Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Musicians on the Range

In the old westerns, a cowboy rode his horse across the open plains accompanied by majestic music from the likes of Elmer Bernstein, Dimitri Tompkin, Max Steiner, Ennio Morricone and Alfred Newman.  The reason for this proliferation of music on the plains was explained by the 1951 short comedy So You Want to Be a Cowboy.  The film showed that hidden among the sagebrush was an earnest orchestra.

Mel Brooks later reused this gag in Blazing Saddles (1974).


Woody Allen turned out a similar gag in Bananas (1971).  We in the audience accept it as part of the soundtrack when we hear a harp playing over a scene.  But Allen suddenly becomes distracted by the music.  He walks over to a closet, throws opens the door, and finds inside a harpist. 

Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969) opens with a funeral procession on a western prairie.  The mournful accordion music that accompanies the scene is, as it turns out, being played by a straggly bystander (Jack Elam).

What about this scene from Fanny and Alexander (1982)?

We are sometimes surprised to find that the music in a scene is actually ambient sound. 

How about this scene?

Okay, that time I tricked you.

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