Long typecast as a composer for horror and sci-fi (the “Scream” movies, “I, Robot”), Marco Beltrami may have finally broken out of that genre with music for a Western: James Mangold’s remake of “3:10 to Yuma.”
What Variety’s Todd McCarthy called a “clangy, propulsive score” emerged from talks with director Mangold, who admired Beltrami’s evocative work on Tommy Lee Jones’ “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.” “He wanted an intimate score that was aware of the stylized Westerns of the past,” says Beltrami of Mangold, “but had its own voice and wasn’t just pastiche.”
A longtime fan of Italian maestro Ennio Morricone, especially his use of sounds from nature and unique combinations of offbeat sonorities, the composer decided to adopt a similar method.
“The movie took place in the 19th century but took liberties with historical details,” he says. “I thought it would be cool to take instruments that were available in the 19th century but use and manipulate them in a modern sort of way.”
So while the music of “3:10 to Yuma” features such traditional instruments as acoustic guitar, tack piano, pump organ, fiddle, tin whistleand jaw harp, the sounds were often electronically processed.
An upright piano was especially tortured, its strings plucked and fishing wire dragged across the strings to create an eerie sound for desperado Ben Wade (Russell Crowe). The rhythm for Charlie Prince (Ben Foster) and his gang was actually a processed grandfather-clock chime. At the end of recording in his L.A. studio, Beltrami flew to London to add strings and percussion.
“The movie was so well shot and acted that the music didn’t need to fix anything,” Beltrami adds. “More than anything, it provided another dimension, the musical landscape.”