Friday, August 09, 2013

The Big Country: Jerome Moross’ Epic Score to the Epic Western, and an Urgent Plea for Help! (Presented Without Commerical Interruption!)

Theater poster for The Big Country: Top: Gregory Peck, l, Charlton Heston, r; bottom: Carroll Baker,l, Jean Simmons, r.

By Nicholas Stix

After yet another long day spent committing hate crimes against The Other, I need to kick back and enjoy some artistic White Male Privilege. Often that entails listening to music, you know, that ancient and soon-to-be outlawed concatenation of sounds replete with melody, rhythm, harmony, point and counterpoint. Some of the best music ever composed in this country was commissioned to accompany non-musical performances, whether ballets or movies. Few people still alive ever saw Eugene Loring’s Billy the Kid, Martha Graham’s Appalachian Spring, or Agnes DeMille’s Rodeo on the stage, yet millions have heard Aaron Copland’s music to those ballets.

With pictures, the relationship was traditionally reversed. Everyone has seen the picture, and until recently typically heard the music only in the background.

Over the past generation, this relationship has changed. As movie productions involved more and more people, all of whom the studios were now contractually obligated to name at the end, the credits got longer and longer, sometimes taking up to ten minutes to run. Major composers filled that time with highlights from the score. Recordings of those scores became a big industry niche. And with the advent of Youtube, thousands of people have been kind enough to upload highlights from said scores. As a result, there are now millions of people who have heard the music to movies they’ve yet to see. For but one example, I’ve yet to see Willi Wyler’s Oscar-winning picture, The Big Country, and only heard Jerome Moross’ epic score to the picture for the first time about a year ago.


Upload and introduction by Frederik Riesberg, aka Frederik5495

Uploaded on Nov 13, 2011

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (1958). Composed and Conducted by Jerome Moross, performed by the Hollywood Studio Symphony, piano parts performed by John(ny) Williams. Feel free to write comments! :-)

Music Awards:
- None

- Academy Award - Best Original Score (1958)

00:00 = "Main Title"
02:36 = "The Welcoming"
04:15 = "Old Thunder"
05:32 = "The Raid - Parts 1 & 2"
07:38 = "Major Terrill's Party"
09:04 = "The War Party Gathers"
11:14 = "Ambush in Blanco Canyon - Part 2"
12:56 = "End Title"

My Plea for Help
By Nicholas Stix

I’m putting together a presentation of the 10 greatest (gluten-free) Western soundtracks. I’m pretty well set on the top five, but am torn over the next five.

5. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
4. The Big Country
3. How the West was Won
2. The Cowboys
1. The Magnificent Seven

The following eight pictures, in no particular order, are candidates for places six though ten, but I’m open to other suggestions.

The Professionals
High Noon
True Grit
Lonely are the Brave
The Wild Bunch

All help will be greatly appreciated.


Anonymous said...

This one just broke, you might want to be alerted to it. Nothing said about race, of course, but the names of the perps lets you know. jerry

Anonymous said...

Hello Mr. Stix: All the Western movie scores you mention are terrific. Would you consider the soundtrack from "The Long Riders" for your list? It's not of the full orchestra style but still wonderful music. Regards.

AnalogMan said...

For my money, Number One goes to "Once Upon a Time in the West", score by Ennio Morricone.

Main Theme is here.

AnalogMan said...

OK, I see you specified "gluten-free". I presume that means no spaghetti. That one is not gluten-free. But with stars Charles Bronson, Henry Fonda and Jason Robards, I think it qualifies as a respectable western. Morricone's movie music, at any rate, is in a class of its own.

Unknown said...

What about The Alamo 1960. Monte Walsh 1970

Nicholas said...

Dear Ms. Forbes,

I do not like the first half of Tompkins' score to The Alamo. I think he picks things up considerably in the second half of the 2:40 version of the picture.

I am not a big Tiomkin man. I admire his score to High Noon, which seamlessly weaves into the picture, and yet he does not stir my passions the way Elmer Bernstein does in The Magnificent Seven (or True Grit), John Williams does in The Cowboys, or Jerome Moross in the instant score.

However, there is one Tiomkin score I love: Rio Bravo, whose titular theme he spun from a notion that played a tiny role, I believe, in Red River (also by Howard Hawks, which was surely no accident).

Rio Bravo is a classic, but could have, and should have been a masterpiece.