BtvS 3.16

© Text and musical examples: Rob Gokee

Promotional CD tracks

15. Alt. Willow (3'37) 64kbps / 192kbps

"Alternate Willow" starts off with a haunting vibraphone arpeggio [Ex.1], layered underneath with violins. Choir and orchestral strings follow, moving to an early climax, a cacophony of brass and percussion with tremolo strings hanging over the top. The second half of the cue reprises the vibraphone melody, with double bass and brass underneath in swells, fading to a synth effect as we move into the brass and pizz string section. Portions of this cue have been used in other episodes of season 3, notable during the fight scene in the sewer in "Band Candy." The cue fades back out, coming back only to finish in a flourish of brass and percussion.

Blunt's comment: The "Alt. Willow" cue is one of Beck's most hard-edged horror cues, exhibiting a dazzling array of approaches to the genre, from the mutated vibraphone [n.b. this instrument has not been verified as yet, since it sounds closer to the tuned mallet percussion of a gamelan or muffled cowbells than to a classic western orchestral instrument. A muffled vibraphone is the closest I can tell by ear. Rob suggests a xylophone variant. We'd be happy to be put right], to eerie chorus, to chaotic strings, to all-out brass-dominated violence, to tragic string melody, to... If CB was to audition for an orchestral horror score this would be the promotional cue to clinch the deal.

The episode

Willow feels she is boring, and her friends unknowingly confirm the fact to her as she searches for something to make her less "reliable." Enter Anya, who wants her power center back and will do whatever it takes. She recruits Willow for a sketchy spell that unknowingly brings the vampire version of Willow (from "The Wish") into present reality. Alternate Willow wants to restore chaos to Sunnydale, and the gang stop her with an amusing switch of Willow's, and send her back to her universe, where she is staked seconds later.

Fun quotation:
Willow: "Oh yeah. Me and Oz play mistress of pain every night."
Xander: "Did anyone else just go to a scary visual place?"
Buffy: "Oh yeah."

The music

With about 22 minutes of music, Chris manages to covey a bevy of emotions in varying cues, all described below. His use of a vibraphone, moves from cue to cue, giving a feeling of continuity throughout the episode. Overall, the episode is very dark and moody, and the music follows closely.

Cue notes

All timings are approximate and originate from the region 1 NTSC DVD.


Sound design, synth effects play over Anya's plea for her powers back. Rising up to a light flourish as we change to Willow and Buffy.


Light strings (pizzicato) and a flute as the pencil impales the tree. A whimsical piece.


Nerf Herder bringing on the noise


Flute and strings over the Mayor's proposal to kill Willow, changing back to the light and airy piece from the schoolyard (which works effectively at bringing out the creepiness of Wilkins, and how caviler he is about murder).


Minor woodwinds play over Willow's depression over being "Old Reliable."


Starting with the previous motif, Chris moves into another variation of the whimsical theme, using strings and percussion, until Willow runs into Anya and we fade out…


…on the word "spell" we come right back in, moving to a more sinister version as Willow and Anya try the spell. Chris uses a vibraphone sample and choir, over the spell itself, until the scene becomes intense and we switch to a portion of a cue from "The Wish", a chaotic mesh of trumpets and percussion with rising and falling strings. After the spell dissipates, we move back to the "mysterious version with synth and the vibraphone, until Anya breaks the plate and we are taken to the factory where alternate Willow has arrived. Chris ends the extended cue on a string gliss as we fade out of act one.


The "Alternate Willow" promo cue enters, moving us through Main Street with big strings, changing (as Willow enters the Bronze) to…


… "Virgin State of Mind" by K's Choice.


Changing to synth and strings with percussion as Alt Willow tries to kill Percy, only to be stopped by Xander. The cue fades out as Willow begins to grope him…


Low synth as Willow advances on Buffy, fading out to choir as Alt Willow vamps out to the horror of Buffy and Xander, moving back to the vibraphone sound as Willow is approached by the Mayor's lackeys. Hurried strings as she subdues them, moving to synth as she breaks some digits. The cue heads back to the vibraphone as she outlines her plan for city domination, and we fade out to the library.


Rock song in the Bronze


As the vamps arrive, we get percussion and brass. Low strings play under the bulk of the scene. We move back to the "Alternate Willow" cue as Alt Willow enters the Bronze. As she moves around the room, we go back to the vibraphone, changing to a string gliss as she bites Sandy. The cue pauses for a second, and then re-enters as Oz pleas for Willow to stop. The cue has a string progression moving underneath it as she bargains with Anya, fading as we move to the library.


As the troops rally, we get big brass, changing to quick strings and brass accompaniment, changing again to a string gliss as Willow is captured by Willow, ending act 2.


Nice percussion and pizz strings as the two Willow's face off, moving to a woodwind trill. Very nice cue, plays well over the scene. The cue changes into a brass fight scene, until Willow tranquilizes Alt Willow.


The group readies themselves outside the Bronze in a return of the whimsical cue, with a nice oboe line [Ex.2] fading out as Willow enters the Bronze. The scene is mostly silent, heightening the intensity of Willows facade.


Quick stinger as one vamp is dusted.


As the transition from the Bronze to the library, the vibraphone and strings come back, fading out as Cordy shows up.


Minor strings as Alt Willow attempts to trick Cordy into freeing her, stopping quickly as Cordy decides to take the moment to have a heart to heart.


Back to the whimsical cue as we move back to the Bronze, fading back out as Willow is caught in her ruse and we move quickly back to Cordy's lecture.


Quick stinger with bells and strings as Alt Willow advances on Cordy and act 2 ends.


"Alternate Willow" promo cue back in, this time the second half of the cue as we move to Cory being chased, ending as Wesley chases Alt Willow away.


The big fight scene, starting with strings, and moving from Willow's scream to brass and strings. Nice juxtaposition between the two, moving to Willow fighting Willow, and the cue stops on Buffy about to stake Alt Willow. The cue moves to a woodwind playing the theme from earlier, fading out as they prepare to send Alt Willow back to her own world.


Flute returns as Willow says goodbye to herself. This cue has been used previously over "The Wish" (I believe), ending in a flourish as we move to another boring day in Sunnydale and exposition as the act ends.


Nerf Herder taking us away until next week…

Musical examples

Ex.1 [midi] "Alt"
Buffy 3.16 Ex.1 "Alt"

Ex.2 [midi / mp3] "Willow's Ruse"
Buffy 3.16 Ex.2 "Willow's ruse"