Romantic and social dramas set in the rural setting of England during the Georgian Era in the 18th and 19th centuries. Historical dramas, or Period Dramas as they are called in English, are currently experiencing a fresh resurgence through modern Netflix adaptations, like “Bridgerton” or “The Crown”.
Traditionally, music for period dramas has often rooted itself in the era that the drama is set, but modern period dramas seem to take greater liberties with everything from costume and production design to the music. The album “Contemporary Period Drama” by Adam Saunders and Mark Cousins reflects this trend. Adam and Mark accomplished this by keeping the string orchestra while incorporating contemporary themes, like modern harmonies and subtle sound design.
In simple terms, a historical period drama is a work of art set in an earlier time period. These dramas often transport viewers to a bygone era, offering a glimpse into what life was like during that time. Many of the best period dramas are filmed in stunning locations, such as Derbyshire and the Cotswolds. These productions often feature magnificent costumes and sets.
Music plays a vital role in creating the right atmosphere and emotion in period dramas. The right sounds help to create a more immersive experience. Writing music for modern period dramas presents a challenge for composers, as they have to strike a balance between staying faithful to the period while integrating contemporary musical elements. For Mark and Adam it was imperative that the contemporary elements did not clash with the string orchestra and that the music possessed an ageless quality. The duo tactfully navigated this challenge by incorporating subtle additions that complemented the strings and adopting a more contemporary approach to the harmony and orchestration.
Recording at Abbey Road Studios is a dream come true for many musicians and composers, and for good reasons. The iconic studio has played host to countless legendary recording sessions over the years, including The Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Adele. The historical significance but also the outstanding acoustic quality of the room make the studio a particularly special place for the composer duo.
When listening to the finished mix, Mark remembers being blown away by both the quality of the performance and the sound of the strings in Abbey Road 1. In many ways, those components made their work easier, with the tracks almost sounding perfect with just three Decca Tree mics! Of course, they still spent time refining and developing the tracks, but the focus was on a lightness of touch that allowed the musicality to shine.