October 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Cheyenne Autumn
  LABEL X LXCD 4   [46:31]

Alex North is not everyone's cup of hemlock. There is a startlingly bleak and remote quality to his work at times and this score bears that out.

From the 'Overture' onwards the music is dense and sombre, often introspective, laced with a few recognisable 'Red Indian' frills and the 'Main Title' continues the trend with strident brass in what is a bold, dissonant and serious-minded piece. One of the overriding aspects of the entire work is the lack of anything truly melodic, although 'Friend Deborah; Waiting for Supplies' introduces a quiet, thoughtful melody, despite the fact that soon the increasingly dominant dissonance re-emerges.

It is this discordant quality that pervades the work with 'Indians Arrive', 'Entr'acte', 'River Crossing' and 'Death' all assaulting the senses with forceful brass and strings. And with tracks such as 'Archer', the brass is supported by militaristic percussion, enhancing the sense of conflict and discord. Probably the best example of this is 'The Battle' with its military drum work and off-centre brass. All very war-like and menacing.

The few lighter pieces do not make much headway, as in 'The School House' and 'The People', although the latter is at least a little more sonorous, which is in marked contrast with the rest of the score. This track even incorporates 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic' and for the only moment in the entire score becomes reminiscent of director John Ford's previous movies (he had a penchant for using folk melodies and songs).

Also worth mentioning, although not particularly for their quality but more because they demand attention, are 'Sick Girl' with more of that distinctive brass dissonance giving way to some quieter, almost tender moments and concluding with a jazzy finale. And 'Dodge City' which is a rather extraordinary piece which seems almost experimental in nature. In fact you could quite easily imagine this being used by a performance dance group!

This is a densely layered score that for all its artistic integrity is rather hard to sit through. Of course work like this is difficult to evaluate because it very much depends on how you approach film music. For those who appreciate the technical aspects of a score this will no doubt be rather attractive, but for the average soundtrack admirer I think this may well leave them cold.

Mark Hockley



Mark Hockley


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