More Music from Braveheart by Original Soundtrack/James Horner

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The Music Takes us to the Fight for Scotland

Aug 2, 2004 (Updated Aug 2, 2004)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Fits the location of Scotland, composer, emotional.

Cons:Nothing really that new.

The Bottom Line: James Horner has done an excellent job capturing the fight for Scotland's freedom and it is emotionally evident in his musical score.

Braveheart, a word that summons a sense of dignity and recognition as something great and courageous. The 1995, multiple Oscar-winning blockbuster, Braveheart, was certainly a tale to remember. In the late 1200’s AD, Scotland is in chaos with no immediate successor to the throne. The king of England, A harsh and brutal pagan by the name of Edward Longshanks, has claimed the throne of Scotland for his own. The clans of Scotland fought the English and fought each other as well. William Wallace was witness to it all as his father and brother are killed and countless other people robbed, raped, and murdered. After the English kill his wife for refusing to submit to the newly reinstated English law that English nobles will have sexual rights with all Scottish women on the day of their marriage, Wallace sees that the only way for him to live a life of peace is to stand in defiance of the English tyranny. Braveheart captivated audiences years ago and continues to do so now.

Like all movies, the musical score adds much depth and substance to the feel of the movie. Movies would seem odd, incomplete without a musical score. Yet, the music has to fit the situation of the movie as well as used appropriately. Braveheart has done this magnificently. Composed by the long time movie composer, James Horner, Braveheart is lush and dramatic score that instantly demands recognition. James Horner has concentrated on the history of Scotland and given us music befitting of the movie and its location. Scotland, of course, is well known for its bagpipes and almost anyone can recognize a Scottish-sounding piece instantly. There are other instruments however such as the Uilleann pipes and the Bodhran drums and whistle. Instruments form the basis of a musical score yet, there is more to it than that and Mr. Horner has found it, giving this movie a beautiful and compelling score.

Beginning with a sort of ominous drone, Braveheart opens with this short but expressive piece that virtually describes the location in less than three minutes. As the titles fade and the drone continues, we are taken up an escalading mountain green and at the moment we reach the peak, the music erupts into an incredibly dramatic Scottish sounding tune done with a wind type instrument and much zeal immediately conveying passion in the movie. The zealous tune continues as we are taken over the highland landscape of steep mountains covered in luscious green plants. It then drops in to some violins playing a sort of mellow tune as the narrator begins to give the introduction about William Wallace and the current situation. A fine beginning to this movie. Braveheart is a movie about strength, power, love, and dedication. The beginning music has captured this perfectly.

When young William Wallace’s father is killed fighting the English, we see him at the funeral. When the procession is complete and they start to cover the grave, William’s future wife, only about four or five at this time, picks a thistle and gives it to William. The musical piece right here is unbelievably dramatic. A low sort of wind instrument brings drama and depression to the scene. The wood flute I’m guessing sounds incredibly magnificent as it fits the above situation. This little wind instrument forms the basis for the future tune used whenever William and his future wife are together. It is the same tune but with different instruments.

Sorry not to mention it earlier but William’s future wife is named Murron. In this part of the movie, both Wallace and Murron have grown to full adults now. Anyway, Wallace and Murron spend some time together in a secret grove. The music begins with a large and deep drum beat as she and Wallace gallop away to the grove. Following the drum beat is a sort of lively and happy tune, still sounding Scottish, as the two gallop around a bit. Later, when Wallace and Murron are talking on the hillside, the music reverts back to that of the Gift of Thistle. That same sort of haunting, magnificent, and depressing wind instrument sound. The only difference this time is that other instruments join in on the tune and I notice some of the notes have been altered. Very much the same though, very beautiful.

As mentioned before, the newly reinstated English law of allowing nobles sexual rights of the Scottish women on their wedding night has forced William and Murron’s love to be kept secret. Thus, they have a secret wedding as Wallace, like any normal husband, wishes not to share his wife with an English lord. As they marry, the music is like A Gift of Thistle and Wallace Courts Murron except this one incorporates almost all the instruments used in the symphony. Additionally, it has a lot more passion and zeal to the music. The notes are different at some parts but it’s mostly the same. You can hear small solo parts from each of the instruments in the song but other than that, it has the same basis. Later, in a different track, vocals are added.

As you can guess, things won’t work out, it’s Hollywood. Anyways, English soldiers occupying William and Murron’s village see how the two are so intimate openly. A disgusting old soldier decides that they must be married so he’ll use the reinstated English law is you know what I’m saying. Anyways, William helps her get away but instantly condemns him and her to the crime of assaulting the king’s soldiers. When the soldiers start to chase, you hear one of those classic little violin brushes that conveys fear and danger. The music continues with the violins playing in the background with the occasional single beat on the drum. Eventually, when the soldiers take down Murron, the violins and drums stop and all we hear are soft and sad female vocals. This music again supports the claim of Mr. Horner’s ability to fit the right music for the right situation.

This is the point when William can stand it no longer. He seeks his revenge and he and the rest of the villagers kill the entire English garrison. Yet, William now sees that he can never go back and the only way for him to find peace is to fight the English and rid them from Scotland. The scene in itself begins with Wallace on his horse as if surrendering and then attacking. The music at the beginning of the scene starts with a loud drum stroke. It then falls into an ominous, haunting violin and background vocal combo as the soldiers prepare to take Wallace captive. When Wallace whips out his mace, you get that little rush of fear as the classic creepy moment music comes on. As the fight then rages on, the music combines a wood flute type instrument, hard drums pounding and the new addition, synchronized sound coming from synth programming. It adds that sort of droning sound that adds to the suspense and drama. Very well put together this piece, probably one of my favorites. The combination of these three elements is quite well and this scene probably would seem lacking with even one of them missing.

This piece is nothing new compared to what we’ve already seen. Murron is killed by the English garrison leader for her “lawlessness”. If you want the specifics, her throat was slit. Anyways, they have a funeral with both William and Murron’s parent there who never knew of her and Wallace’s bondage. Anyways, like A Gift of Thistle, this music uses the same basis except instead of the wind instruments it is the violins, violas, and cellos taking the stage. We hear some drums occasionally when Wallace bows in forgiveness in front of Murron’s father. For some reason, this tune, although heard before, seems a lot more passionate and emotional. The increased diversity of the instruments used accounts for much of that.

The force of Scottish rebels grows and more and more clans come to join the fight. William and his followers finally realize that they are on the eve of a war and a gigantic battle looming ahead. This piece occurs when Wallace and his band are awaiting news from runners about whether or not other clans will stand and fight. The music begins with a snare drum snapping some little beats and then that sort of synth programming drone for awhile with some deep drums in the back. Then it erupts into one of those classic Scottish sounding tunes, when Wallace is informed others will fight, much like what we heard in the opening credits except a lot livelier and faster. It is an uprising of the thirst for freedom expressed by these Scots and very refreshing after the endless depression we were just put through. This short little tow minute piece is one of the reasons I bought the CD sheerly because of its upright Scottish feel. The piece ends with the Scottish tune fading out and a drum sounding a single beat.

In the first major battle of this movie, we come to the other Scottish lords’ army waiting in Stirling for the English to come. The music begins with a low sort of violin or cello sound expressing fortitude and massiveness as the English army comes into view over the hills. This sort of upfront, in your face, drone switches back and forth with a little Scottish flute whenever we see the small little Scottish army. The deep cello sound is then accompanied by some trombones trumpets and tubas playing in the background again expressing the might of the mounting English army. Eventually, the army starts dispersing, afraid of the growing numbers of the English. Just as people start to flee, Wallace and his men show up with war paint on and we here a sort of sad yet relieving violin and drum association that shows us that Wallace is here to fight and that he knows very well the risks associated with it. He then addresses the fleeing army, launching into the “Sons of Scotland” speech which eventually summons them all to stay and fight against tyranny. The music we hear during the speech will later be the signature tune of Braveheart heard very often, more than others. The tune is hard to explain in words but uses the string section as well as the occasional drums. Like Indiana Jones and Star Wars, this is the piece that can be recognized as being Braveheart. It combines almost every type we’ve heard earlier except with even more substance. At the end, it erupts into a more excited feel as William has managed to convince the army to stay and fight.

The piece starts with simply drums sounding a very threatening and “this is the time” beat as the English army calls up their archers to unleash some arrows on the horseless, bowless, Scots. The beating continues and then erupts into the synth programming feel except it conveys a very Scottish tune yet still sounds as if created ambiently. The two switch off, the ambient Scottish tune sounding when the Scots are cheering, jeering, and gesturing to the opposing English if you know what I’m saying and the drums sounding whenever we see the English. The music fades out when the arrows are released but then starts up again when they have landed. Eventually, the English general sends the heavy cavalry and the drum beat subsides to a combined version of the Scottish ambient music and a low drone with a few little arpeggiatted parts. The music speeds up and becomes more ferverous as the cavalry gets closer and closer. The music abruptly cuts out when the cavalry run into the sharp wooden spears and are basically massacred. The music stops there until the infantry have finished having at each other, the Scots claiming a victory. At the end, when Wallace stand in front of his victorious men, we here that tune that is the signature style of Braveheart yet this time erupts into louder, more passionate, and more instruments whenever Wallace cries in victory. The tune continues into the next scene when Wallace is dubbed a knight of Scotland.

The prince of England had married the princess of France but unfortunately, he is effeminate and pays no attention to his wife but rather to his “friend” and “military counsel”, Phillip. Wallace himself sees this in the princes when she is sent by Longshanks to see what exactly Wallace wants. Eventually, she and Wallace fall in love and music is much like that of Murron’s theme except is doesn’t have the same quality of a special being and sanctity of your first marriage. Don’t get me wrong, this piece is very emotional; it just doesn’t have the same gusto as it did with Murron. Sort of like that no one can ever replace a part of you that is missing. Boy, that sounded cheesy didn’t it?

Frustrated and angered at his army’s incompetence, Longshanks himself decides to command the army for the next confrontation at Falkirk. As we see the two sides poised in ready to fight each other, the music we hear is actually quite odd. Throughout the song it sounds some ambient sort of on your edge scary music that you would expect to hear during a chase scene in an action movie. During that, ever so often you’ll hear this sort of violin brush and eerie bells usually when we see Longshanks or the growing English force. This continues for some time and starts to get louder and faster when the Irish conscriptions charge towards the Scots. The music abruptly stops when the Irish and the Scots call truce and face the English together. This is a pretty well written piece although if you heard it alone it sounds as if it were coming from a horror movie. That creepy sort of violin and bell combination as the innocent person is running away from the monster. All in all though, the music added to the situation in the movie is quite befitting.

As the battle rages on against the English, Wallace raises a flag to signal the other Scottish cavalry to attack. Instead, the nobles leading the cavalry look at each other and then leave Wallace and his men to their death. The English begin to release arrows on both the Scots and their own men. It starts with some drum beats and those sound throughout the song ever so often as violins and violas strike in sounding some of the most saddening and depressing moments in the movie. Later, we hear some brass instruments accompany the dramatic tone as we see some of Wallace’s friends die. And then it erupts when we see Wallace himself struck by an arrow. Later, the violins subside and we hear the eerie bells chime in with the deep drums as Wallace rides after the king. Some brass is heard every now and then and then the violins come in again and then abruptly silences. It starts up with some drums and then some more dramatic violins as Wallace discovers the one Scottish noble he trusted to be fighting with the English. Eventually it comes back to that signature Braveheart tune except more dramatic with only violins, befitting of the situation. This is a well done piece, about eight minutes in length. However, it can sometimes get monotonous that is why the instruments fade and change ever so often.

Mornay, one of the Scottish nobles who abandoned Wallace, is having some trouble sleeping. His dream shows a blood-drenched Wallace riding out of fire with sword drawn right towards him. The music brings back that ambient sort of tension but also some deep drums making his dream very frightening. When Mornay awakes and finds it’s not a dream. The music is more or les the same as it was in the dream. The only difference is that violins and cellos are added and the volume and speed is cranked up a notch. The music stops when Wallace has managed to escape. A short track, but still well done. Nothing new though, it combines much of what we’ve already heard.

Once Wallace has sought his vengeance on all the nobles who abandoned him at Falkirk, we see him running in the Highland hills and various Scottish folks spreading the news of Wallace’s “miraculous” and “impossible” deeds in this short little montage. It starts with a violin playing, then erupts into that sort of gitty, lively Scottish tune we heard in Making Plans/Gathering the Clans with more of the Scottish flute and drums and some violins. It is a very uplifting end to some of the dark moments we’ve experienced earlier. It’s nice to once again hear that Scottish tune that sort of disappeared in the second part of the movie. It ends with a deep and single drum beat as we see Wallace standing on the crest of the mountain.

Wallace is eventually betrayed and captured by the remaining lords who lured him into their grasp by promising to name a king in his presence. Anyways, the young princess of England, who was originally from France, who has fallen in love with Wallace, goes to the ill and now dying Longshanks to plead for William’s life. The music is very tranquil, so to speak. It uses only the string section, mostly violins and cellos. As she talks to him of mercy and inability to feel compassion, the music is full of tension yet love. Like we can understand the importance of the princess pleading for his life and the love she feels for him. It proves vain and Longshanks orders Wallace to be tortured and executed.

As Wallace is tortured and the begin to slowly slice his stomach, the music begins with violins and violas and then we can recognize that it’s playing that signature Braveheart tune except arranged a little differently and a lot more quiet, desperate, and dramatic. Some drums and wind instruments come in, but also keeping the quiet, dramatic feel. It begins to rise and escalate and then erupt as Wallace shout freedom. The violins then play that signature Braveheart tune except with more rigor, sadness, and fear than ever before. It is haunting its emotional impact. As this continues, we see Longshanks die and Wallace’s princess and friends close their eyes in fear. The violins continue dramatically and then fade out as Wallace sees Murron in the crowd. The music is dramatic vocals and violins sounding that Murron’s theme except even more powerful and heart-filled before. This music continues as we see the executioner prepare to cut the head of Wallace. The music then fades as we see Wallace’s hand release and drop Murron’s scarf he had carried throughout his life. As it fades, we hear some drum beats as it fades to the small little remainder of the Scottish army in front of the large English army. The music is that sort of Scottish flute playing softly in the background with the occasional drum beat. Later, it starts to rise and we hear this Scottish flute playing louder and more ardently. It is sad but uplifting as well. The Scottish noble, now the king, who carries the scarf that Wallace dropped, turns and addressed his outnumbered and starving force. He says, “You have bled with Wallace. Now bleed with me.” When he says this, there are just violins playing. The, one of Wallace’s first friends steps out of the line, pulls out Wallace’s sword and starts to heave it into the battlefield as a sign of respect, drums start with violins and then as it flies all the instruments heard in the entire movie sound that signature Braveheart tune with the most passion heard in the entire movie as the soldiers start to chant “Wallace”. The array of all the instruments continues as the men charge the field. It ends with the bagpipe slowly fading out the signature tune and playing a few more dramatic notes as we see Wallace’s sword on the battlefield. This is without a doubt, the best song on the CD combining all the instruments and tunes we heard before. This is where it all comes together. After seeing Wallace’s sword and the bagpipe playing, it fades to the credits.

The ends credits begin with the violins and cellos playing a very slow, quiet and dramatic piece with some occasional bells and drums. It sounds as if to break into that signature Braveheart theme but then the violins start up again. More and more instruments begin to accompany the violins, each following the same quiet, dramatic sound. Finally, when the bagpipes and Scottish flute come in, they play this dramatic piece for awhile and then fall into that signature Braveheart tune. It reverts back to the violins and cellos playing dramatically except louder and more passionately as they sound Murron’s theme. The horns then take their turn at sounding Murron’s theme and then the female vocals have their shot. Then the violins and cellos play another dramatic piece with the horns, not heard in the movie but only in the credits. It sounds sort of like Murron’s theme, but isn’t exactly. We then hear the Braveheart signature theme given by the Scottish flute with drums in the background. We then revert to the same dramatic and quiet piece heard at the beginning of the track except all the instruments take part. The song ends with a bagpipe playing much like the end of the movie when we see Wallace’s sword.

Braveheart may well be one of the most emotional scores I have ever heard and I have a deep collection of soundtracks and scores from movies. Braveheart has always continued to enchant me not only with its story and acting but with its magnificent score as well. James Horner has done a well job incorporating instruments that fit the ethnicity of where the movie is taking place. Now although this is a very dramatic score, it’s not like people haven’t done it before. Many composers have done excellent jobs making music that fight the location of the movie so James Horner isn’t alone. Thus, this score isn’t record-setting or unprecedented, but it still gives us a satisfying and emotional feel to what we have just seen.

Recommend this product? Yes

Great Music to Play While: Listening

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