This 4’16” clip from Episode 3 of HBO’s hit show Westworld is a chase sequence. It’s a hybrid composition of orchestral and synthetic sounds forming the driving background to the gunfire and explosions on the screen.
Watch through the video and I’ll walk through the composition after.
Breakdown of the Composition
|Description of Music
|Scene starts with mumbled talking, no music
|Gunfire starts. Music comes in with an unsettling 5/4 rhythm provided by a piano playing tritone arpeggios and percussion alternating between 3 on beats and 3 half-beats on each measure
|Low brass and strings come in to punctuate the danger, but play 3 neighbor tones to the tonic to emphasize the beginning of each 5/4 measure. In addition, a low brassy trombone combo plays rising tritones in the background.
|The scene switches to the male character suffering from drug-induced haze. The music includes a series of synthesized drones and sound effects to highlight the “out of body” experience. Electricity effects are added to compliment the video buffering we see on the screen.
|The piano ostinato returns, but in 4/4 time as the characters are ready to take over control of the chase.
|“We need distance.” The moment the characters take control, a drum beat emerges which continues the 4/4 pattern into a more classic beat.
|We get a synthesized drop as their car turns the corner to head out away from their pursuers.
|As the view switches to aerial, violins are brought in with a short ostinato pattern of diminished chords separated by a half step.
|With a cymbal roll, the violins stop and we re-enter the view of the car as they prepare to fire back. The drum pattern elevates slightly by adding in new elements and fills.
|As the female character breaks the top of the car viewport, the drumbeat accelerates to a full rock beat. Cymbal rolls fill every 4th measure.
|A brief low brass and string ensemble plays a sustained tone to highlight the man hanging out the window shooting.
|As the car makes a “sharp left”, the violins return with the violas with a similar ostinato – but on augmented chords this time to add to the tension, but move to a decidedly more “aggressive” stance to match their on-screen counterparts.
|As he finally fires the rocket, the high strings hold a tremolo waiting for impact.
|The music stops as he realizes he has missed.
|As we see the rocket return back towards it’s target, we get a reversed audio effect of the rocket and a return to the driving 4/4 drum beat we had before.
|On impact, the music includes a few sound design elements to enhance the explosion sound. The driving beat continues on underneath
|As the car begins to accelerate, the strings play octave tremolos ascending half-steps building tension.
|The car stops and so does the music briefly, giving silence for the characters to set themselves up for a final battle.
|Strong war drums beat slowly as they await the final face off with their pursuers.
|As the motorcycle drives towards the car, a lone trumpet blow a flutter note which matches the engine sound as it makes it’s kamakazie run at the car.
|As the final car explodes, another drop punctuates the sound.
|The final build up chord as the male character comes to terms with what just happened. End with a tutti hit of the orchestra as we see the scene end screens roll.