Greetings, everyone !
This week I chose to analyse a music from a TV series, as I am
too much fond of them; I also thought that it could be a good thing to alternate between video games & TV series.
I actually chose to discuss the theme of a TV series that, unfortunately, is not well-known even though it is a DC Comics’ : Constantine.
I suppose you might know Arrow, The Flash, Legends of Tomorrow and Supergirl who are also from the DC Comics, and are linked together thanks to crossovers that have been made. To put it simply, for example, The Flash (Barry Allen) could be found in an episode of Arrow to help him (Oliver Queen). With Constantine, because it did not have that much success, a single crossover has been made in an episode of Arrow (for those who are curious, it’s the 5th episode of season 4).
Constantine is a horror & fantasy TV show directed in 2014, involving John Constantine, an exorcist. He does not consider himself as a hero or as a good person, he just does his job which is getting rid of ghosts or dark forces. He is also a complicated person and does not have a good temperament : it is difficult to get along with him and he is used to being on his own.
The composer of this TV show is Bear McCreary, and I must admit that he is one of my favourite composers. He composed the music of Outlander, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (Marvel), Black Sails, The Walking Dead, Battlestar Galactica, etc.
He thinks thoroughly when he composes, and also shares on YouTube how he did the music. He made a video on the theme of Constantine, which is really interesting and well explained. I suggest you watch it before my analysis to understand better how Bear McCreary composed it. Here is the video.
This is the full (main) theme of Constantine.
I decided to divide the music into two parts – to me, it was the logical thing to do to explain it better to you, guys.
1st part = 0:00 to 0:24:
The first thing we hear is a loud sound, all of a sudden, as if something made its appearance, and after that the harpsichord arrives with the drum sound (I’m going to call it like this throughout my analysis) that Bear McCreary created. He claims he chose the harpsichord as it does not fit into the music, and it actually embodies the character of Constantine. It feels ancient, and the choice might be due to what he does : exorcising, as it was performed centuries ago.
What is the role of the harpsichord ? Consider that the harpsichord is John Constantine. What we can tell by how it is played is that it feels meticulous, a bit angry or upset and these impressions are made through cambiatas (broderies in French). In other words, you can hear two rapid notes : it starts with one note. The second one is either one note higher or inferior to this one, and it comes back to the original note. This ornament (it was named like this as it embellished musical pieces) was a typical feature during the Baroque music period. Throughout the music, the harpsichord has its own theme, and repeats itself constantly. Just from that, I thought about an incantation, as when you are perfoming it, you have to repeat yourself; what’s more is the fact that the harpsichord is doing it, and it represents John Constantine, our exorcist. Clearly, to me, it was not a mere coincidence.
About the loud sound which make its appearance, it made me think about a breach that opened itself and let a ghost come through. You might think I am making weird conclusions, but I really tried to make sense of this music, and to do that, you have to take into account the genre of the TV series. After this sound, there is the harpsichord – meaning the beginning of the incantation to exorcise it.
Meanwhile, the drum sound gives this unnatural effect, because it is not done by instruments: it has been created. It is also constant, as if it were wandering, and is not really agreeable to hear, so it could be considered as a nuisance. In other words, it could be our ghost, that is not supposed to belong to our world. The drum sound can be heard during the entire music, like the harpsichord, which is logical as we have our exorcist & ghost. Nonetheless, we cannot hear it at the end for a good reason, that I will explain later.
There are also violins that can be heard though they are discreet, they make high-pitched notes, they are a bit out of tune, giving this impression of anxiety and fear. It is as if the ghost were whining (it is like some kind of cry).
2nd part = 0:24 to the end:
This section is opened by the same effect as the beginning of the music. There are even more sound effects that can be related to the ghost, getting angry as it is being exorcised. It is now forte, and the violins can be clearly heard this time, playing pieces of notes from the theme lead by the harpsichord. More and more tension can be felt through the crescendo, the violins adding more notes, notes that are slowly getting higher, and we can sense the anger expressed by them. I have this feeling that the violins also reproduce the revengefulness that the ghost feel while being exorcised. Thus, the ghost tries to get rid of the exorcist and that is why the harpsichord is less heard than the violins that are taking the lead; however it is being defeated because it is rejoicing the incantation led by the harpsichord until they are one, and everything ends.
The theme led by the harpsichord is indeed more and more intensified as an incantation would be until it takes its tall. Undoubtedly, the void at the end of the music foregrounds that the incantation worked because the violins and the harpsichord disappeared. What can also be found is the tolling bell, when everything is about to end – the tolling bell which was in my previous analysis (One Winged Angel), that signifies the same thing : death, but here it is about the “death” of the ghost who has been exorcised.
Clearly, Bear McCreary reflected about how he would compose the music. He thought about everything and took all into account: the character, the genre of the TV show, and the situations that will be found in it. His composition is about an exorcism, led by John Constantine (harpsichord) along with the dark forces being the drum sound effect, and the ghost lamenting would be the violins. The whole music is at the same time fascinating and a bit scary, the tension grows, until there is nothing left – the ghost has been exorcised.
The music was short but in the end I got to tell a bunch of things. Bear McCreary’s compositions are absolutely marvelous, so do not be surprised if I were to comment on another again. Meanwhile, see you next week with an other analysis on a music from a video game.