Argentinian composer Gustavo Santaolalla's film music has been growing in terms of recognition over the past 2 years. Last year his soundtrack for "The Motorcycle Diaries" was praised by critics and nominated for a variety of awards, and then this year he won the Best Score Oscar (among other awards) for his music for "Brokeback Mountain". In both scores the composer displayed his ability to pen subtle underscores which ably support the narrative from a background position yet gradually work their way into the viewer's consciousness. His music is also expertly matched to the location. With "The Motorcycle Diaries" Santaolalla was a little closer to the latin fusion style for which he is already well known, but in "Brokeback Mountain" he moved North into Americana territory while retaining much of his typically guitar-centred instrumentation.
In some ways the overall soundtrack for "Brokeback Mountain" is reminiscent of The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada reviewed recently on mfiles, since tracks of underscore are separated by a variety of country songs. That leaves a smaller portion of the overall soundtrack for Santaolalla's excellent instrumental music, but in this case the majority of the songs have also been composed by Santaolalla for the film. This gives a cohesion to the soundtrack, where the recurring instrumental music seems to represent the important way in which the on-screen relationship is the corner-stone for all subsequent events. This instrumental music is led by a simple melody for acoustic guitar with characteristic "hammer-on" notes first presented in the track "Opening" with minimal almost subliminal support from the other instruments. "Brokeback Mountain 1" continues where this leaves off, and the strings and slide guitar in the background becoming more of an obvious accompaniment while the guitar ends on a simple harmonic pick. With "Snow" the acoustic guitar adopts a simple rhythm guitar accompaniment while the slide guitar briefly takes the lead with a simple melodic line. "Brokeback Mountain 2" returns to the simple line of "Opening". The ambience of "Riding Horses" is created by a minimalist set of arpeggiated chords, while "Brokeback Mountain 3" starts with strings before the guitar melody returns. The final track "Wings" is a simple, more rounded folk song which seems to be where the music has been heading all along, first on acoustic then with slide and then joined by strings and bass for a full tutti effect.
Santaolalla composed or co-composed five of the songs on the soundtrack album, all in perfect country style. He was sole composer on "No One's Gonna Love You Like Me" and "An Angel Went up in Flames" which is an energetic instrumental track but as source music it is more akin to the songs than the true underscore. He collaborated with Jeremy Spillman on the up-tempo "I Will Never Let You Go" and then with Elton John's frequent lyricist Bernie Taupin on "I Don't Want to Say Goodbye" and "A Love that Will Never Grow Old" which won a Golden Globe award. This recommended soundtrack album is available at the following links where all tracks can also be previewed: Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk. There is also a book of Brokeback Mountain Sheet Music which contains some of the songs and instrumental tracks from the film.
A remix album was also commissioned and released to tie in with the movie "Brokeback Mountain", mostly based on the main theme as heard in "The Wings" including a version by Gabriel and Dresden. Further information can be found at these product links: Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk.
Track listing as follows, all the labelled tracks are songs or source music and the other tracks are instrumental underscore by the composer: