Music- Composition Investigation

The Oscar nominated musical Les Misérables hit the cinemas on Christmas Day last year, reviving a long lost musical. With the movie came the beautifully original French songs by by Alain Boublil and Jean-Marc Natel then translated into English by Herbert Kretzmer. A famous song from this musical is “I Dreamed a Dream”, sang by Fatine in the first act of the musical. Throughout the years multiple cover versions of the song has been produced, making it the best known song from the musical.

This song is structured in an A-B-C-D-E format, with the same sort of rhythmic pattern repeating and different variations of the main melody which comes in at part B. First the song starts off very slowly, which a vocal introduction where the words are almost said then sung. All of the notes are E and even though a rhythm is written on the music, but it is not generally followed by the singer as this helps to express her emotions even better. The singing begins in at B with a 3 bar instrumental introduction. The piano plays a counter melody here helping to bring out the real melody. The main melody has a dotted rhythm, helping to push the music forward. As the melody is playing the piano plays a counter melody that fits nicely in the background. At part C, the first chord has an E sharp in it, which is very curious. This is because it doesn’t fit the chords that the songs has been be playing before. As this section goes on, the audience gets use to this new melody line. This section ends with the singer holding a very long note, creating a crescendo as she tries to hold her breath. This increases the energy level of this song and then with the fermata at the end, it controls this energy again. The next section goes back into the part B melody but is cut short as the orchestra comes in and plays a two bar transition for the modulation which happens at the start of part E. This modulation brings much more energy into the music, where the climax of the whole song is reached. The song then quickly reduces itself to the previous state and ends with a piano playing a short motif.

How the song is laid out helps to convey the true purpose of the song. Fatine was dying, thrown out into the streets and became a prostitute trying to earn money for her daughter. She tries to think back to her happier days and wonders about her life. The song is very sad and it helps Fatine to express her true feelings. She is accompanied by an orchestra which can produce a range of sounds. The woodwinds mainly plays in the part A, while the brass fully joined in part E where the climax of the piece. Generally Fatine was accompanied by strings and keyboard, creating a very soft and sad sound. This acts like the bass line to the singer. Percussion was never used in this music except in the climax to enhance and empathize the music even more. The lyrics itself is also empowering and before with the audience viewing the series of steps that led Fatine to become this way, the song really impacts them, could bring a tear to their eyes while watching the movie.

From this research, I can relate quite a few things to my own composition. Even though this song and my composition are from quite different genres but the central ideas are all the same, to enhance and help convey a message to the audience. Apart from that, there is quite a few things that is similar between the two pieces. First I used a dotted melody like the one in this song. This helps to make a simple melodic line much more complex and interesting. Next I used chords to help accent the strong beats in each bar. This is what happens in the climax of the song increasing the energy level.

Every instrument has purpose but if it is played alone, it would song very dry and bare. It is when all the instruments are combined together that truly makes this music a master piece. With over 30 covers of this song made, the number would continue to rise over the next years, keeping this legendary piece of music alive.


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