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Austen Chat: Episode 11

May 2, 2024

Jane Austen & Movie Music: A Visit with Ruth Mudge

The delicate tinkling of a pianoforte. The clash of cymbals. The soothing strains of a harp. Music in Austen film adaptations performs a variety of functions: it can set the scene, highlight a character’s personality, make us laugh, and make us sigh. In this episode, music maven Ruth Mudge joins us to discuss the soundtracks of four screen adaptations we know and love. A cellist, faculty member at the String Academy of Chicago, and assistant principal in the Elmhurst Symphony, Mudge also has her own podcast, World of Soundtracks, where she offers in-depth explorations of famous movie and TV soundtracks.

Music notes with images of movie soundtrack coversRuth Mudge is a cellist, instructor and performer in the Chicago area and a faculty member at the String Academy of Chicago. She has written and collaborated on several soundtrack analysis projects, and in 2020 began teaching soundtrack classes on Zoom, ranging from Star Wars to Harry Potter to Jane Austen adaptations. She presented a breakout session "The World of Jane Austen Soundtracks" at JASNA's AGM in 2021, and produces and hosts the World of Soundtracks podcast, which provides an in-depth look at movie and TV soundtracks, exploring how stories are told through music and the ways these musical ideas carry both the narrative and emotional journey.

Show Notes and Links

Many thanks to Ruth for appearing as a guest on Austen Chat!  

This episode features music clips from the soundtracks of two Pride and Prejudice and two Emma adaptations:

  • "Pride and Prejudice" —Pride and Prejudice, by Carl Davis, 1995
  • "Dawn"—Pride and Prejudice (Music from the Motion Picture), music by Dario Marianelli and performed by Jean-Yves Thibaudet, 2005
  • "Mrs Darcy" —Pride and Prejudice (Music from the Motion Picture), music by Dario Marianelli and performed by Jean-Yves Thibaudet, 2005
  • "Emma Woodhouse" —Emma (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), music by Isobel Waller-Bridge & David Schweitzer, 2020
  • "Celery Root" —Emma: Music from the Miramax Motion Picture, music by Rachel Portman, 1996
  • "Main Titles" —Emma: Music from the Miramax Motion Picture, music by Rachel Portman, 1996

The use of these clips satisfies the criteria for fair use established in Section 107 of the Copyright Law of the United States of America and Related Laws Contained in Title 17 of the United States Code. 

Links Mentioned in this Episode:

break graphicListen to Austen Chat here or on your favorite podcast app: Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and other streaming platforms 

Credits: From JASNA's Austen Chat podcast. Published May 2, 2024. © Jane Austen Society of North America. All rights reserved. Image: The Country Concert, Charles Loraine Smith, 1794. Lewis Walpole LibraryTheme Music: Country Dance by Humans Win.


Transcript

This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity and readability.

[Theme music]

Breckyn Wood:  Hello, Janeites, and welcome to Austen Chat, a podcast coming to you from the Jane Austen Society of North America. I'm your host, Breckyn Wood from the Georgia Region of JASNA. My guest today is music maven Ruth Mudge. Ruth is a current faculty member of the String Academy of Chicago on both cello and piano. Ruth is also the assistant principal in the Elmhurst Symphony and has her own podcast, World of Soundtracks, where she does in-depth explorations of famous movie and TV soundtracks. At the 2021 AGM in Chicago, Ruth gave a presentation on the soundtracks of Jane Austen adaptations and how music can be used to convey emotion, comedy, storytelling, and more. I'm so excited to talk with her today about the songs we all know and love from the films we love even more. Welcome to the show, Ruth.

Ruth Mudge:  Thank you.

Breckyn:  Okay, let's begin with our "Desert Island" segment. Now, you have quite the collection of Austen soundtracks, right, Ruth?

Ruth:  Yes.

Breckyn:  So, to go along with today's theme, I'll ask you this. If you were stranded on a desert island and could only take one Austen adaptation soundtrack with you, which would it be and why?

Ruth:  It would be the 2005 Dario Marianelli soundtrack of Pride and Prejudice. It's just beautiful. It's beautiful. It's played masterfully by one of the best pianists in the world. And I feel like I would be a little stressed on a desert island, so I feel like I would need something that would calm me down.

Breckyn:  Be really soothing.

Ruth:  Yes, exactly.

Breckyn:  That nice background piano music. That's fun. Okay, Ruth. So, let's start broad, and then we'll get more specific. Why are soundtracks so important for on-screen storytelling, particularly for bringing Austen's novels to life?

Ruth:  They really fill in the emotional aspect of feeling what the characters are doing, hopefully without manipulating you. I think most composers are trying not to force you to feel something, but sometimes it'll help you feel the emotions of the characters. It also—in Austen adaptations, it helps set the world. It helps you ground you in either the Regency period or just helping you know what's happening. There's a lot of music in Jane Austen herself. So, there's concerts, there's balls. So, you're already going to have music automatically in an Austen setting. And so, using specific pieces can help tell Jane Austen's story in that regard.

Breckyn:  We're not even going to get into modern adaptations, like Bride and Prejudice. I didn't even think about that. Future episode, everybody. You're going to have to come back for that because that would be so fun, because that's a whole different thing.

Ruth:  But it's true. It sets the world. For Clueless, you have to have all '90s songs that set you in the '90s. For a lot of Austen, we're setting you in the Regency period, so you're usually going to get classical sounding music.

Breckyn:  Obviously, we could talk all day about the many wonderful Austen adaptations. But to narrow our focus, we're going to be comparing and contrasting two Pride and Prejudice adaptations, the 1995 and the 2005, and then two Emma adaptations, the 1996 and the 2020. So, Ruth, let's start with Pride and Prejudice. The intro music to the BBC miniseries is like the soundtrack to my life. My husband and I hum that jaunty tune all of the time. [Hums a few notes.] Everyone can hear it immediately in their heads. So, what would you say are some of the distinctive musical features of that adaptation?

Ruth:  That adaptation—Carl Davis actually was very clear in that he has given a lot of interviews, so you don't even have to guess what he was thinking. He really wanted to imitate Beethoven, and Beethoven's Septet, so, a piece that has seven instruments: four strings, clarinet, bassoon, and French horn. And if you listen to it, you realize the ensemble is actually very small. And that's intentional to match the small town, Longbourn, and surrounding it. They add it to a larger ensemble when you're in Netherfield, like 18 people. It's still not very large. And he also uses the pianoforte. He's the only one who uses it in the accompanying soundtrack. It has a very distinctive sound. That's the kind of piano or keyboard they would have had back then, instead of your modern keyboard. So, he's already grounding you in that early 1800s by the choice of size of instruments, the specific instruments he's using. And so that's one of the things that's really important throughout that specific miniseries. He also—the opening, the very opening [hums a few notes]—he intentionally makes it sound like a hunting call. So, even there's a little bit—especially in the return of Mr. Bingley—there's actually a little bit of a French Horn, which is often used more for hunting. And the idea is that they're hunting for husbands.

Ruth:  So that theme, throughout all six episodes or six hours, you will hear—especially in regards to Mrs. Bennett and Lydia and Jane and Elizabeth, all of them—it will come back in these exciting moments of whether Lydia is running off or Mr. Bingley is returning—the idea of hunting for husbands. And then the second theme, which is more lyrical, is more of their love theme. So, especially for Elizabeth, it is not specifically romantic, although a lot of it is used for Mr. Darcy. It will also be used for her love of friends. It plays when she visits Charlotte, and she also has it for her love for Jane. So, it's a wider range of love, but it's used for key moments—those two themes throughout the entire miniseries.

Breckyn:  Okay. If you teach me nothing else this entire episode, knowing that that song is a hunting theme, it's the best thing I have ever learned about Jane Austen. That's amazing. That is so good. Oh, my gosh. That's so fun. Okay, so there's so many other things going on, and I really like what you said about the size. Because in preparation for this, I've been thinking about other movie soundtracks, and like, oh, John Williams, right? He's like a household name of our time. Some of the greatest ones. I'm like, what if we had a Jane Austen/John Williams mashup? But maybe he wouldn't be right for that because he's got these huge orchestras and symphonies. And I love what you say about these small ensembles. It's who would have been in the town or in the surrounding area. That's really cool. Okay, so let's talk about the instruments that the characters play, right? Do you want to speak about that a bit?

Ruth:  So, one of the brilliant ways that—this happens in both Pride and Prejudice and Emma—is that the level of ability that is used, it really reflects the character. So, they definitely use a lot of classical music for what everybody's playing in Pride and Prejudice. You will have Mary, unfortunately, singing a very bad Handel song, and then you will have Mrs. Hurst come in and play the Turkish March by Mozart at a way-too-fast speed, just showing off her ability. And so you're contrasting their ability by using classical music. Georgiana at Pemberley plays this beautiful Beethoven piece, and then they have her play the wrong chord just at the right moment.

Breckyn:  I can hear that chord right now.

Ruth:  When you listen to the recording, you're like, where's that chord? But then it also—it switches harmonies right at that moment. And then they add a little bit of extra instruments into the piano piece as Mr. Darcy is starting to just fall in love even more with Elizabeth as that scene transitions.

Breckyn:  I don't think we said—probably most people know—but the reason she plays the wrong chord is because that's when Miss Bingley mentions Mr. Wickham, right?

Ruth:  Yes, and Elizabeth comes to her rescue to turn the page and talk about the harmony.

Breckyn:  And that's a great moment of storytelling through music.

Ruth:  Yes. There's a lot of great storytelling moments with the music, and that's definitely one of them that they used very well.

Breckyn:  So, are there any clips that you want to play from that one?

Ruth:  Well, I mean, it just—you have to have the opening to Pride and Prejudice, right?

Breckyn:  Right. I mean, we have both hummed it to the listeners.

Ruth:  Let's hear the real thing.

Music clip:  "Pride and Prejudice," theme from 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries soundtrack

Ruth:  You already get the first theme and the second theme that carries through. One of the things that he does in telling the story throughout is that sometimes it'll be major or it'll be minor or the tempo might change. But you hear it at the beginning of the episode, but it also plays at the end. So, it's—a book ending is a great way of telling the story. I think that's something that almost all the movies that we're talking about will do—is it's your opening music, it's your opening credits. And then it'll happen again at the double wedding. You have that—it's a much slower theme, but you still get to hear it in a more romantic setting. And then the hunting for husbands happens again, as Mrs. Bennet is just so thrilled that they have three daughters married.

Breckyn:  Success!

Ruth:  Success! Yes, exactly.

Breckyn:  So, tell us a bit about classical period music versus new original pieces. So that theme was written for the movies, right?

Ruth:  Yes, that is original music.

Breckyn:  So, for that adaptation and for most of them, how much are you getting new music, versus how much are you getting just Handel, and Mozart, and Beethoven?

Ruth:  That's a good question. I would say in the majority of them, the accompanying soundtrack for what you're watching is original music. And then you will have the classical music is what people are performing or what they're dancing to. You'll have exceptions, but those are usually what's happening. Now, Pride and Prejudice is long, so you have actually probably the most classical music of any of the adaptations outside of Love and Friendship, which is almost all classical music. But, yeah, the only exception really is that they do continue that Beethoven piece that Georgiana plays, and it comes back as Mr. Darcy comes back to the room and starts remembering that moment. That's really the only moment that the classical music is just not actually being performed. 

Breckyn:  Right. And you mentioned this a little bit—about how when characters perform music, it tells us more about their character. Of course, an aspect of Elizabeth's character is that she's okay at the piano. She says herself, I'm not that great, but she's more enjoyable to listen to than Mary, who is technically better, but pedantic. Can you talk about that a bit more? Because for a lot of people who don't play an instrument, we listen to Elizabeth play and we're like, I don't know, she sounds pretty good to me.

Ruth:  She sounds pretty good. And I think it's just in comparison to who you're listening to. So, they do a nice job of—she has a lovely voice when she's singing, although I don't think that's the actress herself. But she does do a lovely job in this version. But then if you compare it to Mrs. Hurst, who just brilliantly plays something, or even Georgiana, who's a little bit more clean and maybe a little bit more musical, you can tell a little bit of a difference. It's just not stark as with Mary, because you do actually hear Mary play a lot in this adaptation. A lot of it is in the background. She's doing a lot of the dances, and she's practicing and so forth. You actually do get to hear Mary play a lot.

Breckyn:  Poor Mary. So, let's pivot now to the 2005 adaptation with Keira Knightley. Even if you're a diehard fan of the '95 miniseries and you have no room in your heart for another Pride and Prejudice, there is no denying that the soundtrack is gorgeous, right? So much so that Ruth wants to take it on a desert island. It's sweeping, it's brooding, it's a little moody, but it also has a lot of fun upbeat numbers. I really like the dance song during the assembly at Meryton. That one's very lively. So, Ruth, what are some things that this soundtrack does really well?

Ruth:  Well, speaking of the dances, they actually do the opposite as regards to size from the miniseries. So, the Meryton Ball—you have this large folk ensemble. It's actually quite a few people in that large assembly ball barn, whatever it is that they're dancing in. And then they have a much smaller ensemble, a little bit more maybe sophisticated for Pember—not Pemberley, Netherfield. And so, they just swap which size is bigger and which one's smaller for their dances, which is really interesting.

Ruth:  The composer, Dario Marianelli, does base it on an early Beethoven sonata. So, he has the idea of his original music, of having the melody and the harmony really reflect an early Beethoven sonata on piano, but he changes the rhythm. So, it doesn't have a rhythmic structure that you would expect from the late 1700s, early 1800s. It's much more fluid, which fits much more with the fluidity of the piece and the beauty of how it looks. And the rhythm will often reflect Elizabeth's state of mental—or emotional state. So, for example, when she is swinging around on the swing and she's contemplating—Charlotte is marrying Mr. Collins. What happened with Jane and Mr. Bingley? What's going on?—there's a rhythmic quality of a repeated pattern in the left hand, but the melody is slightly jagged. It's not quite on because it's reflecting her emotional state of what's happening.

Ruth:  The opening theme, which, again, bookends to the end for the UK— there are two different endings for the UK versus the US, which is super exciting. But that's a theme that reflects "home." That's "Dawn." That's the one that I think everybody knows the most. And this theme is also the theme that Elizabeth will play when she's at Lady Catherine de Bourgh's. So, this is what we call diegetic music, where it's a piece that you get to hear accompanying her theme, but then the characters themselves know it. So, she plays it very badly. I mean, this Elizabeth does not play well at all. And then she hears Georgiana play it well later on when she's visiting Pemberley. That actually draws her into looking and hearing, following the music. So, this theme is the idea of home, the Bennet family, and so forth. So that's a little bit of a difference instead of her playing classical music. She's actually playing a piece that is her theme throughout.

Breckyn:  Let's play that clip. Let's play a clip of it, and then people can listen to it, and then we can talk about it a bit.

Music Clip:  "Dawn," from 2005 Pride and Prejudice soundtrack

Breckyn:  So, for that one—and I think you mentioned syncopation, where it's not right on the beat . . .

Ruth:  Yeah, it sounds like it flows together, but there's a little bit of off-syncopation between the two hands.

Breckyn:  Because I know a lot of 15-year-old girls who watch this movie, and then they're like, I need the piano music. I have—my babysitter, who is a 16-year-old girl and an excellent pianist, told me it's actually really hard. It sounds very—it's deceptively simple because it flows and it's that nice high tinkling sound, but it's hard.

Ruth:  It's hard. But that also shows the quality of pianist that they have, because he makes it sound effortless and easy. And then you look at the piano music and you realize, Oh, wait, that doesn't line up quite so nicely as I thought it would.

Breckyn:  A lot of people who picked up the music thinking that they could play the soundtrack, they're like, Oh, never mind. I'm not good enough to play this. Okay, so what were some other—there was one more clip that you wanted to share from this one, right?

Ruth:  Yes. So this one is Elizabeth's journey. This is Elizabeth's theme. And this particular Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice is a lot more thoughtful. There's not as much humor in this particular adaptation; that's not where they're going. So, you'll often have moments where you can just see her either staring out or contemplating in different areas throughout the movie. And so this theme carries through. One of those is when she's swinging around the swing. And then it also transforms to probably the most famous piece of music, which is when she's standing on the cliffside, and the music is sweeping, and it's high above in the violins. And that's the same music as Mr. Darcy is walking out in the mist, which is—yeah, that's the romantic moment. You have to get past the fact that they're both in their night clothes. But it's just—it is the sweeping romantic theme. But then it transforms under all the piano and all the motion of the French horns and the harp glissandos, you have the high violins playing the theme really well. And then at the very end, when they're both at Pemberley, that's probably the most romantic version of that theme.

Ruth:  So, it really gets transformed again into probably the most romantic part as far as the music is concerned.

Breckyn:  Right. Let's listen to that clip.

Ruth:  We're going to listen to "Mrs. Darcy."

Music Clip:  "Mrs Darcy," from 2005 Pride and Prejudice soundtrack

Breckyn:  It's amazing how there can be so much going on beneath the surface, and if you're not musically inclined or don't know all the terms, it can still make you feel—like you said in the beginning—it makes me feel all the things that you've said, but now you have all this technical vocabulary to help describe what's happening.

Ruth:  Yeah. And when you're doing a lot of romantic music, you will often have the harp doing all these rolls or glissandos, and you'll often have the violins very high. And that gives you the feeling of soaring. That happens for romance or flying. Actually, if you watch a good flying theme, either way, the idea is to help you feel like you're soaring or that feeling of love. So, most of your big moments in any romantic film, really, will often have that high violin, some harp, soaring . . .

Breckyn:  A crescendo.

Ruth:  Yeah, a growth to that moment.

Breckyn:  So, Ruth, before we move on from Pride and Prejudice, I think we should briefly mention "Mr. Beveridge's Maggot," which a lot of people will immediately know what we're talking about. But for those of you who don't, and you're wondering why we're talking about maggots, "Mr. Beveridge's Maggot" is a popular 18th century country dance tune, and it's a song that Darcy and Elizabeth first dance to at the Netherfield ball in the '95 version, and then Emma and Knightley dance to it in the '96 version of Emma, right? So that's going to bridge us to Emma. So, what's happening in the two films? And tell us a bit more about that famous tune and dance.

Ruth:  Sure. So, that film—that dance actually is from Playford. It's a group of dances, actually, even from, I think, the 1600s. So, some of these dance tunes have been around for a really long time. That's one of the things that I think all the movies have in common is that they, or at least these four, is that they'll use specific dance tunes that have been around for a long time. They're not creating their own music, which sometimes that will happen in other adaptations for especially your special dance. But here they really—I guess they both really loved that tune, because even though the instrumentation is very different, they definitely really loved that specific maggot, which is a dance and not the insect.

Breckyn:  It's the one that's always requested at English country dances, when people are dressing up like Jane Austen characters. Everyone wants to dance the maggot.

Ruth:  Exactly. And sometimes they will have special dances where they'll slightly change it. So, the 2005 Pride and Prejudice, they use a tune from an opera by Purcell, but then they'll bring in lots of instruments when everybody disappears, which is always fun. For the two Emma movies, what's interesting is the special dance, even though it's the—physicality is clearly the special dance between Emma and Mr. Knightley—the special dance is actually more Harriet and Mr. Knightley. So, for example, you have this smaller ensemble accompanying them, and then when Mr. Knightley comes in, the larger orchestra gets bigger to demonstrate that this is a big moment—not only for Harriet, but for Emma as well, watching Mr. Knightley come to the rescue.

Breckyn:  He's the hero.

Ruth:  Yes. And even in the soundtrack it's called "The Dance." They don't have "Mr. Beveridge's Maggot" on that soundtrack, but they have "The Dance" because this is the important moment. In the 2020 Emma it is also just all these dance tunes, and then this high soprano voice comes as the light is streaming behind him like an angelic—like here comes Mr. Knightley to the rescue. So, it's really humorous, but that's the dance moment, if you will—the angelic soprano voice as he comes out. And then it goes back into dance tunes.

Breckyn:  Yeah, because it's such an important part of Knightley's character, right? His compassion and his goodness.

Ruth:  Yes. That's your special dance.

Breckyn:  So, let's talk about Emma now. That's a perfect segue into Emma. I absolutely love the '96 Gwyneth Paltrow version, but I will say that the 2020 version definitely has a more interesting and distinctive soundtrack. There's so much going on in it. So, what stood out to me the most was that it uses vocals as well as instrumentation. I can't even think of another Austen adaptation that does that. There's opera, there are hymns and folk songs. What's going on here, Ruth?

Ruth:  So, in the 2020 edition, she really decides to—Isobel Waller-Bridge, and David Schweitzer also works with her—but the director really wanted it to—you have the folk songs for a specific class. So, you have Mrs. Goddard's school, especially, and then you'll also have them just entering the town, and that's usually when you get your folk tunes. Now, I will say these are all previously recorded folk songs. So, Maddy Prior, who is a famous folk song artist from the UK—some of these are going back as far as the '70s. So, they're not re-recording these songs. They chose the specific versions that they liked of these songs. They went, yes, that's what we want to do. And then, to have the other side of things, you have classical music. You have a Haydn symphony for Donwell Abbey. And you go, okay, this is the highest level in the area. Here's the regal, classical music class structure, if you will, of having that. And then you have the Italian opera for Emma, particularly Emma herself, which already gives you an idea—even if you have no idea what they're singing—it gives you an idea of her character. She often has the Italian singers, she has harp, and I think some bells for her specific character.

Breckyn:  Well, let's play that clip from the very beginning. It's just called "Emma Woodhouse."

Ruth:  Yes, "Emma Woodhouse," and you already know exactly what kind of person she is.

Breckyn:  Yeah. And it really sets the tone for her as a character and for the whole movie, because it's also a little bizarre. There's something about the 2020—it almost has like some Wes Anderson vibes or something. It's a little odd in a fun way.

Ruth:  It's a fun way. It's definitely comedy, maybe more than a romantic comedy, which is more the '96 one. The '96 is a romantic comedy. This one is a little bit of comedy with romance, if you will.

Breckyn:  It's absurdist humor, almost. Before you even hear Mr. Knightley speak anything, you see his entire naked backside. I remember like, what am I watching? Yeah, and the music definitely goes along with that.

Ruth:  The music, yes, that's one of the things that's really great. Almost every character gets their own theme and their own instrument. So, when he came walking across the field the first time, I remember in the theater going, oh, they're using French horn. Well, that's not subtle. That is "here's the hero. Here's the landowner." Yeah, exactly. He went, well, okay. Both—in the cases of Emma and Mr. Knightley, it was just really obvious with the music, what kind of people they were. So, here is Emma.

Music Clip:  "Emma Woodhouse," from 2020 Emma soundtrack

Breckyn:  It's so silly.

Ruth:  It's delightful. I will say that this soundtrack, to me, in some ways, reminds me of Jane Austen's wit. It's like listening to her book in music form. It's just very funny, and it's pretty delightful as well. One of the things—when Harriet and Mr. Martin meet for the first time, it sounds twitterpated. You can hear them with their different instruments, but there are all these flutes moving around and different things. You can just hear how everybody's feeling.

Breckyn:  And I feel like that–with starting off with that Italian duet [hums a few notes], immediately I'm like, oh, I'm not supposed to take this character seriously. Clearly, she takes herself very seriously, but I, as the viewer, am not going to really take anything she says seriously. And it's really amazing to do that with music. It's really well done.

Ruth:  Yes.

Breckyn:  And so, I love the folk songs and the hymns. I mean, “How Firm a Foundation"—when they started singing that, my husband and I were like, "we sing that at church. Huh. Interesting." It's familiar songs, old songs.

Ruth:  Yes.

Breckyn:  And Johnny Flynn is the actor that plays Mr. Knightley. He's a folk singer/songwriter. Do you think that influenced any of the soundtrack choices?

Ruth:  Oh, absolutely. He wrote "Queen Bee." The music at the end, it's for the end credits. He wrote and sang that, so they clearly knew, okay, we're doing this. And he also performs a song with Jane Fairfax in the middle.

Breckyn:  He gets a violin. That's delightful.

Ruth:  He gets a violin. Yeah. That is clearly, "we have this actor who can perform. So, let's not do it with Frank Churchill. Let's do it with Mr. Knightley instead, and just slightly tweak that because we have this singer. The lady who plays Jane Fairfax, Amber, actually recorded her own piano pieces. So, I will say that is pretty rare. Usually, it's either the composer or someone else who you'll see the hands moving, but you won't actually hear them—the actors perform. But she's so good that you could actually hear her performance of the Mozart and the Beethoven that she plays. And they do actually play the keyboard. They do play a pianoforte. That's the other movie that uses a pianoforte outside of the '95 miniseries.

Breckyn:  Instead of a modern piano.

Ruth:  Yes. And even with that, it's slightly out of tune. So, it really gives it a very authentic sound because they're actually really hard to keep in tune. So, they're just like, "okay, let's go with it."

Breckyn:  Yeah, let's talk about that, because there's another scene in Pride and Prejudice when Mary sits down and plays, and then Mrs. Hurst shows her up. There's a scene where Emma plays her pretty little song, and then Jane Fairfax sits down and like, boom. It doesn't actually sound that good, so I'm glad you've told me why—because it's a little bit out of tune. But can you tell a little bit about the storytelling that's going on there or the characterization?

Ruth:  So, it's a great character moment because they do it in both movies, and in a slightly different way. Emma's a little affected when she's showing off her talent, and even when she finishes off the song, she puts her head down a little bit, being super dramatic about her song. And then Harriet is like, oh, there's no one who can play as well as you do. And it's definitely in the story that Jane Fairfax is better, and Emma knows it. But then she just sits down and goes straight into this fast Mozart piece, and it is just really brilliantly done, and they both are just shaken out of like. . . .

Breckyn:  They're complacency.

Ruth:  Emma is clearly not better. Yes. In the '96 Emma, they do singing instead of piano performances. And even the voice of Jane Fairfax is much more operatic and less untrained. So even in that—in her choices of songs— Emma's is always a little bit more of a folk, easy song because that's what she can manage, and she knows she can do it well. And then Jane has all this talent and is always much better. So those are great ways of including what is already written in the story and just musically telling that story in both Emma's.

Breckyn:  And another moment that made me laugh out loud in the 2020 is when Knightley is first coming to Emma's house, and she sees him out the window, and she immediately sits down at the pianoforte. So, when he comes in, she's just like, oh, I've just been practicing.

Ruth:  I've been practicing. Yeah, exactly. Don't mind me. Just playing.

Breckyn:  Emma only performs if there's an audience to appreciate her.

Ruth:  Yes. Where Jane Fairfax—later on when she's making her decision about becoming a governess, you can hear her work through her emotions in playing a little bit of Beethoven, which you hear as Emma starts coming towards the house. She's doing it because she emotionally connects with it, where Emma is clearly showing, just showing that she's practicing to Mr. Knightley.

Breckyn:  So, she can show off. So, less distinctive, but still very pretty—tell us some things about—what are some of the aspects of the '96 soundtrack that stand out to you or that you think are really well done?

Ruth:  Yes. So, the Emma 96, written by Rachel Portman—actually she won an Oscar for that score. And she was actually—it may have been the first one or one of the first ones for a female composer to win an Oscar. So, that in itself is pretty exciting, and it's very much in the romantic comedy vibe. So, you definitely have the romance aspect. Almost all Jane Austen adaptations will have piano and harp, which makes sense because you will have characters who are playing the piano and/or the harp in every adaptation, basically, or story. And so that will often be throughout your entire—your soundtracks. Emma '96 version—the harp is very clearly part of the score. The only time you hear the piano is actually when the characters are performing. So, it's one of the few where you're not actually hearing very much piano. Harp is more romantic, and also it is usually, probably—you could say it's a little bit more of a richer instrument. You know, you can afford it more if you're—so in some ways, with both Emmas, it gives us a sense of class, in many ways of using the harp, which is always pretty, which is pretty fun.

And then you often will have a lot of comedy throughout. Both Emmas do a great job of physical comedy, and then the music will be almost choreographed to that. So, the 2020 is almost extreme, where you hear a bell as the head turns, or the sheet is going—throwing off hitting the servant. There's definitely an instrument moment with those. With the '96 Emma, there's often lots of pauses, such as when she's planting seeds about Mr. Elton, and suggesting—getting the mind working about Mr. Martin didn't get that book, and then there's a pause, and then the music will continue. So, the idea of comedy is as much about silence and then filling in the rhythmic spaces to match what is happening. So, those are the two aspects. And then the other side of things is that you hear a lot of, again, similar instrumentation throughout most of them. You have the strings, you have solo clarinet, you have solo flute, and so forth—a little bit of French horn. At the very end you do have a little bit of trumpet. That's one of the few moments you have trumpet in a Jane Austen adaptation—when they're at the wedding, for an extra measure of celebration.

Ruth:  But even within a larger—it feels very much more of a modern score. It actually matches a lot of other Rachel Portman scores. You can always recognize a Rachel Portman score. They all have very similar sounds and harmonies, but yet it still fits within the world of Austen in some ways.

Breckyn:  Well, let's listen to—you had a couple of clips that you wanted to play. I know that you were just talking about comedy. Can we do "Celery Root"?

Ruth:  Yes, we can do "Celery Root."

Breckyn:  That's a great one, because you listen to it, and in the movie Emma's sneaking around and trying to—it's when she pretends to break her shoelace so that she can hang back and give Mr. Elton and Harriet some time alone so he can declare his love. And she's like, peaking around a tree, I think, and trying to watch them.

Ruth:  She's waiting. Yes. And then the music picks up pace-wise because there's this little boy who's walking along, and he's supposedly walking fast. And she's like, oh, I'll walk with you. And then he starts moving fast, and she's like, no, wait. And so the music starts picking up with that.

Music Clip:  "Celery Root," from 1996 Emma soundtrack

Ruth:  You can definitely hear it pick up.

Breckyn:  It does get a lot faster, yeah. And what is that main instrument? Is it an oboe that you're hearing?

Ruth:  I think it was clarinet, actually.

Breckyn:  Yeah, clarinet. Just whatever it is, it's playful and mischievous, and—I don't have the vocabulary like you to describe why. I don't know why it makes me feel that way, but it just does. And it does a really good job.

Ruth:  She does. And that opening bit was what I would call her matchmaking theme, because it definitely would come through every time she's trying to matchmake for Harriet. She was really trying, really hard throughout. And then she gets overly dramatic. And that's the other thing that both of the—all three Emmas do really well, actually, including the miniseries. They all have moments where they're just like, her imagination goes wild, and then the music reflects that. So, one of the most dramatic moments, musically, it sounds like Jaws. It's just going [hums a few notes], and it's when she's realizing she can't handle it anymore. She wakes up in the middle of the night and replaces Harriet's portrait with a dog. And it's just so delightfully over the top. But yeah, the music makes it sound like things are dire.

Breckyn:  She's going to murder someone. It sounds like she's going to go smother Harriet in her sleep, and then, really, she just takes down the portrait.

Ruth:  She just takes down the picture and replaces it with a dog. So, yeah, it's delightfully over dramatic to match, sometimes, her emotional state, if you will.

Breckyn:  Definitely. Do we want to talk about Ewan McGregor and his dreamy vocals? We don't have to, but I just love any chance to listen to him.

Ruth:  Both Ewan McGregor and Gwyneth Paltrow—I think Gwyneth Paltrow's dad is a singer. So, they did a lovely duet together, where he could sing actually more of the melody—which, again, fits very well with Frank Churchill.

Breckyn:  Taking the lead.

Ruth:  Taking the lead, and then she's singing more harmony underneath. So, it was a great way of using, again, actors that they knew had at least some musical talent. This was before Moulin Rouge, so that's really, I think, the moment . . .

Breckyn:  Was it?

Ruth:  Yeah. So that's really, I think, when everybody's like, oh, he can sing. This is like his early entrance into being like, hey, I can do a little bit of singing. But also it's not—he has a one or two notes where you go, okay, there's a little bit of maybe the untrained sound of his voice a little bit. But it is pretty fun to use the actors to sing.

Breckyn:  Yeah. There's so much more that I want to talk about. Is there anything else that we didn't hit that you just really want to get in there?

Ruth:  Well, I'm wondering if we should just hear a little bit of the opening of Emma. Because that definitely matches—

Breckyn:  Yeah, since we listened to the opera one.

Ruth:  We listened to the opening of all the other ones, because this also fits a little bit more with the style of Emma herself in this particular version, because it is her theme.

Breckyn:  And this is where we definitely hear the harp, right?

Ruth:  The harp and the strings. Yes.

Music Clip:  "Main Titles," from 1996 Emma soundtrack

Ruth:  The music does pick up and go almost into a faster version, both at the end of this opening section—basically with both weddings. So, you'll have Miss Taylor's wedding reception, and then you'll have the wedding at the end, where it's about twice as fast. So it's jauntier. There's a lot more movement, but it's still essentially the same melody.

Breckyn:  And that's also—there's an Earth spinning, right?

Ruth:  Yes, you get to see the characters on the globe that she essentially painted for Miss Taylor at the beginning of this one. I will also give just beautiful credit to all four composers of the different ones we talked about, because they all have melodies you can remember. It comes back fairly frequently in telling the story, but it is also a melody. Some of the other adaptations, it much more gives you a sense of the emotion, but it doesn't have a melody you can easily sing afterwards. And one of the great things about these adaptations is they have memorable melodies that you do want to play, or you want to have other people play, or have them play at your wedding, which I think has happened for almost all of those.

Breckyn:  Or that you can just hum to yourself because . . .

Ruth:  Exactly. You can just sing along with it.

Breckyn:  Yeah. No, that was fantastic. Ruth, this has been so much fun. I could talk to you for so much longer. I definitely think we're going to have to have a Part Two where we talk about some of the other adaptations. But where can our listeners go to learn more about your work?

Ruth:  Sure. I have a website, ruthmudge.com. That's probably the easiest. I also have World of Soundtracks on Instagram, which is W-O Soundtracks, and Twitter. Well, I guess that's X now.

Breckyn:  And you can listen to it on Apple Podcasts?

Ruth:  You can listen to the podcast World of Soundtracks on Apple and Spotify and Amazon and a few other ones, which I've discovered. Those are always fun. And then I also do have a Facebook group as well for the World of Soundtracks.

Breckyn:  Great. And if you're in the Chicago area, maybe go check out her symphony. What's the name of it again?

Ruth:  The Elmhurst Symphony.

Breckyn:  Yes. That's awesome. Okay, well, this has been so much fun. Thank you, Ruth.

Ruth:  Thank you so much. I really loved being here.

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Breckyn:  Okay, everyone, it's time for another helping of JASNA News. Did you know that JASNA has a special program designed to help schools, libraries, and community groups introduce Jane Austen to young and diverse readers? Well, we do, and it's awesome. It's called the Jane Austen Book Box program, and here's the scoop.

If you're a teacher, librarian, or the organizer of a reading program in the U.S. or Canada, and you work with students anywhere from kindergarten through 12th grade, you can apply for a free Jane Austen Book Box to use in a class or program of your own design. In fact, we're now accepting applications for next school year. If that's something you want to organize, apply now to avoid being disappointed. Book Boxes are awarded to qualified applicants on a first-come, first-served basis until the funding is gone.

Here's how it works. When an application is approved by our Book Box Committee, the recipient chooses which Austen-related books will be shipped to them. A wide variety of titles are available, such as Austen's classic novels, including annotated editions and Spanish translations, modern adaptations, graphic novels, children's adaptations, and more. We only require that the students are able to keep the books for their personal libraries and that you submit a follow-up report on the outcome of the program or project.

For more details on how the program works, some inspiration from past programs, and an application form, please visit our Book Box Program webpage: jasna.org/programs/jabookbox.

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Breckyn:  Now it's time for "In Her Own Words," a segment where listeners share a favorite Austen quote or two.

Deb Barnum:  Hi there. My name is Deb Barnum. I'm a member of the South Carolina and Vermont Regions and a life member of JASNA. I've chosen a few quotes from Northanger Abbey. In Volume 1, Chapter 5, Jane Austen pops in as narrator to discourse on the state of novels.

"'Oh! It is only a novel! . . . It is only Cecilia, or Camilla, or Belinda'; or, in short, only some work in which the greatest powers of the mind are displayed, in which the most thorough knowledge of human nature, the happiest delineation of its varieties, the liveliest effusions of wit and humour, are conveyed to the world in the best-chosen language."

Our hero, Henry Tilney, a possible stand-in for Austen herself, also defends the novel—even the likes of Radcliffe's Udolpho, which he finishes in two days. No small feat. "The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid."

Austen later posits that “a woman, especially if she has the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can. . . . imbecility in females is a great enhancement of their personal charms.” I readily admit it took me three reads to actually get Northanger Abbey—a young Austen at the beginning of her prime, propelling herself into the narrative to expound on reading, other women writers, and the education of females. And of course, the lovely greatcoated Henry Tilney is quite to die for. Read it again if you missed all this on a first go-round. You are in for a treat.

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Breckyn:  Hello, dear listeners. I just wanted to ask you a favor. If you've enjoyed listening to Austen Chat, please give us a five-star review on Apple Podcasts and leave a comment saying what you like about the show. The more positive reviews we get, the more people will see and hear about the podcast, and the more Austen fans we'll find to join our community. Though Emma Woodhouse may have disagreed, I side with Mr. Weston, "one cannot have too large a party" or too many Janeites. Also, just a reminder to follow JASNA on Facebook and Instagram for updates about the podcast, or to send us a line at our email address, podcast@jasna.org, if you have any comments, questions, or suggestions.

[Theme music]

 

“I am fond of superior society.”

Pride and Prejudice