By Mikko Ojala
Title: The White Queen
Composer: John Lunn
The Film: The White Queen is a British BBC One and Starz produced historical period drama series from 2013 based on Philippa Gregory’s best selling historical novels, which are set against the backdrop of The War of the Roses and focus on the actions of the women of the powerful feuding families.
The Score: Lunn’s approach seems to be in line with the way most modern television series use music, which is to say it is mostly delicate and focuses on supporting the drama rather than taking the forefront in the storytelling. The music for The White Queen, scored for mainly a string ensemble (in this case consisting of members of the Brussels’ Philharmonic Orchestra, harp, percussion and synthesizers) and the composer utilizes the palette at his disposal admirably. The score is mostly concerned with emotional and psychological underpinnings and political manoeuvring, ready to give the dialogue, romance and scheming that extra bit of dramatic edge and Lunn does so with subtle hand yet infuses his themes with notable melodicism.
Distinguishing Features: Lunn’s score impresses with the manipulation of the basic element of rhythm as he crafts a whole host of subtle ostinati based suspenseful thematic ideas and weaves them around the central romantic White Queen theme and the supporting melodies. The yearning drama of the pieces like ”Coronation”, ”Birth, Marriage, Death” and the ”Battle of Boswell” is highly impressive despite the limited orchestral forces and while Lunn’s would seem to dip quite heavily on the modern tropes of film scoring with his ostinati driven writing there is plenty of classy orchestral refinement to his work.
Final Thoughts: With The White Queen John Lunn has written a compelling dramatic score which is reminiscent of his work on other similar period pieces like the popular Downton Abbey. The composer handles the relatively small (for a television production actually very generous) forces of his ensemble expertly and builds a subtle yet surprisingly powerful dramatic arc full of musical skulduggery, romance and suspense on the soundtrack album (released in 2014) which clocks just shy of 50 minutes but never overstays its welcome. Even though the album might be a bit repetitive in places due to the rhythmic nature of many of the thematic ideas and doesn’t quite reach full marks on gripping memorability it is none the less a fine piece of television scoring which showcases intelligence and emotion in equal measure and benefits from multiple listens.
The White Queen is out now from Silva Screen Records