Marco Beltrami Q&A: ‘The Homesman’ composer
"It’s all to me characterized by the character of the wind,” says composer Marco Beltrami of "The Homesman," a film that subverts the tenants of its Western genre in many ways, including in its score.
In a new video chat with Gold Derby, he adds, "The wind is always present on the prairie, and sometimes to extreme circumstances. To me, the wind was the one factor that summarized their plight, and if there was a way to somehow characterize that musically, and make that a musical element in the score, that’s what inspired me originally."
The film focuses on a frontierswoman (Hilary Swank) who hires a mysterious drifter (Tommy Lee Jones) to help her transport three women who have been driven insane by the harsh terrain across the country. Despite its realistic look at the harshness of pioneer life, Beltrami tried also to express musically "the ideal setting of the frontier, and why people went there in the first place."
Working with Jones as a director, Beltrami says, is "very different from working with other people. His approach is one of strictly creativity and innovation. He wasn’t concerned with me following any particular temp music used for screening purposes, which is often the case on many of the movies that I do, and that everybody does."
This fact led to Beltrami experimenting with several unique instrumentation techniques, including recording music outdoors on a homemade piano. He explains that (we were) doing a lot of things that you’d never have the ability to do in a more traditional Hollywood movie just because I think it would make people nervous."
He also speaks about the theme he wrote for Swank’s character, Mary Bee Cuddy, composed before he began experimenting with the idea of the wind: "There were some lines of verse that needed to be set to music in a very traditional way. I wrote a melody that Hilary Swank’s character…would sing. That melody, so happened, I thought would be appropriate for her as a theme because of its simplicity and because it sort of summarizes Mary Bee’s optimism. With all of this stuff that’s happening, she’s always perennially positive that everything’s going to be good."
Beltrami received his first Oscar nomination for the remake "3:10 to Yuma" (2007), and his second for the Best Picture-winning Iraq War drama "The Hurt Locker" (2009).