Composers don't score to the script, they score to the rough cut of the film. ...
Yes, I know all that and didn't mean to suggest otherwise. But I cannot believe that Duning came up with the Empath
score in only a matter of weeks (while working on Is There
for the same deadline, the early-September scoring session). Filming of The Empath
didn't conclude until early August; somewhere I have the exact date (the call sheet in the USC archive for the last day of filming specified CLOSED SET for the 4th act; that, I remember).
The main theme - and especially its long extension in the 4th act - has a rhythmic suppleness that is most
unusual and likely involved a lot of trial and error, trying different combinations of note values to achieve the desired flow of melody and the corresponding harmonic rhythm. That is, the main theme has no "pulse" or definite upbeat/downbeat pattern; the meter seems always to be changing.
Yet the music that develops from this is coherent anyway because of frequent use of the first notes of the original statement of the Gem theme, with the second note a minor third up from the first note (just like the first two notes of the main themes of Metamorphosis
, Return to Tomorrow
, and Is There
) and, like those other scores, continuing with many additional skips up and down by a third, as is characteristic of Duning's melodies; indeed, the first five notes of the Return
theme are nothing but upward motion by alternating minor and major thirds - for example, A-C-E-G-B or D-F-A-C-E. (The first six notes of Gem's theme are those same five notes from Return
plus an added note to give stepwise motion - e.g., A-C-E-F-G-B.)
The rhythmic suppleness necessary for the poignancy that The Empath
demanded couldn't have been quick and easy to achieve, unless Duning had written something independently months or years earlier that turned out to be appropriate or at least adaptable.* Hence, I think Duning had early knowledge of the script. If he wasn't provided with such early knowledge, he should
have been in this special case, because of the several long dialogue-free passages that any version of the script would have had to include.
*Such things do happen. When the magazine I work for began its weekly podcast, 6 or 7 years ago, I was asked to supply some music (being the only staff member with a musical academic background), and it turned out that something I'd improvised and recorded as a teenager in the 1970s - as part of "program music" describing an invitational youth-group basketball tournament I'd attended, of all things - was ideally suited to be the basis of the main podcast theme.