In 1970, The Beach Boys recorded a sublime song called “Add Some Music To Your Day”. The lyrics listed all the occasions when music was important. One line goes “In a movie, you can hear it touching your heart”. With the dramatic increase in the quality of television programmes, there is now little difference between the music that accompanies a movie and that which accompanies a film (or “movie”).
It’s worth pointing out the difference between a score and a soundtrack. A soundtrack consists of songs that are used to articulate the visuals whereas a score is often used to enhance the visuals. Music in a soundtrack will often have lyrics which may have relevance to the story. Music in a score is often instrumental and the impact is felt in the subconscious emotions of the watcher. There was lots of great music in “The Wire” but a deliberate attempt was made to ensure that there was nothing artificial about its inclusion. The intention was to provide a realistic soundtrack to the footage – these were the sounds that the characters would hear in their lives as a car passed with its window down or a raid was made on a crack dealer’s house. Was this a soundtrack or a score? As always, with “The Wire”, it was complicated.
In the best films/television programmes, there is little difference between a score and a soundtrack and Clannad’s soundtrack/score to “Robin Of Sherwood” is the best example I can think of this. The music was specifically written for the programme which I guess is one of the key differences between a soundtrack and a score. However it is a great CD and very enjoyable even if you know nothing about the TV programme.
There were three series made of “Robin Of Sherwood” and it told the tale of Robin Hood with immense imagination and flair. I’m not sure I would defend the dialogue of a lot of the episodes and some of the acting was a bit wooden but it remains one of my all time favourite series and the music had a large part to play in this. The cinematography is also outstanding. That may have been a little bit of an unfair comment about the acting because Nickolas Grace, who hams it up beautifully as The Sheriff Of Nottingham is a fantastic actor. He was fresh from hamming it up wonderfully as Anthony Blanche in “Brideshead Revisited” (“I’ve come to see the p-p-p-p-pick-chaws”). This series also saw the first major role for Ray Winstone who is a very good actor (but is very irritating on betting adverts these days).
“Robin Of Sherwood” told the story of Robin Hood with a great mixture of historical accuracy and pagan myth. In “The Merry Wives Of Windsor”, Shakespeare refers to an English ghost called Herne The Hunter. It’s not known whether this was entirely a figment of Shakespeare’s imagination or was in fact a legendary mythical figure from English history. In “Robin Of Sherwood”, it is Herne The Hunter that tells Robin of Loxley that he is destined to fight for the oppressed of England and this mixture of legend and history made the story fascinating. After the first two series, Michael Praed, who played Robin, wanted to leave the series to make films in Hollywood and he was replaced by Jason Connery, Sean’s son. Very cleverly, the writer of the series, Richard Carpenter, allowed the character to die but be replaced by a different character in Series Three. The role of the new Robin was inherited by Robert of Huntingdon, an aristocrat (in contrast to the humble Robin of Loxley). In this way, the idea that Robin Hood was a legendary figure, possibly a composite of many people who all fought evil and greed, was promulgated. The scene in which Robin of Loxley is finally defeated by The Sheriff Of Nottingham is wonderful. It might be a little artless without Clannad’s music but the combination of music and cinematography is outstanding. When he breaks his bow and the music stops, you realise how much impact the music is having. Also, the part when Nickolas Grace says “Take him, you coward” is very funny.
In the first episode, Robin is taken prisoner in Nottingham Castle and he escapes. Whilst looking for a way out of the castle, he stumbles into Marian’s bedroom. The lovely Judi Trott shows bravery and humanity and Robin falls instantly in love. “You’re like a May morning” he says. It’s all a little clichéd, but the song “Lady Marian”, which plays repeatedly through all episodes whenever she has a big scene, is beautiful.
My favourite song on the CD is “Strange Land”. This video clip is an amalgam of parts of different episodes and gives a good idea of the weirdness of some of the stories. Musically, the song features Maire Brennan’s haunting vocals along with a brilliant use of synthesiser which somehow seems highly appropriate when telling a story of 13th Century England.
Another brilliant song is “Scarlet Inside” which is Will Scarlet’s theme. Ray Winstone plays this haunted, sad, aggressive character who has been traumatised by the murder of his wife and children by the Sheriff’s men. The clip here is another amalgam of different scenes and gives a slightly false impression of the series. It’s not all fighting and bows and arrows – it’s a character driven story told in the context of 13th century inequality. The gentleness of the song perfectly encapsulates the dichotomy of the character. A fighting machine on the outside and a gentle loving man within.
Any good programme or film has great music designed to play with our emotions. This enhances the experience and “Robin Of Sherwood”, despite some of its shortcomings, is a great example of this.