Da Vinci’s Demons: The Hanged Man
April 13th, 2013
This month, my sweeping score for “Da Vinci’s Demons” is finally unleashed upon the world, with the premiere of the series on STARZ in the United States, and the international premieres following this week. Dive right in to my epic score with the Main Title track, which is already available as a digital single from iTunes and Amazon, courtesy of my new label Sparks & Shadows. For an introduction to my work on this series, check out tonight’s spoiler-free videoblog, where I discuss my themes, instrumentation and inspiration:
“Da Vinci’s Demons” is the brainchild of writer / producer David S. Goyer, known for writing some of the most important scripts in the cinematic superhero genre. The series is a fantastic re-telling of the young life of Leonardo Da Vinci, one of history’s most intriguing figures. Abolishing our image of Leonardo as a wisened, wrinkled old sage, the show depicts his youth as a dashing, arrogant adventurer. Caught between the warring nation-states of Florence and Rome, Da Vinci is swept up in a quest for the promise of ancient knowledge.
As I draft this blog entry, I am sitting at a café outside the renowned Duomo in Florence, Italy, where Da Vinci’s career began and our series takes place. I was invited to this city to perform my original score for “Da Vinci’s Demons,” at the series’ world premiere. My journey, figuratively back in time and literally around the world, began last year when I set out to score this utterly remarkable series.
My music for “Da Vinci’s Demons” was meticulously researched to accurately represent the time period, without being bound to it. I incorporated period instrumentation, melodies and arrangements with more modern colors, including string orchestra, choir, percussion and surging synthesizers. I collaborated with the renowned Calder Quartet, who brought their unique synergy and style to my intimate string writing. I carefully layered dozens of character themes, several of which are historically accurate compositions from Leonardo’s day. Above all, I strove to bring Da Vinci’s genius to life, to draw out the mystery, emotion and tension, and to write a score worthy of these enigmatic historical figures.
As this ‘eight episode movie’ unfolds, I will use this blog to pull the curtain back and retrace my creative steps.
My videoblog episodes will take us along my journey through Italy, to orchestral recording sessions and show us the virtually extinct Renaissance instruments and the fascinating musicians who have dedicated their lives to learning how to play them. We will speak with series creator David S. Goyer, the cast, the musicians and Adam Knight Gilbert, the music historian who made this strange musical world accessible to me.
My written blog entries will focus on each individual episode, walking you through the story, scene by scene, and detailing my creative process. With this blog as a guide, you can observe the music evolve along with the drama. Each entry, of course, will contain massive spoilers, so I recommend watching the episodes first before delving into my analysis. For the most part, however, the videoblogs will be light on spoilers until we get to the last few.
As you progress through the series, keep an ear out for cues you would like to hear on the soundtrack album, which will be coming out later this year from Sparks & Shadows. Leave comments here on my blog and follow S&S on Twitter and Facebook, and let your voice be heard. I’m just now starting to go through the tracks to produce the record, so let me know what catches your ear. Now is the time to get your voice heard on this.
I believe that, though the first season is only eight episodes long, my score for “Da Vinci’s Demons” could be the most layered and complex I’ve composed yet. I’m thrilled to finally introduce you all to this musical world. I hope you enjoy this series, its score, and the blogs, videos and album to come. Now, with my preamble out of the way, let’s dive into the score.
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“Da Vinci’s Demons” is my first historical drama, and as such, needed a slightly different approach. I wanted the score to take us back in time, to a very specific place. I began researching instruments such as the viola da gamba, violone, crumhorn, shawm, lutes, natural trumpet and hurdy gurdy. You may have never seen or even heard these instruments before, but when they play historically accurate arrangements, with proper intervals and chord voicings, the sound is unmistakably Renaissance. Music history buffs will probably freak out when they catch all the little Easter Eggs I’ve hidden in the score, but everyone else will at least recognize an old-world authenticity that helps them feel like they’re watching a story that takes place in the fifteenth century.
In my initial conversations with David Goyer, however, he told me specifically that he didn’t want to hear Renaissance music in this score. He wanted a bold and stylistic approach to match the contemporary tone of the visuals and editing style. And he was right. Proper Renaissance music lacks the necessary tension, precisely because the timbres and chords we associate with certain cinematic emotions simply hadn’t come into practice yet.
My solution was to take the period instruments and graft them on to contemporary cinematic and classical sounds. I started with period instruments, but framed them in newer sounds. The orchestra, string quartet, percussion and synthesis give the score weight, a bottom-heavy heft. The Renaissance instruments suddenly sound badass in this context. Goyer was excited by my first round of sketches and encouraged me to pursue the combination further.
Selecting instrumentation is only the first step to crafting a seuccessful score. The second is composing themes. My themes for “Da Vinci’s Demons” are meticulously constructed to exude the qualities of the characters they represent. The most important theme in the series is the one you hear within the first five seconds of the show starting. It is Da Vinci’s Theme, which also functions as the Main Title:
As demonstrated in the videoblog, Leonardo’s Theme is a palindrome, inspired by the mirror writing (writing backwards and forwards) that he is famous for. In music, this technique is an established trick called ‘retrograde.’ The theme is the same when played forwards or backwards. The melodic symmetry is visible, even at a glance:
I was always fascinated by Leonardo’s mirror writing and was excited to apply this technique to music. I was wary, however, of ending up with purely intellectual music. Thematic retrograde is a cool idea, but pointless if it fails to draw us into Da Vinci’s world, heart and mind.
I invested the necessary time to tinker with this, and ultimately, the retrograde is constructed perfectly, but also functions emotionally. The Forwards Theme, featuring two major chords followed by two minor chords, is heroic and strong, ideal for his moments of brilliance:
The Backwards Theme, where the minor chords precede the major, is mysterious and enigmatic, better suited for his vulnerability and self-doubt:
The series begins with the visually stunning Main Title sequence, which introduces us to the Da Vinci Theme. The first sound you hear is the Calder Quartet, arpeggiating an important pattern, the Da Vinci Ostinato:
Under normal circumstances, a fast passage with wide leaps like this would be death on string players’ hands. When you voice the chord so that each note can be played on an adjacent string, however, this becomes relatively simple.
The foundation of the ostinato is the cello part, but I frequently harmonized it in four parts with the rest of the quartet. I always made sure all the notes could be played on adjacent strings, so this fast pattern came together surprisingly quickly in recording sessions.
After four bars, the Da Vinci Forward Theme is introduced by a solo viola da gamba accompanied by lutes. The viola da gamba is a member of an early family of string instruments. Though it physically resembles the modern cello, it is actually more accurate to think of it as a bowed lute or guitar. A future videoblog will cover more about this unusual instrument.
After the gamba solo, the orchestral violins pick up the Da Vinci Backwards Theme, as the track expands. The arrangement picks up energy and builds to a furious climax as the orchestra returns to the Forward Theme once more.
Ironically, my initial draft of the Main Title actually stopped short right before this triumphant swell. The title was originally intended to be only 45 seconds long, so that’s where I stopped. David Goyer was so impressed with my music, that he insisted the title sequence be extended, to allow time for a final statement of the Forward Theme. This is a virtually unprecedented example of a showrunner sacrificing valuable narrative real estate in order to properly introduce audiences to the show’s score and main theme. From that early moment in our working relationship, I knew that he and I would get along splendidly.
As the Main Title fades to black, we slip into the mysterious and wondrous world of “Da Vinci’s Demons.” If you haven’t watched the episode yet, you should not keep reading until you do. For viewers in the United States, STARZ has been kind enough to post the entire episode online:
International viewers should be able to access the episode as well, from the official STARZ site.
BEWARE: MAJOR SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT! “Da Vinci’s Demons” begins as Leonardo meets an enigmatic character named The Turk.
We are dropped into the middle of the story, as The Turk tells Leo that history is a lie. As he speaks, we are introduced to The Turk Theme:
The Turk’s theme is performed on a traditional Turkish string instrument called a yialli tanbur. The performer is Martin St. Pierre, who collaborated with me on the score to “Battlestar Galactica.” This slippery melody is combined with occasional, gentle strikes of the drone strings to create a hypnotic ambience. Once Leo smokes the pipe, the visuals becoming increasingly disorienting, and so the score also grows more trippy and reverberant.
In addition to the tanbur melody, an important component of The Turk’s theme is built from layers of percussion, played by M.B. Gordy. We combined various bells and bowls, including Tibetan prayer bowls, noah bells and other tuned instruments to form a gentle, yet subtly chaotic background. (An upcoming videoblog will showcase this exotic percussion in more detail.)
The slithering tanbur theme, ambient synth pads and spiritual bells merge to form an exotic, almost intimidating texture. We are drawn to the Turk even though we don’t yet understand what he is saying. The music perfectly matches the stylized and increasingly jagged cinematography and editing style. (After you’ve seen the entire season, you may return to the quick images intercut in the scenes with the Turk and recognize all that imagery!)
After that prologue, the narrative truly begins with the assassination of Sforza, the Duke of Milan. This entertaining sequence shows the boarish Duke waking up and getting dressed, intercut with a mysterious group of men entering a cathedral for mass. The men pass through security and, once seated, proceed to craft shanks from pieces of metal hidden in their bibles.
The score for this sequence begins as source music. As the men enter the church, we hear a male choir sing a calming Catholic psalm tone. The text and melody are both historically accurate to what would have been heard at a Catholic mass on Palm Sunday in the fifteenth century.
Circumdederunt me dolores mortis
et torrentes iniquitatis conturbaverunt me
(The sorrows of death compassed me
and the torrents of iniquity troubled me)
The male choir I worked with was only four men, but their sound was rich and sonorous, and their understanding of Latin pronunciation flawless.
As the sequence builds intensity, ominous layers of synths, percussion and orchestra slowly creep in behind the vocals. Undulating hurdy gurdy drones add a raw, medieval quality. The choir, however, simply continues singing their soothing psalm, an ominous counterpoint to the tense instrumental score. As Sforza steps into the cathedral, the male choir nears the end of the psalm tone.
Lauda Jerusalem Dominum Pauda Deum tuum Sion
(Glorify the Lord, Jerusalem; Zion, offer praise to your God)
At the climax of the scene, Sforza is stabbed in the neck and bleeds out all over the floor as people run away in a panic. Here, I expanded the track to include pounding percussion and bigger string writing to amplify the pandemonium. The male choir reaches the end of the Palm Sunday mass with a chilling text.
Et in secula seculorum, amen
(Now and forever, amen)
Their final words echo as the camera pulls back above the Duke’s convulsing body.
The next scene introduces us to Leonardo Da Vinci, painting Vanessa’s portrait in the glorious hills outside Florence. He tells her a mysterious memory of his mother, whose face he can not recall.
I scored this scene using the backwards section of the Da Vinci Theme in the solo viola da gamba, set against melancholy chords in the string quartet. This particular arrangement will be a recurring motive throughout the series, as he further explores the mystery of his mother and the falcon.
His young sidekick Nico arrives and Da Vinci unveils the glider he intends to test. The celli and basses enter with an ominous statement of the Da Vinci Ostinato. Even when placed in the low strings and played slowly, however, this progression of G major and Eb major is inherently exhilarating. The low strings tell us that something awesome is about to happen.
As Nico straps in, Leo snaps the horses into a full gallop and the dangerous test is underway. The score bursts full steam ahead with surging synthesizers, percussion and a playful orchestral ostinato, punctuated by lutes and other early guitars. The energy of the wind slowly lifts Nico and the glider into the air and Leo turns the crank to give them more slack. Here, I underlined the ascension with upward modulations in the score. The key shifts up again and again, raising our adrenaline and creating the exhilarating sense that we don’t know where the music is taking us, but it simply feels like its going up.
Da Vinci throws his arms into the air triumphantly and the orchestral strings soar with the first full statement of his theme we’ve heard outside the Main Title. The male choir supports the melody with warm, sustained chords. This moment is truly inspiring and is the first scene to connect this melody with Leonardo’s genius.
In the following scene, Leonardo and Nico wander the streets of Florence and Leo gets his first, fleeting glimpse of Lucrezia Donati. A solo flute offers the first taste of her theme, punctuated by gentle arpeggios on the Celtic harp. These instruments, especially the harp, will continue to be associated with Lucrezia throughout the season, but I will address her theme in more detail later in this entry.
A rider from Milan brings Lorenzo de Medici the terrible news of Sforza’s assassination. As the messenger enters the palace and ascends the stairs, the score introduces the Medici Theme:
The Medici Theme in “Da Vinci’s Demons” stands out from every other theme in any project I’ve scored, because I did not actually write it. This melody was composed in the fifteenth century by Heinrich Isaac, commissioned by none other than Lorenzo de Medici himself. Isaac was employed by the House of Medici, and was hired to compose a great number of pieces for a variety of functions. This motive was designed as two figures of three notes, representing the six spheres on the Medici crest, and was woven into the Medici compositions. It can be considered the official “Medici Theme.”
When music historian Adam Knight Gilbert brought this piece to my attention I knew immediately I had to use it in the series. This theme underscores every scene involving Lorenzo, Giuliano or Clarice de Medici. As the season progresses, each member of the family gets their own unique variation.
I did, however, put my own personal spin on the tune. Isaac’s version implies a major chord, surely an intentional choice to suggest the strength of the Medici family. For “Da Vinci’s Demons,” such a major chord would never have fit the tense Medici scenes. I opted to sacrifice a bit of historical accuracy in order to tell the story, so I lowered the third in Isaac’s melody. Moving one note down a half-step changed the implied harmony to a minor chord. Now, I had more emotional wiggle-room to properly score the Medici family’s rift with the Vatican.
In the following scene, we cut to the Vatican where we meet Pope Sixtus in, what I would argue, is the most memorable introductory scene for a Pope ever put on screen. As Sixtus shares a bath with a young boy and threatens his life with a knife, the male choir introduces the Rome Theme:
The Rome Theme is the most dissonant in the series, constructed from three stacks of minor thirds, separated by half steps. As a result, it is difficult to say with any confidence, exactly what key the tune is in. This tonal ambiguity is perfect for villainous themes because it makes them unsettled and restless. When written in the lowest notes a professional male choir can sing, the theme is quite terrifying.
The Pope’s lecherous bath is soon interrupted by his three agents: Girolamo Riario, Lupo Mercuri and Francesco Pazzi. In future episodes, I will develop a Rome Theme variation specific to both Riario and Mercuri. (Pazzi will eventually antagonize the Medicis enough to warrant his own melodic theme. More on that later!)
Back in Florence, Giuliano de Medici and Becchi have come to the studio of renowned sculptor and teacher Verrochio to inspect plans for the new Easter columbina, designed by Da Vinci. Da Vinci presents his quarter scale model which, quite miraculously, can fly around the room without a guide wire.
This brief, yet magical, sequence is the first in a series of sequences involving flight, inspiration, Da Vinci’s genius and columbinas. They are all thematically related, and I had to be careful that each one became gradually bigger than the one preceding it. For this first scene in the set, I used the quartet to introduce the Da Vinci ostinato while the celli and a bird-like piccolo present the Da Vinci Theme.
Later that night, Da Vinci struggles with his columbina plans and takes opium to dull his racing thoughts. This scene is essential for his character. Until now, we’ve seen him taking daring risks, and intentionally antagonizing one of the most important benefactors in the city. He’s brilliant, but reckless. Here, we see the Da Vinci that no one else sees: vulnerable, frustrated and plagued with self-doubt. This is the man most of us can relate to more.
During this sequence, the viola da gamba plays a plaintive statement of the Backwards Da Vinci Theme, echoing the cue when he reminisced about his mother. To support the melody, the Calder Quartet gives a series of swelling chords, emulating a recording that’s been reversed and run through a tape delay. The scooping swells cut off abruptly, then repeat, softer and softer, creating the sensation that the recording is being played backwards. This effect was achieved entirely through smart orchestration and brilliant playing by the Calder guys, without the use of any effects. This unusual texture, combined with the Backwards Da Vinci Theme will be a thematic motive for his recurring mental blocks.
The next morning, Da Vinci purchases starlings from a street vendor simply to release them for inspiration. This scene is the second stage in the sequence of ‘columbina cues.’ This time, the Calder Quartet plays the ostinato while the full string orchestra combines with viola da gamba and woodwinds to play the Da Vinci Theme. Thinking on my feet, I had to also sting the sudden slow-motion shots and visual effects of his drawings coming to life.
The starlings sequence (and in a way, the entire series) relies on the music to sell the idea that Da Vinci is a genius. The expert cinematography, editing and visual effects create energy and show us that he’s making observations, but this sequence really needed a thematic, uplifting score to communicate that he’s making observations centuries ahead of his time. Thought is his superpower, but thought is an abstract idea not easily committed to film without the use of music.
Afterwards, Leonardo attempts to impress Lorenzo, but is shut down by the mercenary, Dragonetti. Getting slapped down before such powerful people stings Leo’s ego, especially because Lucrezia is there. (The Celtic harp offers a solitary wisp of her theme as she meets his gaze while she walks past him. More on her theme in a bit!)
Later that night, Leo instigates a fight with Dragonetti and the other officers of the night, to stop them from harassing an innocent Turkish man we recognize from the prologue. This scene introduces us to Da Vinci’s heroic side and firmly establishes him as an adventure hero in this series. I scored this scene with a playful, adventurous variation of his theme. Energetic percussion, guitar and quartet writing give the scene energy, while the viola da gamba and woodwinds offer a bouncy version of his theme.
After being rescued, The Turk speaks to Da Vinci and the score quotes his theme once more in the yialli tanbur. Once again, the ambient percussion texture of bells and prayer bowls fills the soundtrack.
Later that night, Da Vinci is captured and brutally beaten by the officers of the night, by order of his heartless father Pierro. When Pierro confronts his bastard son, the viola da gamba offers a pitiless statement of the Backwards Da Vinci Theme. Unlike the scenes discussing Leo’s mother, this scene with his father is devoid of swirling, mysterious strings. I stripped out the emotion and let the melody sit in a track of synthesizer beds. The texture is cold and cruel, signifying their loveless relationship.
The next morning, Leo watches Lucrezia Donati shop for flowers. The Celtic harp introduces a gentle ostinato as Lucrezia first enters his sight. A solo recorder plays the first complete statement of the primary Lucrezia Theme in the episode:
You may remember recorders from elementary school music class, but they are, in fact, wind instruments that date back to the Renaissance. They have extremely limited dynamic ranges, meaning that the player has little control over how loud or soft they play. The sound immediately brings to mind a Renaissance quality which I found was either perfect for a scene, or a complete disaster (I frequently doubled these solos with a flute solo so I could choose which one to feature at the mix). In this case, however, the result was elegant. Woodwind specialist Chris Bleth was able to coax more emotion out of the instrument than should be possible.
After sketching her portrait, Leo sends the picture over to her through Nico. As he crosses the piazza, the score modulates up a minor third, increasing the tension. Lucrezia sees the image and looks back at Leo. Here, I brought in fuller chords in the string quartet and repeated her theme in a solo flute, an octave higher than the recorder. The sound is expansive, and underlines her immediate intrigue with Da Vinci. We shall return to this relationship and expand upon this theme soon.
Later that day, Leo witnesses the hanging of a Jew. The moment before his execution, the Jew unexpectedly utters the same words spoken by The Turk the night before. In the seconds leading up to his neck breaking, the strings swell with a dissonant chord while the yialli tanbur and a solo duduk crescendo with the first six notes of what we will later identify as the Sons of Mithras Theme.
Compelled to look for answers, Leo seeks out the Turk, triggering the longest cue in the episode. Lutes and guitars begin a mysterious ostinato that leads Da Vinci to Roman ruins. Here, inspired by the contemporary jump cuts and stylish slow motion, I introduced deep, surging synthesizer basses and a solo frame drum. The Middle Eastern groove feels very natural, but was written precisely to hit the various jump cuts in the sequence.
Leo descends a staircase to find the Turk seated before an altar. We have returned to the episode’s prologue. As we heard before, the solo tanbur plays a statement of The Turk Theme.
The Turk then tells Leo of The Book of Leaves, tempting him with ultimate knowledge. Here, the orchestral strings introduce another important musical theme for this series, the Sons of Mithras / Book of Leaves Theme:
The theme is woven throughout their entire conversation, often supported by exotic instruments such as the tanbur and the Armenian duduk. I selected these Eastern sounds because I wanted to underscore how foreign and alien The Turk is compared to the world Leo knows. Also, these instruments are very effective at creating a sense of mystery and wonder.
This theme is essential to the series because it compels Da Vinci on his quest. The Book of Leaves is his ultimate temptation, and he will be forced to make sacrifices in pursuit of it. So, the musical theme is uplifting, inspiring and exotic. The music assures us he believes in this journey.
This entire cue is ethereal and awash in contemporary synthesizer and string beds. However, my thematic approach is as literal as Wagner. When the Turk tells Leo about the Vatican’s Secret Archives, we hear the Rome Theme. The conversation turns to Da Vinci’s mysterious past in the cave, so we hear the Backwards Da Vinci Theme. At last, the conversation returns to the Book of Leaves and we get a final, inspiring statement of the Sons of Mithras theme.
This cue was a tremendous balancing act. If the music were all drones, it would get monotonous, but if the thematic shifts were too obvious, it would fight the dialog and important exposition. It also set a dangerous precedent. Every scene with The Turk in “The Hanged Man” is plastered with constant score, underlining his mysterious, almost ghostly presence. In future episodes, I had to continue this trend, which presented unique problems down the line.
Leo is awoken from his trance in the ruins by Nico, who says Lorenzo de Medici himself is requesting him. Leo ventures into the Medici Palace in a wondrous slow-motion sequence, depicting the opulence of Florence’s rulers. Here, a trio of stately viola da gambas quote an arrangement of the Medici Theme that I lifted directly from an Isaac composition from the period.
Lorenzo offers Da Vinci the commission to paint his mistress, Lucrezia. Speaking out of line, Da Vinci boldly takes the opportunity to pitch him ideas for war machines. When Lorenzo looks at his visionary sketches of pipe organ muskets, tanks and flying machines, the Calder Quartet sneaks in with a simple variation on the Da Vinci ostinato.
The quartet oscillates between playing a unison line together and splitting out into four-part harmony, creating subtle swells in the score. Woodwinds, violone and viola da gamba sneak in, filling out the texture. Finally, when Leo asserts that man will one day fly, a high recorder and solo gamba proclaim an ornamented statement of the Da Vinci Theme.
It is a truly triumphant moment. This scene was a delight to score because we know Da Vinci is, of course, correct in predicting all these achievements. The score allows us to have fun with the scene, and watch in bewilderment as wise men scoff at ideas that are commonplace today.
Leo gets the commission to design machines of war. As Lorenzo warns him to take this agreement seriously, the low strings add weight to his threat with a protracted statement of the Medici Theme. As Leo leaves, he is stunned to see a smaller figurine on the shelf of the statue he saw with The Turk. Here, ominous strings swell while the Turk’s bells and prayer bowls flutter into the soundtrack.
The night of the Carnival arrives. As we witness the sumptuous and decadent costumes of the arriving guests in the growing firelight, the score pulses with a deep texture of synthesizers and frame drums. A wailing melody soars over the groove, played by me on the hurdy gurdy. Though the sound resembles a bagpipe, it is actually a primitive string instrument that originated in Europe as early as the tenth century. The exotic texture seemed to strike a nerve in the imagery and somehow feels perfectly appropriate. (A future videoblog will get into more detail about the hurdy gurdy.)
As the crowd waits in suspense for the flight of Da Vinci’s columbina, Leo sees Lucrezia dressed in a lavish red costume. Here, the Celtic harp gently quotes her theme.
At last, his columbina bursts out the doors and soars into the air. The following sequence is stylishly intercut with Leo and Lucrezia making love. For all this, I wrote the most triumphant arrangement of the Da Vinci Theme in the episode, the climax of the progression of cues that began when he first tossed his quarter scale model into the air. Orchestral strings carry the soaring tune over the quartet’s ostinato, while heavy percussion punctuates the quick cuts.
One cut in particular always stands out. The strings ascend in a series of quick scalar patterns, building up to a triumphant downbeat where the choir enters. I timed this to land right as Leo flips Lucrezia’s naked body on her back. It draws so much attention to their physical sexuality that it risks being too much. But, Goyer and I agreed: something about it makes you smile. So, in it stayed.
After the figurative and literal orgasm of the columbina sequence, we settle in to a beautiful scene with Lucrezia and Leonardo, naked in bed together. This is where we truly see her character and the bond these two share. Naturally, it is the first time we hear the complete Lucrezia Theme. All previous scenes with Lucrezia drew from her primary theme, and here we finally hear her secondary theme with it:
The first part of the scene is scored entirely for solo Celtic harp, played expertly by JoAnn Turovsky. She plays the A Theme, followed by the B Theme.
When Lucrezia and Leonardo begin looking at his sketches, the quartet enters with luscious chords, introduced by an ascending line in the solo violin, which then takes over the melody. Woodwind solos, beginning with a low recorder, pick up the B Theme.
As she tells him that his fate is sealed, the score takes an unexpected modulation from E minor to B minor, and the quartet performs one final statement of the primary Lucrezia Theme.
This scene is scored with a unique statement of the Lucrezia Theme because it is the only time we see her as a purely innocent character. Once her dual life is revealed, the romantic scenes with the men in her life are tinted by her perilous circumstances. So, it was important for me to establish her theme in the purest sense here. From this point on, her theme becomes gradually distorted and increasingly more dissonant.
The final scene in “The Hanged Man” begins with Riario escorting a cloaked figure through a dark tunnel to the doorway to the Vatican’s Secret Archives. Here, dulcimers and lutes offer pingy, creepy statements of the Rome Theme. The low strings pick up the melody as he gives the figure a severed finger in a box.
As they enter the Secret Archives, the viola da gamba introduces a repeating ostinato based on the Rome Theme that builds quickly into a huge statement of the Rome Theme, complete with male choir and urgent, tremolo strings.
Riario introduces Pope Sixtus to his Florentine spy, the cloaked figure who is revealed to be Lucrezia. Here, a flute solo offers a slippery statement of her theme against an energetic, dissonant arpeggio in the Celtic harp. Instruments that represented her beauty in the previous scene now underline her treachery.
The orchestra and percussion build up energy behind the harp, building into a relentless crescendo. As Lucrezia warns Mercuri that Da Vinci has made contact with The Turk, the yialli tanbur sneaks in with a quick statement of the Turk Theme.
The episode ends with Sixtus’ chilling declaration of Da Vinci’s fade should he resist them. His booming voice is underscored with viola da gamba and orchestral strings pounding away at the stacked minor thirds of the Rome Theme. We cut to black realizing that all of Rome’s fury is set to crash down on our unsuspecting hero.
The score for “The Hanged Man” introduces the primary musical themes for this season, but there is a lot more to listen for in the coming weeks. Seemingly peripheral characters like Giuliano de Medici and Riario will develop their own unique thematic variations as they impact the story. Now that the audience knows Lucrezia is a spy, her theme will be layered with increasing dissonance. You will hear source music, where I put my own spin on traditional Renaissance pieces. And several new character themes will enter the sonic tapestry.
I will continue blogging and posting new videos, so check back here after each episode. The “Da Vinci’s Demons” soundtrack album will be released in a couple months, under my new Sparks & Shadows banner. (If you need your fix now, the Main Title is available already through iTunes and Amazon.) I’m assembling the album track list now, so if you catch cues in the coming weeks that you want to hear on the album, let us know, through comments here on my blog, Twitter or Facebook.
Special thanks are due to everyone who helped make this blog possible. The music video and video blog were edited expertly by Kevin T. Porter. The video mix was done by Jessica Rae Huber and David Matics. I also want to thank Joe Augustine and Beth Krakower. And I’d like to thank all of you for supporting me, reading the blog and sharing your enthusiasm. Get ready for new music…