It’s Classical in Conversation time and we’re sticking with the theme of film for this week’s entry. We’re looking at Yann Tiersen, the composer known for his famous and beautiful soundtrack for Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s film, Amélie.

Two Weeks, 19 Pieces!

From learning the piano at age 4 and the violin at age 6, Frenchman Tiersen’s life has revolved around music. After attending a number of classical training colleges, he discovered punk and fell in love with bands like The Stooges and Joy Division.

One summer, Yann Tiersen decided to shut himself in his apartment for a while (Grimes, is that you?!). It was just himself and an electric guitar, violin and piano accordion, and by the time summer was over he’d written no less than 40 pieces! A chunk of these found their way into his first two albums.

Though he became relatively famous in France, the Tiersen name was not particularly well known outside of the country, that is until a career-changing opportunity came along. Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet was making a film called Amélie for which he needed a soundtrack. He had some ideas for what he wanted for the score, but as soon as he heard the work of Yann Tiersen he simply KNEW that this was the guy for the job. He immediately bought all his albums and approached Tiersen to ask if he’d be keen to have a go.

He said yes. And, perhaps in the spirit of the summer he spent locked away in an apartment, Tiersen composed 19 pieces for the film in the space of two weeks. Yep, that’s TWO WEEKS and 19 pieces!! He also gave the producers permission to take whatever they wanted from his already released albums.

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The film was an immense success. It earned many an award, and Tiersen himself won the César Award for Best Music Written for a Film as well as the World Soundtrack Academy Award. And thus, Yann Tiersen became a household name all over the world.

An Enchanting Waltz

If you’ve seen Amélie, you’ll know that the soundtrack is nothing short of stunning. We love the “Comptine d’un autre été, l’après-midi” for it’s haunting, melancholic melody, and we adore “La Valse d’Amélie”, which we’ve included in the Debut grade of our RSL Classical Piano syllabus.

The piece features not one but two times in the film, once as a piano piece and once as a full orchestral arrangement! Both are equally beautiful of course. When attempting this piece, we’d recommend counting out loud – no matter how silly you might feel doing this! You’ll see that there are lots of tied notes in the opening section so by counting these out you can be sure you’re not missing a beat here and there.

The middle section has more of an accompaniment feel to it. We’d suggest placing these chords very carefully in the right hand, making sure that they’re played at exactly the same time to avoid sounding sloppy. Overall, this is a completely enchanting waltz that we should be able to sway along to, so above all else, ENJOY IT!

If you’ve enjoyed learning a bit more about composition in film, we’d really recommend reading our blog all about film legend John Williams.