Morse on the Case - Pheloung

  • Created by: Annie
  • Created on: 01-02-12 14:06

Context and style

  • NAM 46 is taken from an episode of Inspector Morse, a series of television detective mysteries first broadcast between 1987 and 2000
  • Title and incidental music was written by Pheloung
  • Large amount of material was needed over the course of 33 two-hour episodes
  • Diegtic music needed to be included - the classical CDs and operas the detective plays and sees
  • To avoid detracting from this music and to distinguish the diegetic extracts from his own underscore, Pheloung adopts an unintrusive style based on slow-moving lines, thin textures and single notes to reflect Morse's complex intellectual reasoning
  • Avoids the cliches of film music
  • In NAM 46, Pheloung uses the understated textures and ambient sounds characteristic of much Postmodernist music
  • Unlike the short, repetitive ideas of Minimalism he avoids obvious rhythmic and melodic patterns
  • Focuses on texture and timbre
  • Meditative, sensory mood is further enhanced by quiet dynamics and long, sustained notes that change in unexpected parts of the bar
  • No obvious sense of pulse, despite the constant 4/4 metre

Structure and Tonality

  • Structure of the music would have been determined by the images that it accompanies, but it falls into 3 main sections, determined by instrumentation and tonality:
  • Bar 1-52 for horns, piano and upper strings, entirely diatonic in the aeolian mode and overlapping with the start of...
  • Bars 49-97 for oboe, piano and upper strings, in which the chromatic notes F# and Ab appear
  • Bars 98-112 for all nine instruments, which gravitate towards C major but retain a persistent dissonant F#, like an unsolved clue in Morse's mind

Commentary: Bars 1-52

  • Extract begins with a thin, two-part texture
  • The opening intervals played by the piano are each reversed in direction by unison muted strings - the piano rises a 4th, the strings fall a 4th, the piano falls a third, the strings rise a 3rd
  • Strings continue this very slow pattern of descending 4ths and rising 3rds below the piano fragments in bars 8-12
  • Horns enter on an A in bar 12 and descend a tone to G in bar 15
  • First violin again responds by reversing the directionb of this major 2nd, moving up a tone from C to D in bar 18
  • At the end of bar 17, the piano announces a three-note melodic cell (D-E-A) followed by just its first two notes played harmonically
  • Again, the first violin responds by reversing the direction of the original rising interval, once more…


Former Member


Great document. Thanks!