Killing Two Birds With One Stone

To Kill a Mockingbird by Elmer Bernstein on Grooveshark
Nostalgia is one word that appropriately summarizes the film, To Kill A Mockingbird, and the score composed by Elmer Bernstein.
The 1962 film was based on the Pultzer prize book written by Harper Lee. It tells the the story of the racial prejudices of a small town when an African-American man is accused of rape, a crime worthy of death. A local attorney, Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), takes up the man's case causing a huge stir of controversy in the townspeople. The story is seen through the innocent eyes of a young girl, Scout (Mary Badham), adding to the charm of this classic film.
 The music had to maintain a distinct sound of innocence and purity throughout the film and no other composer was more fit for the job than Bernstein.
Having just scored two westerns several projects prior, Bernstein had to have a different mindset.
The opening cue, To Kill A Mockingbird, starts off with a tender piano and flute solo then transitions to a melancholic orchestral theme. A jaunty orchestra begins begins the cue, Atticus Accepts the Case/Roll I with a rollicking theme introducing us to Scout's world.
Some of the scarier material is heard in several cues later on. In Tree Treasure, Bernstein applies a pounding piano to increase the intensity and then suddenly breaks off into a mysterious theme heard on the strings and some underlying harps. The aggressive orchestra appears in the cues, Lynch Mob and Assault In the Shadows creating a suspenseful and almost uncomfortable sound to it.
For another mysterious character, Boo, Bernstein masterfully created a subtle theme heard on the French accordion. The theme makes its most notable appearance in the cue, Boo Who? which transforms into a glorious reinstatement of Boo's theme heard on a solo violin with strings backing it up. It's truly the highlight of the score!
Boo Who? by Elmer Bernstein on Grooveshark
For this classic work, Bernstein not only achieved a child-like innocence quality to the score, but he also creates a tender, nostalgic aspect thus killing two birds with one stone; but sparing another.


Best Cue(s)
  • To Kill A Mockingbird
  • Atticus Accepts the Case/Roll I
  • Boo Who?
Rating: ****

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