Sound Bites: Jeff Beal

Appaloosa

Director-star Ed Harris reteamed with his “Pollock” composer Jeff Beal for “Appaloosa,” an offbeat oater with Harris and Viggo Mortensen as longtime friends and lawmen-for-hire, Jeremy Irons as the bad guy and Renee Zellweger as the femme foil.

“We needed a score that deepened the experience of the film,” Harris says, “that could articulate certain character traits, relationships, emotional things without overdoing it.” He sought a “rough elegance,” which he defined as “a certain sophistication, but not slick, not polished.”

Beal brought an authentic 19th-century sound, including guitars, banjo and percussion. “I was looking to make it gritty, give it a sense of the dustiness of the place,” says the composer.

He augmented those instruments with strings and a solo trumpet (which he played himself). “It became very useful because it harkens back to the sound of the classic scores, but it was also able to be a little jazzy at times and improvisational, loose in a way, which seemed to fit these guys. It gave them a certain swagger.”

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