Studio Symphony Orchestra

About the Music




Laura Rossi’s new score was commissioned to mark the 90th anniversary of The Battle of the Somme as a soundtrack for the digitally restored film. When embarking on her research on the film and the battle in preparation for her composition, Laura discovered her great uncle, Fred Ainge, (whom she knew as he survived the war) was a stretcher-bearer attached to the 29th Division on 1 July 1916. In preparation for composing the new score she visited the Somme Battlefields, using Fred’s diaries to locate the areas in which he served. The re- mastered film was screened for the 90th anniversary of the Battle to a full house at the Queen Elizabeth Hall with the premiere of Laura’s orchestral score, performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra and received a glowing 5 star review in The Times.

And these troops in the mud grinned or stared at us to a new music score by Laura Rossi, brilliantly effective.” Geoff Brown, The Times. *****


About The Composer

Laura Rossi has written music extensively for film and television, including the critically acclaimed London to Brighton, The Eichmann Show, starring Martin Freeman and Anthony LaPaglia and Song for Marion, starring Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp.

She has also scored many silent films including the British Film Institute’s Silent Shakespeare and the famous IWM 1916 films The Battle of the Somme and The Battle of the Ancre.

Her latest work Voices of Remembrance is a choral/ orchestral work featuring war poems read by Ralph Fiennes and Vanessa Redgrave. The music was commissioned by Boosey and Hawkes to mark the Centenary of the First World War.

Laura’s music has been recorded and performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra, the London Musici Orchestra, London Contemporary Orchestra and the BBC Concert Orchestra. Her works have been performed at the Barbican, the Royal Festival Hall and the Queen Elizabeth Hall, London. Laura is also lecturer for film music at the London Film Academy. For more information please visit Laura's website: www.laurarossi.com

Here Laura describes her experience of working on this film:

It was very challenging writing music for The Battle of the Somme because the film has some really abrupt changes of mood – for example the scene showing happy soldiers receiving their mail suddenly cuts to a pile of dead bodies in a crater – so it was hard to achieve the right tone and to make the music flow between such contrasting scenes.

I wanted to deal with some of the more shocking or distressing scenes in a sensitive way, not loading them with over-romantic or tragic music but providing something simple to give the viewer the space to think about what they are seeing on the screen. For example, for the famous trench rescue scene I decided just to use a couple of instruments, a solo oboe and harp, as I did not want the music to be too emotional or tell the audience what to feel. The images are powerful enough themselves.

I felt it was important to provide a score that would help give the film some structure and make the images easier to follow – and it helps the viewer to concentrate on what is happening on the screen. I also tried to deal with some of the more lengthy or repetitive passages in this film. For example, when the scenes of shell-battered landscape at the start of Part 5 are viewed silent they seem very long, but the addition of music makes the scenes more watchable.


Laura Rossi at the Somme

I wanted the music to draw the viewer into these sections, as they are actually very important moments in the film. These are some of the few occasions when there is time to reflect on the images before quickly cutting to the next shot. In other films I have scored, there has been dialogue to tell the story and the main function of the music is to underline the narrative or to enhance the mood in shorter cues that flow in and out of the scene. Here the music has to carry more of the work and it needs to be continuous.

It was only after I had started working on this project and decided to visit the battlefields that my aunt told me my great uncle Fred had served on the Somme, and showed me his diaries. He was the only one of his pals in France who did not get killed. He was a stretcher-bearer, attached to the 29th Division on 1 July 1916, so it is possible he may even appear in the film. Discovering this close family connection, visiting the battlefields and witnessing some of the commemorative ceremonies this year made the whole project come to life for me; the battle feels much closer and I have a better appreciation of what it must have been like to be a solider on the Somme.

I have watched the film so many times that when I sleep at night I sometimes see the soldiers’ faces! Watching this film brings you closer to the reality of the First World War, and I have come to feel very passionately that I want others to know more about it.