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

"Massacre/Canoes" is another one of Trevor Jones' multi-purpose pieces, in that it is used in more than one place: it is used not only during the massacre in the valley after the British leave Fort William Henry and subsequent escape by canoe, but also during the ambush on the George Road. In this latter instance, the music is much abbreviated, ending just as Hawkeye says the wounded should try walking back to Albany.

This piece begins in A minor and modulates during the scene. "Massacre/Canoes" relies heavily on two main subjects: the primary subject of four notes, repeating at different intervals over and over again throughout the piece, and three appearances of the Mohican Theme, a recognizable variation of the A section of the "Main Title", as discussed in detail in Themes and Motifs of LOTM. Also, the "Main Title" appears in full grandeur just as Hawkeye, Chingachgook and Uncas rescue Cora and Alice, taking them away from the fighting and down to the lake (3:27-4:05 on the CD). Just prior, in working up to the "Main Title" as Hawkeye races to save Cora from the Huron, then hits the Huron again and again, "Massacre" goes through a series of modulations of key to arrive at the odd key of E minor.

"Massacre/Canoes" is in 3/4 time with a syncopated rhythm, meaning that the orchestra comes in on the off-beat (the second beat of the measure); just the drums play on the first beat. This gives the piece a strong driving feeling, something akin to the awkward thrusts and parries of battle.

"O Fortuna"?

There is some evidence to suggest that that in writing "Massacre", Trevor Jones borrowed directly from the classical choral piece "O Fortuna (from the 'scenic cantata' Carmina Burana by Carl Orff) for the first subject. Of course, this can be proven only by asking Jones himself. However, there are undeniable similarities between "Massacre/Canoes" and "O Fortuna". They are both in the key of A minor and in 3/4 time. Throughout both works you will hear similar fundament note structures and orchestration which Orff and Jones elaborate on somewhat differently. Given these comparisons, it seems possible to expect that at the very least, "O Fortuna" inspired some of Jones' efforts in "Massacre". Perhaps it was the music, which is perfect for this type of action. Perhaps it was the words about the fickleness of luck.

The following sound clip plays first a snippet from "O Fortuna" followed by a snippet from "Massacre/Canoes", which is the same set of notes in abbreviated form (that is, the same notes but fewer of them). (Click on the Play button.)

The following are the words to "O Fortuna":

O luck, like the moon
changeable in state
you are always waxing or waning;
hateful life is one moment hard
and the next moment watches over
the mind's playful acumen;
poverty, power, it melts like ice.

The following sound clip plays an orchestral version
of "O Fortuna" in MIDI format.
Listen to it, listen to "Massacre/Canoes" on your CD, and judge for yourself.
(Turn your volume down a bit, then click on the Play button.)

As you can hear from these sound clips, there are strong similarities between "Massacre/Canoes" and "O Fortuna". Not that any of us should mind what the inspiration was, as the end product works so well in the movie.

On to "I Will Find You"
Back to "Parley"
Back to the beginning of MohicanLand Musical Musings

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