It consists of a pounding rhythm in the bass section of the orchestra, and the only other time it is heard in the movie is when Tavington approaches the Martin plantation for the first time. The Redcoats are often accompanied by a varying number of heavy snare lines.
3. DEFEAT AND PRIVATION: A short, sad theme that is given a long period to develop during a prolonged sequence during the beginning of the movie when Gabriel’s letter is read and we see how badly the war has been going. Like the love theme, it hints at a folk song quality. It makes a short and sweet appearance on the soundtrack, on “Yorktown and The Return Home,” from 2:14 to 2:28. Other elements from “Yorktown” reappear in the meat of the score as well.
4. THE NORTH STAR: Not really a theme, more of a self-contained piece of music. It appears in the beginning of the movie when Martin visits his dead wife’s grave in a long, fully developed sequence, and reappears as an alternate to “Susan Speaks.” Extremely beautiful.
5. THE BRITISH GRENADIERS and YANKEE DOODLE: Two well known songs, though not written by Williams, feature extremely prominently into the score, and Williams toys around with them, much as he did with the identical theme in Empire of the Sun.
In addition to music based on the above themes and so called ‘filler music’, Williams also wrote several fully developed pieces for The Patriot which can function as stand alone compositions without purely thematic ties to the rest of the score, as well as working perfectly within the movie, something that is somewhat rare for the newer Williams’ scores.
– Susan Speaks: A delicate and emotional composition for strings, that is very Morricone-ish in its sentimentality and heart tugging. Wasn’t used with the actual ‘Susan Speaks’ scene, being replaced with the equally beautiful “North Star” theme.
– To Charleston: A jaunty little scherzo that is highly reminiscent of Williams’s own work on Home Alone 2.
– Death of Thomas, Burning of the Plantation and Parish Church Aflame: All of these have long, very poignant tragic writing from Williams.
THE UNRELEASED MUSIC
Although Hollywood Records blessed us with an extremely comprehensive and lengthy album, there was still a very good chunk of music that was cut simply because of a lack of space on the CD. Still, the soundtrack is quite representative of the score and we should be thankful that we weren’t subjected to an inferior release. Here is a rundown of some of the more remarkable music missing from the OST. Since the DVD doesn’t have an isolated music track, its unlikely we’ll ever hear this music in its pure form.
1. The Family Farm (alternate): Identical to the 2nd track except for use of the “I Have Long Feared” theme twice at the beginning.
2. At Mother’s Grave/The North Star: A gorgeous piece of fully developed sentimental string writing that accompanies Martin’s visit to his wife’s grave and wishing his daughters a good night.
3. South Carolina Goes To War: Accompanies the sequence at the meetinghouse in Charlestown from when Martin speaks before the crowd up until Gabriel enlists in the army. Some disturbing writing when we hear of Martin’s shady past, as well as a precursor to the material used in “Yorktown,” and some references to the next track:
4. Defeat and Privation: A long sequence of music accompanying Gabriel’s letter, and developing the theme of the same name. Also features some ominous writing for the arrival of the British troops.
5. Tavington’s Approach: An instance of Tavington’s oppressive rhythmic drive.
6. Benjamin’s Sons: Accompanies scenes in which the Martins move to Charlotte’s house and Gabriel rides off to rejoin the army.
7. Saying Goodbye: Touching music for when Benjamin says goodbye to his kids before leaving to fight with his son.
8. The Continental’s Camp: Several instances when we see the Continental’s Camp, we hear the American Cause theme.
9. The Redcoat’s Camp: One of the few other renditions of Tavington’s music.
10. Royal Fireworks Display: An interesting baroque minuet for Cornwallis’ party that most likely was written by Williams.
11. An Ungentlemanly Hero: A very short rendition of the main march theme on French horn when Benjamin approaches the British fort.
12. The Marriage: Nice rendition of the love theme on recorder and steel drum that is followed by a fun, Caribbean sounding bit of celebratory source music.
13. Susan Speaks (Alternate): A straightforward rendition of the “North Star” theme.
14. The Parish Church’s Ruins: Dissonant, depressing music to accompany the discovery of the burnt church and its victims, with a very powerful horn line.
15. “Stay The Course”: Depressed but hopeful music as we see a resigned Benjamin.
All together, I estimate this accounts for about 25 minutes of yet unreleased music.