Marco Beltrami”s soundtrack for “The Homesman” is like an old photograph. Stare long enough at an 19th century relic and the memories start reverberating through space and time (not to get too “Interstellar” about it). Recreating pioneer era music, mining that Western language, is only part of Beltrami's goal for “The Homesman”; There are twists of ambience and metallic pangs that give old-timey melodies a contemporary sound. Intertwined and layered into the soundtrack, Tommy Lee Jones' film starts feeling less like a transportive period piece than a look backwards from our fixed position in 2014 – an unnerving quality that fits the film”s arduous travelogue.
To achieve these sounds, Beltrami (the composer behind “World War Z,” “Snowpiercer,” “The Wolverine,” and “The Hurt Locker”) and his sound design-minded collaborator Buck Sanders constructed their own instruments that would meld the archaic and new. The creations were as tiny as a refitted lap steel guitar to giant, cross-ranch cables that could pick up wind and translate it into a haunting glow. In a new video feature on the making of the score, Beltrami walks us through the process, which also included recording sessions outside in the fields of his Malibu, CA studio.
“The Homesman” marks Beltrami”s third score for director Tommy Lee Jones, previously teaming for “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” and “The Sunset Limited.” As Jones puts it in the feature, their work together is mostly hands off. Jones wants originality. Beltrami delivers. “We don't have to do a lot of talking,” Lee says. “Sometimes I'll complain or whine, but I'll rarely cry.”
If Beltrami earns a Best Original Score nomination for “The Homesman,” it”ll be his third time up for the award. The composer”s work on “The Hurt Locker” was nominated in 2010. He nabbed his first nomination for another Western: 2007″s “3:10 to Yuma.”
“The Homesman” opens in limited release on Nov. 14.