Main theme from ‘Chocolat’

by Rachel Portman


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.