Friday, July 7, 2017

"Is She With You?", also known as "Wonder Woman's Theme", is a musical score written for the 2016 motion picture Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The composer was Hans Zimmer, collaborating with cellist Tina Guo.

The theme was reworked by Guo and composer Rupert Gregson-Williams as "Wonder Woman's Wrath" for the 2017 film Wonder Woman.

Hans Zimmer was hired to write the musical score for Batman v. Superman. He had worked with Junkie XL (Tom Holkenborg), a Dutch electronica and film composer, on Man of Steel, and asked him to collaborate on the new film. To avoid reusing themes Zimmer had used for the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy, Zimmer worked on the Superman music while Holkenborg worked on the Batman music. Unable to "just let go", Zimmer eventually collaborated with Holkenborg on the Batman themes.

Zimmer worked on a number of Wonder Woman themes for the film, using a variety of approaches -- sweeping strings, vocals, etc. All of them have been done and overused, and he didn't like any of the results. Then he had a flash of inspiration: "One thing that has bugged me forever is that our superhero movies are so masculine and male generated. I wanted Wonder Woman to be... I wanted the music to be full of more female..." Zimmer contacted his friend, cellist Tina Guo.

Guo had been a classical cellist since the age of 11. A life-long fan of heavy metal music, she made a heavy metal electric cello music video about eight years ago. A friend showed Zimmer the video, and he contacted her. They became good friends.

Guo spent three days in the studio, discussing different ideas with Zimmer and working out different approaches. Guo wanted to emulate her favorite band, Rammstein, because she felt they had a raw, carnal energy. She wanted something powerful and strong, but also a little more refined. For his part, Zimmer wanted something akin to a banshee's wail, something really terrifying and feminine.

They settled on a relatively simple music trope: Resolution. The initial three notes (an E, G, and B) turn into a minor key, six-note ostinato (or flutter; B-flat and A). After two repetitions, the flutter resolves to a B-natural, before using a glissando to hit lower B-flat.

Contrary to a wide range of sources, Holkenborg did NOT work on the Wonder Woman theme. He did cause Zimmer to start the music at a different spot in the scene, one Zimmer never would have chosen himself. The surprising placement of the musical cue added to its impact.

For the Wonder Woman soundtrack, Rupert Gregson-Williams wanted to stay away from Zimmer and Guo's theme, as it represented a mature Wonder Woman. Gregson-Williams wanted a more percussion-heavy, symphonic sound for the "innocent" Wonder Woman of the film, particularly for the earlier scenes on Paradise Island. Yet, Gregson-Williams knew he wanted to use the Zimmer theme once Wonder Woman comes into her own during the fight with Ludendorff and Ares.

Gregson-Williams and Guo decided to rework the Zimmer theme, using an electric cello rather than electric guitar. Guo played the electric cello with the orchestra, and Gregson-Williams says her ferocity and energy while playing brought out an entirely different kind of playing and emotion from the percusssionists. It was the same music, but wildly different at the same time.

The "Wonder Woman Theme", which some critics refer to as the "War Cry", is first heard during the assault on the Belgian town. It's heard only briefly at first. Gregson-Williams re-orchestrated the theme, shifting the second ostinato a half-tone higher. During the "Wrath of Wonder Woman", Gregson-Williams has the bass brasses play the War Cry first. When we hear it again a few seconds later, it's the electric cello. At mid-battle, as the attack crescendos, we hear the theme again, repeated twice. But Gregson-Williams' own Wonder Woman theme is heard before we hear the War Cry again -- which this time is begun by the electric cello, but finished by strings.

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