About the Themes and Development
directed by Brett Cramer
The music in Charlie fully commits to the kids' imagination for most of the film. Once the imagined battle begins to have an effect on our protagonist the music shifts to the 'real world.' The most complex, layered part of the music is the final climactic build, where the two worlds fuse. Here are some of the building blocks for this captivating short film. The above excerpt begins at around the 3 minute mark of the film. The youtube version from which the time codes are taken will be available after the festival run.
I decided early on that I wanted to work with a 7/8 rhythm. I think of it as the often-used 4/4 signature with the last eight note cut off (4/4 -> 8/8 -> 7/8), creating an 'incomplete' and forward-moving rhythm where the down-beats do not get monotonous. The rhythm is first heard at 1:10, as we switch from the introductory 2/4 march to 7/8. It also comes back in all of the big action sequences and functions as a thread through the film.
We hear the full statement of Charlie Theme A only once, at 3:29. However, throughout the first three minutes we hear the first five notes stated quietly and repeatedly, at 0:39. It functions as a suspenseful motif that foreshadows the big statement at 3:29. Creating a theme that was not heroic, dark or overly expressive was important for the narrative. The 7/8 rhythm lends effective forward-motion to this theme.
Charlie Theme B is introduced only twice and functions more as a part of a larger texture than a fore-ground thematic element. It is first heard at 4:50 as the "bullies" unload on Charlie. The slow, dramatic music plays against the ruthlessness. The entire strings crescendo leading up to 5:04 is derived from this theme. The dramatic visual style of the scene was used as the main guide for determining just how 'big' to go with the music.
At 5:26 Charlie begins to faint and, again, the music looks to match the stylistic treatment of the scene. The chromatic choir rise is rooted in Charlie's panic. Until this point the music hasn't been overly chromatic. In the few places where it has been chromatic, the resolutions were tightly controlled. Departure from the harmonic fabric established in the film prior to this moment helps communicate the helplessness and urgency with more efficiency.
Another cool musical moment happens at 3:40. This motive is again the first three notes of Theme A but here it's been altered rhythmically, now in a 2/4 pattern -- repeating over and over. The rising suspension is achieved by adding the same idea a minor third above, then a tritone above. At the climax of this crescendo we switch back to 7/8 and the Charlie Battle Rhythm comes back.