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Why * this * Nutcracker melody is in every Christmas trailer

23 December 2021, 15:24

Santa Claus 3.

Image: Alamy


It is perhaps the most used piece of music in Christmas movie trailers … and it is by a 19th century Russian composer.

Chances are, even if you’ve never seen Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker before you will know some of the music of the famous ballet.

Specifically, you will probably recognize the melody Trepak, as among others, it appears largely in the trailers of modern Christmas movies.

Trepak is a dance from the second act of Tchaikovsky’s 1892 ballet, and it is based on a traditional Russian and Ukrainian folk dance, also called a trepak.

So why does this Russian dance accompany party movie trailers so perfectly? It’s time to dive into the world of Christmas cinema to find out …

Read more: Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? Here’s what the soundtrack tells us

Which makes Trepak the perfect choice for Christmas movies?

When you hear Trepak for the first time, you can’t help but get excited. This is not surprising, because studies have shown that when we listen to fast music, our heart rate temporarily accelerates, as it does when we are excited.

Trepak is a fast piece of music. Although its speeds vary depending on the ballet production or the conductor, Tchaikovsky’s original tempo mark was molto vivace – prestissimo, which means that the work has to be “very lively” and “as fast as possible”.

By including a fast track piece of music in the trailers, advertisers are physically affecting their audience by temporarily increasing their heart rate. It’s a memorable feeling, which audiences will now associate with this film, most likely in a positive way.

The tempo and the lively nature of Trepak is also synonymous with the idea of ​​rushing. The dances choreographed on this piece often involve the performers scurrying around the stage in order to hit the entire choreography in rhythm.

The idea of ​​rushing is also linked to Christmas and the idea of ​​making sure everything is ready for “the big day”. As a result, Trepak often highlights scenes of chaos, panic, or rushing in trailers in order to duplicate that specific imagery (see below – Santa Claus 3 and Jingle All the Way).

The music itself is Christmas; not only because it reminds those of us who know Nutcracker to associate the music with this festive ballet, but also because of the instrumentation.

Read more: What makes Christmas music so Christmas?

Like many other famous Christmas tunes, this piece is strongly led by the violins, which carry the main melody at the top and tail of the work.

The use of the tambourine is also similar to how the sleigh bells are used in Christmas music.

Although it is a different percussion instrument, the tambourine helps to accentuate the accelerate towards the end of the music, as well as the joyful, festive, dancing nature of the music.

In many cultures, the tambourine is used in celebrations, and Christmas is just that.

Being a bit cynical, one of the main reasons this piece is a staple for movie trailers is that the sheet music is not copyrighted!

Although the musical recordings of the play are protected by copyright, so they cannot be used in trailers without permission or payment, nothing prevents a film company from organizing, performing and performing. register own version of Trepak for their trailer.

But that can’t be the only reason pros return to this track time and time again when it comes to creating trailers. Another main reason is, quite simply, the room’s welfare value. As shown in this wonderfully energetic interpretation for string trio by the gifted brothers and sisters Balanas …



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