Franz Waxman: Sunset Boulevard Prelude


Sunset Boulevard is a 1950 film noir with music from German composer, Franz Waxman. The film score was the last thing to be added to the film, and Waxman took great care on how themes would represent different characters, in particular the character of Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson). Waxman took inspirations from a number of different places such as film music styles from the 1920s and classic tango music. 


The Music

The prelude to Sunset Boulevard is the first thing heard in the film. It opens with a big orchestral sound that soon morphs into the first main theme. Similar to an overture from a musical or opera, this prelude journeys through some of the main musical highlights of the film. From the opening brass-led theme to the central slow and eerie display, the prelude will certainly keep you interested and entice you to watch the film. 

Waxman’s orchestrations are intriguing as he uses different sections as vehicles for themes. The 1920s theme, which represents Norma’s declining state of mind, is played primarily by the brass. The tango theme, which is resonant of the dancing scene in the film, is led by the strings in a more traditional way. The slow and eerie section lasts for nearly half of the prelude before a pulsating figure leads the orchestra into a slightly faster place. This soon dissolves, with only sustained strings and a piano to finish the prelude off and leaving many unanswered questions.


Ⓒ Alex Burns

Happy Reading!

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