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I just went to see "Beauty and the Beast" with a live orchestra. The movie was played on a screen with the orchestra performing the soundtrack.

I was sitting in a place where I could see the control screens used by the conductor and orchestra. It would display a few information over the movie and the beats, bars, etc.

One thing I don't understand is that the slow version of the main theme was in 6/8, and a more action oriented version of the same theme was in 4/4; what is the reason to have a different signature when, in practice, it was the same theme orchestrated differently?

Also, another thing I didn't understand is that a few of the dance songs (in the bar, if anyone remembers the movie) were in 2/4; but you could clearly hear the chord changes being every 2 bars, so it could have easily fit in 4/4; Does that mean the signature was chosen more to emphasis the beat and not the music itself? Is there a reason behind that choice?

  • I'm not knowledgeable enough to say for sure, but isn't it the case that a lot of dance forms are traditionally associated with certain time signatures? Wikipedia notes that different traditional dances are associated with specific time signatures. Perhaps the meter originally referred more to the counting of dance-steps and has just managed to stick through tradition? – user57228 Feb 16 at 23:05
  • Which theme is the "main theme" you refer to? I can't imagine the song "Beauty and the Beast" as ever being in 6/8 time, and even the Prologue fits in 4/4 time better at several points. – Dekkadeci Feb 17 at 7:38
  • @Dekkadeci, yes, I think I didn't name this properly; there is the main song of the movie, but it's not it. There is a theme that appears regularly through the second part of the movie; it's orchestrated differently, but you can recognize it and it naturally seems to fit quite well in the 6/8 meter. – Thomas Feb 17 at 9:34
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Does that mean the signature was chosen more to emphasis the beat and not the music itself?

Generally, yes the time signature is more about the beat and rhythm of the music. It's not as much about the melody or chord changes, although it influences how the melody and chord changes are played.

One thing I don't understand is that the slow version of the main theme was in 6/8, and a more action oriented version of the same theme was in 4/4; what is the reason to have a different signature when, in practice, it was the same theme orchestrated differently?

6/8 is a very different feel from 4/4, even when the same melody is played in both time signatures. If the melody in question sounds exactly the same when it's played in both parts, then I expect something about the accompaniment has a different feel.

6/8 is a compound march, which means it kind of lopes back and forth with a sort of waltz march feel. Like one-and-uh two-and-uh one-and-uh two-and-uh. If you play a melody made up of dotted quarter notes in 6/8 time, and then play the same melody in quarter notes in 4/4 time, it will sound pretty much exactly the same. But the 6/8 time lets you easily notate any swing or triplet feel that you want to add to the melody or accompaniment. While 4/4 gives you a solid duple time feel.

  • yes, I think that's it: they sound similar, but they feel very different; one meter had a sense of urgency, not the other one. – Thomas Feb 17 at 9:36

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