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The Searchers (Original Film Soundtrack)

Max Steiner

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Album Review

John Ford's 1956 western The Searchers, starring John Wayne, was eventually recognized as a classic of American cinema, as well as one that was very influential on subsequent generations of successful directors. Yet as Christopher Evans points out in his liner notes to the 2007 CD of this soundtrack on El Records, "of all the factors in that success which have been tirelessly analyzed by filmmakers, critics, and academics, one has remained relatively unsung: the score by Max Steiner." The original score is on this 68-minute disc, unobscured by dialogue or other incidental non-musical noise from the movie. In common with some other scores for major pictures, this isn't as impressive on its own as it is when paired with celluloid images, but there's plenty of tension in both the passages accompanying battle scenes and the ones underscoring dramas taking place between the characters. In keeping with the ambivalent tone of the film — in which there were some unsavory undercurrents to Wayne's apparently heroic quest to save a niece from the clutches of Native Americans — it's darker than the typical western soundtrack, and less focused on amplifying grand charges than helping set the pace for a journey that's both epic and uneasy. The main reason this CD doesn't get a higher rating is that the sound quality doesn't seem quite like it was taken from the original or best source. Perhaps such a source was not available, but the fidelity is only good, not great. Still, for serious fans and students of the film, it's an important release, allowing listeners to hear the music fully under its own power, rather than as background to onscreen action. And while it's mostly instrumental, there are a few vocal harmony cowboy ballads serving as the main themes that are undoubtedly the highlights, as well as being songs that could be appreciated by any general pop music listener, especially in the context of a best-of for American cowboy music.

Biography

Genre: Soundtrack

Austrian-born film composer Max Steiner was the grandson of the musical impresario who discovered Strauss and brought Offenbach to Vienna. Growing up with a rich heritage of opera and symphony all about him, Steiner developed into a musical prodigy; at the age of 13 he graduated from the Imperial Academy of Music, completing the course in one year and winning the Gold Medal of the Emperor. Already a composer at 14 and conductor at 16, Steiner moved from Austria to England in 1905, remaining there...
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