Film Score Analysis Of John Williams Lincoln

884 words - 4 pages

Lincoln is the twenty-sixth collaboration between John Williams and Steven Spielberg. In Lincoln John Williams composes a score that is soft and inconspicuous. This technique does not reduce the musical expression of the score – it strengthens it. The score played by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra contains strong American influence. While there are only a few scenes in which viewers can hear diegetic music – the opening scene has a fife and drum corps playing off screen while the crowd sings “We are Coming, Father Abra’am” and after the Amendment wins the vote those in favor sing “Battle Cry of Freedom” – the non-diegetic music in the score has elements of Civil War era music. Orchestral instruments, such as the violin, trumpet, clarinet, bassoon, horn, cello and piano, created the sounds of traditional folk music as well as hymnal modes and musical gestures in the tradition of 19th century American music. This warm, empathetic score lies just behind the elegant dialogue in scenes like Freedom’s Call and The Remembrance Theme.
Freedom’s Call could be called the main theme of Lincoln. It can be heard at several points in the film, most often when a character defies others in pursuit of Constitutional equality. This ideal is conveyed in the score in a variety of ways. First, Williams uses harmony to give the theme a sense of purity and optimism. He uses only the three major chords in a major key – I, IV, and V. He uses an interval of a third between the melody and the bass. Because these thirds are always part of a major chord the theme has a warm and positive feeling. The slow, stately manner of the theme’s chords along with the consistent short-long rhythm of the bass is reminiscent of folk music.

The theme is associated with the pursuit of equality through political defiance. In one scene, Lincoln revises his telegram to Grant to say that the Confederate commissioners who are on their way to negotiate a peace should not proceed to Washington. If they make it to Washington, the war would end without abolishing slavery - the Thirteenth Amendment would not pass. Lincoln makes the Thirteenth Amendment the fastest way of ending the war by delaying the commissioners.
In another scene Thaddeus Stevens, leader of the Radical Republicans and a fervent supporter of racial equality, is asked if he believes that the constitutional principle that all men are created equal is meant literally. The Democrats in the House of Representatives believe they can lure Stevens into admitting that this is the ulterior motive of the Thirteenth Amendment and provide a basis...

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