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Media Advisory: Professor predicts musical twist in 'The Hunger Games'

Thursday, December 03, 2015

LAWRENCE – Music theorists aren’t typically in the forecasting business, but more than a year ago a University of Kansas professor predicted that “The Hunger Games” franchise would invert a musical gesture to reflect a plot twist in the final movies.

In blog posts from July and August 2014, Scott Murphy, a professor of music theory who concentrates on film music analysis, wrote that composer James Newton Howard could signal the overthrow of a totalitarian regime by inverting part of the national anthem, “Horn of Plenty,” of the mythical country of Panem.

“I had a hunch, knowing the books, that the composer would twist the music and transform it in a way that parallels with what is happening in the story,” Murphy said.

Murphy, who wrote a follow-up blog post after seeing the final movie, is available to talk to the media about the significance of music in “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay ­– Part 2,” which is leading box office sales.  

Fans of the “The Hunger Games” series will remember “Horn of Plenty” as the music that played during the tribute parade and when images of fallen tributes were broadcast during the games. The anthem, Murphy said, is cliché Hollywood, all glitz and style with little substance. But it was written in a way to be inverted.

“The anthem is brassy, loud and sounds like royalty entering the room,” Murphy said. “When you listen to the inverted score, it is soft and subdued. But it’s the anthem, it’s just been flipped.” 

That switch is made as the main character, Katniss Everdeen, comes to a disturbing realization about those in power.

Murphy has had a long interest in and admiration for Howard’s music, which isn’t as earmarked as that of other film composers, such as John Williams or Danny Elfman.

“He is more of a chameleon. He can go into a project and find just the right sound for a particular movie,” Murphy said. “His work on 'The Hunger Games' has been terrific. He captures the mood well and does it in a way that doesn’t call attention to his contributions.”

To arrange an interview with Murphy, contact Christine Metz Howard at 785-864-5436 or cmetzhoward@ku.edu.

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