Gentleman Thief

Gentleman Thief a BBC drama scored by composer Christian Vassie


1 x 60 mins

BBC Drama

A film score for the cusp of the 20th century

Key to this BBC drama was finding a sound that would capture the shift from the 19th to the 20th century. Christian decided on a number of elements: a ragtime waltz played by a string quartet and blues piano, the use of blue harp or harmonica, the incorporation of 'exotic' or world instruments. Harmonicas had been invented some time earlier in Germany and ragtime was being listened to by the ubercool in London, Scott Joplin's Maple Leaf Rag having been composed in 1899.

While the existence of the blues as a musical genre is first officially recorded in 1912 with the publishing of Dallas Blues by Hart A Wand, the music emerged, like jazz and ragtime, from the cross fertilisation of the 'hollers' and 'shouts' of black American music, African rhythms and scales, and European musical forms.

The score for Gentleman Thief also makes use of Indian ragas and latin drumming patterns; Latin drumming in the opening 'jungle' scene, and Indian sitar in the ruby theft scene.

"I get annoyed at scenes where actors pretend to play musical instruments so we agreed on a sitar player and I recorded her performance before the shoot," Christian explains. "She then mimed to her own original recording on set and I had the music I needed to create the score." Christian chose a raga that would work with the blues, blending sitar and piano lines together as Raffles (Nigel Havers) cases the joint at the party before going upstairs to steal the ruby.

cast: Nigel Havers, Michael French, Frances Barber, John Schrapnel

crew: producer: Victoria Fea, director: Justin Hardy, editor Michael Harrowes, composer: Christian Vassie

music to picture - video clips

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