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SCORE: The Adventures of Tintin the Secret of the Unicorn Soundtrack Album Analysis


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I posted this in the War Horse and Tintin subforum first but for the sake of clarity post it here separately as well.





The Adventures of Tintin the Secret of the Unicorn –

An analysis of the Original Soundtrack Album



Here is a thematic analysis of the soundtrack album. Feel free to comment and those who have a better knowledge of the music please make correction suggestions.


The following is a track-by-track review of the music which contains some spoilers concerning the plot.


My first few listens of this score were a pure joy, just relishing in the colour and energy of a new Williams score but then I began to find the layers and complexities and Maestro’s great interplay with the themes and ideas he has crafted. It has all the spirit of adventure, the charm and wit, the comedy and the youthful energy one could hope from a JW score.


First of all what was apparent from the first listen was that Williams has provided this adventure with a lot of themes. Colorful, goofy, eerie, noble, heroic and ominous, this score has it all. The unifying attribute in these melodic identifications is that they are relatively short each, offering the composer a chance to juggle several of them in one scene in quick succession and he does that extremely adeptly. Aside from the main ideas which number around 10 the underscore never descends to mundane fare but retains aural interest throughout with either incidental melodies or interesting orchestral moods. Sense of humor and fun is very much all encompassing in this score.


Secondly the orchestration and instrumentation of the score is colorful and quite unique even though the stardard ensemble employed is a large symphony orchestra. Williams utilizes accordion, piano, clarinet and saxophone with unusual frequency to a great effect. Accordion e.g. provides local colour and humour but also surprisingly functions in supporting role creating subtle textures underneath many of the tracks. Piano provides Snowy’s character his fast gait and underscores the more humorous moments and adds cold eerie edge to the suspence music. Saxophone retains very little of it’s jazzy sound most people associate with it outside the track Adventures of Tintin but rather joins the rest of the woodwinds, lending its husky tones to mystery, intrigue and action but most importantly becomes the musical voice for Captain Haddock in many scenes.


The Themes:

1. Tintin’s Theme: A straight forward adventurous leaping melody consisting in its basic form of 5 note opening phrase and a complementing 6 note phrase. Williams extends the melody further during Tintin’s journey, the character earning the lenghtiest fanfaric development during his chase of the falcon. In the grand tradition of leading hero’s themes it is optimistic, youthful and positive.


2. Tintin’s Secondary melody: A close relative to the main theme this melody is a bit more playful, curious and probing with a dose of humor to it, perhaps to do with Tintin’s investigations throughout the film. It also complements the main theme and provides a slightly more danger laced take on the young reporter's escapades.


3. The Unicorn Theme: The musical identification for the eponymous ship that is at the center of the film is almost like a darker musical mirror image of Tintin’s main melody although mostly of the 5 opening notes, linking indelibly the treasure and the hero. This is longest thematic idea Williams wrote for the score, mysterious, a bit ominous and ranges from subtle to operatically grandiose during the course of the adventure. There is a definite "McGuffin" feel to the theme as it evokes feelings of long ago mystery, legend and adventure in one stroke, the ocean vessel being a goal of Tintin's and Haddock's journey but also an artifact in itself. The composer creates a subtly nautical atmosphere to some of the variations in the flashback sequences, the theme backed up by a slowly swaying orchestral writing. It could be said that the Unicorn theme is the second central theme along with Tintin’s which is fitting since it is at the center of the mystery in the film and appears throughout the score up to the last moment in the Finale.


4. Snowy’s Theme and Chase Motif see track 2 for a further analysis.


5. Captain Archibald Haddock: Haddock, the drunkard sea captain, who is often down on his luck, inebriated and foul mouthed but a stalwart ally to Tintin receives a sea shanty styled melody in which saxophone and other woodwinds play a major role in most of its appearances. This theme ranges from the buffoony drunken renditions as we first meet the character who has given himself to drink and self pity to noble and warm as the character goes through the adventures with Tintin finding his thirst for adventure and leaving spirits alone for a while.


6. The Thompsons’ Theme: Waddling and bumbling melodic identification for Interpol’s most inept pair of detectives is pure comedy in its back and forth swaying style, a little march that succeeds in being a bit pompous and officious but this effect is diluted by the dandified ungainliness of melodic idea, enhanced by the instrumentation, often presented on woodwinds and accordion.


7. Red Rackham’s Theme: A rhythmic march-like idea that battles with Sir Francis’ Unicorn theme in the film. Dark, insistent and threatning, the ostinato finds ever expanding orchestration and drives the pirate battle forward with relentless drive. This becomes the theme for Sakharine by the end of the movie, denoting their joint lineage.


8. The Treasure Theme: An eerie exotic sounding motif that is keyed to the treasure of Red Rackham.

It makes several appearances throughout the score on solo flute under a cold sparkling mark tree effect as if to illustrate the glinting of gold and treasure.


9.Bagghar Theme: The Middle Eastern locale where part of the adventure takes place receives an exotic theme of its own that appears a few times in the film. On the soundtrack it appears twice, the second reading a grand and opulent one performed by the whole orchestra in the best Williams travelogue fashion. There is a slight resemblance between the Treasure Theme and Bagghar theme that might be Williams' subtle way of linking the treasure and the location where Tintin goes to find the answers to the mystery of the Unicorn.


10. The Dueling Theme: Another pirate battle theme, which is perhaps not a fully fledged theme but rather music for the scene where Red Rackham and Sir Francis Haddock face each other in a duel. All the dexterity, agility and tension of a sword fight is captured by the aptly quick and kinetic motif that is busy and energetic. Williams elaborates this material further in the piece called The Adventure Continues which is the finale of the End Credits. It represents in a way the sea faring music of the old Hollywood, Williams own take on sophisticated balletic dueling music, a spiritual cousin to the works of Korngold, Steiner and Rózsa.


11. Scrolls/Secondary Mystery motif: A secondary sleuthing motif revolving around the investigations that Tintin undergoes to unravel the secret of the Unicorn linking perhaps to the mysterious Scrolls that hold the clue to the ship’s whereabouts. Very much a natural continuation of the Unicorn theme, which it usually accompanies this melody consists of a small figure that rises and falls in curious and exploring fashion, winding ever onwards towards a resolution it never seems to find.


12. Mystery Solving motif: Rhythmic and adroit little motif mainly on woodwinds and pizzicato strings follows Tintin's mystery solving in the film. It is whimsical and curious depicting our hero's quick thinking while he trails after the mystery of the Unicorn.


13. Sakharine/Karaboudjan danger motif: A threatning short motif for Sakharine and the crew of Karaboudjan that is after both Tintin and Haddock is featured a few times on the ship before our protagonists escape. On the album it is heard only on Escape from Karaboudjan.




1. The Adventures of Tintin:

Jazzy and light, full of rather masked appearances of Tintin's main theme although it is repeated a few times quite distinctively. The music accompanies a classic Saul Bass styled main title in which our eponymous hero goes after a villain, giving chase while the credits roll and introduce elements from various Tintin comic books, offering a small 3 minute Tintin adventure of its own and Williams responds in kind. The piece is energetic, rhythmic, mischievous and has a nervous edginess to. It is orchestrated for saxophones, drum kit played with brushes subtly providing a beat, and orchestra with harpsichord making regular comments, the music having a feel of intrigue and quick wit at the same time. The music opens with a curious small thematic idea (0:00-0:03), which seems to form the backbone of the whole piece. This is then developed further, the leaping motif scampering curiously forward like the eponymous reporter after a scoop, the sharp harpsichord mirroring here perhaps the sounds and typing of the type writer.


At 0:34 Tintin’s Main theme is heard for the first time on quirky harpsichord here still without heroic connotations. A sudden stop with a tubular bell solo comes as a unusual surprise after 1 minute mark underscoring a Vertigo like shot of Tintin falling down into a spiral after being knocked unconscious, muted trumpets and accordion adding further unique colouring to the proceedings. At 1:38 accordion starts a quasi improvisation on the previously mentioned leaping motif from the beginning of the piece which is then actually repeated at 1:50-58 with clearer melodic contour as Tintin is seen aboard a train fighting villains, the drums providing subtle "train on tracks" styled rhythm.


This flows through a jazzy interlude to the Tintin main theme again in 2:16 and in quick succession to the leaping thematic idea that is repeated twice (2:22-2:46) the hero following the bad guy on a plane. This quirky and nervous motif quite oddly, despite being quite distinctive in this piece, disppears from the rest of the score which perhaps illustrates the singular nature of the prologue music. And before the piece ends Tintin’s main theme makes a quick appearance on quirky muted trumpet (2:48) when the hero is victorious and harpsichord dances into a dexterous and good humored ending, the adventure concluded, the villain captured and the treasure reclaimed. Yet this musical adventure is just beginning.


The piece presents Tintin's main musical idea in what sounds almost like a suite where you can really say the composer was Tinker-tin to his heart's content. Closest comparisons stylistically are the Knight Buss from POA and the similar opening credits of Catch Me If You Can with its deft and dexterous passages. A great way to open the album, leaving people intrigued for more.


2. Snowy's Theme:

Williams captures the quick, agile and not to mention fast thinking Tintin's best canine friend Milou (or Snowy) with an excited up-and-down figure for strings and fast solo sections for piano that receives an extended concert performance here with Gloria Chang on piano.

This piece recalls the flow, energy and enthusiasm of Williams’ most famous scherzos, Maestro spinning effortlessly a feather light orchestral dash full of heart and energy.


The composer provides Snowy with two figures, the first is the excited up-and-down motif and the secondary idea consists of a string ostinato and a slightly nervous and tense sounding string motif that can be heard here at 1 minute mark which features prominently in a couple of chase sequences in the score that. In this concert version of Snowy's theme pizzicato strings, delightful piano passages and of course light woodwinds present a bouncy dance that is a fast dash that leaves a smile on your face after you have heard it. This is truly a theme that captures the spirit of adventure and the dog to a T.


The piece is featured in the film as the first part of the End Credits.


3. The Secret of the Scrolls:

The piece opens with the Unicorn theme most uniquely voiced by dusky saxophone with gentle piano accompaniment that has an air of pure mystery when Tintin first sees the model ship at the flea market, the music captivating us as much as the ship does him. This flows into the swaying Secondary Mystery theme at 0:24 which complements the Unicorn theme, first heard on solo flute and accompanied by accordion and then explored on double basses and tremoloing strings take over, climbing to a small peak as Sakharine appears (1:33).


The music cuts to the scene where Tintin has taken the model ship home and Snowy's theme pops up on flute and accordion (1:33-1:58), orchestra dashing through a sprightly variation as he chases a cat that has entered through the window, knocking over things and causing havoc until the Unicorn model falls from the cupboard and breaks. As Tintin is intrigued by the Unicorn a subtle quote of the Tintin Main theme (2:16-2:26) appears as he heads for the library to do more investigations to the history of the vessel.


The theme is quickly over taken by the Unicorn theme on saxophone and string section again (2:28) accordion and flutes with shimmering synthetic accompaniment in the background follow quickly with the Secondary Mystery theme (2:46) which ends the piece with the sense of unanswered question, the secrets still unlocked.


4. Introducing Thompsons and Snowy's Chase:

Thumping low piano chords march with clarinet and accordion in a slightly jazzy, lazy mode presenting a rather befuddled Theme for the Thompsons which suits their characters extremely well, being a mix of self important pomposity and comedy. Clarinet interjects and the theme continues on tuba and low woodwinds a bit more pompous.


Then a clarinet and accordion interlude appears, almost a brief dance to the beat of a drum kit, offering perhaps a moment of local colour to the escapades of the bumbling detectives. From this befuddled dance a new thematic idea appears at 1:11, a bouncy and playful variation of Secondary theme for Tintin himself that is repeated at 1:29 only to end soon in queasy strings that lead into a rather masked reading of the Unicorn theme.


Then at 1:48 the previously mentioned Secondary Tintin melody returns, here joined by the Mystery Solving motif at 1:57-2:10 suddenly lead into dramatic deep brass chords that clearly announce trouble at 2:16 and start off a chase sequence featuring Snowy. His theme makes a spirited appearance, the music here making it clear that Tintin needs his help, the Snowy's secondary string idea of the theme transformed into an urged action motif that peppers the track with suspence as well as dexterity of the animal as the main idea plays on the dog's indomitable spirit to save his master and Snowy gives chase, the Secondary Tintin theme making a quick appearance at 2:59. Colorful orchestrations dot the whole pursuit, catching what must a lot of on-screen sync points. The closing of the track reprises the dramatic ponderous brass chords as we obviously reach some dark conclusion when they appear towering threatningly ahead and ending the music abruptly.


5. Marlinspike Hall:

The Secondary Tintin theme heard in the previous track returns here in murky mysterious guise on double basses as if to announce that there is some sleuthing to be done (0:00-0:14). Horn figures wander smokily around in a dark atmosphere until a quick threatning passage suddenly pops up with staccato brass and screaming strings but Snowy's theme comes to the rescue once again at 0:55-1:11, dispelling the sense of dread with its sprightly character and light dazzling orchestrations.


At 1:18 Williams repeats the Secondary Tintin theme on pizzicato double basses and clarinet which gives away to a sense of suspence and finally at 1:50 to the Unicorn theme on horns, woodwinds providing accompaniment, saxophone lending its voice to the arcana as suspence mounts, the Mystery Solving motif 2:14-2:24 accentuating the sleuthing until Tintin's Main theme appearing in quick fragment (at 2:31), the score going into more exploratory suspence music that is colorful and atmospheric. At 3:20 a fast and rhythmic brass and strings take on the Secondary Mystery motif makes an appearance followed by exclamatory horns as if something bad was happening to our protagonist.


6. Escape from Karaboudjan:

Pizzicato basses rise into a quick accordion and orchestra reading of the Secondary Tintin theme (0:00-0:05 and 0:11-0:16) that leaps over to quick strings sawing away furiously and to the first heroic rendition of Tintin's Main theme (0:18) here tempered by the brevity of the appearance Tintin leaping to action, escaping first from the radio room of the ship and then trying to reach the life boat where Haddock is waiting him with Snowy. The string and brass material continues fast and furious with woodwind section making classic Williams runs, Snowy's theme flitting amidst the quick paced score (0:41).


A heroic and busy rendition of Tintin Main theme sounds, the music full of urgency and triumph (0:49), reaching its fullest variation yet. Brass screams, cymbals crash, relentless strings continue mercilessly and a muted trumpet version of Tintin Main theme appearing in their midst, obviously underscoring rather dire straits (1:23). Flutes and xylophones strike up a quick alarm (1:43) and the ensemble grows into a fantastic dramatic full orchestra crescendo of turbulent trumpet and horn exchanges when Tintin, Snowy and Haddock are about to be run over by Karaboudjan. The string section continues to keep up the drive playing suspencefully, informing that Tintin and Haddock are not in the clear yet, the tension slowly giving away as Tintin's Main theme rears its head on relieved flutes (2:19).


A rhythmic motif on stopped horns (2:26), what seems to be a temporary identification for Karaboudjan/Sakharine, briefly menaces our protagonists and a new exotic theme for Bagghar plays (2:46) informing us most likely of the destination of Karaboudjan but the horns soon interrupt continuing their pinched and menacing musical idea for Karaboudjan/Sakharine (2:55) until crescendoing with cymbal crash and calming the situation down, the music rumbling into a murky finish, leaving Tintin, Snowy and Haddock to an unknown fate.


7. Sir Francis and the Unicorn:

Dark deep brass and low strings rumble but are surprisingly met by a cool sheen of synthetic chorus (0:09-0:24) like an appartion manifesting from the past. Oboe soloes over plodding low string figures until a sizzle of cymbal leads us to the mysterious slowly stirring strings and a solo horn sings out the Unicorn theme that is slowly taken up by the rest of the orchestra and the theme rises to operatic proportions with pounding timpani, cymbal crashes and brass fanfares, the slow swaying of the music certainly having a nautical feel to it. Here Williams has created a quintessential sea faring motif with mythic connotations very well capturing what I assume is a mirage type of reminiscence that Haddock experiences in the desert.


A flute rendition of the Unicorn theme at 2:02 (revealing a close connection between the Unicorn theme and Tintin’s own musical identification since it is difficult to read whether the theme here is a light and bright reading of the Unicorn or a darker reading of Tintin’s theme) is interrupted by a purposeful, rhythmic strings and brass march of Red Rackham’s pirate theme at 2:14, starting what sounds like a sea battle in music form, Rackham’s theme and Unicorn theme alternating as if to tell us which side is winning at any given moment. The Rackham string material is insistent and kinetic, growing in intensity, the brass, woodwinds, timpani and strings having each their own moment in the fracas.


You can easily picture a sword fight to this music, the brass making old fashionedly unabashed swashbuckling exclamations, timpani backing them up. The rhythmic Rackham motif flows into a wonderful variation of the Unicorn theme at 2:54 full of drama and pathos. But yet again Rackham’s theme comes back to the fore and continues at 3:06 with brass section backing the string motif with fanfares and wicked playing. The Unicorn theme answers again at 3:40 here embellished with percussion and unique rhythmic woodwinds. Something of a intermediate motif between Rackham’s angular and Unicorn’s flowing idea plays for a moment as the battle rages on until melodramatically deep chords and an eerie quote of the Unicorn theme (4:46), almost like a mirage disappearing, sweeps us to an ominous finish.


8. Captain Haddock Takes the Oars:

Tremoloing high strings follow saxophone as it performs a befuddled and broken up version of Captain Haddock's theme. At 0:39 in a swaying sea shanty style the contra clarinet, accordion, strings, selected woodwinds and tuba repeat this rather inebriated sounding theme that has a certain swagger, comedy and determination to it, yet another deft musical portrait. The orchestra repeats Haddock’s theme and then Tintin's main theme makes a small helpful sounding appearance at 1:41 when the music starts to rise into a alarmed crescendo, presumably for Haddock's drunken antics in a life boat.


9. Red Rackham's Curse and the Treasure:

The rhythmic motif I assume to be the Red Rackham's theme (from track 7) returns threatningly and is soon joined by a new menacing string motif. This gives away to an exotic, eerie flute rendition of the theme of Red Rackham's Treasure under the shimmer of mark tree at 0:46 but the moment quickly passes, dramatic brass chords rising, quoting subtly the Unicorn chords heard at the end of track 7, Captain Francis coming to challenge the pirate.


A new theme takes hold of the score at 1:20, a classically flavoured string based motif, lithe, athletic, nervous, rhythmically intense, strings making quick licks full of suspence until with woodwind trills and horn section opening the material further Williams presents at 2:20 Dueling theme (not a theme in the strictest sense since it is confined to this scene in the film yet it is further developed by Williams for the End Credits. See track 18 The Adventure Continues) in the string section that follows the classic form of the yesteryear of Hollywood sea faring epics, being melodically captivating yet rhythmically oriented. Here the music seems to capture the sharpness and dexterity of the duel between these two seafarers. Every orchestral section contributes to this melody, strings providing the basis, woodwinds and brass giving each a rendition of the melody of the theme in turn, cymbals accenting the melée at regular intervals to comment on its twists and turns.


Suddenly this light but kinetically charged piece is interrupted for a moment as if for a decision or quick contemplation until at 3:41 the Unicorn theme makes another ghostly appearance which builds into a string and brass lead crescendo full of tragedy, the Unicorn theme sounding on pained horns at 4:18. Cold and eerie piano notes grow into the Red Rackham's Treasure theme again at 4:39 on flute under the same mark tree haze as before but this time followed by timpani and cymbal crash as Unicorn theme is performed thunderously for what must be the demise of the great ocean vessel.


The rhythmic and suspenceful Dueling Theme continues after this tugging insistently at the listener, carrying with it the Red Rackham's Treasure theme at 5:14, which repeats in the same cold orchestration of flute and mark tree but this time building into a grand crescendo of the Bagghar Theme full of exoticism and opulence, cymbals crashing, brass and string joining in a great celebratory rendition evoking foreing lands and Middle Eastern exoticism in the best spirit of Indiana Jones adventures.


10. Capturing Mr. Silk:

Woodwinds, clarinet the foremost, accordion and muted trumpet offer a rather comic air to the opening of the piece, Captain Haddock in a new predicament. And soon enough Haddock’s theme appears at 0:47 on saxophone and flutes, quite unsteady on its footing, piano, bassoon and clarinet underlining the precarious situation as drunken Haddock has lit a "wee fire" in the life boat to keep Tintin warm.


At 1:17 muted brass, piano and accordion all perform with a wry smile the Thompson and Thomson theme again, officious but awkwardly befuddled accented by off-beat drum hits. Williams develops the material, clarinet going on a longer comedic solo with accordion and bassoon before the piano, and the already much utilized clarinet and accordion return to finish the track to the good natured waddling of Thompsons’ theme. With this comedic dash it most certainly remains a mystery if they ever capture the elusive wallet thief Mr. Silk.


11. The Flight to Bagghar:

Saxophone begins a jumpy humorous rhythm, presenting a climbing little motif which appears throughout the track, joined soon by fast string and woodwind runs and the rest of the orchestra. Williams builds up a rapidly forward lunging comedic ballet of sorts with Haddock's theme on the saxophone alternating with the orchestral forces as the score propels what must be a bumpy ride through the air, made apparent by the queasy brass and strings that give the flight its unsteady feel. At 0:50-1:03 a new swaying sea shanty styled motif appears briefly on humorous accordion as if to illustrate Haddock's goofy antics and possibly drunkedness that soon gives way to Tintin's Main theme at 1:13 where it makes a fleeting optimistic appearance as our main character offers us a show of his flight prowess, his knowledge of flying limited to having interviewed a pilot once after all.


But soon the music again dances forward with Haddock's theme appearing regularly, heroic brass fanfares punctuating the adventure as jittery string writing receives slightly more dire cast. Despite these arduous circumstances Haddock's thematic idea prevails and trumpets and saxophone climb and dip into a deft orchestral hit that closes the piece with a musical wink of an eye.

Williams never forgets the comedy of the moment and has composed here one of those humorous pieces that only he can, projecting this humor through the orchestra and getting away with it due to his unique skill and writing providing us a wonderful orchestral romp in the process.


12. The Milanese Nightingale:

Harp and expectant tremoloing strings present a delightful and elegant violin solo that conjures up romance and a touch of high society, being almost like an homage to the style of the film music masters of the Golden Age so sweet and unabashed it is. Strumming of guitar and accordion with muted trumpets enhance the air of elegance further, offering opulent and urban stroll music with Parisian flavour. Another string solo dances forwards, waltzing in the string section warm and glamorous but stopped short by a sudden intrusion of an ominous reading of the Unicorn theme at 1:16. Tintin is still has a mission to accomplish.


13. Presenting Bianca Castafiore: A stately opening presents our opera diva with an orchestral prelude from the cavatina of Gioachino Rossini’s opera The Barber of Seville. Soprano soloist of the highest caliber Renée Fleming then standing in for the famous opera soloist of the Tintin's world, Bianca Castafiore, sings Je veux vivre from Charles Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette to a rather drastic effect, the finale of the piece inducing shattering glass and chandelier sound effects as she brings the house down so to speak. It is a somewhat appropriate inclusion in the film because of her appearance but the effect a bit less funny on the album for the casual listener even if it brings smile to your face as a sonic gag if you know the personality of this particular song bird.


14. The Pursuit of the Falcon:

And then we are off to chase after a bird of another kind. Williams extends, tongue firmly in cheek, the operatic comedy as he weaves quickly the Je veux Vivre melody into the orchestrations of the opening of this thrilling action set piece. But soon solo flute flits back and forth between orchestral sections, assuming the role of the fleeing Falcon in this rapid chase through the streets of Bagghar, Williams presenting the fast animal an instrumental idenfitication instead of a clear melodic one. Strings take foreground enhanced subtly by marimba, providing momentum and nervous energy, brass offering needed bursts of power and adding dramatic punctuation as the heroes follow the villains on motorbike.

At 1:15 a new leaping fanfare sounds in the brass heralding the heroics of our protagonists, the timpani and deep rhythmic brass and strings presenting a dire hammering motif that sets after them, the leaping fanfare idea reprised at 1:36.


Snowy's theme gives a steady rhythm and thematic continuity to the piece as the motoric up and down figure of the theme is woven into the momentum of the music, beginning at 1:53. The heroic fanfare for our main characters sounds comes back yet again at 2:02, the string writing intensifying all the more after this. At 2:22 a bright rapid fire fanfare sounds and Tintin's Secondary theme follows on deeper orchestral forces as if to announce that he is firmly after the bird and the bad guys. The rapid fanfare and Tintin's Secondary theme continue to punctuate the hunt for the elusive avian when the score plunges into skillfull fast string playing of Snowy’s chase motif. Soon Williams brings us back to the flute idea for the Falcon at 3:16 where the virtuoso flautist does amazing job with the material. Orchestra takes the idea up briefly from the flute but as Tintin catches up his theme makes an attempt to catch the Falcon at 3:36. He is stopped short by a mounting brassy and percussive orchestral crescendo.


Then brass and timpani push the music into a new gear at 3:54 where the orchestra rolls relentlessly forward, the pace quickening, flute solo of the Falcon appearing in the middle of the tumult as our protagonist is hot on the trail of the bird. When Tintin is finally victorious the orchestra rewards him and us the listeners with the most extended and developed heroic fanfare treatment of Tintin's main theme at 4:16 the music blossoming joyously into a grand rendition of the theme.


This celebration of victory is suddenly cut short as momentum ceases and fades into deep strings in 4:36 and timpani blasts pound, woodwinds making a subtle quote of the opening of the Secondary Tintin motif at 4:46, repeating it with snarling horns and timpani backing but the tension shifts into a sudden dramatic and brassy exclamation of Tintin's main theme at 5:13 complemented by cymbal crashes that ends the piece with a sense of finality in its last soft notes on flutes and tubular bells which seems to signal that the adventure is not over yet.


15. Captain’s Counsel:

Tentative woodwinds and deep pizzicato try to form Haddock's theme, flute snatching the opening of it, here somber and emotional, Williams changing its characteristic comic stance into a one of friendship, thoughtfulness and rueful sadness. As the strings offer support, the flute succeeds on the second try to voice Haddock’s theme, warm, comforting and hopeful, horns leading into a delicate reading of Tintin's main theme on muted trumpet and clarinet. Mystery Solving motif appears with renewed spirit at 1:36-1:49 on its customary woodwinds and pizzicato strings, and muted brass, suddenly accordion marching in with the Thompsons’ theme at 1:49 and hopeful brass swell and low strings leave us with a feel of anticipation. All is not lost.


16. Clash of the Cranes:

Woodwind run and likewise furiously racing strings start things off energetically, presenting an action motif, snarling and growling brass and heavily hitting timpani and cymbals hammering away in what must be the most creative duel in ages. Williams offers a heavy, almost mechanically plodding angular motif for the crane fight, each side of the orchestra presenting hammering blows, Tintin's theme sounding intense and determined amidst the battle (0:34). Williams underscores both the duel and the fist fight where Haddock fends off Mr. Alan, his treacherous first mate while trying to capture Sakharine. Snowy comes to the aid once more and his theme dazzlingly scampers forward, embellished by heroic bright brass (0:44) as he topples a few thugs with a well places box. The mechanic swinging string motif of the cranes returns but is soon joined by another musical idea, the equally rhythmic Red Rackham's theme from tracks 7 and 9 (0:58) which grows in intensity as it rises to a brass and percussion laden crescendo that does not bode well to any of the participants in this melée as a mounting deep orchestral crash silences the battle for a moment, Haddock flying out of the toppled crane. Low register woodwinds and strings seem to proclaim tragedy but Snowy's theme or a slightly altered variant appears again from the orchestra (1:52), now more like in Snowy's first chase on track 4, a hint of danger in its orchestration, harpsichord a unique sharp color here as Haddock and Sakharine face each other off in a real duel, the music illustrating the sharp edge of the confrontation.


The similar humorous rising, leaping chords that charted Haddock's and Tintin's flight on track 11 return at 2:20 and sure enough Haddock's theme is not far behind (2:32-2:43) backed up by chirping flutes, the captain gaining upper hand in the fight, throwing bottles of alcohol on his nemesis. A sudden eerie musical moment follows, a ghostly reading of Haddock's theme making a quick appearance as Sakharine taunts his enemy while trying to burn the scrolls but with triangle’s clear glint and harp the intrepid and optimistic Tintin's theme returns on accordion and clarinet and the protagonist snatches the precious papers from Sakharine's hands. So as the bad guy is finally defeated Tintin's theme is soon repeated on muted trumpet and harp, accompanied as ever by Snowy's bouncy thematic idea, Thompsons' theme making a closing statement for the escapade with resounding orchestral hits.


17. The Return to Marlinspike Hall and Finale:

The Unicorn theme on saxophone over tremoloing strings brings us back to the mystery of the ship here as Tintin finally unravels the secret of the scrolls, finding coordinates in their cyphered layers. Our heroes head for the location of these coordinates underscored by an optimistic appearance of first Tintin's and then Snowy's themes full of energy, flitting from saxophone to flute to clarinet, Williams spinning it through the orchestra with deft skill as the trio speeds through the countryside in their car and arrive to Marlinspike Hall. After cold expectant string lines we transition to a noble horn statement of Haddocks' theme (1:24) that is coupled with a short quote of Tintin's main theme on flute and clarinet.


As the trio goes on exploring the house of Haddock's ancestors dark rumbles from piano and the orchestra follow (1:50-), high strings complementing the music of extreme ranges, woodwinds in full musical exploration mode here, slowly but surely closing in on some secret as they rhythmically plod forward, strings accompanying tentatively. When a doorway to the secret cellar is found at 2:35 a solo oboe sings out a unique lyrical melodic line full of mystery and beauty with strings and shimmeringly cascading harp backing it subtly, lower strings repeating the idea when all of a sudden the Unicorn theme appears yet again in the very same enigmatic spirit in 3:08-3:20, flute taking its customary role as the soloist for this particular theme, slightly eerie but alluring. Horn line (3:21) clearly related to Haddock's theme yet having a sense of antiquity is followed by a somber reading of that particular theme on flute but the music quickly encounters the Unicorn theme (3:42), the secrets finally unravelling perhaps.


Glinting cold piano and strings weave into the texture of the score, welcoming Red Rackham's Treasure theme that eerily raises its head with solo flute in the shimmer of the mark tree at 4:08 it's most common guise. It's companion one might say, the Unicorn theme follows with wistful longing on horns, the theme's melody actually transforming into the lyrical one heard beginning at 2:35 on oboe. At 4:38 rhythmic high string figure supports a determined Haddock's theme on saxophone as the music builds, something decisive happening, the Unicorn theme dancing again to the fore, repeating as the swaying string figure now augmented by brass blossoms into a fateful sounding full ensemble crescendo, announcing clearly that the adventures might not be over yet, Williams presenting a sort of To be continued in musical form.


18. The Adventure Continues:

Williams has written an extended concert arrangement of the fast and agile Dueling theme heard on track 9 which according to reports serves as the final part of the End Credits (The other material in the credits being the reprised track Sir Francis and the Unicorn (track 7) and Snowy's Theme. While not one of the major themes of the score it imparts a sense of drive and adventure, evoking the swashbuckling spirit of our heroes' escapades. It could be said it prepares the listener for another adventure to come. The original Dueling theme is embellished and developed through the orchestra, the piece containing several false endings, almost like pauses in a duel. Here Williams adds certain contours of the Tintin’s main thematic idea subtly into the mix, most prominently the rising leaping figures associated with our heroes in the middle section of the suite. This piece ends the album with a satisfying note yet leaves you wanting for more of these adventures if not for any other reason than to hear a new Williams score of this spirit and magnitude.



© -Mikko Ojala-

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Thank you for that thoughtful comment BloodBoal. I appreciate your candor and eloquence deeply. Perhaps I will later analyze Picking Pockets just as a special favour to you.

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