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Napoleon

Napoleon

Production company: BBC
Broadcaster: BBC / Discovery / ProSieben
Length: 60 mins
Genre: Drama
TX: 2007

Dir: Nick Murphy
Starring: Tom Burke and Rob Brydon

Synopsis:

Large scale drama retelling the beginnings of Napoleon, concentrating heavily on his first major victory with the siege of Toulon in 1793.

Score notes:

I got involved with this project before they had even started shooting. After talking to Nick the director for a while I went away and came up with some thematic ideas which I just bashed out very roughly on my piano. He was very keen for there to be a number of musical elements that would seep their way through the score, resolving in a epic piece for the final battle at the end of the film. I wanted to write a score that was heavily influenced by Beethoven as (a) I really like Beethoven and (b) Beethoven was big fan of Napoleon. He even originally dedicated his third symphony to the man. However when Napoleon crowned himself emperor Beethoven apparently became incredibly angry and ripped up the dedication. Fortunately for me, not that I would be bothered either way to be honest, this happened after the setting of this film. So for the time being Beethoven and Boney were hunky dorey and I get to write lots of Beethoven rip-offs. Hurrah. There is a very nerdy reference to this in the soprano line of the big battle if anyone can be bothered to spot it.

For the recording we ended up with a mammoth 73 piece orchestra in Prague with almost 50 string players for the major battle scene. I wanted to make a big big noise and I wanted to do it all live. With the exception of one soprano line everything on this score was all done live - there was no electronics or overdubs. Actually I've just remembered I'm lying - there is one scene where I put together some sampled harp strings vibrating over some timpani to create a very off putting drone which you can hardly hear. But for 97% of the score everything is full orchestral. I was aided of course by Andrew Skeet's excellent orchestrations. Here's some footage from the recording session:

The structure of the film with the music worked fantastically. Motifs and themes that were weaved in throughout the story all suddenly came together for the big epic final battle sequence, which was a pretty much non-stop six minute music cue.

A lot of the credit for this must go to Nick too who really gave me free rein to do whatever I wanted. My early demos sounded completely rubbish - I just wanted to block out chordal and melodic ideas over scenes so, if they got recut, I could rescore them a lot more freely. This meant I could write in a way that was a lot more musical and orchestral rather than continually fretting over getting demos sounding good. As a result I think this is possibly one of the most complete and exciting scores I've recorded to date.