"Fantasy does not need to convince the audience that its story is realistic" 1
The narrative of the Box Clever (BC) is a fantasy world which does not require "internal logic" of the real world. My very first impression on the animation was that a surreal sense of space (black & white floor tiles and black background), colours of the boxes and it's naive sense of humour were striking.
This animation focuses on two contrast characters and consists of three acts; first two acts are based on the idle behaviour of the Redbox (RB), the final act on the revenge of the Bluebox (BB). From my point of view, the dominant character is RB. Therefore it is very important to understand its behaviours in terms of a function of the music. As the animation has no dialogue or sound effects, composing continuous music was essential. Therefore my task is to adapt and support the narrative with the musical language.
An overview musical theme is one that musically sums up the emotional thrust of the film
Thereby the opening title gives the first clue of the narrative by summing up the essence of the animation. Its character is simple, joyful, childish almost reminding a clown show in a circus. The bass and soprano parts are independent themes which might suggest a two-part counterpoint. Two distinct characters provide a good musical resource to the score; the walking bass line on the baritone sax suggests the funny elements, while the soprano sax part carries the narrative line. The harmonic texture consists of unexpected chordal progression reflecting swift motions. The time signature of the music is straight 3/4 and the chordal progression is chromatic. Rhythmically, the main title works tight and the fast tempo stimulates the urgency. It works very well at the opening and creates a good contrast to the beginning of the narrative where the rhythm is scattered.
The story begins with the two characters appear asleep and breathe deeply, hence the atmosphere is calm. However, staccato notes and irregular time signature outline the narrative by suggesting the drama before it occurs.
'When you play against the picture, it is possible to play inside the picture by playing either the dramatic overview or the internal emotions inherent in a scene.'
I start using the Mickey-mousing technique to enhance the image where the camera turns to the RB. While the soprano sax line almost starts telling the story, the red box opens its eyes. Simultaneously, the alto and tenor sax try to capture the mimics of the eyes. Here the dramatic content of the animation shifts and determines the structure of music.
As the red box mysteriously turns to solid red, the atmosphere gets intense with good use of colour and shadows effects. The music responds to the scene by shifting the tonality from F# minor to Bb minor. Crescendo dynamics and diminished chords gradually increase the density and prepare the audience for the ball-shooting scene. At this point, the music hits the "STOP" action and is precisely locked to the image. The soprano sax follows the ball in sync with a cliche phrase - upward and downward - which enhances the moving image. After hitting a couple of mimic of the bewildered BB, the first act fades to black with a sustained Dm7,9 chord. Slightly varied similar style of ending occurs end of act two.
Various themes and motifs2 that interact between the acts play an important role in terms of the flow of the music. The themes on soprano sax beautifully overlap the second and third acts with the help of the motifs on baritone sax. The second act is much shorter than the first one and has no subtle shift in dramatic content. Similarly, individual elements that are varied in the second act need the more Micky-mousing technique to emphasise on-screen action. Harmonic texture and accompaniment are derived from the first act.3
In the final act, the most important part of the animation takes place; a sudden movement by the blue box forms the hit point accompanied by the crescendo motifs. It was an important task to emphasise the dynamic range in full extent. There was not enough time to develop musical idea particularly for this section, so I used the variation of the similar hit points in the other acts. 4 I tried to overcome this unique moment by employing all the instruments in order to supply ff dynamics.
By composing for Box Clever animation, I studied Mickey-mousing technique. The emotional behaviour of the boxes is very basic, not complicated and obvious throughout the animation. Therefore the score is very descriptive. Perhaps I tried to humanise or warm the atmosphere up with memorable/strong thematic materials of the sharp-edged boxes and their surreal environment. The score could have been improved more to get the right density at m37-43 where RB changes its colour to solid red. Similarly at m68-71 notes should have been staccato where the RB jumps up and down to emphasise its movement precisely. Nevertheless, the live performance of Deltasax Quartet clearly lifted the score. If we had more time I would make the performance slightly more dense, more staccato on certain places or parts.
1. Film Encyclopedia, Fantasy Films, Question of the genre. http://www.filmreference.com/encyclopedia/Criticism-Ideology/Fantasy-Films- QUESTIONS-OF-GENRE.html
Music performed by Delta Saxophone Quartet