You could argue that it’s because I’m going back to Walt Disney World in June (yes I’m an addict; no, I don’t want to get better), but I’ve actually had this topic percolating in my brain for quite some time, and for the precise reason I’m about to give you. I want to talk about orchestration, and I want to talk about it because of The Lion King.
I have a bunch of The Lion King songs on my iPod, because I am eight forever. My favorite is “Be Prepared,” as Scar is awesome, plus the hyena’s line “Why, is he sick?” makes me laugh hysterically for some reason. But what most impresses me about it from the musical standpoint is, weirdly enough, the use of the bassoon (contrabassoon? I don’t know my woodwinds so well). The bassoon has a running commentary under the melody that I find utterly perfect, a case of brilliant instrument selection. The depth is menacing, befitting Scar’s sinister evil, but the tone has a comic edge that’s just right for the hyenas. I love it.
And to balance it out with some actual classical music, can I mention Prokofiev’s use of the flute? Because I’m not a flute fan. Sorry to flutists, but it doesn’t do much for me. Except when Prokofiev busts it out — in Lieutenant Kije and Romeo and Juliet especially. In Prokofiev’s hands, the flute becomes a vehicle of fantasy and purity, yet… almost an underlying darkness. Prokofiev makes an instrument that usually bores me intriguing.
So I ask you: which instrument in which piece is, to you, inspired casting? Which composer knows how to do it right? And which composer could’ve done with a refresher course?