FEATURE SENSE AND SENSIBILITY
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It may be a costume drama in the English tradition, but Sense And .S'ensibility’s composer Patrick Doyle hails from Scotland. Fiona Shepherd talks to the man who may well take home an Oscar for the film’s score.
15 The List 23 Feb-7 Mar I996
he gently rolling hills of Devonshire and Somerset are alive with the sound of music — beautiful. lyrical strings. jaunty piano refrains full of character. horns tinged with regret and full orchestral epics swelling with enough emotion to fill the rural landscape.
Three sisters and their widowed mother inhabit this idyllic sphere. Two of the girls fall in love. one head over heels. the other almost
unobtrusively. Both have to endure disappointment. frustration. embarrassingly
unexpected encounters and the idle gossip of distant family and passing acquaintances before reaching the only possible resolution for a Jane Austen heroine — marriage.
The screen version of Sense And .S'ensilnlit)‘ has followed the acclaimed path ofother period dramas like Howard is End to Oscar nomination territory — with nods in seven categories. including those for its stars Emma Thompson and Kate Winslet. However. two of the
contenders hoisting this quintessentially English flag are (ilasgwegians —
cinematographer Michael (,‘oulter and composer Patrick Doyle. ‘What you always try to get is a homogenous feel to it.‘ says Doyle ofthe art of writing a film score. ‘as if it actually comes from the story. as if it's not just been planted on top of it. but it evolves naturally from the beginning through to the end — that’s always your main objective.‘ Doyle is a relative newcomer to the world of soundtrack composing. In the past few years. he has scored [mine/zine. (‘ar/imis' Way. Into The West and current release A Little Princess. but his first — and favourite - film soundtrack was
‘What you always try to get is a homogenous feel to it, as it it actually comes from the story, as if it’s not just been planted on top of it, but it evolves naturally trom the beginning through to the end.’
for Kenneth Branagh‘s Henry V. This was the project which marked the beginning of a partnership with Branagh that carried on to Marv .S'lie/leys l’rankenstein, Dead Again and the glorious celebration of Mae/i xi(/() About Nothing. where Doyle's arrangement of ‘Sigh No More Lady’ had a nation booming ‘hey nonny nonny!’ for some time afterwards.
It was Sense And .S'ensi/n'lny producer Lindsay Doran (who had worked with Doyle on Dead Again) that recommended the composer to the film‘s director Ang Lee. Unusually. there were ten months between commissioning and recording for Doer to research and prepare the captivating score.
‘I did an enormous amount of reading and listening to get the feel of the whole period.‘ he says. ‘and to digest all sorts of different information in terms ofthe people's lifestyles. I thought it was quite important to get into all of that. I listened to a huge variety of music from Purcell right through to Strauss. lieder and Mozart‘s piano concertos to try to get the flavour of the period. In certain cases you’re required to pastiche. but I think there's nothing wrong with that. because that demands a particular knowledge and skill. Ang Lee was keen that it should definitely reflect the time it was set in. Other times he said: “as long as you get the dramatic feeling right I don‘t mind if its period".'
Doyle says the first time he can recollect an