Chocolat

Main theme from ‘Chocolat’

by Rachel Portman

Context:

Rachel Portman was the first female composer to win an Oscar, for her work on ‘Emma’.   She has written scores for over 80 films including: ‘The Cider House rules’, ‘One Day’ and ‘The Duchess’.  Chocolat was released in 2000, and is a romantic comedy-drama based on the novel of the same name, by Joanne Harris.  

Listen For:

The music opens with a rising perfect fifth played on the harp, over sustained strings.  The use of open fifth chords, leaves the tonality unclear at the beginning which gives an air of mystery.

At 0:17 the main theme enters on flute:

This mainly stepwise melody is accompanied by a dynamic piano part and, again, sustained notes in the strings.  Although it is in G minor, the melody starts on the mediant, B flat and ends on the supertonic, A.  However, Portman uses the dominant, D, particularly for the longer notes, to establish the tonality.

At 01:14 listen for the final chord of the phrase – it’s an open fifth.  

At 01:24 a  new, more energetic section begins.  The violins play a catchy syncopated idea, anchored by harp notes on the first beat of the bar.  

Notice how the flute melody is drip-fed into the music – we firstly hear 3 notes of the melody, followed by 5 notes, and then at 01:45 are treated to the whole phrase played twice.  What effect does this have?  It builds suspense and a sense of anticipation, particularly with the syncopated accompaniment.

At 01:58 the music is at its most exciting yet as the flute soars up into the higher register, doubled by first violins.

From 02:15 can you hear the different woodwind instruments in dialogue?  There’s oboe, clarinet and flute to listen out for.

 

Things To Consider:

How could you make use of open 5ths in your composition to obscure the tonality?

Why not try the ‘drip-feeding’ approach?  Rather than presenting a whole 4-bar melody at once, divide it into segments and let it enter the music gradually.