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One of the things that stands out most about Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s music is that, as discussed in the module, his music is very symphonic. Many of the works in earlier films such as Gone With The Wind (1939), composed by Max Steiner, and The Birth of a Nation (1915), composed by Joseph Breil, feel somewhat blocky in their compositing because the music seemed to jump from leitmotif to leitmotif. This is not to say that the music wasn’t good, but simply that it is blockier.
In The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), the music feels more organic to me because while there are leitmotifs in them, Korngold weaves together many more melodies and blends them together. For example, many of the leitmotifs in both The Birth of a Nation and Gone With The Wind were either monophonic or had just one melody and one counter melody. In Korngold’s work in The Adventures of Robin Hood, the music is more complex with many countermelodies going on at once. I find that individual songs or leitmotifs seem to be more balanced in terms of instrumentation. For example, the leitmotif for Scarlett O’hara (Vivian Leigh) in Gone With The Wind featured the woodwinds, with strings in countermelodies, but mostly the melody was carried by the flutes and piccolos. In contrast, during the feast of the woodsmen, the music starts off with lower brass and woodwind instruments, and then the strings get louder, and then the piccolos pick up the melody. Then all of the other instruments drop out leaving just the strings. This makes the music more interesting and less blocky because each instrument gets more equal representation across a single song.
Another big difference I noticed between the music of Korngold and the music of Steiner is that Korngold seems to use less micky-mousing. In the scene we watched from Gone With The Wind, the opening song descended chromatically while Scarlett descended the staircase. Later, the music was very synchronized to the visuals, like the music stopping when she threw the vase at the wall and building up when she slapped Ashley (Leslie Howard). The same thing happens in another of Steiner’s work King Kong, albeit more subtly, where the booming bassoon mimics Kong’s footsteps. Conversely, the music in The Adventures of Robin Hood does not line up as synchronously with the visuals. In a practice sword fight between Robin Hood and Friar Tuck (Eugene Pallette), the music is intense but the tempo does not line up with their choreography.
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