Bone Tomahawk

Music Composed By: Jeff Herriott and S. Craig Zahler

Distributed by: Lakeshore Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            In the movie Bone Tomahawk, Kurt Russell is Frank Hunt, a sheriff who sets off with a posse of gunslingers to search for the abducted wife of one of his townsfolk.  Problem is, he has little to go on, no trust for most of his posse and no way to fight the cannibalistic tribe members that are descending upon them.

            The musical score of Bone Tomahawk was created by the composing team of Jeff Herriott and S. Craig Zahler.  A Professor of Music at the University of Wisconsin at Whitewater, Herriott teaches classes in audio, multimedia, music technology and composition and also coordinates the Media Arts and Game Development Program.  His musical compositions are generally contemporary, mixing music with recorded or electronic sound.  S. Craig Taylor is somewhat a jack of all trades, having performed in a heavy metal band, worked as a cinematographer and catering chef, created theater pieces, written novels and screenplays in addition to composing music.  In addition to co-composing the music for Bone Tomahawk, S. Craig Zahler is also the film's writer and director.

            For Bone Tomahawk, S. Craig Taylor wanted all the emotional scenes to be sans music accompaniment, believing that the scenes would be more impactful this way.  He also wanted the music to be centered around the time setting of the film, which meant that the instruments used for the score could not be electric and no electronic sounds could be used.  According to Herriott, "He decided early on that the sound world would consist primarily of stringed instruments, and we ultimately went with a somewhat lush string quartet for about half of the cues. For some of the more atmospheric cues, we considered bari saxophone and some other winds, but we wanted to make sure nothing even sounded electronic, so that meant we would need to stay away from extended techniques like multiphonics. We ultimately used percussion, voices, and strings for most of that material."

            The first track of the Bone Tomahawk Soundtrack, Four Ride Out, features a haunting violin theme reminiscent of Stairway to Heaven, right away giving the listener the idea that members of this posse may not survive.  Each light string track is alternated with darker tracks, featuring lower notes of the saxophone and long stretches of low registry strings.  This alternating of light and dark serves to enhance the spook factor of the music.  Too bad the song at the end of the album, Four Doomed Men, is so darn cheezy sounding.  I know what they were going for with this - trying to remind of us of the spaghetti westerns of old - but...well, there are no words for how bad this track is.

            I have a feeling that the music created for Bone Tomahawk goes a long way in scaring the crap out of those watching the film, but I'm not at all certain that anyone is going to want to actually own the twenty minutes of music that the soundtrack is comprised of.  Better to watch the film and understand how the music enhances the various scenes it was written for than to own an album you will probably only listen to once.


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