Dances with Wolves is 25 years old this year, 25 years, wow a quarter of a century. Seems unbelievable don’t it, and it was this movie that got John Barry back into the public gaze after being absent due to illness, but saying that I don’t think he was ever forgotten, how can you forget a man that had given us so much with his iconic and haunting themes for TV and Film, and his upbeat pop tunes of the 1960,s. We all knew he would return but were not sure when or with what masterpiece in tow. DANCES WITH WOLVES is for me personally one of the great westerns but a western with a difference, it has heart and so much soul and is saturated in emotive qualities, the acting and direction being superb and the story line riveting. Of course John Barry was no stranger to westerns having scored two in the 1970,s (THE WHITE BUFFALO and MONTE WALSH) he was also not unfamiliar with big screen blockbusters and adventures, but was also able to create intimate and small scale scores. DANCES WITH WOLVES proved to be a project that would require all of Barry’s experience and expertise. The movie and also the score proved to be a runaway success. There have been various releases of the soundtrack, I think three in all over the past 25 years the last being an expanded version of the score on Sony music soundtrax, that contained 24 cues and had a running time of 76 mins. As it is the 25th anniversary this year maybe we can expect version 4,with extra cues, but if not that’s ok with me I am more than happy with the most recent edition of the soundtrack. The wolf TWO SOCKS theme still gets to my emotions and makes the hairs on my arms stand on end, a gentle and soft theme filled with melancholy, tenderness and playfulness and one that underlines the friendship between man and a wild animal, and the animals undying loyalty and friendship till the end. (Maybe that’s why I seem to prefer animals to humans nowadays?).
John Barry’s score is epic in every sense of the word, filled with lush themes, dramatic passages and lilting but alluring tone poems that tinker with the heart strings and stir up every sentiment and emotion possible. Grand, imposing, romantic, wistful and sweeping, the score for DANCES WITH WOLVES is a classic. THE JOHN DUNBAR THEME for example is a flawless and lingering melody, in fact the entire score just oozes melody and rich thematic material, Barry’s unmistakable style being present throughout, the movies vast and expansive landscapes requiring a score that contained more than just one core theme but a multitude of themes to accompany each character and underline and support the many scenarios. Brass, strings, a fleeting use of harmonica, percussion, woodwind, piano and choir combine to create one of the composers longest scores and also probably his most emotive work. John Barry gave the western film a new musical style when he scored DANCES WITH WOLVES, he created something that was and remains special and dear to all who love movie music and the music of John Barry.