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January 8, 2008

Soundtracked - "3:10 to Yuma" by Composer Marco Beltrami

Motion picture soundtracks have always fascinated me. In the Soundtracked series, actors, composers and/or directors will offer commentary on their film's soundtrack, and offer insights into the creative evolution that melds music into the final film.

I have never been a fan of Westerns but I have almost always been held transfixed by their scores. In a good Western the music is as much a character as the actors, pacing and moving the film forward. Composer Marco Beltrami proves himself a master with his score for the Russell Crowe film, 3:10 to Yuma, with music reminiscent of Ennio Morricone's film work but with a modern touch.

The soundtrack was released on December 18th, and 3:10 to Yuma is available on DVD today.


In his own words, here is composer Marco Beltrami's Soundtracked essay for his soundtrack to the film, 3:10 to Yuma:


For the score to 3:10 To Yuma I wanted to create a unique sonic template. I updated the sound typically associated with the western by using modern recording processes to manipulate period instruments.

I wrote three different themes for the film which correspond to three different characters. The first is for Russell Crowe's character, Ben Wade. His theme is defined by three plucked notes inside the piano. I also ran fishing wire through the strings of the three notes to create a stretching, pulsating sound. This was an organic method of musically representing Wade's serpent-like character; he's alluring but also dangerous.

The second recurring theme is the Gang's Theme, personified by Charlie Prince (played by Ben Foster). This theme is based on a rhythmical loop recorded from an old grandfather clock chime, which I processed digitally to create a shuffling rhythm. I also recorded the sound of the pedal from a 19th century pump organ. The simple sound of the pedal moving up and down, and the resonant air moving through the organ added percussive, haunting tone.

The third theme, for Christian Bale's character Dan Evans, is a simple guitar riff with trumpet. All of the guitars on the soundtrack are nylon string; the electric sounding guitars are the nylon strings processed to sound electric. The simple guitars and trumpet have been compared to Morricone and spaghetti western scores, which I was aware of. I tried not to be too derivative or pastiche, and in the end it's really the technique and context that is most similar. A solo trumpet in a western suggests Morricone, but if the film were a different genre it would be heard in a different context and thus leave a different impression.

mp3: "Ben Takes the Stage / Dan's Burden" [mp3] from 3:10 to Yuma

For this piece, we are offering a free download of the second track from the soundtrack album, titled 'Ben Takes The Stage / Dan's Burden.' This track features all three of the themes in different configurations, as all of the characters are introduced in this scene. First thing we hear the fishing line, which moves into the rhythmical sound of the grandfather clock; it sounds a bit like a brushed snare. The stretching of the fishing line morphs into the orchestral string section which we recorded separately in a recording studio. Dan's theme comes in about halfway through- again nylon string guitar post-processed. The harmonics of the pre-recorded sounds are emulated by the orchestra as we move into Ben Wade's theme on the guitar.

I hope you enjoy!


3:10 to Yuma links:

the film's website
the film's trailer
the film's IMDb entry
the film's Wikipedia entry


Marco Beltrami links:

the composer's website
the composer's IMDb entry
the composer's Wikipedia entry


also at Largehearted Boy:

Previous Soundtracked submissions (directors and composers discuss their film's soundtrack)
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2007 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2006 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2005 Edition)
52 Books, 52 Weeks (2004 Edition)


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