‘1883’ co-composer Breton Vivian on separating the score from ‘Yellowstone’ [Exclusive Video Interview]

When “Yellowstone” co-composers Brian Tyler and Breton Vivian were tasked with writing the music for the show’s first prequel limited series, “1883,” they made sure to balance a desire to keep the music familiar to “Yellowstone” fans while also trying something new.

“When you listen to it, there are certain instrumentations that make this score kind of sound like it’s within the universe,” Vivian tells Gold Derby during our Meet the Experts panel featuring television composers. “We tried to keep a sense of they’re in the same world, but distinct at the same time.”

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As Vivian explains in our exclusive video interview, he and Tyler took their initial cues from “1883” itself. The show is set decades before the events of “Yellowstone” and focuses on the initial rise of the Dutton family – including James Dutton (Tim McGraw), the great grandfather of John Dutton (Kevin Costner), the patriarch of creator Taylor Sheridan’s signature franchise.

“For ‘Yellowstone,’ it was trying to take the musical cultures from a lot of the European immigrants coming over [and use that for the score],” Vivian explains. “We wanted to explore that more for ‘1883,’ and look at older music from that era.”

To accomplish that, Vivian adds, he and Tyler sought to use instruments that could have conceivably been part of a trek across the Old West, like a battered fiddle or small guitar. 

“You sort of have this reflecting of the land and the hardships that they’re going through present within the instrument, the music,” he says. “We did things like putting a really heavy mute on a fiddle. Just playing in a different manner. Things like having a normal kind of flamenco guitar, but preparing it by sticking picks in it. So it sort of has this kind of dead quality to the sound.”

Vivian has worked with Tyler for years, first as an assistant and then as a key collaborator on numerous top projects like “The Fate of the Furious” and “Crazy Rich Asians.”

“He would hear stuff that I would write and the thing that he liked most was the fact that I would record myself playing guitar,” Vivian says of working with Tyler, who has written scores for blockbusters like “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Iron Man 3,” multiple “Fast & Furious” films, and 2022’s “Scream” sequel. “So when ‘Yellowstone’ came around, it felt like a perfect fit for us to do together. I think kind of our general tastes were in the same area and we kind of just knew how to approach it the same way.”

“1883” is streaming on Paramount+. The full score can be heard on numerous streaming platforms, including Spotify.

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