Contemporary Music for Period Drama will transport you!

-Contemporary Music for Period Drama-

Contemporary Music for Period Drama

Modern music creates a portal to the past!


A great period drama has the ability to transport the viewer in time, when the world looked and felt almost alien. Yet, the people in these worlds struggle with the same great universal questions as us: love, death, war, family. Indeed, we love watching them cope with these issues armed with different abilities and social expectations. Not to mention the fashion! It’s an escape to what is essentially a fantasy version of the past, where everyone was fabulous.

And the tunes add to that transporting feeling. There have been some outstanding and iconic soundtracks for period drama. Braveheart, for instance, has a soundscape so very evocative of medieval Scotland’s remote and difficult landscape. And it is, surprisingly, a contemporary musical work. So how can contemporary music for period drama work so well?



Music is the story

As a matter of fact, most costume dramas make use of new tunes. That is, they may use music that sounds as if it came from the era the show is set in. But it’s actually contemporary music for period drama. It may be either composed exclusively for this particular programme or it may be a compiled soundtrack. Or it may even be a rearrangement of something really fresh. In any case, a great sound designer thinks of music as part of the story, not just dressing. It acts as a piece of the setting, or sometimes as another character. It guides the audience’s mood, and it tells them how to react to what they see. Contemporary tunes give the flexibility needed for this job.

Baz Luhrmann is famous for using musical—and for that matter, visual—anachronism to great effect in his films. His style is hyperstyle. That is to say, he isn’t trying to present a reflection of actual reality. But rather, his films use many types of exaggeration to tell important emotional stories. In The Great Gatsby he put a second twist on things by taking 21st Century pop music and giving it a Jazz Age makeover, courtesy of The Bryan Ferry Orchestra. In other words, he  intentionally picked contemporary music for period drama. Then he had it re-arranged to sound as though it’s from the same era in which the film is set. It sounds confusing, but it’s totally brilliant.  

Think about the source

For an adaptation of a classic novel, often the choice of theme fits comfortably into the era of the story. But using contemporary music for period drama to this end can help the story feel fresher for a modern audience than using an older piece. Take, for instance, Carl Davis’s theme for the BBC’s 1995 Pride and Prejudice miniseries. It sounds evocative of the era, certainly. After all, it’s written in the spirit of Classical music, the era in which the story itself takes place. But it’s full of modern personality. In this respect it’s a perfect match for the story itself. While written more than 200 years ago, it’s full of social conundrums that never go out of date.

Compare this with the music for the 2018 adaptation of Picnic at Hanging Rock, a novel that takes place in Victorian-era Australia. The music is decidedly modern, with a lot of electronic manipulation and only touches of orchestral sounds. This effect is mirrored in the show’s aesthetic. Everything feels like it’s in technicolor, a little too bright. This audio-visual combo works so well because of the intensity of the environment. It’s blazing hot sunshine all the time and what’s real is uncertain. Most important, perhaps, is the fact that the novel isn’t itself old. It was written in the 1970s. It is essentially a modern view of a much earlier time. The music matches that perfectly.

Contemporary Music for Period Drama to choose from:

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Victor Penkovskyi – Romantic
Intro – Georgia
Tianguang Yang – Lonely Dream
Aurealistic – Blues Bbm
Paul Werner – Vastness
Intro – Angel Whisper
Steve Poloni – Great Heights
Lino Rise – Evenshade 2014 Remix

So there are a lot of ways to approach soundtracking a costume drama. And with contemporary music for period drama, you can really play with what works. Whether you’re sound designing a feature film or a micro-short, you need quality tracks to provide a lot of emotional muscle. Fortunately, you’re in the right time and place. Yummy Sounds has hundreds of tracks that can do this heavy lifting. And if you need help deciding, just give us a shout. We can help you choose based on your exact needs. And we also can provide custom sound design, if you’re ready for something exclusive!

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