Mischief Managed

Synchrotones_logoSynchrotones finished 3rd in the “Composer’s Challenge VII: Mischief Managed”, receiving rave reviews from Hollywood composer Abel Korzeniowski, MMUK reviewer Craig Lysy and others. The competition entailed writing a lengthy suite for a challenging clip for “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix”.

You can listen to my entry on my SoundCloud page.

The Composer’s Challenge is a friendly competition amongst aspiring composers; and is organised by Kalaisan Kalaichelvan. Details about the Composer’s Challenge, the results and other entries can be found on the Composer’s Challenge pages.

“Excellent sensitivity”, “Emotional. Bravo.”

Abel Korzeniowski wrote:
Pros: An outstanding addition of the logo/intro section, Excellent sensitivity to visual cues and emotional changes. Music flows and drives the picture. Well pronounced original themes. Emotional. Bravo.
Cons: The direction of a harmonic progression and leading melodic lines is not always clear. Occasionally,chromatic alterations are out of place. Messy voice leading and counterpoint, especially in sections withthe solo violin. Rating 9.

“The writing to complete the last 3.5 minutes of the piece was just outstanding.  Bravo!”

Craig Lysy wrote:
Dark shifting low register chords with metallic percussive accents carry the opening scene with Lucius.  In the ensuing battle staccato rhythms carry the fight and gain potency atop strings.  A repeating horn powered theme animates the battle with great effect – nicely done!  The transition from Lucius’ defeat to the Sirius’ death scene is excellent!  For the death scene, plaintive strings render an anguished Hedwig’s Theme and transitions to a violin carried melodic line that is exquisite.  This line continues with an accelerando to support Harry’s rage and pursuit.  I think it works fine due to the passion and tempo.  However, I do not feel conflict or struggle in the music as Harry decides Bellatrix’s fate.  The melodic line continues in a lower register to inform us of Voldemort’s presence.  We are thematically informed of Dumbledore’s arrival and segue into the battle between Voldemort and Dumbledore atop the staccato action line heard earlier.  The horn led battle theme animates the battle and powerfully supports the fire dragon confrontation.  The music crescendos and explodes as Voldemort shatters the glass.  The support of the glass shard storm is also excellent.  For the pivotal possession scene, chimes intone A Window To The Past Theme, which the composer adapts into an exquisite and anguished string line.  As Harry sees his friends the melodic line slowly ascends; struggling for the light.  We conclude magnificently on this string line as Voldemort departs and the paper articles roll.  Wow, this is just an exceptional effort, with just one minor criticism.  I really like your themes and the continuity of your effort.  The staccato action writing and horn play were first rate.  The writing to complete the last 3.5 minutes of the piece was just outstanding.  Bravo! Rating: 8.

“Sterling work!”

Mikko Ojala wrote:
This piece opens in the title credits of the Composers Challenge with a hint of Hedwig’s Theme which then proceed to a new melodic contour before with a dramatic swish of a suspended cymbal opens the actual scene.

Deep double bass sonorities paint grim tension over the scene where Malfoy and Harry exchange the prophecy encased in a glass sphere for our hero’s captive friends, glassy percussion echoing about to further deepen the atmosphere. Mark tree underscores the apparating Sirius Black but then rhythmically charged orchestra animates the appearance of the Order of the Phoenix, performing a defiant march-like figure, the Battle Theme, as the combat truly begins. This forceful and brass led section culminates in a dramatic staccato burst dominated crescendo as Sirius disarms Malfoy but he is then hit by a deadly curse. The original writing in this section is commendable, capturing the danger and the energy of the quick gun/sword-fight feel of the combat, the action motif well capturing the on-screen action.

A lamenting string section offers an elegy for Sirius and his demise with solo violin providing raw emotionality to Harry’s shock and sudden grief, Hedwig’s Theme making a poignant appearance, signalling almost the loss of innocence at this moment. The time honoured musical timbres of a violin work extremely well here and is somewhat unexpected accompaniment for the following chase sequence, where it hones in on the tragedy, of Sirius’ death and Harry’s oncoming rage, as the almost minimalistically spinning violin solo accents his disarming of Bellatrix and inner conflict whether to spare her or kill her.
Intelligent thematic writing continues as the solo violin veers to Voldemort’s slithering main theme from HPPS as Harry is making his decision, a link between the act the boy is about to commit and the dark lord and how easily he could fall from grace at this moment.

Deeper brass led yet subtle extrapolation of Voldemort’s Theme introduces the actual villain before tense strings, snapping and echoing synthesized effects and strained metallic sound of a bowed cymbal conjure a feeling of palpable danger for this face-off of arch enemies. As Dumbledore steps steadfast to Harry’s defence, a new theme for the headmaster of Hogwarts is introduced on woodwinds and strings, musically seeming to depict simple honesty and bravery.

The following duel is scored for full orchestra and reinstates the Battle motif, which was heard in the opening battle and sounds like it took inspiration partly from Hedwig’s Theme but then goes its own way, excellent brass writing colouring the initial onslaught of magical energies that rip the entry hall as the two masters do battle. I like the melodic almost dance-like mood of the Battle motif very much as it gives the scene energy yet injects also suitable drama to the proceedings and gives additional colour to the visuals here. A dramatic pause follows as the entry hall explodes with thousands of shards of glass and debris.

Determined and calm string lines see Voldemort off as he disappates since he cannot defeat Dumbledore. But as he vanishes, Harry collapses and eerie glassy synthesizer intones the opening of A Window to the Past Theme from HPPOA, a musical harbinger for the possession sequence where Harry’s love for his family and friends will play an important part. Fragments of the theme appear before the strings take on a mournful guise, singing an elegy as all the sorrows of Harry’s life are brought out from his memories, solo violin again appearing to illustrate the haunting and poignant moment.

The tone is near funereal as Harry struggles on the floor, seemingly defeated, the full string orchestra and the violin reaching an emotional climax as the boy sees his friends and summons his memories of love and affection to drive out his enemy from his mind.

The music continues without a pause and retains the same dramatic drive and energy for the subsequent scene, where Voldemort apparates once more to mock Harry after his failed attempt to possess him, and as the Minister of Magic arrives, and a quick reference to the opening notes of Hedwig’s Theme finally repels the villain. The same dramatic tone continues for the final montage, violin and orchestra providing almost lamenting operatic energy to the scene and a brief quote of Hedwig’s Theme impressively end piece and the whole sequence.

I found that this was an interesting pacing choice for the possession scene, deviating from the norm but it brought continual drive and energy to the sequence. Only a transition (from the lament to Voldemort’s appearance) could have been a tad more fluidly done. Also the very dramatic and almost dire tone of the final montage, even though the film does not end in full sense of safety and happy ending, has a bit too much drive to it and there is no time to dissipate that energy before it ends.

This entry combined some modern sensibilities to a keen sense of drama and orchestration. The composer has a good feel for pacing and as said a few times above knows how to summon driving momentum that worked to the advantage of the whole sequence. Instrumentally violin was a surprising and unexpected for this scene (although might be frequently used for similar lyrical elegies and laments) but it was intelligently used throughout, not making it into a brief textural gimmick but a character voice for the whole sequence. The use of new themes, which there were a good few, was handled with skill and the writing was in tune with the franchise and the older thematic ideas. Focus on select few themes from the previous films gave the music clarity and they combined fluidly with the new ones. A small snag if one has to name one was the emotionally too charged final section, where the tension and tragedy were never fully released. Sterling work! Rating: 9.

Listen to “Mischief Managed” on SoundCloud.

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