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Source Music Turned Into Themes (And Vice-Versa)


BloodBoal
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"Double Trouble" and "When You're Alone" are a couple obvious ones that come to mind.

 

I do like when it happens, but can't think of many more examples. Cloud Atlas is another one. I feel like one of The Godfather movies might have done it but I can't remember. Or maybe Rota did it with Fellini?

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I know you said no musicals but...

 

Mia & Sebastian's Theme - La La Land (Justin Hurwitz)

 

While this is technically from a musical, it is not a song, but rather something a character plays on the piano several times in the film (the technique which you noted above was the best example of your topic). 

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@BloodBoal Don't forget the oldies! A great example of a theme migrating between diegetic and non-diegetic of all time is the use of "As Time Goes By" from Casablanca. There are two times in the movie that it happens, the first being when Rick and Ilsa first see each other again:

 

 

The second time is when the song spurs Rick's flashback of Paris as the diegetic piano music blends into a swelling non-diegetic orchestral version:

 

 

And of course the song is used throughout as Rick and Ilsa's non-diegetic love theme.

 

So, you asked if we like this technique? For me, it depends on whether there's a strong reason to use it. In this particular case, it really gets us into the heads of Rick and Ilsa. In the first scene, since the song was "their song" back in Paris, hearing the song move from the diegetic to the non-diegetic realm at the moment they lock eyes communicates so effectively the bond that the song has created for the two of them. In the second scene, the blend from one realm to the other vividly suggests the gradual triggering of his memories associated with the music.

 

There are plenty of examples of the technique in classical Hollywood movies. Usually, it's a main theme that was first heard non-diegetically (in most cases in the main title) that is used later on in a club scene, dance scene, or something similar. Waxman's A Place in the Sun (1951) comes to mind, where we see Montgomery Clift and Liz Taylor dancing to a waltz that has been their love theme. Raksin's Laura (1944) is another, where the famous theme, which is usually non-diegetic, appears diegetically on the radio. As I say, there are many others.

 

But the reason for using the technique can vary. Williams' score for Altman's The Long Goodbye (1973) is perhaps the most unique use of music I've ever encountered in film because the title song constitutes the entirety of the score! This theme is usually heard diegetically (as is typical for this period in film) but makes some appearances non-diegetically as well. Overall, one gets the feeling of something inescapable, which is an appropriate expression of how Marlowe must feel throughout the film, though this being Altman, many more interpretations are certainly possible.

 

But yes, look through the oldies especially and you'll find a wealth of examples!

 

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Pretty much any Rozsa score

 

For example, Quo Vadis has Marcus' theme in Caesar March and Parade of the Charioteers is basically a reworking of Messala's theme with a statement of Ben-Hur's theme

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I vaguely remember a band in Lawrence of Arabia playing one of the main themes when Lawrence returns to Cairo. 

 

Also, I'm pretty sure that Fife and Gun in Gettysburg is based on the military band song that leads right into it.  

 

And I've always liked the one track in Jaws that quotes the song Quint sings. 

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Not the explicit theme of the movies, but still nice tributes/easter eggs:

This one is an all-time favourite, fun version, fits the camera move well, and it's so source that it was actually played on set, so no clean version exists.

 

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13 hours ago, Will said:

I know you said no musicals but...

 

Mia & Sebastian's Theme - La La Land (Justin Hurwitz)

 

While this is technically from a musical, it is not a song, but rather something a character plays on the piano several times in the film (the technique which you noted above was the best example of your topic). 

 

You know what? I actually originally wanted to add that to the original post, then immediately thought: "Wait, no, that's a musical!". Forgot it was indeed not used as a melody of one of the songs, so, yep, it's worth mentioning.

 

13 hours ago, mrbellamy said:

"Double Trouble" and "When You're Alone" are a couple obvious ones that come to mind.

 

Oh, yes, how could I forget that one!

 

Regarding When You Are Alone, decided not to mention it, since Hook was originally going to be a musical (and most of the themes in that score were melodies for the songs). But yeah, this one is a special case, given the final film is not a musical.

 

13 hours ago, mrbellamy said:

Cloud Atlas is another one.

 

Oh, yeah, good one. Particular like this one instance where the technique is used. (BEWARE, SPOILERS!)

 

9 hours ago, Ludwig said:

@BloodBoalSo, you asked if we like this technique? For me, it depends on whether there's a strong reason to use it. In this particular case, it really gets us into the heads of Rick and Ilsa. In the first scene, since the song was "their song" back in Paris, hearing the song move from the diegetic to the non-diegetic realm at the moment they lock eyes communicates so effectively the bond that the song has created for the two of them. In the second scene, the blend from one realm to the other vividly suggests the gradual triggering of his memories associated with the music.

 

There are plenty of examples of the technique in classical Hollywood movies. Usually, it's a main theme that was first heard non-diegetically (in most cases in the main title) that is used later on in a club scene, dance scene, or something similar. Waxman's A Place in the Sun (1951) comes to mind, where we see Montgomery Clift and Liz Taylor dancing to a waltz that has been their love theme. Raksin's Laura (1944) is another, where the famous theme, which is usually non-diegetic, appears diegetically on the radio. As I say, there are many others.

 

But the reason for using the technique can vary. Williams' score for Altman's The Long Goodbye (1973) is perhaps the most unique use of music I've ever encountered in film because the title song constitutes the entirety of the score! This theme is usually heard diegetically (as is typical for this period in film) but makes some appearances non-diegetically as well. Overall, one gets the feeling of something inescapable, which is an appropriate expression of how Marlowe must feel throughout the film, though this being Altman, many more interpretations are certainly possible.

 

But yes, look through the oldies especially and you'll find a wealth of examples!

 

So basically, you like the use? Because you start by saying "Depends on whether there's a strong reason to use it", and then you don't come up with an example of a bad use of it. ;)

 

And yeah, I tried not to forget oldies, but couldn't think of any right away. The Casablanca example I honestly did not remember.

 

But now, thinking about it, there's also Because They're Young: the song first appears during the opening credits, then the melody is used by Williams throughout the film, before the song is finally performed during the ball sequence.

 

8 hours ago, Fal said:

Pretty much any Rozsa score

 

For example, Quo Vadis has Marcus' theme in Caesar March and Parade of the Charioteers is basically a reworking of Messala's theme with a statement of Ben-Hur's theme

 

I did think about Rosza, but then I wasn't sure if some cues were in fact meant as source music cues. For example, we generally assume fanfares are meant to be heard by the characters, but we don't always see any musician on screen. Take El Cid: are the fanfares using the main theme supposed to be heard by the characters? I don't remember seeing any musicians on screen (though there's one or two instances I'm not entirely sure of, like the fanfare at the end of Rodrigo's Men). Though of course, the fact we don't see musicians on screen doesn't necessarily mean the characters aren't supposed to be hearing the fanfare...

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5 hours ago, Ludwig said:

But the reason for using the technique can vary. Williams' score for Altman's The Long Goodbye (1973) is perhaps the most unique use of music I've ever encountered in film because the title song constitutes the entirety of the score! This theme is usually heard diegetically (as is typical for this period in film) but makes some appearances non-diegetically as well. Overall, one gets the feeling of something inescapable, which is an appropriate expression of how Marlowe must feel throughout the film, though this being Altman, many more interpretations are certainly possible.

 

 

That was one of the first examples I thought of too (to keep it sortof Williams-related). A fascinating, Godard-ian play with the diegetic and non-diegetic use of the theme.

 

Also, don't forget Jack Nicholson whistling the theme in THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK!

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The only reason I'd hesitate to include Casablanca is because "As Time Goes By" was an existing popular song.  That's partially why it was so plausible as "their" song.  So it's not Steiner's theme that he used for source music, it's a pop melody the filmmakers asked Steiner to incorporate into the score.

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2 hours ago, Thor said:

 

That was one of the first examples I thought of too (to keep it sortof Williams-related). A fascinating, Godard-ian play with the diegetic and non-diegetic use of the theme.

 

Also, don't forget Jack Nicholson whistling the theme in THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK!

Also the Children's Carousel from the Witches of Eastwick where the carousel source originating from the background ferris wheel contraption actually intones the whole main theme in the last scene.

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Ali Baba And The Forty Thieves - Edward Ward (1944)

The song Ali and his thieverish friends sing (skip to 16:55) later becomes their theme. Though I'll admit that one walks a fine line, given there's the orchestral backing (which is part of the score and not source music) to accompany them as they sing the song.

 

By the way, would like to take this opportunity to say it's a great theme (neat variations are heard later in the score) and score and would love it to get a release (and make it a re-recording!).

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4 hours ago, BloodBoal said:

So basically, you like the use? Because you start by saying "Depends on whether there's a strong reason to use it", and then you don't come up with an example of a bad use of it. ;)

 

Only trying to keep things positive! I guess the ones I don't like are those like HP1 with Hagrid playing the theme. I groan when I hear this one because without a strong narrative connection, it just seems to me like blatant branding and marketing. By contrast, something like the use of the 5-note CE3K motif in Moonraker (which is not quite what you were asking for, but is along similar lines) has nothing but comedic aspriations:

 

 

And since we're talking about comedic uses of the technique, here's one of the first I know to make such an effort, from Mel Brooks' High Anxiety:

 

 

Just now, BloodBoal said:

I agree with Stu!

 

The thread is meant to be about melodies written by the composer (or some other guy working on the score) specifically for the film.

 

Pre-existing melodies used within a score shouldn't count.

 

Tough bananas! You didn't make that clear in the OP! As Homer Simpson once said, you choose fruit, you live with fruit!

 

 

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That's just breaking the fourth wall!  It's funny, but again that was an existing Count Basie song, not a theme written for the film by a film composer!

 

Bloodboal, pull this thread together!

 

(Unless Thor is referring to a different moment in which case I'll be very embarrassed....)

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6 hours ago, BloodBoal said:

 

You know what? I actually originally wanted to add that to the original post, then immediately thought: "Wait, no, that's a musical!". Forgot it was indeed not used as a melody of one of the songs, so, yep, it's worth mentioning.

 

 

Oh, yes, how could I forget that one!

 

Regarding When You Are Alone, decided not to mention it, since Hook was originally going to be a musical (and most of the themes in that score were melodies for the songs). But yeah, this one is a special case, given the final film is not a musical.

 

 

Oh, yeah, good one. Particular like this one instance where the technique is used. (BEWARE, SPOILERS!)

 

 

So basically, you like the use? Because you start by saying "Depends on whether there's a strong reason to use it", and then you don't come up with an example of a bad use of it. ;)

 

And yeah, I tried not to forget oldies, but couldn't think of any right away. The Casablanca example I honestly did not remember.

 

But now, thinking about it, there's also Because They're Young: the song first appears during the opening credits, then the melody is used by Williams throughout the film, before the song is finally performed during the ball sequence.

 

 

I did think about Rosza, but then I wasn't sure if some cues were in fact meant as source music cues. For example, we generally assume fanfares are meant to be heard by the characters, but we don't always see any musician on screen. Take El Cid: are the fanfares using the main theme supposed to be heard by the characters? I don't remember seeing any musicians on screen (though there's one or two instances I'm not entirely sure of, like the fanfare at the end of Rodrigo's Men). Though of course, the fact we don't see musicians on screen doesn't necessarily mean the characters aren't supposed to be hearing the fanfare...

Easy way to tell: if Rozsa recorded it outside and without strings, then it is source music ;) 

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2 hours ago, Disco Stu said:

That's just breaking the fourth wall!  It's funny, but again that was an existing Count Basie song, not a theme written for the film by a film composer!

 

Bloodboal, pull this thread together!

 

(Unless Thor is referring to a different moment in which case I'll be very embarrassed....)

 

ALL of these things we are mentioning are 'breaking the fourth wall'! It's a "meta tool". I was talking about the scene when they ride past the orchestra. But yes, I'll agree it's somewhat different from a theme (by the composer or not) appearing in both the diegetic and non-diegetic.

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But the French Mistake would fit here! It plays in the big finale back and forth with Blazing Saddles (which I guess wasn't a source cue, just the opening titles).

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I also find myself tickled by this "trick." I appreciate you making a list of instances when it is utilized! 

 

Not quite sure if this one counts because it is an accepted song within the show's universe, but I always dug how our first introduction to the Rains of Castamere/Lannister theme in Game of Thrones was Tyrion whistling it upon entering the council meeting in the premiere to the second season before then hearing it as part of the score a minute later when he scolds Cersei. 

 

 

There's also an instance in the 1938 film, The Adventures of Robin Hood, that almost acts as a variation on this trick, where Korngold writes music that we actually see trumpeters playing within the film but the film cuts aways from them and the music they play continues on and becomes incorporated as part of the score with other instruments coming in. I'll have to try and find a clip later. 

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On 9/21/2017 at 3:08 PM, Ludwig said:

Only trying to keep things positive! I guess the ones I don't like are those like HP1 with Hagrid playing the theme. I groan when I hear this one because without a strong narrative connection, it just seems to me like blatant branding and marketing. By contrast, something like the use of the 5-note CE3K motif in Moonraker (which is not quite what you were asking for, but is along similar lines) has nothing but comedic aspriations:

 

While I can understand why the Hagrid example could bother people (in this case, it serves little purpose narratively or emotionally: it doesn't inform us on the evolution of a character or anything), I'm not sure I would you call it "blatant branding and marketing". How so?

 

And yeah, I agree, when it serves as a comedic device, that technique is generally easier to accept than in movies that are serious (there, it has to feel earned or to serve a purpose, and that is not always the case).

 

On 9/21/2017 at 3:08 PM, Ludwig said:

Tough bananas! You didn't make that clear in the OP! As Homer Simpson once said, you choose fruit, you live with fruit!

 

You have to read between the lines, buddy!

 

Plus, if you choose fruit, you can also live with fruitcakes, right?

 

On 9/21/2017 at 8:47 PM, Cerebral Cortex said:

Not quite sure if this one counts because it is an accepted song within the show's universe, but I always dug how our first introduction to the Rains of Castamere/Lannister theme in Game of Thrones was Tyrion whistling it upon entering the council meeting in the premiere to the second season before then hearing it as part of the score a minute later when he scolds Cersei.

 

That one definitely counts.

 

On 9/21/2017 at 8:47 PM, Cerebral Cortex said:

There's also an instance in the 1938 film, The Adventures of Robin Hood, that almost acts as a variation on this trick, where Korngold writes music that we actually see trumpeters playing within the film but the film cuts aways from them and the music they play continues on and becomes incorporated as part of the score with other instruments coming in. I'll have to try and find a clip later. 

 

That one on the other hand does not quite fit the bill (but in your defense, you did say it's a "variation on this trick").

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4 hours ago, BloodBoal said:

You have to read between the lines, buddy!

 

Plus, if you choose fruit, you can also live with fruitcakes, right?

 

Hey, I was joking! Look at all my exclamation marks! They make it funny!

 

4 hours ago, BloodBoal said:

While I can understand why the Hagrid example could bother people (in this case, it serves little purpose narratively or emotionally: it doesn't inform us on the evolution of a character or anything), I'm not sure I would you call it "blatant branding and marketing". How so?

 

I don't mean much by it - that's just how I interpret it. When the music has nothing to do with what's going on, it seems to me like all they're doing is saying, "Hey, listen to this music! It's the world of Harry Potter! Think of Harry Potter whenever you hear it!" That's all. Maybe it's just meant to be funny, clever, or cute, but especially since it's the pop-culture behemoth that is Harry Potter, that's how I hear it. But that's just me.

 

Back to the fruitcakes for a minute... Do you mean that a composer should have written the diegetic tune for this technique to have meaning? If so, is it because the tune didn't originate with a single person's conception of connecting the diegetic and non-diegetic together? Maybe you mean something else, but if it is the single-person idea, then isn't it usually someone other than the composer who's in charge of diegetic music - the music editor, director, producer? What I mean is, even if a composer wrote a tune that's used diegetically, it usually isn't up to he/she whether it appears as such. In that case, it wouldn't matter who wrote it, would it?

 

To me, what's really interesting is what the composer does, knowing that a tune will appear in the diegesis. That's why I mention Casablanca. Despite Steiner despising the tune, it's striking what he did with it throughout the score. The wonderfully melodramatic version we hear in the train station scene when Rick reads Ilsa's letter is another good example.

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5 hours ago, Ludwig said:

Hey, I was joking! Look at all my exclamation marks! They make it funny!

 

So was I. No need to worry. ;)

 

5 hours ago, Ludwig said:

I don't mean much by it - that's just how I interpret it. When the music has nothing to do with what's going on, it seems to me like all they're doing is saying, "Hey, listen to this music! It's the world of Harry Potter! Think of Harry Potter whenever you hear it!" That's all. Maybe it's just meant to be funny, clever, or cute, but especially since it's the pop-culture behemoth that is Harry Potter, that's how I hear it. But that's just me.

 

 

I understand what you mean, but I think it would have been truer if it had been done in one of the sequels, after the theme had already been grounded in popular culture (then it would have really felt like: "Ok, you wanted it, here it is: look , Hagrid is playing Hedwig's theme!"). Here, it was the first film and people were only starting to get familiar with the theme, hence why it doesn't strike me as really out of place.

 

5 hours ago, Ludwig said:

Back to the fruitcakes for a minute... Do you mean that a composer should have written the diegetic tune for this technique to have meaning? If so, is it because the tune didn't originate with a single person's conception of connecting the diegetic and non-diegetic together? Maybe you mean something else, but if it is the single-person idea, then isn't it usually someone other than the composer who's in charge of diegetic music - the music editor, director, producer? What I mean is, even if a composer wrote a tune that's used diegetically, it usually isn't up to he/she whether it appears as such. In that case, it wouldn't matter who wrote it, would it?

 

I never meant that for this technique to have a meaning, both the source music and the score proper should be written by the same guy, rather that it is better when it used to serve a purpose. Take the Dwarves' song in The Hobbit: the melody was written by Plan 9, then used by Shore as a theme for the Company to great effect. Why does it work? Because the song informs us on what the Dwarves have been through, who they are, what their quest is all about, so using the melody of the song as a theme for theme makes sense narratively and thematically (regardless of who composed the melody of the song and who did the score).

 

But sometimes, this technique is simply used as some sort of wink to the audience, to break the fourth wall musically, in a way (as some have already mentioned): it's serves no other purpose than to be self-referential (or to reference another film/score), and I believe that is easier to accept that in a movie with a light tone, a comedy, something like that. When it is done in a "serious" film, it is something that can take you out of it (take your Hagrid example to understand what I'm trying to say, since that one bothered you (even if it's an example that personally never bothered me much :P)).

 

 

But now I'm wondering if I understood your question properly. If you were referring to the fact that I said we shouldn't refer to examples where a composer used a pre-existing melody (heard as source music in the film) as a theme in his score, it simply because that's not what I'm interested in here. Sure, it's a fun technique too, but the thought process is a bit less interesting in my opinion: the pre-existing melody was not written with the film or its characters in mind. I find it more interesting when a composer wrote a theme for a character and later the character plays his/her theme, as it can be used to say: "OK, now, the character has truly made this melody his/her own. He/She has now come into his/her own". Or the other way around: a character can be seen playing a melody which is later used as a his/her theme, so it tells us: "The character created his/her own theme. He/she forged his/her own musical identity". It's a great way to add another layer to the evolution of a theme throughout a score.

 

But with a pre-existing melody, the fact is different associations were already made to the original piece prior to the film, so that robs the technique of (some of) its impact. Let me take a completely imaginary and extreme example to get my point across: you have a film where a character listens to a Lady Gaga song over and over again, and the melody of that song is used as a the theme for that character. It's fun and all, but the Lady Gaga association unfortunately is so strong that it's hard to think of the theme as truly of a theme for the character: you're thinking about it more as simply cool variations on a Gaga song. The fact that the diegetic cue was not written specifically for the film is a bit problematic, in that regard.

 

5 hours ago, Ludwig said:

To me, what's really interesting is what the composer does, knowing that a tune will appear in the diegesis. That's why I mention Casablanca. Despite Steiner despising the tune, it's striking what he did with it throughout the score. The wonderfully melodramatic version we hear in the train station scene when Rick reads Ilsa's letter is another good example.

 

I'll have to revisit the film and score to really comment on that (don't think I've ever listened to the score outside of the film, to be honest), but yes, I'm not denying it can be used to great effect. It's simply that I have a preference for when the diegetic music that will be used within the score proper was written specifically for the film, with the story and its characters in mind.

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Thanks for clarifying! So what we really need is a new thread called Pre-Existing Source Music Turned into Themes (and Vice Versa)!

 

I get your point on the music having to be composed for the film and agree there is a difference. What I will add is that over time, the kind of "baggage" intended to be brought in by viewers to pre-existing music changes. If there were a Gaga-filled soundtrack the way you mention, it would have massive pop-culture baggage right now, but what about 75 years from now? That's exactly how long it's been since Casablanca was released, and no one really knows "As Time Goes By" anymore except if they're a jazzhead (very rare these days) or if they know that film (also very rare). So it is possible for a pre-existing tune to have much the same effect as one written specifically for a film. Of course, there's still the fact that the musical notes won't have been written for that particular film, but that's another nuance. We can talk about cultural baggage and compositional specificity as different aspects of this kind of technique.

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3 minutes ago, Ludwig said:

if they know that film (also very rare).

 

You honestly think this is true?

 

It might not be as widely seen among younger generations (although I've loved it since first seeing it in my teens), but do older people not count?  AGEIST!!

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If I understand what you're talking about correctly, this technique was used brilliantly throughout the fourth season of Battlestar Galactica, culminating in a key (no pun intended) scene in the finale.  McCreary (not to be confused with Djawadi) was at the top of his game here.

 

 

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2 hours ago, Disco Stu said:

 

You honestly think this is true?

 

It might not be as widely seen among younger generations (although I've loved it since first seeing it in my teens), but do older people not count?  AGEIST!!

 

I'm coming at it from a teaching perspective. Of all the film classes I've taught, there's only ever about one person in a room of about thirty twenty-somethings who's seen it. Of course older people count, but my point is that the song's impact now isn't nearly what it surely was then. And come on, film buffs are a rare breed these days. Fewer and fewer people care about movies as time goes by (pun intended).

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1 minute ago, Ludwig said:

Fewer and fewer people care about movies as time goes by (pun intended).

 

:(

 

I love the Judi Dench show too ;).  I promise I am actually a 30-year-old American, not a British pensioner.

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