In Dubious Battle

Musical Score By: Hauschka

Distributed by: Lakeshore Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                Based on John Steinbeck’s novel, In Dubious Battle stars Nat Wolff as Jim Dolan, a young man looking for work in the early 1930s.  He becomes the latest recruit of Mac McLeod (John Franco), a smooth talker who knows how to get things done.  His goal: to infiltrate a group of apple pickers in California who came out to the area with promises of a $3.00 a day salary.  However, upon arrival, the landowner, Chris Bolton (Robert Duvall) has just decided that their wages will be a dollar a day.  Nat and Mac’s job is to get these migratory workers to fight for their rights by striking, but Nat soon learns that he had no idea what they were up against.

                The musical score of In Dubious Battle was created by German pianist and composer Hauschka, who began his life in Kreuztal as Volker Bertelmann.  Discovering the piano at the age of age, he began studying classical piano and took lessons for ten years.  Hauschka formed his first rock band at the age of fourteen and has been in a number of bands since.  An experimental musician, Hauschka is best known for his primary instrument - the prepared piano, a technique of laying pieces of paper, marbles, drumsticks or other objects on the strings of a piano to produce odd sounds.  He has created musical scores for television and film, most notably his score for Lion which was nominated for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe and a Critics Choice Award.

                The In Dubious Battle Soundtrack features a rather dramatic score created through the use of piano, violins, cello and percussion that I believe is created through Hauschka’s prepared piano method.  The down-up stroke performed on the cello in accompaniment with a haunting violin score in the opening track, One Dollar Address, will send chills up your spine.  The music is a foreshadowing of the dramatic events to come and appears in a number of tracks throughout the album.  The percussion seems to be a mix of actual percussion instruments and the prepared piano method, creating sounds like wooden block strikes, cowbells, striking metal and more.  There are also moments in which real percussion is used, with sticks drumming on a hardhat cymbal for effect.

                I found the In Dubious Battle Soundtrack to be quite an interesting listen – very dramatic and suitable for the subject matter of the film.  I could actually picture it being used in some of the scenes I observed in the film’s trailer.  Though quite somber, the music expresses the story of a people’s search for fairness in eking out a living in an unfair industry.  Hauschka’s score is perfect for this film and well worth the listen.


For feedback, visit our message board or e-mail the author at