Monday, March 21, 2016

Movie Music Monday: 'Legends of the Fall'

Few composers capture the vibe, theme, philosophy, and character of the movie they are composing for as well as James Horner did. When you listen to his soundtracks, you can hear what the movies are about. You hear the romance, the heartbreak, the terror, the violence, the grandiosity and the epic sweep. You can sense the period of time and the mood. Horner, like precious few others, had the ability to truly capture in notes, melodies, harmony and percussion what the films were created to say through dialogue, cinematography, plot, and action. He was a magnificently gifted composer and Legends of the Fall is one of my all-time favorite Horner scores.

Edward Zwick's Legends..., based on the Jim Harrison novella, is the story of a Montana family's battle to stay united through the early years of the twentieth century. Horner's score beautifully and terribly captures the dynamics of the Ludlow family's saga, from the idealism of young men heading off to fight in World War I to the catastrophic loss of loved ones and the eventual discovery of the family's need for one another. The soundtrack masterfully incorporates elements that bring to mind the Americana of the newly settled frontier, the chaos of trench warfare, and the spiritual appreciation the characters hold for the land and time in which they live. The film is a multilayered and complex story, and the music is similarly diverse.

But Horner never leaves a listener stranded for long. He was clearly a big believer in theme and accessibility, and the soundtrack for Legends... contains a handful of some of his most memorable lines. You may even hear hints of other Horner films and recognize traces of instrumentation that were prominent in some of his later scores. His signature was a memorable one, and Legends... certainly marked some of his most potent work.


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