The Western movie genre is the epitome of the American spirit. They are the stories of the frontier, the wild west, love, violence, and adventure. It's a genre that has not only come to define part of American culture, but has also left an impact on other societies, spreading throughout other countries and producing sub-genres.
The Western Movie Genre
The Western film genre began in the silent era but gained back popularity in the 1930s and hit it’s peak in the 50s with classics such as Highnoon, The Searchers, and Shane. John Wayne and Gary Cooper fueled the box office hits, creating new imagery of the American West. The popularity of the genre continued well into the 60s with Sergio Leone classics starring Clint Eastwood classics such as The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.
The popularity of the genre lies in the themes: Civilization vs. the wild, taming the unknown, and manifest destiny. It represents the American Dream. These roots of commercialized cowboy culture romanticized the dangers and adventure of the frontier. It also valued the concept of owning and protecting your property on your own, a deeply rooted American ideal.
Westerns are a true American genre, tales of adventure and manifesto, love and violence, are all captivating themes for storytelling. But more importantly, Westerns are a reflection of America itself. It’s a vehicle for stories of history and culture to be told. It has created an iconography of what the American spirit is and how the rest of the world views it. It’s the rough and tumble group of individualists who make their way through the wilderness, lawful or not.
While the cinematic influence of the Western has died out in modern times, there has been some recent successes such as the remake of 3:10 to Yuma, Academy Award-nominated True Grit, and the widely popular HBO show, Westworld. While these newer interpretations of Westerns hold onto cinematic modernity, there's no escaping the Western movie music that makes this genre iconic. Westworld's composer, Ramin Djawadi, made a genius interpretation of Soundgarden's Black Hole Sun, on the slightly-out-of-tune saloon piano - an omage to the times with the reminder that it takes place in modern society.
The Roots of Western Movie Music
SIMPLE STRING INSTRUMENTS
And while the influence of the Western has spawned several sub-genres over the past century of filmmaking, the musical themes of Western music has great commonality. This makes it easy to find Western music while working on a thematic project.
How to Find Western Movie Music
To help you out we pulled our favorite royalty free western music from stockmusic.net. These collections have more than enough tracks to sort through and help you find the right sound for your media.
Many of the saloon piano sounds come from the fact that it's slightly out of tune. This of course came from the fact that saloon pianos were not given the best care. As the composer of 3:10 to Yuma, Marco Beltrami explains, it's a G# minor with E on top.