2016, thus far has seen something of what can be likened to a revival or re-emergence of the western in cinemas, THE HATEFUL 8, THE REVENANT and now JANE GOT A GUN, the latter contains a musical score by composers Lisa Gerrard and Marcello de Francisci. I think I am right when I say that this is a revenge western, we saw a number of these during the 1970,s in vehicles such as HANNIE CAULDER and A MAN CALLED NOON to name but two. JANE GOT A GUN stars Natalie Portman in the title role and has Ewan McGregor as a convincing villain. The score is something of a departure from what we as collectors of film music look upon as a typical western score, by this I mean there are no great expansive cues depicting or supporting the wide open spaces of the old west, instead what we are presented with is a rather low key work down to earth sound, but it is a score which certainly gets your attention simply because it is out of the accepted or expected area of sounds that many associate with the western genre. The soundtrack contains a number of musical passages that are performed by solo guitar which is enhanced by solo violin or fiddle, plus we have the always welcomed distinctive vocal talents of Lisa Gerrard which adds to the work a certain earthiness in a very similar way in which Gianna Spagnola did for Morricone’s NAVAJO JOE, Gerrard’s flawless vocalising brings to soundtrack a sound that is haunting and at times dark and unsettling. If you are hoping that the score for JANE GOT A GUN will evoke past western soundtracks such as THE BIG COUNTRY or HOW THE WEST WAS WON then please think again, the film does not call for music of this type or music that was once more or less expected in westerns, this I think is an intelligent and sophisticated approach to the western medium and in effect the composers have created a whole new original and diverse slant to scoring westerns with their music. The work is also quite a percussive one and contains a number of cues that are filled with pulsating sounds that at times are thundering and fast paced these are along the way punctuated by bold, dark and strident string stabs that add a sense of urgency to the proceedings, there is also a hint of melancholy at certain points within the score which every so often give the work an at times unexpected romantic and emotive side, thus creating another level or dimension to the music.
The score is performed mostly on conventional instrumentation, but does however have a certain amount of synthetic support, however saying this the two compliment and embellish each other seamlessly. The composers have successfully in my opinion managed to re-invent the sound of the western with this soundtrack using instruments which ordinarily would not be utilised for the genre and with the stunning use of vocals courtesy of Gerrard which are present but never overpowering. If I was asked to describe this score by making comparisons to other soundtracks, I would find it difficult because this is an original through and through. Understated but highly effective both on and off screen.
SOUNDTRACK ON VARESE SARABANDE RECORDS,FROM JANUARY 29TH 2016.