Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and it has us thinking about love stories. We’re fans of them all, but we’re rather partial to those that unfold on the silver screen. Love stories aren’t all romantic, though. They come in many different shapes and sizes and can be told through many different mediums. But whether it’s a story of sisterly love told across the scandinavian countryside or the story of missed connections in a black-and-white New York City, the pictures in these on-screen tales rely on music to convey additional emotion. This is something composer Christophe Beck, winner of a recent Annie award for his work on Frozen, knows better than most. Among many other things over the last several decades of his career, Christophe provided the score for this year’s Frozen and last year’s Paperman. Of his job, he says simply “it’s all storytelling through music.”
“In the case of Frozen,” says Christophe, “it was interesting because the main love was a sisterly love.” This meant the musical accompaniment had to be adjusted to accommodate the situation. “Sisterly love is beautiful and heartfelt,” he says “but with less of the tropes of a traditional romantic theme. It would be a little bit simpler.”
He noted that there was a love theme for Kristoff and Anna, but that it was rather sad sounding because it was first introduced when they parted ways. “The introduction of Kristoff and Anna comes at a particularly bittersweet moment,” he says. “So because that’s where the theme was introduced it has that melancholy twinge to it.”
Paperman, however, was a slightly different story. In fact, some parts of the animation were built around the music Christophe was writing. For Paperman, says Christophe, music is what the story is all about: “Paperman is a microcosm. The first half music is flirtatious and bubbly and emblematic of young love blossoming. And it’s toward the end where the music turns more overtly romantic and even longing as he’s racing after her.”
As far as which instruments he uses for a love story, Christophe says, “Frozen’s structure is a lot more complex, but certainly when you think of love themes you think of the more tender, the softer instruments like woodwinds, piano, and strings.” While he says that’s typical, he made sure to caveat that “A creative composer can make a beautiful love theme with six horns.” And when it comes to love, no two stories in life are ever the same, so why would two themes be?
“Really anything goes,” he says. “It’s just a matter of execution and making things feel right with the picture.”
Before we leave you with all that to ponder while you hear love songs leading up to Valentine’s Day, here’s a fun fact about the soundtrack which is available now for purchase: Christophe’s daughter can be heard on the Frozen score as she’s a very talented 9-year-old violinist.