Only the Brave

Musical Score By: Joseph Trapanese

Distributed by: Varese Sarabande Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                Based on the GQ article, No Exit by Sean Flynn, Only the Brave tells the story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, an elite crew of firefighters whose specialty was wildfires.  The movie is dedicated to the memory of the twenty firefighters who fought the Yarnell Hill Fire, a wildfire in Yarnell, Arizona that took place in June of 2013 and claimed the lives of 19 of the 20 members of the crew.

                The musical score of Only the Brave was created by American arranger, producer, conductor and composer Joseph Trapanese.  Earning a B.A. in classical composition from the Manhattan School of Music, Trapanese went on to get a M.A. in music for visual media at UCLA and taught electronic music composition there from 2008 to 2011.  By 2016, he had become a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  In between, he has worked on composing music and collaborating with a number of artists.  He is best known for his collaboration with Daft Punk in creating the music for Tron: Legacy.  Solo composing credits include Straight Outta Compton, Oblivion, Insurgent and Allegiant.  He also created music for the video games Need for Speed Payback and The Crew.

                The Only the Brave Soundtrack features a score rich in acoustic guitars, pianos and strings.  According to the composer, “I wanted the music to feel like you were in someone’s bedroom listening to them play for you, as if these characters were right next you telling their story.  We made a deliberate choice to feature one theme, the Hotshot theme, that grows and changes alongside our characters throughout the film. Joe [Kosinski, director] and I built something simple and direct, a theme that drives right into the heart of the audience and creates a direct emotional connection to our story…Because we didn’t use any synthesizers, I had to be incredible inventive with the recording and processing of acoustic instruments. I would often record at a higher sample rate so we could play back the audio one, two, sometimes even three octaves down, with minimal loss in fidelity. Also, a lot of the instruments were recorded with microphones placed far away from the musicians. I didn’t want to microscopically focus on the individual instruments; rather, I want the audience to feel as if there are in a sacred space with musicians telling them this beautiful, heartbreaking story.”

                Acoustic guitars and pianos are enlisted for scenes featuring emotional drama.  Strings, keyboards and percussion, in addition to manipulated sound, are used to add drama to firefighting scenes.  Percussion enhances the action in these scenes.  The manipulation and arrangement of instruments help created the wooshing noises one often associates with fire.  The music of Only the Brave is captivating – dramatically moving in one moment and adrenaline-pumping in others.  Joseph Trapanese has created an excellent musical score for Only the Brave – one that has inspired me to want to see this film.


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