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MohicanLand Musical Musings: The Music of The Last of the Mohicans

"The House in Rose Valley" is the wonderful piece we hear briefly––too briefly––when Hawkeye and Uncas are playing lacrosse at the gathering at the Camerons' (after Hawkeye says "You do what you want with your own scalp and do not be tellin' us what we aught to do with ours."). Their faces while they play the game indicate the fun our two heroes are having. Indeed, this is the one time we see them, especially Uncas, really happy and laughing. The camaraderie between the two brothers is obvious. The music has a very Scottish feel, and if you watch carefully, you'll see an abundance of young red-heads in the game, which makes the Scottish influence of this piece even more appropriate. This is their life as it should have been––simple, honest, and carefree, when the white men and the red men could be companions and play games together.

This piece, in spite of having a generally comforting, even happy feeling, is still set in a minor key, in this case E minor. It consists of three different sections (A, B and C sections) all in 3/4 time, repeated over and over. The A section, which is the introduction and closing section, appears to be played by flutes, guitar and various other instruments. It consists of 16 measures in 3/4. The B section and C sections are the only parts we hear in the movie. Both consist of a melody in 16 measures in the count of 3. Each is repeated once, and then the combination of the two is repeated again. The musical pattern then is A, B, B, C, C, B, B, C, C, A (the last A being somewhat a variation of the first A section). [Based on The Cunningham Collection Volume I: The House in Rose Valley by Phil Cunningham, Phil Cunningham/Bracken Music Services, 1995.] The B and C section contain the "Scottish Snap" which also occurs in the "Main Title", that unusual and very Scottish pattern of a short note on the beat followed by a long note, rather than the normal long followed by short note, so appropriate for the LOTM soundtrack.

"The House in Rose Valley" was written by the Scottish musician and composer Phil Cunningham in 1982 and appears on his album Airs & Graces. This piece is played here almost exactly as on the CD (except at the very end), rather than being adapted into another piece, as "The Gael" was. It is interesting that "The House in Rose Valley" existed so many years before it was used in the movie soundtrack. Information for future investigation is HOW it got into the soundtrack (for example, who found it?). In his Volume I of his music, he dedicated this piece to "Prudence, Larry and Rob who made me so welcome at The House in Rose Valley", so clearly there IS a house in Rose Valley. Phil Cunningham has agreed to answer some questions via email and we look forward to his reponses to a number of questions.

Listening to the full version on Cunningham's recording, the simplicity of theme and the fact that the whole piece consists of only that theme repeated over and over is a marvelous reflection of the time period––life was more straightforward than our own, not hectic and complicated as we know it today. It is hard to detect this point from the short part we hear in the movie, which is one good reason to purchase the original recording.

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