Only The Brave

Film Score

Only The Brave (5 excerpts) 8 minutes, 16mm stereo mix © 20/20 Productions 1994

Background

Only The Brave is a featurette funded by the Australian Film Commission directed by Ana Kokkinos from a script by Ana Kokkinos and Mira Robertson, and produced by Fiona Eagger. It features young actors Elena Mandalis & Dora Kaskanis as two teenagers working through a series of family and emotional problems. Told in a terse naturalistic style, the story charts the girls' sexual maturation against their limiting and oppressive family backgrounds.

Only The Brave premiered at the 43rd Melbourne International Film Festival in 1994. Score excerpts from Only The Brave were included on the CD Filmmusic Vol.2, released by Sound Punch Records in 2009.

Credits

1993

Engineered, produced processed & mixed by Philip Brophy
Samples processed from The Pit recording sessions
Bass - Clive Bourne
Guitar - Andy Provis
Cello - Rachel Sherrif
Drums - Philip Brophy
Vocals - Sally-Anne Upton

Overview

Only The Brave entailed a combination of film score and music supervision. Both were discussed between director Ana, producer Fiona and composer Philip at script level and during production and post-production. Music supervision centred on finding an appropriate song for Alex's (the central character) mother. In the script she is a singer from a 70s rock band who recorded a single back in the 70s. The only remnant Alex now has of her mother is this record, and she dreams of meeting her again one day.

Philip proposed that her band's single be a cover version of an early 70s track by Blackfeather - "Seasons of Change". After securing the clearance for using this song, Philip produced a version of it with a female singer. This song appears in the film when Alex is playing the actual version. As she goes to sleep, a new piece of music 'morphs' out of this track. This 'dream theme' is actually constructed by manipulating all the individual track elements of the cover-recording of "Seasons of Change". Philip's theme is thus assembled from the precise sonic textures of the recording, which conceptually relates to how Alex's mother's voice and song is echoing continually in her head.

In addition to this, a suite of themes was composed by Philip for the film's score. This suite is based around a psychological breakdown of the two teenage girls in the film, where Alex is represented by the warmth of a clarinet while her wild friend Vicki is symobilsed by guitar feedback:

Alex

chimes

mother's room / absence of mother / desire for mother's presence
search for self

voice

clarinet / external projection / poetry / mother's voice
relationship with teacher

Vicki

body

guitar feedback / internal congestion / hedge burning / self-destruction
relationship with Skizza

flames

own bedroom / presence of father / desire for father's absence
search for Alex's mother

Technical

Musical sketches

Following the breakdown of the film's psychological 'through-lines' for each of the teenage girls, a suite of musical sketches was composed:

1. Theme A1
Violins & bass guitar with harp-pluck improvized solo

2. Theme A2
Clarinet' wavering' & rising/ cut-off guitar drone & occasional guitar-train & violin slide with high clarinet improvized solo

3. Theme A1
(i) Guitar fingered-chords & bass guitar - then (ii) clarinet melody added - then
(iii) violins added as bass guitar cuts out; guitar-train improvized solo

4. Theme B
(i) Hi-pitched background guitar with choral-voice improvized solo - then
(ii) guitar riff with clarinet harmonies added - then
(iii) occasional bursts of guitar-train with choral-voice; improvized solo

5. Theme C
Bass guitar randomly played & guitar-drone with guitar-train solo

6. Theme A2
Clarinet' wavering' & rising/cut-off guitar drone & occasional train with guitar-fingered chords & clanging-piano

7. Theme A1
(i) Clarinet harmonies & string with high clarinet improvized solo & harp-pluck improvized solo
(ii) guitar-fingered chords & clanging-piano & harp-pluck improvized solo continued - then
(iii) clarinet harmonies, strings & harp-pluck. improvized solo; combine - then
(iv) clarinet harmonies alone with harp-pluck improvized solo

8. Theme C
(i) Noise guitar chords with occasional guitar-train bursts - then
(ii) guitar-drone added - then
(iii) return to noise guitar chords alone

9. Theme A1
All instruments included

10. Theme A1
Hi-pitched background guitar only

11. Theme A1
Guitar-drone only

12. Theme Al
Guitar-fingered chords only

13. Theme A1
Guitar-train rhythm only

Instrumentation

These themes were composed around a restricted palette of instrumentation:

a. clarinet (recorded and sampled)
b. 'bass guitar' (constructed from a close-miced drastically re-EQ-ed pluck of an acoustic steel guitar string)
c. 'electric piano' (constructed from majorly re-edited wavesamples of close-miced nylon and steel guitar strings)
d. 'electric feedback' (constructed from a fusion of harmonic overlays created by the wavesample edits plus re-samples of analogue synthesizer tones tuned to complement the harmonics
e. 'de-tuned school hall piano'(constructed from majorly re-edited wavesamples of close-mic ked nylon and steel guitar strings)
f. vocal textures (edited and processed from fragments of the actor Dora Kaskanis singing in the film, plus the voice of the singer used in the recording/recreation of the 70s single of Alex's mother)
g. percussion (edited and processed from fragments of the drum multi-tracks used in the recording/recreation of the 70s single of Alex's mother)
h. acoustic guitar (recorded)
i. cellos (edited and processed from a miniscule sample from the original recording of "Seasons of Change")

Following discussions with director Ana, the various themes were relocated and positioned, with changes made to the original sketches' multi-tracking (some tracks were pared-back; other were built-up). The final mixes were done in stereo in preparation for the video release, and mono-mixes were configured for the 16mm film release.