The sound of music was by far the greatest musical success for the team of Rodgers and Hammerstein. I chose this musical because of the lyrical and musical talent of these two men. I have enjoyed watching this classic numerous time throughout the years due to my mother’s influence. She exposed my brother and I to many different types of music, teaching us to appreciate the style of each artist.
The Sound of Music was directed and produced by Robert Wise, although he was not the first choice, he did indeed prove to be the best. Richard Rodgers wrote the music with the lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. The music was arranged and conducted by Irwin Kostal with the choreography by Marc Breaux and Dee Dee Wood.
Filming of The Sound of Music began in 1964, in and around the area of Salzburg, Austria. It then premiered in early 1965, where it stayed on the circuit for more than four years. The film won five academy awards, including Best picture in 1966.
The setting for the movie was to represent the late 1930’s in Salzburg, Austria, with the looming threat of Nazi occupation. The movie was adapted from the real life stories of Maria von Trapp, who had a book published about her family life during this time. The title is “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers.”
The opening scene pans across the mountains with the sound of wind blowing snow as it crosses over and down the other side. Once the forest and lake come in to view the music changes to birds chirping and the light sound of flutes playing. It continues to pan across hills and valleys with the tempo (xxi) of the music changing as instruments are added. The scene unfolds reaching Julie Andrews up on a hilltop surrounded by mountains. Here the music’s dynamic level (xxvii) becomes more intense. When she starts to sing the music decreases in volume, matching her vocal range as she sings the title theme.
The music that accompanies the abbey scene shows nuns walking slowly, heads bowed as if in prayer, gives the impression of spiritual devotion and a peaceful setting. In the court yard several nuns are discussing Maria with the Reverend Mother and do a call-and-response type of song called “Maria.”
Maria is sent to Captain von Trapp’s as a governess for his children. The music in these next few scenes’ has a dissonance quality that sets the mood for her arrival at the von Trapp household.
Maria soon finds out how strict the Captain is with his children and that music is not allowed since the death of his wife. She decides that God has sent her to bring joy and music back into their lives.
The children come to Maria’s room during a scary thunderstorm. She tries to calm them with a song called “A Few of My Favorite Things.” This is a very light, happy, rhyming song that soon has the children forgetting their fears and having some fun. That is until the Captain walks in with a frown and sends the children scurrying to their rooms.
While the Captain is away in Vienna, Maria introduces the children to having fun with music. She takes them on an outing in the hills and finds out that they don’t know any songs at all. Maria teaches them “Do-Re-Mi” which uses the scales and has a call-and-response theme. The harmony of this tune is a favorite of mine, showing the melody of the song and timbre of each voice.
When the Captain returns with the Baroness and Uncle Max, the children sing for them the songs they have learned. The Captain joins in as they sing “The Sound of Music,” surprising the children. Later after the puppet show they encourage their father to sing. Playing an acoustic guitar, he sings “Edlewise” with Lisel joining him. The song is softly played with some instrumental backup that is almost undetected.
The waltz between the Captain and Maria in the garden just outside the ballroom is another favorite of mine. The orchestra playing the tune with violins and flutes primarily in the foreground, setting the tempo of the composition as they dance and discover the attraction they have for one another.
Maria escapes to the abbey after realizing she is in love with him. The Reverend Mother talks Maria into going back to face the situation and determine if the life of a nun is what she truly wishes.
Upon returning to the von Trapp estate, Maria finds out from the children that their father is to marry the Baroness. Maria is heartbroken but wishes them well as they greet her. After the evening meal Gaylord sees Maria looking gloomy as she wanders the grounds of the estate. He realizes he has made a mistake and breaks it off with the Baroness. He then seeks Maria out at the gazebo, where he tries to encourage her to tell him the reason she left. Soft music plays as they declare their love for each other, becoming much louder as they start singing “Something Good”.
The wedding scene, the music here is a rendition of “Maria” but, bolder with a marching tempo to it, as she walks down the aisle. Upon returning from their honeymoon the couple find that the Nazi’s have occupied Austria and are expecting the Captain to take a commission in Germany Navy.
They use the folk festival as a front as they look for a way to escape into the mountains. They end up with help from the nuns at the abbey to get away from the Germans, and they cross the mountains into Switzerland. The music of “Climb every Mountain” is a very dramatic song as they show them walking across the mountains into freedom.