APPENDIX 5: BEETHOVEN MEETS THE BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN
Dr. Neil M. Boumpani
Universal Pictures was at the forefront of making horror movies in the early 20th century. Both the original Frankenstein and Dracula were made in 1931 and neither movie had a true soundtrack. (In 1999, composer Phillip Glass was called upon to add music to the original Dracula. This version is available on DVD and Blu-ray.) The reason for not having a soundtrack, was due to the Great Depression of 1929. After the stock market crashed, movie companies began to make movies without music for two reasons. The first was financial. To save money movie production companies trimmed their music departments down to skeleton crews. The two movies mentioned above had title music and music for the end credits. Dracula had one scene with music, but that was because the scene took place at an opera house. When music occurs in a film because it is part of the scene, like this, it is called diegetic music. The second reason that producers stopped using music was because they stopped making musicals. Since the success Warner Brothers had with the first “talking” movie, The Jazz Singer, 1927, other studios raced to create musicals. By 1930 the public started to show that they were tired of musicals, so the companies used this as an excuse to fire most of their music departments. It was not until 1933, when Max Steiner created the movie score for King Kong, did the studios realize the importance of music in a movie.
Steiner used the idea of Wagner’s leitmotivs (theme) to help create a more realistic movie. In 1935 Universal decided to make a sequel to the 1931 hit Frankenstein. This new movie would pick up right where the first film ended and have Dr. Frankenstein create a woman as a companion to the monster. This film was entitled the Bride of Frankenstein. Boris Karloff reprised his role as the monster and Colin Clive as Dr. Frankenstein. Universal had film composer Franz Waxman write the score for the movie. Waxman wrote two main themes, one for the monster and one for the bride. The bride’s theme is a flowing, ethereal tune that Waxman uses beautifully throughout the film. At first, the theme is played softly and lightly as one of the protagonists of the movie, Dr. Pretorius, first talks to Dr. Frankenstein about the idea of creating a woman. When the bride is brought to life and Dr. Pretorius and Dr. Frankenstein, Pretorius announces “the Bride of Frankenstein” the theme is played in a full, triumphant manner. Below are links to files that demonstrate the bride’s theme.
EXAMPLE: Bride’s theme in the title credits
EXAMPLE: Announcing the Bride of Frankenstein
The point of this chapter, however, is how Waxman seemed to borrow the main theme from the first movement of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in c minor, turn it upside down, and add some dissonance to create the theme for the monster. Beethoven’s theme was discussed on the chapter on Beethoven; however, please listen to it once again using the link below.
EXAMPLE: Theme from Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, movement 1
Now, listen to the theme that Waxman created to represent the monster in this movie. Can you hear how they are related? Both themes have 4 notes, and both follow the same “short-short-short-long” rhythmic pattern.
EXAMPLE: Monster theme from “Bride of Frankenstein”
This is just one example of how film composers of the 20th and 21st century used their knowledge of composers of the past to influence the music in movies. There are countless examples where film score composers used ideas created by composers. These ideas generally come from the last 200 years; however, the use of Dies Irae goes back to the 5th and 6th centuries.
NOTE: For students interested in composing music for films, both silent movies, as well as Frankenstein and Dracula, are good ways to practice writing for films; however, do not post your work online unless you know the work is in the public domain.
EXAMPLE: Scene from Dracula 1931 music by N. Boumpani