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The Horse Whisperer
Composed, Conducted, Performed, and Co-Produced by:
Thomas Newman

Orchestrated by:
Thomas Pasatieri

Co-Produced by:
Bill Bernstein

Hollywood Records

Release Date:
June 2nd, 1998

Also See:
The Beyondness of Things
The Shawshank Redemption
The New World
Legends of the Fall
Black Beauty

Audio Clips:
1. Angus (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (244K)
Real Audio (152K)

3. The Whisperers (0:30):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (238K)
Real Audio (147K)

12. The Rhythm of the Horse (0:30):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (238K)
Real Audio (147K)

28. End Title (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (244K)
Real Audio (152K)

Regular U.S. release.


The Horse Whisperer

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Buy it... if you are content within Thomas Newman's comfort zone of colorful specialty instruments, understated orchestral themes, and highly personal spirit.

Avoid it... if you demand an epic presence for the setting of Montana and thus might be better served by investigating John Barry's rejected score for the film.

The Horse Whisperer: (Thomas Newman) The best-selling novel by Nicholas Evans was the focus of Robert Redford in his 1998 screen adaptation that irked some viewers with its altered Hollywood ending but otherwise wooed audiences with its honest depiction of soul healing and the beauty of Montana. Over the course of almost three hours, The Horse Whisperer offers the tragedy and trauma that injure a girl, her horse, and by association, her family. When they consult with a "horse whisperer" who can heal the horse's spirit and thus the others, they embark on a journey to explore and heal the hearts of everyone involved. The film is melodrama at its finest, and combined with the spectacular visuals that the region inherently provides, The Horse Whisperer was a moderate success. More problematic in the production process was the recording of the soundtrack for the film. Redford relied upon the steady hand of English veteran John Barry, master of the epics of nature who had graced the Redford film Out of Africa with an Oscar-winning score and who had earned another statue for Dances With Wolves. Barry's career was grinding to a halt by the late 1990's, his stubborn style of ultra-fluid romantic orchestral writing finding fewer appropriate matches in the industry. His score for The Horse Whisperer consisted of more of the same style and, for whatever reason, Redford decided to jettison Barry in favor of Thomas Newman, whose score for The Shawshank Redemption had been temp-tracked into parts of the new project. Speculation about this replacement has long continued, perpetuated by Barry's eventual release of his themes for the film on the concert album "The Beyondness of Things." An examination of that album versus the final score provided by Newman shows two composers predictably writing from their comfort zones.

Barry's rejected work is an extension of Dances With Wolves, among others, and thus reflects the magnificent scope of the Montana setting without addressing the intricate relationships in the story. Newman's more dynamic blend of traditional orchestral sounds of Americana with his trademark folksy rhythms and instrumentation, however, covered both bases and is arguably more appropriate for the picture. Ironically, however, while Newman succeeded in providing the flair of character and intimate delicacy that Redford was likely seeking, he lost some of the epic grandeur that the film could have used. Newman's work for The Horse Whisperer is rich with the instrumental diversity that his listeners have come to expect, with an extra emphasis on the Western elements of acoustic guitar and fiddle (along with mandolin, piano, and the synthetic sounds of nature). Despite expectations that Thomas Pasatieri's orchestrations would yield a score similar to James Horner's Legends of the Fall, listeners are instead given the unpredictable and imbalanced ambience of The New World. A few of the folksy rhythms will remind of Danny Elfman's Black Beauty, as will Newman's jubilant, primary theme. Much of the score, surprisingly, meanders in the depths of barely audible dissonance or colorful solos, seeming disorganized and uncommitted to either the heart and personality of the solo accents or the occasional majestic bursts of the orchestral ensemble. The latter parts are more likely to appeal to fans of The Shawshank Redemption and Little Women, and (at the time) was one final venture into that realm before the composer delved into more ambient, experimental sounds. The soft, but never uninviting continuous orchestral murmuring that sustains the "whispering" effect throughout the background of the entire score never becomes too heavy. Nor do its frivolous moments continue so long that they distract from the whole.

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Newman offers a main theme that is a knockout, but it's badly underutilized. Heard in full only during about five minutes combined in "The Rhythm of the Horse" and "End Title," this relatively simple minor-key theme is among the most attractive creations of Newman's career. Carried by solo flute before yielding to the full ensemble over elegantly strumming guitar and light percussion, these performances are alone worth investigating the entire album. Newman's failure to adapt this theme well into the fabric of his score's softer moments is a definite curiosity and disappointment. His remaining large-scale orchestral outbursts, highlighted by "Montana," offer string and French horn ideas that never relate to form any cohesion with other similar cues. The singular theme in "Montana" could remind Golden Age listeners of Max Steiner's 1963 score for Spencer's Mountain, one of the composer's final works. The late cues "The Very Act of Being" and "The Vast Continent" take their sweeping string crescendos in unique directions, forming distinctly individual high points in The Horse Whisperer that don't leave much of a memorable impression once the score is finished. What the listener will remember from the score is Newman's warm specialty instrumentation and orchestrations, both of which are standard in his career. Overall, however, while the low-key personal temperament of Newman's music may be appropriate for the characters of the film, the score as a whole is not as inspiring as the setting of Montana would suggest. An album of cues presented out of film order doesn't aid in the lack of cohesive core in the music, though any fan of the composer will easily be delighted by a half dozen of the lengthier cues. It may be impossible to compare exactly how John Barry's expansive sound would have complimented the film differently that Newman's replacement work, but it's likely that either score would ultimately have done the job. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Thomas Newman reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.17 (in 29 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.11 (in 54,273 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.8 Stars
Smart Average: 3.6 Stars*
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   Featurette Music on DVD?
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 57:54

• 1. Angus (0:55)
• 2. Double Divide (1:36)
• 3. The Whisperers (2:21)
• 4. Accident (1:45)
• 5. There Was Snow (Opening) (3:17)
• 6. Hooking On (1:23)
• 7. Montana (1:23)
• 8. Pilgrim's Progress (1:59)
• 9. Runaway Meadow (3:00)
• 10. Badlands (0:47)
• 11. Voice of God (1:00)
• 12. The Rhythm of the Horse (3:15)
• 13. Rancher's Wife (1:30)
• 14. Iron (1:33)
• 15. Simple Truths (3:21)
• 16. Hereford Cross (1:15)
• 17. Tunnel (1:26)
• 18. Awkward Talk (1:58)
• 19. Your Misfortune (None of My Own) (2:52)
• 20. Hooves (1:14)
• 21. Hobble (2:52)
• 22. The Very Act of Being (2:28)
• 23. Grace (3:06)
• 24. Lazy J (1:00)
• 25. Creek House (1:14)
• 26. The Vast Continent (3:39)
• 27. Percheron Stallion (1:49)
• 28. End Title (3:44)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert contains extensive credits, but no extra information about the score or film.

  All artwork and sound clips from The Horse Whisperer are Copyright © 1998, Hollywood Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 6/15/98 and last updated 4/1/08. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1998-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.