When I was younger, I remember noticing and joking with a friend that almost every Danny Elfman soundtrack album had a track named “The Final Confrontation.” This must surely have been deliberate, and — one would presume — something of an in joke.
When I later began working in the world of film music, I started to understand a bit more about the process of naming tracks on soundtracks. Firstly, it became obvious that this seemingly dark art was pretty much arbitrary, and, in most cases, it was likely both the last thing to think about and the last thing anyone wanted to think about at the end of a project. So track names were usually chosen based on what was happening in that piece of music as used in the film, such as “Love Theme,” “Tom Dresses Up,” or — worse still — clichés like “All’s Well That Ends Well,” “The Long Goodbye,” and so on.
However, just occasionally, you get to have some fun. For example, on the first project on which I worked — Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl — it was decided everyone would be assigned pirate names on the album credits. Given that Hans Zimmer wrote all the themes and was the captain of the ship, he was christened Hans “Long John” Zimmer, while someone (I think it was music editor Bob Badami) amusingly came up with Mark “Walk the Plank!” Wherry for me! And these names persisted over the next two films in the original trilogy. Some of my friends ended up as Mel “Black Spot” Wesson, Martin “Scourge of the Seven Seas” Tillman, Alan “Mizzenmast” Meyerson, Nick “Cabin Boy” Glennie-Smith, and — rather appropriately — Bob “Cut ’em Up” Badami.
Another example from the following year was when we had to think of names for the King Arthur soundtrack. Hans thought the names should be as tongue-in-cheek as possible, possibly to relieve the tension of the final weeks at AIR Studios in London, and the largely pun-based results of a lunchtime laugh remain to this day. (The only exception was the song by Moya Brennan, who was one of the loveliest Irish ladies I’ve ever met, with a glowing, maternal, Mrs Doyle-like — from Father Ted — grace.) Hans, Bob, and Nick came up with most of the best ones, such as “Woad to Ruin” (Hans), “Another Brick in Hadrian’s Wall” (Nick), and “Budget Meeting” (definitely Bob). And I’m pretty sure I had a hand in “Do You Think I’m Saxon?”
On Batman Begins, Hans wanted track names that were original and most definitely not the attributions typically associated with soundtrack titling. Alison Burton (the studio manager at AIR Studios, where the score was written and recorded) and my partner in crime, Technical Score Engineer Abhay Manusmare, conceived the plan of using Latin bat genus names for the titles. I joined in the search, although my real contribution was to suggest arranging the tracks in such a way that successive titular initials spelt out “BATMAN”.
There were a few amusing outcomes. On the artwork for one edition of the CD, there are two columns that present the track names with “BAT” as the last three in the first column and “MAN” in the first three of the second. I had to laugh when an Amazon reviewer speculated whether it had been coincidence that this spelled out “BATMAN;” and while I can appreciate randomness in the universe, that we accidentally ordered the bat genera to give the name of the film’s protagonist was very much deliberate.
However, this idea came back to haunt us. When work began on the sequel (The Dark Knight), director Chris Nolan — who has an uncanny, sonographic memory — would reference sections of certain tracks. But given the arbitrary nature of the naming, nobody on the music team could remember the music that had been christened by the titles we used. This particular experiment was never repeated.
The last soundtrack in which I had a hand in naming the track titles was The Da Vinci Code, and on this occasion Hans suggested the track titles should be puzzles, or have some kind of hidden, obfuscated meaning. I think the original plan was for Sony to have a competition where people would guess the meanings, but this never came to pass, although that didn’t stop some people noticing the names might have a deeper significance.
Years later, I was forwarded a post where someone had attempted to explain our cryptic nonsense, and they actually got about 50 percent spot on. So, to finally set the record straight — and to demonstrate how much effort goes into a process that might seem (and probably is) inconsequential — here are the meanings Abhay and I conjured, using all of the schoolboy Latin and French at our disposal.
Dies Mercurii i Martius
This one’s easy: it’s Latin for Wednesday, March 1st (in 2006), the first day we began recording the score. Coincidentally, it’s also the birthday of the film’s director, Ron Howard, and Hans arranged for the orchestra to play Happy Birthday as a surprise in celebration of the occasion. Ron was delighted, going out into the hall and thanking the orchestra, and repaid the gesture by pouring glasses of Champagne — Cristal, no less — for everyone in the control room on the last day of recording. I don’t remember the vintage…
L’esprit des Gabriel
Silas is referred to as both a ghost (esprit being French for spirit) and an angel (the Virgin Mary’s messenger).
The Paschal Spiral
Paschal is a reference to the Paschal candle, used to symbolize the Lamb of God — the Alpha and the Omega — but it’s also a malapropism of the mathematician Pascal. The Fibonacci sequence is referenced in both the novel and the film.
For the cryptex solution: fructus is Latin for fruit, as in ‘apple’, while gravitas means weight.
Pigeon Latin for “the mysterious,” alluding to Teabing’s explanation that accompanies this musical cue in the film.
This was my favourite piece of music in the movie. It’s the second half of the previous cue (and track) beginning with a psaltery, and is used during the explanation of the witch hunt. The track is named after the book Teabling throws to Sophie, which was the handbook used by the Inquisition for identifying witches.
Salvete is a hymn for the innocent, but there’s a sense of irony since it could be speculated the pagan ladies displayed in the sequence that the music is used were perhaps not virgins. (Abhay wrote the lyrics in Latin — scholars, have a field day!)
Daniel’s 9th Cipher
An anagram of ‘Pei’s Chandelier’ — Pei was the designer of the pyramid at the Louvre. The ninth cipher of Daniel prophesizes the birth and death of Jesus.
A poisoned chalice because Teabing is forced to accept the responsibility of revealing the bloodline.
The Citrine Cross
Aringarosa wears a citrine cross, so this was a reference for the music written to represent Opus Dei.
Rose of Arimathea
Mary Magdalen is the Rose and Jesus was buried in Arimathea. The music in this track is Sophie’s theme in the movie.
Alrischa is the alpha star in the constellation Pisces, alluding to “she lies beneath the stars,” and a fish is a symbol of Christianity.
CheValiers de Sangreal
This was a rather obvious reference to the to the knights of the royal blood, per Teabing’s explanation, and was meant in deference to knights and Langdon. I capitalised the “V” to emphasise the symbol of the Chalice and of Mary’s pentagram, but the typographers overlooked this detail, which is why the letter appears in lower case on the album.
Kyrie for the Magdalene
Composer Richard Harvey wrote this piece for the film, which has since become a favourite on Classic FM radio in the UK, and this was the title he chose for it. Nothing to see here, except that the modern pronunciation should be used for “Magdalene” rather than the older, Oxbridge collegiate alternative. Yes, we actually considered this!