Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Great Buffy Rewatch: Steve Halfyard

The wonderful Steve/Janet Halfyard is back to talk about the music of Buffy in "Chosen," after I asked her if she wanted to comment on that beautiful music that played when Buffy stood up after we thought she was done for.

I have been a very bad Rewatch contributor since the start of the summer (life caught up, alas) but the lovely Nikki is very forgiving! She sent me a message and wondered if I had any comments about the music we hear in the final fight scene in "Chosen". "I was rewatching it last week” she said, “and the scene where Buffy stands up after we think she's dying is amazing, and the music is unlike anything else I've heard on Buffy". Hmm, thought I. Unlikely to be new...if it's cropped up before, where would it be? And there was one really obvious place to look for it and that is the fight with the ubervamp at the end of "Showtime". Go have a listen sometime: after she has killed the ubervamp, as Buffy makes her speech to the Potentials, there is a slow theme low in the cellos, the first five notes of which are hopefully shown below if Nikki has worked her HTML magic.

Cut to "Chosen": as we flashback to Buffy telling the Potentials her plan to make them all Slayers, the same theme comes back, develops, transforms and continues in the underscore as we flashforward again and the final battle begins. We loose it when it looks like Buffy is going to die; but when she gets up and resumes the fight there is it again, gloriously triumphant. The reason it sounds new at this point is because of some fantastically film-music-ish orchestration, a grand old ultra-emotive trick in creating ideas of heroic powerwhere you have a steady, controlled melodic line against a furiously energetic, higher pitched accompaniment (Danny Elfman does it all the time in Batman, but he's not the only one): it juxtaposes something controlled and powerful against something that's making your heart race at the same time, and in this case the wonderfully Riverdancey feel of the accompaniment turns it into something joyful as well as powerful: we know they are going to win now. It only stops when Spike goes nuclear (oh, how I wept when I thought he was dead!) but we get the theme back (slower now, battle over) at the end when they get off the bus and look at the crater. Robert Duncan, scorer or the final series only, loves his film music borrowings: he uses lots of ideas and gestures from The Matrix and Lord of the Rings (well, Turok-han does rather obviously rhyme with Uruk-hai, if you see what I mean), and he poaches a motif from Gladiator for the Buffy/Spike relationship in the last few episodes, but that final battle orchestration of the Slayer Power theme is a little moment of musical genius, a final big theme to unite all the Slayers - note the way the camera does not focus on Buffy in the Riverdance bit, but cuts from one Slayer in action to the next - at the series' close.


Marebabe said...

Steve, I knew that if anyone could nail down the origin of the battle theme, it would be you. Having only seen most of the episodes only once, I couldn’t remember where else we might have heard it. It’ll be fun to go back and listen for its introduction at the end of “Showtime”. Thanks for all your musical analysis throughout the rewatch!

Christina B said...

You know, before this rewatch, I never paid attention to the music in movies and TV.

Now, I often find that I have to rewind to hear the dialogue because I was too busy listening to the music!

Yet another thing I must thank the contributors and the rewatch for! :)

Suzanne said...

Steve, it is great to hear you comment one final time on the awesome music in Buffy. Not being very musically inclined myself, it has been great to read your insights into the importance of musical themes in the show. I can hear much of what you have pointed out now, and it really enhances my rewatching of the show. I can't wait to rewatch Showtime and Chosen to hear the musical theme you pointed out in this commentary.

Blam said...

I'm so glad to have had one more bit o' commentary from you, Steve. Your music notes (er, you know what I mean) have been among the most interesting parts of the Rewatch to me. When it comes to music, despite my interest — and gobs of musically oriented friends, dating back to my days at Oberlin — I remain largely formally uneducated; that's kind-of how I like it, actually, except for when it comes to lacking the vocabulary to describe certain things.

Thanks again!

Blam said...

And thanks even yet again! (Yeah, I forgot to click the E-mail box.)