ROBOTECH: THE SHADOW CHRONICLES
TRACK-BY-TRACK THEME ANALYSIS
by Scott Glasgow
I have decided to provided a track-by-track theme analysis of my new score CD to the film "Robotech: The Shadow Chronicles" mainly for the fans who might be interested, other composer curious about my stylistic choices and for the future reviewers of the CD who might understand more about what my musical intentions were on certain tracks before making their own interpretations (or possible misinterpretations) of the music. So lets get into this ----
This musical score is using a "leitmotive" compositional technique, which means that there are themes that represent a particular "person, place or idea" (wikipedia). This was essentially developed by Richard Wagner in his operas but has become very popular in film music (particularly John Williams with Star Wars). My score to Robotech has many themes representing characters (Ariel), ships (The Arch Angel), groups of people (the heroes) and particular important items (the locket) which I will highlight as we go...
This is not just an adventure into the themes but it could also be thoughts about what is going on in each track musically (sort of what a DVD commentary might have been if I had done one). I will try to avoid too much musical jargon, technical details or movie spoilers but there is some.
TRACK 1 - Main Title
The first thing we hear is the extremely low conch shell horns detuned way out of range (these would be 10-foot tall conch shell if they existed in the real world) later joined by the low voice drone of the Tuvan Monk singing (yes, this is the funny thing I tried to sing on the DVD documentary, damn embarrassing). This builds into a big crescendo before the presentation of the MAIN THEME by Ulpio Minucci. Basically, this is an exact transcription from the original score by Ulpio that I re-orchestrated for the full orchestra (I did have his original score in front of me). Very little is different except for the tom drums, which I had to update and I added more to each orchestral section (more winds, strings, brass). This leads to the first of my themes, the new ROBOTECH THEME. This is presented in the biggest most heroic form here and ends the track.
TRACK 2 - Race You Back!
This exciting track is actually a re-interpretation of Ulpio's MAIN THEME but this time has a totally new accompaniment which then leads right into my new ROBOTECH THEME once again. That takes us right up to the first of my "light-hearted" cues. All of these "light" cues are for the two main fighter pilots who are young guys making fun of each other and generally being boys. The music here is simple, fun and light -- in this case it is a march. There is no theme that returns or is developed. It is just some fun music for these guys as they discuss "protocola" and "girls".
TRACK 3 - War Room
The gravity of the "debriefing" is the primary focus of the music here-- it is an accompaniment to heavy dialog. There is really no theme until about a minute and a half in where there is a very small reference to THE LOCKET THEME in the oboe (which we have not heard in full yet) before getting into a trumpet presentation of the MAIN THEME for our old hero from the original TV series, Rick Hunter. Then we get the LOCKET THEME presented fully and dramatically for the first time with the horns and glockenspiel. The end of this track is the big tom hits finishing the scene very dramatically.
TRACK 4 - The Icarus
This track starts with what I call the BIG SHIPS THEME and is presented in the low brass. This leads to the light “col legno” strings (playing with the wood side of the bow) & snare accompanying the HEROES THEME in the clarinet. This theme is usually associated with General Grant but it is also associated with the spirit of the human race to survive or just heroic deeds (so I really can not call this a Gen Grant theme). Then we get the TAKE-OFF FANFARE in the trumpets. I think every time they are about to blast off in their fighters, I use this same loud trumpet rhythm to announce a take-off. Then back to the big HEROES THEME but this time with all the brass and presented in the most heroic way possible. Next the music comes down for my rhythm on the anvil (inspired by Wagner's Rheingold anvil moment) before the big choir chords for the firing up of the "fold drive" which then hits right on the snap into warp. After this is the HADOINITE'S THEMES (these bad guys have five musical ideas associated with them in this film. 1. low choir "foreboding" theme / Tuvan singing (usually associated with the "Awareness"); 2. trumpet "mystery" theme' 3. "enigma" chord; 4. the Haydonite "march" 5. the "scrape" sound for their fighters). In this case, we have the low foreboding choir AWARENESS THEME combined with the Haydonite MYSTERY THEME (which is very inspired by Charles Ives piece for orchestra call "An Unanswered Question"). The track ends with the first of my "to war" rhythmic sections, which I call the ARMADA SECTION and is obviously inspired by Gustav Holsts orchestral piece "The Planets" (specifically the Mars movement). Obviously, I am very inspired by and rooted in works by classical composers.
TRACK 5 - Legacy Of War
This track starts with some drama that leads us to the TROUBLE FANFARE. This fanfare pops up quite a few times in the score. The next section (when the pilots duck for cover) is one of my favorites. The glissandi (slides) in the strings with the piano accents are really wonderful moments for me. The muted trumpet theme is not based on anything really. This is the first cue (piece of music in a film) that was written so I think it was not clear exactly where we were going with all these themes. This is a theme that could have been developed but simply got lost. Then comes the wine glass (or bowed glass) section. Very ethereal and works as a nice transition to the big powerful section for the destruction of earth in the flashback scene. The high chorale in the strings follows this. My favorite part of this section is the "crawling" tremolo in the low bass strings (you have to listen for it), it slowly makes it way up not playing togethers to meet the high strings. Finally, we get a clear presentation of the LOCKET THEME in the clarinet (this is also called the MEMORIES / HOPE theme). At this point, this theme is for the locket because Marcus is looking at his locket remembering his sister, Marlene who passed away in the original TV series.
TRACK 6 - The Battle Begins
The TAKE-OFF FANFARE opens this track. After we get out into space with our fighter pilots, we get the first presentation of the MARKUS MOTIVE (a "motive" is similar to a theme but shorter) presented in the muted trumpet which is closely followed by the LOCKET THEME in the flute before the big rhythmic TO WAR section with the ARMADA THEME on top. Then the fun begins--- The Invid! The first antagonist we encounter in the film. Well, the Invid consist of textures and colors not themes. Basically, you will have wild ethic instruments, heavy percussion and mixed meters (7/8) for the music of these particular bad guys (a complete contrast musically to the other bad guys, The Haydonite). We start with the wild zorna, serpent & coronetto war calls, over the didgeridoo bass strains and Hawaiian / island drums slamming away in their mixed 7/8 meter. From this point, it is a constant back and forth between the ARMADA section and the IVID wild textures and at some point, I also introduce some cool synth sounds to give that extra "other-worldly-ness" to the Invid. Most of the fighting with the Invid is in a constant changing meter (7/8 - 9/8, even 14/8 at one section). This track resolves itself with a sense of pause from battle for our heroes.. to be continued in track 11 - Battle at Reflex Point.
TRACK 7 - Scott Bernard
This is one of my favorite tracks from the movie and the one used in the end credit roll in the film. About 40 seconds in, we hear a little piece of the MAIN THEME in the trumpet before going into my "Chasing Ghosts" inspired section. The interesting story here is that one of the first trailers for RTSC had music from Chasing Ghosts (a film I did for Sony before taking on RTSC). Everyone seemed to like it so much with the Robotech footage and I had not written the music for that scene yet so when it came time to do that scene I was inspired by my own music (if you want to hear that track from CG check out SWAT RAID, about 1:15 in. You'll hear it). After a big majestic section, we finally get to ARIEL'S THEME (love theme). This is quite possibly the best most moving theme in the whole movie. It is a simple but elegant theme moving in interesting ways.
TRACK 8 - The Regess
This is the first track featuring the incredible voice of Melissa R. Kaplan. There are really no developed themes here. At one point during the writing process, I did develop a "protoculture" theme (which I mention in the documentary on the DVD) but it never stuck. This became a simple accompaniment track for a heavy dialog scene and is very different from how Ulpio accompanied the same scene from the final episode in the TV series.
TRACK 9 - The Nichols Maneuver
The BIG SHIP motive starts this track and is quickly followed by the ARMADA sound. Once we get to the warp wormhole there is the WARP TEXTURE music (as I call it). It seems every time our heroes are warping around I am using this running arpeggio (broken chord) in the harp and strings. From this point, it is all action music inspired by a section of Arthur Honnegger Symphony No. 3, however it is treated in my own particular way. Once our heroes escape their "black hole" problem we hear a minor section based on the MAIN THEME, which is followed by a proper trumpet presentation of it in major.
TRACK 10 - The SDF-3
This track opens with some stately trumpets (however there is a Haydonite "scrape sound" there too) before a presentation of the MAIN THEME in the horns. Following this is the first time we hear the NEUTRON-S THEME in the low strings. Then we get the first glance at the mysterious aliens with the repeated string pizzicato hit (using a delay) and we get our weird "serpent calls" (a serpent is a "s-shaped" medieval instrument). This track ends in a very "Jerry" inspired groove and suddenly ends (actually in the movie goes right into track 11 - you can hear that they sound similar).
TRACK 11 - Battle Of Reflex Point
This is basically a continuation of the ideas I started in track 6 ("The Battle Begins"). The same INVID textures are all found here (wild ethnic winds, island percussion, mixed meters). One of my favorite sections of the whole score happens at about 1:10 in on this track. It just comes together nicely. Again, this cue is not thematic as much as textural for the INVID battle. At the end, we do get a little of the NEUTRON-S THEME, the TROUBLE FANFARE and finally the ARMADA section.
TRACK 12 - Exodus
This is another one of those heavy dialog scenes with the Regess. It does have the start of what I was thinking was going to be the "protoculture" theme but it never develops. This is just one big build to the intensly dramatic choir section. This leads to what I call as my "waterfall" sound. It is the musical equivalent of what I might think of when I see a waterfall (each part of the water falling at different speeds, on top of itself). It comes together with a powerful theme in the brass, which could have been the Regess theme if there were a few more scenes with her (or if I had gone back a rewritten the other scenes).
TRACK 13 - The Awareness
This track actually starts with music from later in the film, the "cyclones" jump scnee but I editi it in here as a start to this track. It was too short to be on its own. The track starts with the first presentation of the BRAVERY FANFARE. Then it quickly moves into the Haydonite music with the low Tuvan Monk singing again. There is no major Haydonite theme until the end where we get another solo trumpet presentation of the MYSTERY THEME but in this case we get to hear the first presentation of the Haydonite ENIGMA CHORD (yes, it is indeed the same chord from Alexander Scriabin's Prometheus: Poem of Fire although his use of this chord is never as clear as mine). For me this was the perfect sound I needed for the ending of scenes where everything just wasn't exactly right. What a beautiful chord. I use it extensively to end the scenes with the Haydonites (or associations with them, like JANICE or the little Haydonite fighter pilots that get trappen in the warp tunnel on the way back to the Omicron Sector).
TRACK 14 - Omicron Sector
This cue starts with that same SCRAPE sound I use to signify the Haydonites fighter ships. Because this is a heavy battle scene it does seem to move along quite fast. One theme comes in with the xylophone & trumpet but it really is not a theme given to anything specific item or person nor is it developed later however soon after that (and some big hit) comes the HEROES THEME (but Grant is on the screen so it doubles as his theme too) followed by a fragment of the MAIN TITLE. After this, we enter another WARP TEXTURE (first heard in track 9) which ends with the Haydonite ENIGMA CHORD -- why? you may ask. Well a couple stow-aways Haydonite fighters are in the warp tunnel with them so I wanted to show that musicallyt too).
TRACK 15 - Ariel
The "waterfall" music returns atthe beginning as an introduction this track. I really like using textures that seem to fall at different tempos. This is followed by main presentatuin of ARIEL'S THEME (the love theme). This whole track all about this one theme starting with the oboe and moving to the emotional cellos. After a small little bridge (for the discomfort in the characters dialogue) the theme returns once more this time in the flute. This is followed by some uncertainty music for the feelings Scott has about Ariel.
TRACK 16 - Maia Sterling
The "light-hearted" music returns for Maia's music. The fighter pilots are of course back playing their jokes on each other and trying to interact with women. This music is really for this scene and there is no themes that return or are developed. This is an example of all the scenes with the fighter pilots being playful getting a light musical texture (as mentioned in the CD booklet).
TRACK 17 - Lunar Battle
Starting with big punctuated chords we don't get to a theme until we hear the HEROES THEME but this time in a minor mode and a little less heroic with more danger. It’s a nice tool to switch these themes up with different keys. After a little jungle rhythm where we do not know which way things are going to go for our heroes we get the BRAVERY FANFARE signaling that they are going to make it through. At the end of this track we get another presentation of the NEUTRON-S THEME and finishing with the LOCKET THEME in the trumpets.
TRACK 18 - Moonbase ALuCE
This is clearly the HEROES THEME (but again Gen. Grant is the primary character here) and this is followed by one of the only other times we hear the new ROBOTECH THEME in the whole movie. From there we go to the solo violin to play the LOCKET THEME for the moment a character asks about his sister who passed away (memory theme). About 1:22 into this cue, we get another edit to bring you the music from the "infirmary" scene. This scene is a touching moment between a wife and her husband who was hurt in battle. This scene is accompanied by the HEROES THEME (or again Gen. Grant's theme). It is presented in the flute with soft harp arpeggios ending this track with one of those really nice moments in the score.
TRACK 19 - JANICE in the Lab
A quirky chord glissando at the start really sets this one up. It is the uncomfortable scene between doctor Nichols and the beautiful android, Janice. Here we get the first presentation of the JANICE THEME. The interesting part about this track is that it also has the first presentation of the HAYDONITE MARCH (which we haven't heard in all its foreboding menacing quality yet). It can be heard as the short staccato notes first presented in the harp and later presented high above in the piccolo around Janice's theme. Why would I do this? To try and draw a connection between the JANICE character and the HAYDONITES by using a musical foreshadowing (sorry if that is a spoiler for you but it is important to understand this very cool moment in the music), of course. Would you hear this when you watch the film for the first time? Probably not, but maybe on the 2nd or 3rd watching you might realize I am telling you musically that she is connected to the bad guys. This is a really cool example of music foreshadowing which is hard to do and hard to find in other film music. The cue is very sweet and really just plays out to the end with the JANICE THEME.
TRACK 20 - Children of the Shadow
This dramatic track starts with a sad dirge leading to a big crescendo as we transport to Ariel's destroyed home planet. As she reveals to Scott the back-story of the Children of the Shadow (Haydonites) we have this very surreal harmonic (whistle-tone) strings. Again, one of my favorite textures in writing for strings is the use of all harmonics. Reminds me of work that John Corigliano did in his opera "The Ghosts of Versailles". There is no themes presented in this track however there are hints of ARIEL'S THEME at the start as only small gestures but not a full presentation. I did have plans to develop a whole fugue based on an Invid theme over the destroyed Invid home world but that never developed outside of my musical sketches on paper.
TRACK 21 - Command Center
This cue starts very "ambient". It is one of those interesting textures where it is sort of music and sort of sound design but then the low strings bring us back into the musical side of things. No theme is presented here except we get this big dramatic moment with the brass. Another nice section I am proud of in this score. This same music is used later in the film for the "arming of the Neutron-S missiles" but is not on this CD. After this big moment when Arial makes her appearance we get ARIEL'S THEME presented in the oboe and piano then taken over by the bassoon & strings to finish out the track.
TRACK 22 - Sacrifice
Here is another big battle sequence track. This one is inspired very loosely by Prokofiev's Piano Sonata No. 7 (precipatato) but is then taken over by these big "Stravinsky hits" in an off-tempo pattern to build tension. After a little more battle music, we get the big choir moment where our Heroes must escape emanate doom. It is toned down in the film to allow for dialog but is presented clearly here on the CD. After a big crescendo (and huge explosion in the film) we have a version of the MAIN TITLE (by Ulpio) in two solo trumpets performed as a slow military funeral dirge in the style of the well-known military funeral elegy called "taps". This could be the longest presentation of the original theme in the whole movie so far but because it is rearranged in such a way, many people didn't even recognize it until I pointed it out (take a listen, then listen to Ulpio's main theme again). This is followed by the MARKUS MOTIVE (from track 6) presented in sad horns this time, symbolizing our hero morning the loss of his friend. The final part of this cue is the Haydonite ENIGMA CHORD signifying the moment where our heroes discover that JANICE may just be on the Haydonites side. As she leaves the room escourted by gards, we hear this chord ending the track and scene.
TRACK 23 - The Hybrid
Here we have a clear presentation of the AWARENESS THEME and the MYSTERY THEME in the trumpets presented in the most sinister way as the bad guys discuss their plans to eliminate our heroes. We then move into a version of the BIG SHIPS THEME in the bass over this Wagner inspired, inverted Tannhauser texture with rising short string runs. It was intended to have the weight of that opera music of Wagner but in a serious tone to represent the lumbering ship coming into the space dock. Following this is another one of my favorite compositional techniques--- something I call the "shifting clouds" sound. It is basically two chords pushing over each other like one cloud coming from behind another slowly shining through the other. You can usually see both clouds at once and so as an analogy to music, you can at one moment both chords at once before the other takes over. A texture I love to do and is something I developed when I was in school at the San Franicsco Conservator (listen to Tenebrae for strings to hear my first exploration of this technique).
TRACK 24 - The Ark Angel
This track starts with the first time we hear the HAYDONITE MARCH. It is only a taste of it before we move into the hanger music but then we are presented with the BLAST-OFF FANFARE. Next we are presented with the ARK ANGEL THEME. This choral (obviously inspired by JW's Raiders) is presented broadly in the strings and brass again giving gravity to the large new ship, which plays an essential role in our heroes survival in the coming scenes. Next is a nice flute presentation of the ARIEL THEME as she enters the scene and is followed by a light "Nichols" string pizzacato texture (from the lab scene). All the music follows the characters in the scene. When you see Ariel, you hear Ariel's music.. When you see Dr. Nichols, you hear Dr. Nicols music.
TRACK 25 - Infiltration
Aggression! This cue is about brutal force. Once we get out of the initial brass attack we move into the fighting music, which is inspired by Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, but it is hardly noticeable as such (I think it is just using the orchestratra as a rhythmic machine). The big choir crescendo breaks the cue in two since after that moment it is all downhill for our bad guys. This whole scene was about aggression and violence for me. Note: listen for the dying whispering devil voices at the end (whcih I wroked very hard to do) right before the ENGIMA CHORD (signifying that the fight is not over yet -- this isn't that last time we will deal with the Haydonites!).
TRACK 26 - Dog Fight
This track is yet another space battle. The first theme we hear is the BLAST-OFF FANFARE in the brass but this is quickly tossed aside for my dramatic dog fight music punctuated by the big Taiko drums and followed by the BRAVERY FANFARE but this time accompanied by the big choir (which is not in the film). Once the textures come down (and our heroes are cycling to the missle silo), we are presented with the NEUTRON-S THEME in the muted trumpet. The build up section before the big brass tune is inspired by Honegger and his Sym. No. 3 again. This leads us to the big NEUTRON-S THEME where it is finally presented in the full orchestra blarring away.
TRACK 27 - Space Station Liberty
The final battle! After some nice punctuated orchestral chords, we are presented with the ARK ANGEL THEME and then to the HAYDONITE TEXTURES (Tuvan singing) then to the big presentation of the HAYDONITE MARCH. After a short decrescendo before the storm, we jump right into the big final battle music with its heavy percussion including the HAYDONITE SCRAPE sound. This cue seems to slowly crawl up keys presenting the main themes along the way. This first theme we hear is the HEROES THEME (in the minor mode) giving it a less than heroic sound and that is followed by a lighter version of the HAYDONITE MARCH. After this and a new key, we get the LOCKET THEME presented in full before we get to some intense brass hits. That leads us to another key and another presentation of the HEROES THEME still in the minor key. A few more hits and yet another key (and an oh-so-cool wood block) we get the end part of that HEROS THEME before getting swept up by Melissa Kaplan’s wonderful mesmerizing vocals. This is one of the key moments in the film for me, where all the sound effects (explosions, gunfire, etc) are pulled out to highlight the music and create a surreal moment during active battle. After this we get another small presentation of ARIEL'S THEME as she tells Scott that she loves him before she dives into battle to save one of our Heroes. This is followed by an aggressive running string line texture as the energy of the battle heightens to the final big explosion (which I just step out of the way for-- it will be one big boom and no music can be heard over that!). BOOM!
TRACK 28 - Resolutions
The final track really starts with our music of the "after-life" and once again features the vocal magic of Melissa R. Kaplan. After we are brought back to our heroes on the remaining ship (The Ark Angel), we realize the battle is over for now and they have survived this menacing new foe (the Haydonites). What follows is the summary of our heroes themes. The first theme we hear (after the noble chorale texture that Melissa sings over) is the HEROES THEME, followed by a new key and a presentation of the HEROES THEME in the oboe to be taken over by the flute soaring way up high as a way to express hope always remains and good triumphs over evil. After this, the music moves into touching arrangement of the ARIEL THEME for Scott and Ariel's reunion (and kissing moment). This quickly moves to a sad clarinet playing JANICE'S THEME signifying her uncertainty with her new friends and her future which is being heard by the comforting of Dr. Nichols telling here that everything will be ok, but will it? This is followed by a curious descending string line (similar to the music found in the Children of the Shadow track, reminding us of the Haydonites’ power to destroy worlds). In a way, leaving the story resolved for now but also unresolved for the futre in a musical way. Indeed, as the film ends, it is clear that this was only the beginning for our Robotech heroes and that there are still many struggles to survive in the future. This is not the end of this story---- this is only the begining..
**** NEXT UP -- I will be posting small mp3 clips of each theme played on the piano by me and including a small little notation clip so you can see how it is notated on the page. (check back in a short while ) ****