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Free PDF: Jascha Heifetz – The Soul of a Violinist

Free PDF: Jascha Heifetz – The Soul of a Violinist

Get this free PDF to learn from Heifetz himself in this insightful interview dating back to the early 20th century.

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Composer Ludwig Göransson has been making a serious name for himself in Hollywood in the last several years, especially following successes with his work on both Black Panther films, The Mandalorian, and Creed I and II.

Tonight, Göransson received his second Academy Award for his work on the score for Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer.

It was a culmination of 9 months of work on a score that lasted for the vast majority of the runtime of Nolan’s 3+ hour film.

Yet despite all of the nuances throughout the composing process, the one grounding element that Göransson was able to stick to was the use of the violin as the musical protagonist representing the film’s central character, famed theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer.

Göransson mentions in interviews, as well as the first thing in his Oscar acceptance speech, that the prevalence of the violin was the sole musical idea Nolan had requested during their early meetings, and Göransson didn’t hold back on that.

Throughout the film, the violin underscores the emotional development of Oppenheimer’s character, with each cue being performed by Göransson’s wife, violinist Serena Göransson.

In this post, we’ll take you through some of the most beautiful violin writing in Ludwig Göransson’s Oscar-winning score.

Can You Hear The Music

The most famous moment from the entire score might just be one of the most musically intricate cues in recent times.

Göransson’s cue titled “Can You Hear The Music” is composed around a blazing 16-bar ascending-descending gesture in the violins:

Can You Hear The Music: Violin Part by Ludwig Goransson

When listening to the cue, Göransson creates this sense of continuous acceleration by simply adding 70bpm at every shift from ascending to descending.

This section follows a direct repetition, just with this tempo adjustment applied:

Can You Hear The Music: Violin Part continued by Ludwig Goransson

This focus on mathematical precision in tempo, combined with the gritty orchestration and emotional harmonic content really does set the tone for a truly personal deep-dive into the mind of one of history’s most important figures.

Now in the context of the score, this reads as a fresh new take on theme writing in the context of film scoring.

However, a quick glance at the sheet music points to one of the most important foundations in the history of the violin - Bach’s Violin Partitas and Sonatas.

Take a listen to this moment from Bach’s Violin Sonata No. 3, “Fuga”, which shows some clear similarities:

In my opinion, the choice to bridge the foundational repertoire of the violin with the modern sensibilities of Göransson’s score is very tasteful, and gives the score a sense of understanding and recognition of where the violin came from, and where the violin will go.


Oppenheimer - Main Theme

While Can You Hear The Music has won the favor of the masses, the principal theme Ludwig Göransson composed is both haunting and absolutely gorgeous. In the cue titled “Oppenheimer”, Göransson gives us this oozing violin solo, which motivically binds the score together:

oppenheimer main theme - violin part by ludwig goransson

Later in the cue, we hear a counter-melody introduced, followed by another statement of the main theme in a duo with the counter-melody:

oppenheimer main theme - violin part continued by ludwig goransson

Final words

Ludwig Göransson’s victory at the Oscars tonight was a win for innovative film composition.

Up against some impressive nominees, it was a competitive round this year (the nominees included John Williams’ score for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny).

But in the end, I think Göransson deserves recognition for the attention to detail and craft that went into this score.

Check out Göransson’s acceptance speech here:

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Dave McLellan

Concert & Chamber Musician

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