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How TV Themes Work

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This blog explores how tv themes work. Have you noticed how the best tv themes immediately take you into the world of the programme with no words needed? Ever wondered how they do that?  Here’s a very rough outline:
First – Hawaii 5 0.  The lively mood, off beat rhythms, energy, contemporary pop style, use of drums and minor key instantly evoke action, seriousness and America.

Compare this with Inspector Morse – a very different, definitely non American, detective:

This tune expresses darkness and sadness – ideally suited to the older, cultured and world weary  Inspector Morse!  The minor key, repeated rhythms and repeated descending bass line – in chaconne style – create a sense of inevitability. Vitali’s Chaconne  ( below)  with its famous repeated descending bass line, is in the same world  (but was written  300 years earlier.)

Changing the mood completely, the Pride and Prejudice theme projects lightness and happiness with its major key, scale patterns  and lively speed. The composer effectively captured the late classical /early romantic style of Jane Austen’s era .


Compare this with the Haydn Piano Concerto and John Field Nocturne  below. Both composers were contemporaries of Jane Austen.


Do we sell similar sheet music?

We don’t sell anything exactly like the above themes.  But all music creates its  effects in similar ways. The nearest we have to Hawaii 5 0 is Over the Hills and Far Away or Lilliburlero. Both are lively and energetic, but they don’t have the American feel and are not in a minor key. The closest we have to the Inspector Morse theme is probably Una Furtiva Lagrima or Scarborough Fair.There’s no repeated descending bass, but both are sad, beautiful minor tunes.For the classical style of Pride and Prejudice choose Exsultate Jubilate and Boccherini’s Minuet and Trio.

Finally, the Listen With Mother radio theme – from long, long,long  ago –  was simply Faure’s Berceuse – a  lullaby duet that was perfect for the programme.

Film Music Favourites

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What are your film music favourites? In this blog I am going to share some of my favourite film themes. I’m also going to explain how some film themes have influenced our sheet music arrangements.

Film Music Favourites

This is the first fab film theme that  springs into my mind, and I love its energy and excitement. If fact, I like this theme so much that I included a quote from the main tune in our arrangement of Long Ago and Far Away ( even though this song is entirely different in mood)

Next, who could fail to be impressed by use of Bach’s Air on a G String in the Hamlet Cigar adverts ? This particular arrangementy is more jazzy than our own, but certainly gets some of the sense of calm across!

The film extract below is by far my favourite  version of La Cumparsita – and some of the accordion playing influenced our arrangement.

The theme from Dances with Wolves – with its sense of openness  achieved by using the first and fifth degrees of the scale – had some  influence on Morning Prelude

While Gabriel’s Oboe from the  film The Mission is an excellent example of a beautiful melody:
Enjoy!

Music for Cinderella

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I went to a wonderful performance of Cinderella by  Ballet Cymru recently. I was especially impressed by the choreography and music, which had been newly created.
music for cinderella

The production was inspiring: the ballet was powerfully expressive and I loved the music , which was composed by Jack White:Rehearsing Cinderella

Using music to enhance a story
music for cinderella

Telling a story or having a clear feeling, image or mood that you want to express can be a great starting point for composing music . It can also be a fun way of improvising when you practice: Cinderella Music

Commissioning music

Ballet Cymru is an innovative company and I definitely recommend going to see them if they are performing nearby. The most comparable thing to the Cinderella music we have on our website is our music commissioning service: Gifts and Dedications

…and perhaps these opera cello duets, which have been arranged with the character of the songs very much in mind: Habanera Cello Duet

New Duet Sheet Music

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We have just added some new duet sheet music to our online shop. It’s called Morning Prelude and a recording will be available in November.

This is a 3 -4 minute piece in a gentle reflective mood which starts and ends with harmonics on the cello. There is a also a cello solo version: Morning Prelude for Cello Solo
The music was inspired by watching one of my baby twin grandsons looking out of the window on a wintry morning when he was just three weeks old.
new duet sheet music

 

Composing and improvising

Becoming confident about improvising on your instrument is one of the easiest ways to learn to compose. There are actually very few well known pieces for cello solo, and those that do exists are often extremely challenging to play. This is a pity, because you can achieve evocative effects fairly easily without making it too technically demanding. This is what I aimed to achieve in both the cello solo and duet version of Morning Prelude. The main mood, after the opening harmonics, is calm and relaxing, so if you are able to feel like that when you play the music it definitely helps.

 

 

Concert at Wadenhoe Church

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We’ve just given a concert at the 12th century Wadenhoe Church.  The programme was of our own string duet arrangements plus the first performance of a piece I composed for solo cello called Morning Prelude.

concert at wadenhoe churchThe audience at Wadenhoe were very welcoming and feedback has inspired us to plan a recital programme – and cd – of English folk music ( plus some of our own pieces.)

We have often recorded music at Wadenhoe because it has ideal acoustics for chamber music and a beautiful sense of calm. The church is currently recovering from having had their roof vandalised, but it’s good to know that repair work is taking place and should be completed by the end of October.

 

Tangerine Tango is now online!

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Roger Stimson’s new composition Tangerine Tango is now online and for sale in the ‘new compositions’ section of our shop! You can hear a recording and buy the sheet music here: Tangerine Tango

This is what Roger has to say about his piece: ” Tangerine Tango  was the first of set of three tangos I wrote – each with different moods. It was written for my youngest daughter and expresses something of the struggle of life – the trials we have to go through to reach peace of mind. The harmonies are just out of the comfort range until the first theme appears which triumphs over this. The overall theme is twists and turns.”

tangerine tango is now online!

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Cello Blogs

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If you feel practising the cello can sometimes be a bit isolating, reading cello blogs is a good way to stay in touch with other cellists’ enthusiasms and obsessions.
cello blogs

As with all blogs beware of believing everything you read! Everyone’s approach to the cello is different. What suits one person may not work for another.That said, I think it can be beneficial to hear others’ views, as long as you remember you don’t have to agree with them.

Cello Websites

Here are some of the most interesting websites:

The Cello Internet Society – accessible through Facebook, easy to join and unpretentious. It’s full of ideas, suggestions, videos and enthusiasm, and if you have a problem you can post a question and get lots of replies fast.

Cello Bello – a fairly new website covering most aspects of cello playing including teaching videos, masterclasses and a legacy section about famous cellists from the past.

David Finkel’s 100 Cello Talks on You Tube ( see Talk 1 below) are fascinating. They present practical tips from a wonderful cellist with loads of performing experience.

On a lighter note Extreme Cello  is hugely impressive and full of energy and fun!

Finally,  if all this cello talk inspires you to want to learn some new duets why not visit our online shop on the link below:
Cello Duet Shop

More Narrative Playing

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Following on from the last blog here is some more narrative playing – that is, where there is a clear interpretation that is full of ideas.

Example 1: Casals and Bach

Casals’ heartfelt recording has spellbinding drama .

Example 2: Rachel Podger and Andrew Manse

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The imaginative dialogue between the two soloists in this performance of Bach’s Double Violin Concerto makes the music sparkle into life.

Cello Duet Narrative

The cello duet arrangements of Puccini’s aria Your Tiny Hand is Frozen and Mozart’s Non Piu Andrai have a clear story line so lots of opportunities to play with narrative. You can hear and buy this music on the links below:

Your Tiny Hand is Frozen

Non Piu Andrai

Four Famous Operatic Arias arranged for Cello Duet

 

Music Narrative

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Music narrative is an essential part of great interpretation. By narrative I don’t mean something you could necessarily put into words, rather the performer having a clear idea of what the music is about and what it has to say.

Examples of Music Narrative

The example above  – though crackly – is a superb example of performers who are completely at one with the mood of the music ( Massenet’s Elegie )  and convey its character wholeheartedly and beautifully.

Stanislavsky

Here are some relevant quotes from the great Russian actor Stanislavsky:
” Create your own method. Make up something that works for you. Keep breaking traditions, I beg you.”
“You’ll never see any two great actors approach a role in the same way.”
“Play well or play badly, but play truly.”

The overall point is that if you come up with imaginative ideas that are true to you they will breathe life into the music  – just as an actor hopes to breathe life into a character he portrays.

Opera has its own narrative

One of the easiest ways to respond to narrative is when playing opera arrangements, where there is a defined story. Our arrangements of Toreador Song and Habanera   –  from Bizet’s opera Carmen – are good examples of this.