Friday 9 February 2018

Saint Margaret Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus Film Music Score

This week has seen me writing the music for Saint Margaret Mary and The Sacred Heart of Jesus, a new DVD film production we are working on.  We filmed for this in January 2017 and it's taken a while to get to this stage.  I had no plans for a musical theme or anything in particular for this, I decided to just hit record and improvise, which is what I usually do, but this time I really just relied on inspiration.  I used my template from our Saint Don Bosco film which gave me all my standard instruments such as harp, strings, quiet strings, cello, flute, piano, nylon guitar.  A friend of ours whom we have known since childhood portrayed Saint Margaret Mary for us and her daughter portrayed some shots of Saint Margaret Mary as a child which was great as they look very much alike.

Screenshot from Saint Margaret Mary Film, as a child.
The whole beginning of the music score was inspiring for me and easy to write because the visuals were beautiful.  My college tutor from years ago had provided for us in advance some of Jesus' words.  He has done lots of narration for us over the years and often reprises his role as Jesus for any words that would make a good addition to a production.  His voice came in pretty early on so I used various mystical soundscapes which made a sound and atmosphere as if Heaven was reaching down to speak to us now.  I had been using Altus a lot in the past several productions, the voice of medieval tenor, so I discarded this and loaded mystica instead to have some female nuns, seeing as there are a lot of nuns in this production.  Having their voices doubling up the string parts up quite high in pitch made for a very heavenly sound then I decided to bring in some piano for when Jesus spoke, piano with 'Desert Loneliness' made a very atmospheric blend on top of sustained strings.

Screenshot of Music Score for Saint Margaret Mary
Within a couple of days the score really began to take shape and to describe it I would say, mystical and reflective with a positive and heart-warming atmosphere.  A very slight sense of urgency, like an urgency to adhere to the Sacred Heart message, a message of love and hope.


Gaining Inspiration from the London Dungeons

I think that the reason I find writing to Medieval films so easy is 1) because I have written for so many with all of our English Martyrs, 2) As a child we visited the London Dungeons and it really had an effect on me, they must have played sound effects or music the whole time because I just know what the sound of imprisonment in Medieval England should sound like!  

Saint Margaret Mary and Saint Claude Screenshot
At 34 minutes, our film on Saint Margaret Mary takes Saint Claude de la Colmbiere to bring the Sacred Heart of Jesus message to England.  At this point in the score I used Recorder, Tenor Viola da Gamba, Baroque Guitar and Harp to represent old England.  I also added some soundscapes, Medieval Tapestry and 'Scrape FX' from ERA II samples.  This added just the right eerie atmosphere of this era.  After this, the music seemed to evolve itself.  I felt I needed to do something different towards the end of the production; longer productions are always difficult to keep the pace going for that extra 20 minutes or so, this production is 50 minutes long.  I spoke before about being inspired by Marvel's Doctor Strange in Saint Padre Pio film and switching to 6/8 time to keep the pace up.  I thought I would try something similar again, without the harpsichord.  I used harp and piano instead and the sound was immediately reminiscent of Mendelssohn for me especially with cello.  For years with my piano tutor, we went through various eras and composers like Bach, Mozart, Brahms.  Mendelssohn for me was so rich and different.  After studying the Classical period, the romantic period was so filled with a depth of emotion and this was perfect in this film as Jesus almost pleads with humanity to love him.  I felt the film lift and fill with a great depth and I was obviously thinking of Mendelssohn's style at this point and being inspired by him.  

I use a lot of ancient instruments in my music, but I also use contemporary instruments and soundscapes too, in a kind of fusion that is not 100% authentic historical music, this is not what I strive for, I strive for more cinematic, reflective and spiritual with a hint of all that is historic.  For a very contemporary touch with this production I used Electric Train Trip as a pulsing sound in Trilian Bass Guitar.  In a long sequence between Saint Margaret Mary and Claude, I brought in the pulse and it immediately became upbeat and lifted with great expectation.  This was great and I found the entire film benefited from it, it kind of musically underlined the importance of what is being said in this film.  For an almost New Age sound I used 'Dream Medieval Lute' throughout this score as well as Armenian Duduk, calling out a romantic, mystical atmosphere with the distant echo of the lute effect bringing something definitely new.  All in all, I am very pleased with this score.  It's our 80th DVD, so my 80th Soundtrack, taking into account all the mini movies so seven per disc, each with their own theme for each saint.  Saint Margaret Mary and the Sacred Heart of Jesus will be released on DVD over the following days, the music is currently mixing down......