Oboe: Hsuan Hsieh
Clarinet: Andrew Hope
This clip consists of two scenes taken from episode 1 of The Hunt, a nature documentary narrated by David Attenborough.
My first and probably most demanding challenge of working with this film was how to sustain interest over such a long period of time with continuous music. The first section is the longer of the two, featuring wild dogs hunting wildebeest and the second section features various insects and lizards. The two sections have been filmed and narrated slightly differently, with the second section being more light hearted and humorous, especially with the diegetic sound design. I therefore decided to treat them as two distinct sections whilst connecting them as being part of the same documentary by using the same sound palette in both.
The first section has a narrative structure that describes the story of how the dogs try to catch and kill their prey, the wildebeest, with varying attempts of chases and standoffs. I decided to break this structure down into sections to enable me to plan my score and to help me set the right tempo and mood for each section, building an arc in the music that would ultimately climax with the final chase scene and kill. It was during this process that I noticed a form akin to musical structure taking shape. The following structure unfolded:
FILM SECTION MUSIC STRUCTURE
00:00 INTRO A
01:22 HEADING OUT FOR PREY B
02:17 CHASE 1 C
03:24 STANDOFF 1 D
03:37 CHASE 2a E
04:08 CHASE 2b B
04:44 STANDOFF 2 D (EXTENDED)
06:10 BUILD-UP TO CHASE 3 F(E)
06:57 CHASE 3 (FINAL) C
07:36 CONCLUSION G
Although the musical structure is not typical of any recognised “classical” musical structure, the repetition of some of the filmic events naturally lead me to repeat certain themes and phrases in a modified/ developed form, as one would in a music composition. Together with this structure I wanted to sustain interest by the use and development of musical themes and also by shifting tonality within phrases or modulating key at transitional points in the film, e.g., when moving from standoff 1 to chase 2. With such a visually active film I also felt it was critical to score some pertinent “hit” points to sustain interest further and to create tension (for example the wildebeest sprinting off at 02:54) by careful manipulation of tempo and time signatures.
The sound design has a slightly guttural nature and I therefore decided to emulate some of this in my score, most noticeably with the double basses in the chase sequences by employing accented staccato on the first beat of the bar, replicating the “digging-in” of the wildebeests’ hooves on the ground. However, I wanted to make the sound design more a part of the score and felt that the first standoff scene was ideal for adding some more texture. To achieve this I sampled some of the sound design from the film: the dogs panting and the wildebeest snorting and groaning. I used the dogs panting as a rhythmic texture at a lower pitch, with some triplet rhythms becoming evident which influenced the triplets in the second chase section that follows. For the wildebeest groans I time stretched the sample and tuned it lower to sound along with the sustained double basses; and used the snorts from the wildebeest to mark out the timing of the scene on beats 1 and 3 of the bar.
The second part of this film contains 3 distinct sections and has a more humorous feel to it than the first. The very close up photography of the insects and lizards almost gives them minor personalities which, combined with the accentuated sound design, produces a humorous sentimental effect. I wanted to bring this out in the score and decided to introduce pizzicato strings to add to the comic effect and to also help allow the diegetic sound design to be heard, for example the sounds accompanying the eye movements of the Parson’s Chameleon. The diegetic sound design in this second part is quite pronounced, especially with the slow motion photography and I wanted to ensure that my score and any “musical” sound effects complemented this. For example, the upward glissandi in the violin at 10:23 before the diegetic sound effect comes in.
Scoring this documentary to an existing voice over was also a challenge and I wanted to ensure that my music did not compete with the narration as much as possible by scoring phrases and themes to fit around it. Also I tried to keep the frequency range of instruments away from the register of David Attenborough’s voice. I was keen not to use too much of any “ducking” methods in the mixing process and to allow the natural dynamics of the score to fill the parts of the film with no narration. At the same time I wanted the score to have impact and tension at key points and so was keen to allow it to rise in volume to achieve the appropriate dramatic effect, especially just before the final chase.