#Writing #Music: (Occasionally) Patrick Doyle

I love my husband.

I really do.

He knows me so well: his Christmas gifts to me consist of books, music, and a good mystery series. Even the candle is scented “Oxford Library.”


But I hold up the CD, and scowl.

“Hey, it was on your wish list.”

“That was before I saw the movie.”

“And now you have something to remember the movie by.”

“The book doesn’t count?”

“No.” And off he goes to read his new compilation of Dick Tracy comic strips.

Honestly, I didn’t expect to write about music that is uninspired, but after seeing the latest film adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express with dear writer-friend Ben Daniel ParmanI just can’t understand what Scottish composer Patrick Doyle was going for here. If one didn’t know the film, one would think I’d been given the score to a Hallmark made-for-television movie about railroad workers struggling with love or grief or blizzards or grief-loving in blizzards or blizzards in love or…you get it. It’s music that does not speak to its icon of a detective, Hercule Poirot. It is music that does not speak to its historic period of the 1930s. It is music that does not speak to the claustrophobic tension a snow-bound train car creates. It’s just…there. White noise to the mystery. And while some mysteries revel with distraction, a mystery–or any story, for that matter–cannot afford to annoy its audience. Which this music does. Exceedingly.

In his defense, Patrick Doyle isn’t all bad. Take his score for Brave: it has some lovely moments of both epic scope and intimate character reveal.

From what I see on Doyle’s IMDB page, the man’s collaborated with Kenneth Branagh for, goodness gracious, over twenty years. And I’m sure many of those scores are lovely. But as any author will have her clunkers, so will a composer occasionally make bland music.

One of my biggest struggles as a writer is creating the right ambience around me so I can, well, create. When the boys are trying to shove each other into the wall, when Blondie’s whining she doesn’t know what to do with herself, when the laundry and dishes and course work and cooking and….you know. It all heaps upon you, not just visually, but audibly, too. Take this very moment: I’m trying to finish this blog in the kitchen while the boys fight over a toy and the girl’s yelling at them to be quiet while The Lego Ninjago Movie plays at an obnoxious volume. I’ve got my headphones on. I put on Orient Express, and feel absolute bupkiss. I put on Brave, and feel the hint of Elsewhere swirl about my mind’s eye. I put on The Hobbitand feel the adventure promised in misty mountains cold…

Seek on, writers. Find the music that transports you from daily life’s craziness and unfetters story-telling’s power.



37 thoughts on “#Writing #Music: (Occasionally) Patrick Doyle

  1. It’s funny, it’s only on rare occasions that I can only listen to music while writing. Most times it distracts. Actually, ANY noise can drive me into fits when I’m writing at home. When I’m out and about, though, the entire place could be a cacophony of noise and I can focus in just fine.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You’re right. The music doesn’t match the genre. It’s more like something I’d compose when bored, plus the strings aren’t needed (well not the way they are here). Thinking about it, there’s not even a TV commercial I could match it to. Generic disaster zone.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can’t imagine! Considering Branagh put this all together himself, I can only assume Poirot is a character he’s always wanted to play. It’s clear throughout the film he’s enjoying himself. A nice change from the dark and brooding Wallander, I presume.

      Liked by 1 person

      • YES. Like I was telling Ben, Orient Express may be a famous story, but that’s because of the reveal, not the mystery itself. The mystery is just a series of conversations. There’s nothing actually HAPPENING in the story, vs Death on the Nile, ABC Murders…gosh, there are so many more….

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yep, there are. It is one of these classic…group of people, someone gets killed, who did it… and were they all involved. It’s not an original plot but it’s how it’s done, it’s the past to present link.

        Liked by 1 person

    • I’m so glad Agatha Christie’s hallowed bridge scaffolding sniper chase scene was brought to the screen at last. 🙂
      (Though I will say Branagh did a fine job in the first ten minutes establishing the Poirot character. That was well done. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I haven’t seen The Orient Express and don’t particularly want to – but thank you for the The Hobbit music – I went out and bought the CD as I think all the music is gorgeous and one of the most accomplished soundtracks. I LOVE the idea of your Oxford Library candle and feel very jealous:).

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh yes, I love it, too! I think Bo found it on Facebook, if you want me to send the brand info your way. 😉 For all the nostalgia-love I have for the Rankin-Bass Hobbit (and all its songs), I think Jackson did some lovely work selecting the right number of Tolkien songs to be put into the score. And yes, the score itself is gorgeous–I’ll have to cover it this year. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s funny, when I read this I thought not about music but about food! (Could be I’m just hungry, but still.) I remember being so excited to have a roast chicken dish I’d heard so much about with sage butter and fingerling potatoes. The plate set before me was beautiful, but when I went to eat it my tongue revolted—too much salt! But I had a few more bites anyway just to be sure it really was the chicken and not just one off bite. In the end, I sent it back to the kitchen, sipped my brandy Old Fashioned and pondered how hard it is to always live up to expectations. I’ll eat another chicken on another day. Just like you say–a clunker doesn’t have to ruin my dining experience for a minute or a day or a year. It just happens. And then we order dessert.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! That’s just how this was for me and the score. I fully expected it to be awesome: some sweet 1930s style, some unique themes, some ambience….aaaaaaaaaand nuthin’. dangit! but that’s what dessert is for. 🙂


  5. Creating the right ambiance is always a delicate experience for me. When I find the particular piece of music that captures the mood and the pace of my WIP, I’m buzzing, yet buzzing so much that its like I need to Shush the mind to work, so the music has to stop. An ebb and flow experience that does produce results in the end. For me, music at the right time and in the right place is very powerful. x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh yes, yes yes yes, I’ve had moments like that with music. Peter Gabriel’s rendition of “Heroes” was such a moment. It’s so powerful you can’t not write, that the image will not leave you until it is down in the most intimate detail.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Its a lovely feeling, isn’t it? 🙂 Its ‘Magnificent’ by Elbow for me. But anything from Elbow, quite frankly stops me in my tracks yes fills me with an urge to write.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. We watched Brave one lazy Saturday, not expecting much. Just loved the film and yes, the music was such an integral part of our enjoyment. Its importance should never be undervalued in film and it sounds like the new Murder on the Orient Express suffered from a flat uninspiring score. A great post and what thoughtful presents from your husband…the Oxford Library candle is brilliant!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It smells delightful! 🙂 And I agree that Doyle’s score for Brave is beautiful. It’s such a lovely mix of passion and epic sweep. I guess that’s what irritates me all the more about Orient Express: I KNOW he can do better. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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