Saturday, March 5, 2011

Scoring Hamlet

This is my first post, in a series of five I plan to do, regarding the music used in film adaptations of Hamlet.

I took Professor Burton's advice and decided to actually walk to the library(I know, how brave of me!) to check out some of their books on music and Shakespeare. One book, which I have found very useful as of late, is Kendra Preston Leonard's Shakespeare, Madness, and Music. The book talks about the use of music in some of the most popular Shakespearean movie adaptations ever made. Here is a link to a book description of Leonard's work, Shakespeare, Madness, and Music. I would now like to talk about the music used in a movie adaptation of Shakespeare's Hamlet as mentioned in Leonard's book.

The first screen adaptation of Hamlet was made in 1948 by Laurence Olivier. As Leonard states in her book, Olivier's film was the first full-length film adaptation of Hamlet shot with fully integrated sound. Leonard writes the following when speaking of this technical innovation: "For the first time in the cinema, audiences overheard the machinations of Claudius and Polonius alongside Hamlet, Heard Hamlet's interior thoughts, and received information conveyed by an orchestral score created to promote the director's vision of the work and the roles that inhabit it"(11). The music for the movie was composed by composer William Walton. Walton's music is used in the film for one-third of its duration. Many of Walton's musical compositions are used to establish the specific mood of a scene, rather than to accompany spoken dialogue.

Here is an exert from Olivier's film in which music is an important dynamic in setting a specific mood.

Leonard's book talks about five specific movie adaptations of Hamlet and the music they use. I plan to highlight the music used in each Hamlet interpretation mentioned in the book.