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Classical 101

Western Winds Scored for Film, The Homesman

Tommy Lee Jones' new film, The Homesman, has a musical score composed by Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders that is getting a lot of attention. The film centers around the stories of three pioneer women who lose their minds while traversing the cold, austere fields of Nebraska. In that sense, it is a typical Old West film á la John Ford. My personal favorite. Obviously the depiction of the Old West gets a much more contemporary treatment, but the musical score is actually based off a tradition that is almost ancient. It's beautiful, cold, and thoughtful. https://soundcloud.com/officialmarcobeltrami/01-the-homesman-main-title Beltrami and Sanders decided to depict the madness of the characters through the wind itself, almost as a narrator or character. For this effect, Sanders decided to build a new instrument, and Aeolian Piano, from the pieces of an old, upright, traditional piano. Eight piano strings were torn out, strung out over 175 feet from atop a storage unit to connect to large water containers outside of Malibu in the Santa Monica Mountains. The water in the tanks attached to the piano wires was also recorded and features prominently in the music, its rippling movement is like a subtle, new iteration of the madness of the winds and the women. The concept comes from the Aeolian Harp, named for the Greek god Aeolus, god of the wind. The sound that emanates from the strings occurs due to a phenomenon known as the von Kármán vortex street, a repeating pattern of vortices which swirl around a stable surface which then vibrates to create an audible pitch. The effect is an erie and suitably unattached sound. These instruments are often built on a small scale from a simple box with strings, two bridges, and then placed in a window to resonate. They were quite popular in the Romantic Era. http://youtu.be/CtzSm76ppS4 More traditional music makes an appearance in the film's score as well, including a string quartet recorded outdoors for the same austerity and sterility of sound. As a whole, it is intriguing and a little unsettling. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnXRbra9130