Ariel Sommer - synch2it Music Supervision
Ariel Sommer - Music Supervisor

Music in Fim Blog

The Making of "The Scandalous Lady W" soundtrack

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Earlier this week, BBC2 premiered Wall To Wall's visually stunning feature length period drama "The Scandalous Lady W" set in late 18th Century England. Amassing 2.5 Million viewers and collecting the biggest market share of the night, it's a testament to the writer and production team's exceptional vision, as well as a further reminder of the public's continued love for costume dramas, especially one as controversial as this one.

A pleasant surprise for me has been the reaction to the music. Comments have varied but the mere fact that music is being discussed when the film's visuals, acting, and script are the real stars, is reward enough for me, and reminds us just how important a role music plays regardless of whether it be incidental underscore or Johann Sebastian Bach. But, it's the structure of this score that provides an interesting insight from a music supervision point of view.

The film is 87 minutes long, yet music accounts for over 55 minutes. Furthermore, the music for "The Scandalous Lady W" is a delicately constructed combination of original score, production music, and classical including Haydn, Weber, and Bach. The aim was to create a seamless soundtrack based on the original score composed by Alex Balanescu. No easy task when I had to consider consistent and complimentary instrumentation, musical style, and era-authenticity as key elements in the choices made (alongside budgetary limitations), as well as ensuring the music supported and, at times, drove the narrative. 

One standout scene that has generated more reactions than any other features Lady Worsley and Captain Bisset making love with Bach's 4th Cello Suite accompanying this beautifully shot sequence. The solo cello, as an accompaniment for over 3 minutes, could be considered a courageous choice for some, but the troubled, lonely beauty one hears in this performance, allowing us to both enjoy their romance whilst also warning us of trouble ahead, offered a perfectly haunting score for this memorable scene.  With time and budgetary considerations, I knew of a young gifted French cellist who had the talent to interpret this composition in the style we were looking for. Furthermore, we found a sufficiently large church and sound engineer to ensure we captured a sound that offered an acoustic depth this Bach cello suite required. As a music supervisor, it's these moments of finding and recording the right piece of music to help drive a film's underlying narrative that inspires me most and I applaud the executive producers and the entire creative team for following this vision. And if someone falls in love with Bach's lesser known Cello Suite, then we've hit the jackpot!

Whether people love the music or not, it's hugely satisfying that the public has been very engaged with it along with the film. A rewarding reminder of how important a role music plays whether it is composed by a genius or "just some underscore": The right choices made as a body of work is, in part, the challenging craft of a music supervisor, but one that can enhance the public’s overall engagement and viewing experience. And for anyone who wishes to know the names of any piece of music from this film, please don't hesitate to get in touch. 

Ariel Sommer.