Happy Friday! On deck for today: a film/classical mash-up of Beauty and the Beast and “Aquarium” from Saint-Saëns’ The Carnival of the Animals. But first, some background.
The Carnival of the Animals
In 1886, French composer (and organist/pianist/conductor) Charles-Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) composed and premiered his fun and humorous chamber work The Carnival of the Animals. Each of the 14 movements represents an animal, and when the movements are put together the work is a parade of color, sound, and images.
*Side note: In The Carnival of the Animals, Saint-Saëns wrote a part for the glass harmonica – a rare instrument with a distinct sound. Check out this cool video demonstrating the glass harmonica and discussing its history.
*Fun fact: The glass harmonica was invented by Benjamin Franklin in 1761!
“Aquarium” is the seventh movement of The Carnival of the Animals. Two pianos play running arpeggios while the flute sings the melody (supported by the strings) with the occasional glissando by the glass harmonica. The whole thing sounds eerily like a shimmering underwater atmosphere.
Beauty and the Beast
For an in-depth look at the Beauty and the Beast score, read this article.
“Prologue” opens with a beautiful melody over an accompaniment of muted 16th notes. There’s an atmosphere of anticipation, foreshadowing the story of Beauty and the Beast with all of its magic, fear, and love.
Rumor has it that while Alan Menken was composing “Prologue” for Beauty and the Beast, the director used “Aquarium” as what is known as a temp track: an existing piece of music used during the editing phase of a film to help guide the mood while the composer is still writing the score. Menken has said himself that he “had to come up with [his] own version of The Carnival of the Animals . . . at the top of the movie, which is a very impressive and very timeless piece of music. [He had to] weave a spell and that’s the prologue music.”
Because of this, “Prologue” and “Aquarium” are very similar. They each have a simple and subtle melody over a glittering arpeggio ostinato (an ostinato is a repeated melodic or rhythmic idea in an accompaniment), they have similar key centers (A minor), and they both create distinct atmospheres projecting the unknown and the mysterious.
The West Wing
Fast forward to a piece called “The West Wing”, where Belle sneaks into the Beast’s room and finds the enchanted rose:
Listen specifically at 0:38 in the video. The movement of the melody with the arpeggios in the accompaniment sound very much like “Aquarium”. You can hear the “Prologue” music in this piece as well (1:08).
Because of the relationship between the music from Beauty and the Beast and “Aquarium”, I wrote a piano arrangement of these pieces mixed together:
If you like the arrangement, download the sheet music for free here!