Appaloosa (Soundtrack) by Jeff Beal



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September 2, 2008


Composer Jeff Beal
Back in the Saddle Again




Born in Hayward, CA.

Started playing trumpet at age 8 and soon started studying jazz improv on his own.

Graduated from the Eastman School of Music.

Has received 11 DB Awards from Downbeat Magazine.

Married to soprano Joan Beal.

His concert music has been performed by the St. Louis, Rochester, Pacific, Frankfurt, Munich, and Detroit Symphonies.

Official Web Site

Composition Credits

Who Do You Love?
Realms of the Unreal
The Deal
Ping Pong Playa
Tibet: Cry of the Snow Lion

Composition Credits (Television)

Rome (HBO)
Carnival (HBO)
Monk (USA)
Ugly Betty (CBS)
The Company (Mini-series)
The Engagement Ring
Ike: Countdown to D-Day

Composition Credits (Concert Works)

The General
Fear of Falling in Love
Clarinet Concerto
Things Unseen
Red Shift
The Uncluttered Path
Alternate Route
Marimba Concerto
Three Legged Race
Wright Suite






Composer Jeff Beal

"[POLLOCK] came together really quickly and was easy to find. I felt really connected to the subject matter. APPALOOSA wasn't that. I worked harder for this one, but it was fun. I felt like there was no way to do it fast, even though the end result can sometimes seem very simple or spare - getting there was a lot of work. I'm very proud of it."

Jeff Beal

Composer Jeff Beal returns to work with actor/director Ed Harris on APPALOOSA.  He shares about his work relationship with the director, Harris, the challenges of writing a score for a Western, and what he'd like to do next.

  Music from Appaloosa


Appaloosa opens wide October 3, 2008

Appaloosa opens wide October 3, 2008

Composer Jeff Beal and Director/Star Ed Harris

Composer Jeff Beal and Director/Star Ed Harris

Appaloosa scoring session with Jeff Beal

Appaloosa scoring session with Jeff Beal


CC: How did you come to work on APPALOOSA? Was it because of your previous collaboration with director/actor ED HARRIS for POLLOCK?

JEFF BEAL: Yes. Exactly. I had hoped that we'd work together again, but POLLOCK was his first film as a director, so I never knew if it would happen. One thing about Ed (Harris) is that he is very loyal to people he cares about and whose work he likes. There are actually a number of people who worked on Pollock who he has brought back for APPALOOSA.

CC: How is it working with Ed Harris?

JEFF BEAL: It was a real treat. I have worked with several different directors multiple times and there's a bit more of a personal connection that is forged when you go through this process together. There's a bit of a short-hand that's developed between you and the amount of safety you feel in working together. I definitely felt that way in this movie. As much as I loved working on POLLOCK, this one was a real treat.

CC: Now POLLOCK was a good six or seven years ago...or more.

JEFF BEAL: At least! It was a long time ago. I hope I don't have to wait as until Ed Harris directs again, because he is really a wonderful film-maker. Now if Appaloosa does well, then I think it might be something he'll do again.

CC: To what degree was Ed Harris involved with you in regards to the score?

JEFF BEAL: Very much so. In addition to acting and directing this, he also wrote the screenplay - as an adaptation of a Robert Parker novel. When it came to the music, we got together many times. I would describe it as a very involved collaboration. He was over here a lot going over the music and even during the mixing of the film, I was doing little updates for him. He's really a detail-oriented person. He's really intense to work with, but the end-result is always great. It was a bit like playing in a band, where all the musicians are really great and so it sort of "raises your game."

CC: I found it strange that the music used in the trailer for APPALOOSA was so very different from your score. I mean it was completely contemporary, and didn't fit well really, which set me up to think that this was the direction the score was going to take.

JEFF BEAL: I was a little surprised when I heard it too. Of course I wasn't involved with that. It's almost like an entirely separate production. As long as it makes people want to see the movie, then I'm happy. One thing I like about the trailer is that I don't think it gives away the whole story.

CC: Now Western films are breed unto themselves. Was working on this type a film an added pressure or perhaps freeing?

JEFF BEAL: I would say it was a little bit of both. It was definitely tricky since there has been so many great scores for films of this genre. It was also tricky because Ed (Harris) wanted to make a film that wasn't like every other western-film. He actually wanted to make it in a way that hearkened back to some of the real classics. On another level, it's more like a character-drama than it is a pure Western.

CC: And that translates into your score for Appaloosa.

JEFF BEAL: Yes. We have some great action sequences, which are pretty intense, but there is also a very personal dimension to both the film and the music. I'm hoping that this element will take the genre to places it hasn't really been before.

CC: In listening to the score, there is certainly an interesting mix of that "classic western" musical palette, but there is also a contemporary edge at times. On the other side, you have some very well-defined themes in this score, which you would expect for a Western.

JEFF BEAL: Yes. We have one for "Hitch" who is played by Viggo (Mortensen). The story is really seen and told through his eyes. We did dance around this element for a while, but in the end we went with this theme as the title theme and I had actually written it very early on. We went away from it for a while, but eventually came back to it. We realized we needed something strong for the opening of the movie and something strong to represent this relationship.

CC: And then you have a couple of other themes to balance things.

JEFF BEAL: Yes we have something for the villain, Randal Bragg, played by Jeremy Irons, and also another important piece representing Renee Zellweger's character - who comes between to the friends.

CC: Now the theme for her character, Allie French, is a pretty strong romantic-theme.

JEFF BEAL: Exactly. It's a little string quartet which allowed us to make it a little more intimate than some of the other music. Actually, I had done another film about a painter earlier in the year, JAMES CASSEL: PORTRAIT OF AN ARTIST. I had shared that music with Ed (Harris) and there was one piece that he really loved. This piece, to some degree, became a spring board for the Allie French theme.

CC: When preparing for APPALOOSA did you look to any of the classic Westerns, or perhaps even to more recent Westerns like 3:10 To Yuma, for any sort of inspiration?

JEFF BEAL: It's a good question. I remember there were a couple of times where I got stuck and so I asked Ed (Harris) if there were anything that you can think of that reminds you of what you're wanting the music for this film to be. It was sort of funny because he said, "No." He had an idea of what he wanted but until we heard it, we wouldn't be certain of which direction to go. Now, having said that, there were aspects of this story that had to be addressed and we decided to do this the way MARCO BELTRAMI did for 3:10 TO YUMA. In fact, some of his cues were used as temp tracks in the film.

CC: Now what about the last track on the soundtrack; the vocal, "You'll Never Leave My Heart." Did you write that as well?

JEFF BEAL: Actually, that is somewhat of a fun story. That is actually Ed (Harris) singing. We were looking for something for the end credits that was a little less "weighty" because the story ends up pretty dramatically.

CC: How did it come about that Ed Harris would be the vocalist?

JEFF BEAL: I actually asked the film's editor if Ed sang and she said, "Yes. He has a wonderful voice." While I was writing the score I was joking around with Ed (Harris) that it would be funny if we did a sort of cowboy song at the end. His face sort of lit up and he liked the idea. Literally, a couple of days later I received an email from him which contained some lyrics. It's funny because the early version of the lyrics contained some curse words, like his character would say, but he eventually softened it. Right at the very end, I finished writing the song, so Ed came over, we through up a mic and he sang it. It was really quite magical as he sort of took on the character that he played in the movie again. It's a sweet little cowboy song as only this character could sing it. What did you think of it?

CC: I was surprised actually as upon first listen I was trying to figure out just who it reminded me of. Finally, I decided it sounded like Johnny Cash or at least someone from a few decades back.

JEFF BEAL: Yes. That's exactly the sound we were going for - sort of that 1950's, Johnny Cash, cowboy song.

CC: Yes...well, you nailed it, but I would have never guessed that it was Ed Harris singing.

JEFF BEAL: Actually, his father was a professional singer and he has a very musical family. I'm really glad he did it.

CC: So how much music did your write for this film?

JEFF BEAL: I think about 50 minutes...most of which is on the soundtrack.

CC: So where does this project rank for you? Was it the most difficult? The smoothest?

JEFF BEAL: It certainly was hard because of the genre. It was also hard because it was the follow up to POLLOCK. I didn't really feel the pressure when writing for POLLOCK but that score has ended up being very important for my career. So I think I felt a little bit of added pressure following that up. In the end, each project is like a child. Each one is so different. POLLOCK was, in a way, an easy score to write for some reason. That music came together really quickly and was easy to find. I felt really connected to the subject matter. APPALOOSA wasn't that. I worked harder for this one, but it was fun. I felt like there was no way to do it fast, even though the end result can sometimes seem very simple or spare - getting there was a lot of work. I'm very proud of it.

CC: So was APPALOOSA a unique writing experience for you?

JEFF BEAL: I did feel like I had to dig a little bit deeper for this project. I did experience something similar though when I was working on the HBO series ROME. It was a historical genre piece, but the film-making and storytelling had a certain modern edge to it. I ended up using some of the lessons I learned on ROME, in terms of the creative approach to take. I wanted to pay homage to the genre and time period, but also making it feel very authentic and "in the moment" for the audience.

CC: After APPALOOSA, would you like to jump back into another project like this or put some time between it and another Western?

JEFF BEAL: I'd probably prefer to put a little time in-between. I'm actually glad to see the Western having a bit of a renaissance. Right after completing this score, though, I did a film which premieres at the Toronto Film Festival called, "Who Do You Love?" I couldn't think of anything more different from APPALOOSA.

CC: Well, APPALOOSA looks like it is going to be a great film and your score looks like is going to be a great fit. Congrats and hopefully we'll be seeing Appaloosa talked about during the upcoming award season.

JEFF BEAL: Thank you so much!


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