April 3, 2014
Whether he is in the studio or freezing his tail off in upstate New York, renowned film score composer Patrick Doyle always displays great enthusiasm. During his visit to Hamilton on March 12 to introduce the live orchestration of his original score for the 1927 silent film It, the Scottishman offered students and faculty an invaluable inside look at the life of a modern film score composer.
Prior to the screening, Doyle held a question-and-answer session for students in Professor of Music Lydia Hamessley’s Music in American Film class. Doyle began the conversation by detailing his musical background. Every few minutes, Doyle would finish a story about the experience of scoring films like Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) and Brave (2012), and then scurry over to the piano. Before even sitting on the seat, Doyle’s hands were gliding across the keyboard, playing film themes he wrote decades ago. Doyle’s natural ability to recall melodies shocked the audience and proved why he has been Oscar-nominated.
Doyle does not only have talent but also has passion. One student asked him if he regrets any of his works or wished he had the chance to work on more. With a smile and without a doubt, Doyle told the class he has enjoyed all his work without any regrets. His simple answer says it all; Doyle is so proud of all his scores that “what ifs” are irrelevant.
Later that night, a large audience piled into Wellin Hall to view the live orchestration of Doyle’s new score for It. Doyle gave a thirty-minute introduction before the main event, in which he emphasized that the score’s tendency to mimic physical movement does not employ the notorious Mickey-Mousing technique seen in Charlie Chaplin films, but aims to highlight the characters’ oddness. These musical jabs especially follow characters Monty and Molly to show both their oddness and rediculous obsession with “it.”
Audience members found themselves “face-palming” throughout the film because the characters were so cliché. This response may be a result of Doyle’s contemporary score. If a score has modernized music, audience members are more likely to watch the film with a modern mindset. Such a response is quite ironic, considering this is the film that led to the popular culture term “It girl.” Indeed, it was this film that first introduced such characters in film history, not making them clichés, but classics.
The live orchestration played a key role in the overall viewing experience. With an orchestra, the spectators naturally gave more attention to the music. Some audience members could even be seen taking their eyes off screen for minutes at a time. The physical presence of an orchestra has an exceptionally large effect on this film because of the mimicked movement. The unity between the screen and the orchestra made the film come alive.
Hamilton was lucky to have such a great composer in attendance to showcase his unique work. Doyle spent quality time with students and faculty from the moment he arrived on campus. Professor Hammesley mentioned that Doyle was almost late to his own rehearsal. Evidently, the two had gone to McEwen for lunch, and by the time conversation concluded, it was time for dinner!