Home > Greatest Scores of the Twentieth Century, Reviews > DANCES WITH WOLVES – John Barry


January 28, 2019 Leave a comment Go to comments


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Kevin Costner had long wished to produce and star in a western and, after several years of searching, finally came upon a script by his friend Michael Blake that piqued his interest. Set in the post-Civil War era, the tale explored the clash of civilizations between the indigenous American Indians and the westward expanding white Europeans. Costner asked Blake to expand his script into a novel to improve its chances of being adapted to the big screen. He did so, and Dances With Wolves was published in 1988. Costner immediately purchased the film rights and set his plan into motion, using his own Tig Productions Company to finance the film. He would audaciously produce, direct and star in the film. He began with a production budget of $15 million dollars, which ballooned to $22 million due to his insistence on geographical, linguistic and cultural authenticity. To support him in the lead role of Lieutenant John Dunbar he hired Mary McDonnell as Stands With A Fist, Graham Greene as Kicking Bird, and Rodney A. Grant as Wind In His Hair.

The tale explores the life of First Lieutenant John Dunbar, a decorated hero of the battle of St. David’s Field. For his bravery in turning the tide of battle, Army Command grants him a posting of his choosing. He requests a transfer to the Western frontier so he can see it before it disappears. He arrives at Fort Hays, earns the displeasure of its commander, and is assigned to the territory’s furthest western outpost, Fort Sedgewick. As its lone inhabitant he renovates the decrepit fort and in time makes contact with the local Lakota Sioux Indians. He manages to earn their trust and respect, and during the process comes to better understand and appreciate their culture. Over time he adopts their ways and is made an honorary member of the tribe. All he loves is soon threatened by the advance of American forces, which are moving westward to open the land to white settlers. Dunbar is captured, tried as a deserter, and transported back to serve his sentence – but the Sioux come to his aid, free him, and as a member of the tribe ask that he rejoin them. Dunbar, however, knows the army will never stop searching for him, and declines, as he does not wish to endanger the tribe. The film concludes with an epilogue, which informs us of the subjugation of the Sioux thirteen years later, thereby completing the conquest of the west. The film was a stunning commercial success earning $424 million or nineteen times its production cost of $22 million. It also received almost universal critical acclaim earning and astounding twelve Academy Award nominations, winning seven for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Sound, Best Editing and Best Score.

Costner had always been inspired by grand orchestral scores and decided early that he would support Dances With Wolves’s narrative and expansive cinematography with a traditional orchestra. To that end, Basil Poledouris was hired, as his Lonesome Dove score really checked all the boxes desired by Costner. Unfortunately recording conflicts with John Milius’s Flight of the Intruder caused Poledouris to withdraw from the project. He had a long collaborative relationship with Milius and, for Poledouris, loyalty was non-negotiable. As such, Costner turned to John Barry, whose music had always resonated and deeply moved him. Barry, who had just recovered from a harrowing two-year life threatening illness, was impressed by the screenplay and highly motivated to take on his comeback score. Yet the relationship began on the wrong foot, as Barry and Costner’s musical visions were not aligned; Costner wanted a grand cinematic sweep, while Barry favored a more intimate approach. He proposed to Costner that, given the film is seen through the eyes of John Dunbar, so too should the music emanate from this perspective. Such an approach, he argued, would provide the film with much greater emotive power. Well, Costner was won over, and the rest is history.

The score offers classic Barry romanticism, which graces us with stirring melodic lyricism of uncommon beauty. For me this effort serves as the career apogee of Barry’s compositional style, a stunning masterpiece that would never again be duplicated, his Magnum Opus. To carry out his vision, Barry used a 95-piece orchestra with a 12-person choir. He wrote over 100 minutes of music; the most of his career, and the score was supported by eleven themes, the most of any of his compositions. To ensure authenticity, he would infuse his soundscape with source songs of the day, as well as traditional Indian music and martial bugle calls. Barry provided insight into his approach during an interview with John Burlingame:

“Although it’s a big score, and a long score, in a strange way it had to be very simple. Dunbar is a very simple, decent man. It’s a lovely story about his encounter with the Sioux tribe, and it has a kind of purity to it. That was the most difficult thing, keeping that simplicity for most of the music.”

The John Dunbar/Dances With Wolves Theme offers the score’s defining theme, one which earns its rightful place in the hallowed halls of the pantheon of great cinematic themes. It serves as John’s personal identity and is primarily articulated by a solo trumpet nobile supported by strings and warm French horns. Within the notes Barry informs us of John’s innate goodness, nobility, heroism and altruism. But the theme also speaks to us transpersonally, offering an elegy to the passing of Native Americans caught in the onslaught of America’s relentless and irresistible march westward, propelled by its Manifest Destiny doctrine. The Love Theme supports the romance between Dances With Wolves and Stands With A Fist, the white woman who was rescued by the tribe when she was a young girl, and grew up within it. It offers another in the fine tradition of love themes Barry has brought to the cinema. The theme is remarkable in that its construct is one that I have never encountered before. It emotes with an ABACD construct. The tender A Phrase is carried by solo flute delicato adorned with soft, shifting strings gentile, while the more lyrical B Phrase is elegant in its expression. We flow seamlessly in to the C Phrase, which like the Buffalo Theme uses a series of two-note ascents cloaked with harp adornment. The ardent D Phrase, so full of longing, is carried by sumptuous strings, flute and harp adornment revealing a melody of sublime beauty.

The Journey Theme offers a bright, major modal affirmation of the pristine beauty of the American West. Confident strings brimming with optimism join with resounding horns nobile, which speak to the grandeur and sense of wonderment John feels as he travels to his destiny. The Two Socks Theme serves as the identity of John’s little wolf companion. Barry perfectly captures the spirit of this playful animal, but we also hear within the notes the affection felt by John. The melody is either carried by solo flute tenero with soft adornment by shifting strings or violins delicato with cello counterpoint. Cisco’s Theme serves as the identity of John’s beloved horse. It appears just twice in the score, and in each instance we hear anguish in the notes, which informs us the music emanates from John’s perspective. Horns doloroso emote the twelve-note statement atop forlorn drums and strings, as early

in the film Cisco is stolen by Sioux warriors, and later with grievous anguish as American soldiers shoot him dead out from under John. The Voices of the Past Theme speaks to us of death, the painful threnody of a psychic wound, which will never heal. It is employed just twice in the film, each time as a flashback born of pain and despair. It emotes as ethereal voices supporting an elegiac trumpet, or as mysterioso of shifting ethereal voices.

Lastly, we have five themes associated with the Indians; The Sioux Theme serves as their collective identity and offers a complex repeating, seven-note ternary construct of one of the score’s finest melodies. Barry creates a calm serenity and pastoral beauty, which speaks to the Sioux’s bond and harmony with the land. The A Phrase offers an ascending line born by mid-range strings gentile, the B Phrase shifts the strings upwards in their register and continues the slow gentle ambiance with a descending line, while the culminating C Phrase rises and falls like the shifting prairie breezes. The Buffalo Theme affirms the precept that in simplicity, there is beauty. The theme’s construct consists of three slowly, repeating phrases of four two-note ascents. The first phrase offers declarations by horns maestose countered by a descending string phrase, which serves to enrich the statement. The first reprise of the melody shifts the main line to the violins with the horns now countering as echoes. We conclude as we began with the horns moving once more to the forefront, again countered by strings. I believe Barry fully captured the strength and majesty of these great beasts, which dominated the plains. The Buffalo Hunt Theme is used but once in the score, and what a powerful statement it makes! It arises naturally from out the Buffalo Theme, to which it is kindred, with energy, strength and power. Cyclic strings launch and support preparatory three-note horn declarations, which unleash the ten-note theme proper by five unison trombones. A steady drum cadence with sharp horn counters is countered by lyrical strings to propel the stampede. But we are not done, Barry adds a wordless chorus, which adds spiritual auras informing us that the Indians are thankful to the Great Spirit for this bounty.

The Violence Theme supports scenes where violence and fighting erupt. While it often accompanies the Pawnees in the film, it is not a tribal motif in that it is used in other scenes of violence where they are not present. The foundation of the theme is an ominous drone by strings and timpani, which sows unease and dread. Sharp stabbing string statements and ferocious strikes by brutal taiko drums and tom toms powerfully empower the violence unfolding before our eyes. Lastly, we have Kicking Bird’s Theme, which serves as his identity, and is kindred to the Sioux tribe’s theme. It offers a seven-note construct carried by solo oboe, supported with strings and acoustic guitar.

“Main Title” supports the roll of the opening credits and is announced by trumpet declarations of the John Dunbar Theme. We enter the film proper with surgeons removing John’s blood soaked boot but then taking a break before amputating it. We see in his eyes a resolve to not have his leg amputated and he restores his boot and leaves the surgical tent. An orchestral rendering of the Ghostly Voices Theme supports his dire circumstances and ushers in a grim snare drum propelled marcia funebre replete with elegiac trumpet calls. We are informed of his intent to go down in a blaze of glory with two legs. At 5:32 we segue into “Looks Like a Suicide” where John mounts a horse and rides audaciously across the face of the enemy lines, defying death. Barry carries his progress boldly with bright confidence atop a galloping line full of exhilaration. He defies death and following a pause we segue at 6:34 into “Second Suicide Attempt” where John reprises his defiant ride across enemy lines. In this second effort the bright confidence of the galloping melody is overtaken by the ethereal Ghostly Voices Theme as he opens his arms to embrace death. In “Charge” unbeknownst to John, he has turned the tide of battle as the Union soldiers initiate a surprise charge against the distracted rebels overwhelming them. Barry supports the charge with a snare drum and trumpet led martial rendering of the John Dunbar Theme.

“Ride to Fort Hays” offers beautiful score highlight with a classic Barry melody. A languorous set piece carries John like a soft prairie breeze westward to his new assignment at Fort Hays. Barry transfers the melodic line across the orchestra using violins, trumpet and oboe to inform us of John’s aspirations, and sense of contentment. In “Journey to Fort Sedgewick” his unbalanced and dismissive commanding officer has assigned him to the distant outpost Fort Sedgwick. He accompanies Timmons westward and a plaintive elegiac trumpet, which supports the suicide of the distraught Major Fambough, carries their departure. At 0:48 we a graced by a score highlight as Barry introduces his Journey Theme. The theme offers a bright, major modal affirmation of the pristine beauty of the American West. Confident strings brimming with optimism join with resounding horns nobile, which speak to the grandeur and sense of wonderment John feels as he travels to his destiny. The confluence of music and cinematography is breathtaking. At 2:04 we segue into “Shooting Star” atop soft repeating phrases of the John Dunbar Theme as Johns observes a shooting star arc across the sea of stars. We conclude at 2:54 with “Arrival at Fort Sedgewick”, which Barry supports with an inspired reprise of the Journey Theme. At 4:11 a new melodic line is introduced atop trumpet and sumptuous violins as John revels in the beauty of the prairie grass.

“Ghosts” offers a textural cue that supports John’s arrival and exploration of the deserted and dilapidated Fort Sedgwick. Barry sows uncertainty using a forlorn trumpet, eerie string figures and soft snare drum percussion. In “Timmons Leaves” John resolves to stay against Timmons advice and forces him at gunpoint to help him unload the provisions. As Timmons departs Barry supports the moment with an exposition of the John Dunbar Theme, which is sustained as he writes in his diary at night. Barry sows unease with eerie string figures in “Stranger in the Night” as his horse Cisco startles him from his sleep. “Dead Deer in the River” reveals John exploring his surroundings, and his progress is supported by his theme. In “Smoke Signal” a Pawnee scouting party observes Timmon’s campfire. After an argument the leader moves in for the kill. The scene and murder of Timmons is gruesome and Barry uses grim repeating statements of the Violence Theme to sow terror. At 2:28 we segue into “The Death of Timmons”, which is supported by a sad, fleeting statement of the John Dunbar Theme. As the war party departs bold declarations by horns brutale and timpani strikes carry their progress, finally dissipating in a sea of eerie string figures. “Two Socks” offers a wondrous score highlight where Barry introduces his Two Socks Theme. John comes across a young wolf that each day arrives to watch him from a distance. He begins to bond with him and names him “Two Socks” for his white fore paws. Barry perfectly captures the spirit of this playful animal, but we also hear within the notes the affection felt by John. Solo flute tenero with soft adornment by shifting strings supports their bonding.

In “You There” a Sioux Indian makes a surprise visit to the fort. John is defenseless and naked from a bath and hides out of sight. Textural writing with random percussion strikes and shifting string figures sow danger and unease. When the Sioux tries to take Cisco John will have none of it and charges the man naked and shouting, which causes him to flee. In “Preparations” John begins making preparations to secure the fort for a possible attack. His efforts are supported simply by his theme. “Bump on the Head” reveals John being awaken in the night by the sound of Indian voices. He rises and knocks himself out on a crossbeam. Barry supports the nighttime ambiance with a woodwind pastorale with melodies kindred to the John Dunbar Theme. In “Sioux Steal Cisco” young Sioux boys steal Cisco as John lays unconscious. Barry introduces a beleaguered Cisco’s Theme to support the theft of John’s beloved horse. Remarkably Cisco breaks free and returns to the fort. The next day Sioux warriors ride in and steal Cisco as John is too far away to intervene. The textural writing of “You There” joins with Cisco’s Theme as the Sioux ride off. Remarkably Cisco again breaks free and returns to John. The music for this scene is not included on the album. “Spit and Polish” reveals John spit and polishing his boots and uniform in preparation for his journey to the Sioux camp. Barry supports his preparations with a martial rendering of his theme.

In “The Village” John comes across Stands With A Fist who is bloodied from a self-inflicted wound. He rescues her and rides to the Sioux camp. We open grimly as John rescues her and at 0:24 we are graced with a score highlight, a magnificent exposition of the Buffalo Theme, which supports tranquil vistas of the Sioux camp. The inspiring music emotes from John’s eyes and creates a sense of wonder and exhilaration. “She’s Hurt” reveals John riding into the Sioux village with the injured Stands With A Fist. He tries to communicate but is not understood. Barry supports the meeting sowing a tapestry of unease with a primary melodic line by upper register violins doloroso with contrapuntal low register strings grave. In “Let Him Go” Kicking Bird understands John’s goodwill and orders warriors to stand down. Barry supports the moment with an introduction of Kicking Bird’s Theme, which offers a seven-note construct carried by solo oboe, supported with strings and acoustic guitar. There is a calmness and serenity to his theme, reflective of his aged wisdom as a Medicine Man. At 0:28 we segue into “Kicking Bird Visits”, which reveals Kicking Bird and Wind In His Hair meeting with John at the fort. Barry supports the meeting with a transfer of the Kicking Bird’s Theme to lyrical violins buttressed with warm French horns. We conclude at 1:02 with “Coffee Cups” as John shares coffee with the Sioux, which earns their acceptance. A final reprise of Kicking Bird’s Theme by lyrical violins carries the moment.

“Stands With a Fist Remembers” reveals her having a flashback to that terrible day when a Pawnee raiding party killed her family. Barry brings home the pain and horror of the memory with grim interplay of the Ghostly Voices and Violence Themes. In “Another Visit” John and Two Socks continue to bond and Barry supports their interaction with the tender flute born Two Socks Theme. At 0:30 in “Kicking Bird’s Gift” Kicking Bird brings John a gift of Buffalo pelts, which further solidifies their trust and friendship. Barry supports the moment with an introduction of his Sioux Theme whose string born languorous beauty adds poignancy to the scene. “Dunbar, Not “Dumb Bear” reveals Stands With A Fist serving as interpreter between John and Kicking Bird. A soothing rendering of the Sioux Theme sets the mood and informs us of the deepening bond be forged now that the language barrier has been overcome. “Journey to the Buffalo Killing Ground” offers a wonderful score highlight as we hear the thundering roar of a buffalo stampede awaken John. He races to the Sioux village to alert them and the warriors are roused for the upcoming kill. The next day the Sioux pull up stakes and set off in pursuit of the herd. Barry crowns the moment with a magnificent rendering of his Buffalo Theme born by unison trombones nobile. At 1:26 they come upon a grim carnage of dozens of dead buffalo skinned and left rotting on the plains. The Sioux see the slaughter as an egregious offense against nature, and John is mortified as wagon tracks reveal white men did it. Barry perfectly captures the pathos of the scene with the John Dunbar Theme rendered as a dirge, creating a perfect cinematic confluence of music and imagery.

“Spotting the Herd” reveals John and the Sioux’s stealth approach to a hill summit, which allows them to spot the herd. The scene is supported by an inspiring exposition of the Buffalo Theme. In “The Buffalo Hunt” we behold one of the finest cinematic moments in film history as Costner’s cinematography and Barry’s music achieve a powerful confluence. John joins the Sioux for the ritual of the hunt, where the Sioux adorn themselves with war paint in preparation for the kill. Unlike the white man, they will only kill what is needed to support the needs of the tribe. A panorama of the vast herd unfolds upon pounding timpani and kindred drums from which arises a grand statement of the Buffalo Theme. A bridge by lyrical strings unleashes at 1:19 the rousing kinetic power of the Buffalo Hunt Theme, which resounds on unison trombones nobile and strings animato. Barry infuses Coplanesque auras, and chorus to propel the hunt, which enrich the music’s grandeur and emotive power. At 4:34 we segue into “Smiles a Lot Is Saved” where Barry sows tension as the young Sioux is knocked off his horse and charged by a wounded buffalo. John saves his life with a keen rifle shot.

In “Return From the Hunt” we open on woodwinds tenero, which support the intimacy of Kicking Bird’s tepee, where John beds down for the night. In the morning the tribe departs at 0:23 and a solemn rendering of the Buffalo Theme carries their progress. At 1:53 we segue into “Never So Lonely” where John narrates his admiration of the Sioux as he contemplates his own estrangement and loneliness. We conclude with a soft reprise of the Buffalo Theme. “Fire Dance” reveals John performing a faux Sioux dance around a blazing campfire. The music was composed by Peter Buffett and offers rhythmic Indian dance music with nativist chanting. In “Two Socks at Play” John is lonely and rides off to visit the Sioux and is relentlessly pursued by Two Socks. Barry supports the comedy of the scene with a playful rendering of the Two Socks Theme. “I Like to Make the Talk” reveals John now taking up lodging with the Sioux who he believes are now his family. As he relates this in a narration Barry bathes us with a beautiful rendering of the Sioux Theme by woodwinds gentile. At 1:45 in “Falling in Love” as he walks with Standing With A Fist we begin to see a nascent allusion to a growing attraction between them, which Barry supports with a brief statement of the Love Theme.

Kicking Bird informs John tha t he cannot join him on a raid of the Pawnee as he is not Sioux, instead asking him to guard his family. In “I Love Her” John has returned to the fort after Stands With A Fist flees from his inquiry of why she is not with a man. He writes in his journal that he loves her and the revelatory moment is supported tenderly by his theme. He notices movement outside in “Hand-Fed Jerky” and for the first time elicits Two Socks to take food from his hand, supported by a tender rendering of Two Socks Theme. “We Must Be Careful” offers a rapturous score highlight. It reveals John rejoining Stands With A Fist at the village and all pretenses are dropped as they embrace and kiss passionately. Barry graces us with a four-minute exposition of the evocative Love Theme, which gains ardor and blossoms as they make love. Yet the moment is shattered by commotion in the camp in “Pawnee Are Coming” as the alarm is raised for an imminent attack by the Pawnee. Barry sows terror with the Violence Theme as there are few men left to defend the tribe. At 1:13 we segue into “Rifles” where John convinces the Chief to allow him to obtain guns from the fort to afford them a better chance of surviving. The Chief consents and he takes Smiles A Lot with him. A variant of the Violence Theme supports their efforts. At 2:05 we begin the score’s most brutal action music in “Pawnee Attack”. The Violence Theme resounds, empowered with brutal percussive strikes as a Pawnee raiding party crosses the river and attacks the village. At 6:12 violins affanato usher in “Stone Calf Dies” as we see him tomahawked in the back by the Pawnee leader. We conclude at 7:10 with “Toughest Pawnee Dies” as the leader his relentlessly hunted down, surrounded and slaughtered by the Sioux, empowered by the Violence Theme and deafening, brutal percussive strikes. The battle’s aftermath unfolds in “Victory” where Barry celebrates the victory with a moving Paean to Victory.

“The Wedding ” reveals Kicking Bird granting Stands With A Fist permission to end her mourning and marry John. Barry supports the wedding ceremony with a tender rendering of the Love Theme, which we see in John’s eyes and ends his loneliness. At 1:36 we segue into “The Busy Bee” atop a flute carried Sioux Theme as John relates to Kicking Bird of his desire to start a family. The melody affirms the bond between the men as Kicking Bird affectionately calls him a “Busy Bee”. “In My Own Time” reveals John finally relating to Kicking Bird and Chief Ten Bears what he has long dreaded to say, that white men will come in great numbers and that he fears for the Sioux. The Chief relates that the Sioux will fight for their land, but Barry’s horn elegy informs us that it will be for naught. In “The Death of Cisco” the Sioux are departing but John remembers that he has left his journal at the fort and goes back to retrieve it. We open darkly as he tells Stands With A Fist that he must retrieve the journal. Plaintive strings reveal her fear of losing him, yet he is determined and sets off. Horn declarations of the Violence Theme propel his ride and portend his doom. At 1:23 soldiers shoot Cisco from under him and a terrible pathos unfolds on Cisco’s Theme as John’s beloved horse dies in his arms. Kicking Bird is concerned in “Wind in His Hair Goes Back” and orders Wind In His Hair to take two good men and retrieve John. French horns and percussion emote a dirge to support the scene.

In “Turned Injun” the soldiers show their disdain and beat John who they accuse of “turning Injun”. Barry provides great pathos to the scene with an anguished rendering of the John Dunbar Theme. “I am Dances With Wolves” reveals John refusing to cooperate in taking the soldiers to the Sioux camp, thus earning the charge of treason. He mocks his captors in Sioux declaring himself Dancing With Wolves. Barry eloquently supports his transformation with a proud rendering of the Sioux Theme. At 0:52 we segue into “Back to Fort Hays” as he is shackled and transported back to Fort Hayes for Court Marshall. Plaintive trumpets, snare drums and strings doloroso speak to us of his suffering and degradation. “Goodbye Two Socks” supports a heart-wrenching scene as Dances With Wolves watch the soldiers shoot at and finally kill his beloved Two Socks. Barry supports Dances With Wolves anguish with interplay of the string born Dances With Wolves Theme and the brutal percussive strikes of the Violence Theme. In “Rescue of Dances With Wolves” a Sioux war party ambushes the soldiers during a river crossing, and with the help of Dancing With Wolves, they prevail. A string prelude unleashes the horn declared pride of the Sioux Theme now rendered as a battle anthem. At 2:09 we segue into “Sgt. Bauer Dies” as he attempts to escape the carnage. The Violence Theme carries his escape, however he is tracked down and killed with a tomahawk strike to the chest.

In “The Loss of the Journal and the Return to Winter Camp” his journal is lost as we see it carried away by the river. Plaintive strings carry its loss, and a scene change to the Sioux winter camp launches a proud statement of the Buffalo Theme, which carries Dances With Wolves return to the tribe. At 1:12 Stands With A Fist spots him and the Love Theme carries her into his longing arms where they embrace and kiss passionately, once again reunited. “I Must Go” reveals Dances With Wolves explaining to the council that the white men hate him and consider him a traitor. He fears that they will hunt him down relentlessly and in so doing locate the Sioux. We see the pain in his eyes and a plaintive rendering of the Sioux Theme carries his narrative. At 0:50 we segue into “Only a Sioux” where the Chief orders the tent empty. Speaking with the love of a father to a son, he explains to Dances With Wolves that he is a Sioux, that the man the army searches for now longer exists, and that he should remain with the tribe. Dances With Wolves is moved by the Chief’s wisdom, yet we see in his expression that he cannot bear to see them harmed because of him. Barry supports the moment with a warm and heartfelt rendering of the Buffalo Theme.

In “Kicking Bird’s Gift” Dances With Wolves and Kicking Bird meet to exchange gifts of parting and we see in their eyes the strength of the bond that exists between them. A warm and heartfelt rendering of the Sioux Theme perfectly supports scene, adding great poignancy to their goodbye. At 1:14 a scene change takes us to US soldiers breaking camp. Barry speaks to their menace with dire horn declarations and snare drums of violence. We conclude with a supreme score highlight with “Farewell” where a tearful Smiles A Lot gives Dances With Wolves a precious gift – his journal and then runs off. A tender, and endearing rendering of the Buffalo Theme unfolds. As the departure scene develops, several scene shifts empowered by dire horn declarations and martial snare drums sow tension of the approaching US soldiers. As Dances With Wolves and Stands With A Fist ride out carried by the Buffalo Theme we build to a proud declaration by unison trombones nobile at 1:40 as we see aloft on a ridge Wind In His Hair repeatedly declare that he will always be Dances With Wolves friend. Dances With Wolves is moved by the tribute and we see in his eyes the departure is a sad one full of regrets. The US soldiers Motif resounds with increasing menace as they draw their swords and approach the Sioux Camp. Their arrival however is supported by a proud rendering of the Buffalo Theme, which reveals a deserted camp, informing us that the Sioux had escaped. We see frustration in the Commander’s eyes as the Buffalo Fanfare resounds joined by the wailing call of a lone wolf. We close the film at 3:44 with Dances With Wolves and Standing With A Fist Riding off. The “End Titles” commence with a heartwarming rendering of the Dances With Wolves Theme as a closing narrative displays on the screen:

“Thirteen years later – their homes destroyed, their buffalo gone – the last band of free Sioux submitted to white authority at Fort Robinson, Nebraska. The great horse culture of the plains was gone, and the American frontier was soon to pass into history.”

We close with a wondrous flow of the score’s primary themes, the Love Theme at 5:04, the Buffalo Theme at 6:48, finally closing with elegiac trumpets declarations of the Dances With Wolves Fanfare.

I would like to offer my praise and thanks to MV Gerhard, Matt Verboys, Neil S. Bulk, and La La Land Records for this magnificent 25th Anniversary edition of John Barry’s masterpiece, which expands greatly upon the original 1990 album, with more than an hour’s worth of additional music. The digital mastering is superb, the sound quality pristine and the addition of several alternative cues most appreciated. This score was Barry’s comeback score and in a masterstroke of conception he created a legacy score, which endures and earns him immortality. The score offers peerless Barry romanticism, which graces us with stirring melodic lyricism of uncommon beauty. He wrote over 100 minutes of music; the most of his career, and the score was supported by eleven themes, the most of any of his compositions. Folks, Barry demonstrated mastery of his craft with his ability to flesh out the powerful emotional drivers in Costner’s tale. He brought to life the warmth, pride and nobility of the Sioux people, and achieved one of the finest confluences of cinematography and music in cinematic history. This is a score you feel, one that inspires, pulls at your heartstrings, and elicits repeated relistens. I consider it Barry’s Magnum Opus, a precious gem of the Bronze Age of film score art, and essential for your collection.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a YouTube link to a magnificent 15 minute suite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8qxWyRytsdo

Buy the Dances With Wolves soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Main Title/Looks Like a Suicide/Second Suicide Attempt (7:38)
  • Charge (1:04)
  • Ride to Fort Hays (2:08)
  • Journey to Fort Sedgewick/Shooting Star/Arrival at Fort Sedgewick (4:57)
  • Ghosts (0:55)
  • Timmons Leaves (2:23)
  • Stranger in the Night (0:51)
  • Dead Deer in the River (0:53)
  • Smoke Signal/The Death of Timmons (3:54)
  • Two Socks – The Wolf Theme (1:36)
  • You There (1:02)
  • Preparations (1:23)
  • Bump on the Head (0:44)
  • Sioux Steal Cisco (0:58)
  • Spit and Polish (1:13)
  • The Village (1:18)
  • She’s Hurt (1:07)
  • Let Him Go/Kicking Bird Visits/Coffee Cups (1:37)
  • Stands With a Fist Remembers (2:14)
  • Another Visit/Kicking Bird’s Gift (2:48)
  • Dunbar, Not Dumb Bear (1:28)
  • Journey to the Buffalo Killing Ground (3:48)
  • Spotting the Herd (1:52)
  • The Buffalo Hunt/Smiles a Lot Is Saved (5:11)
  • Return From the Hunt/Never So Lonely (2:14)
  • Fire Dance (composed by Peter Buffett) (1:41)
  • Two Socks at Play (2:02)
  • I Like to Make the Talk/Falling in Love (3:06)
  • I Love Her (1:59)
  • Hand-Fed Jerky (1:11)
  • We Must Be Careful (The Love Theme) (3:58)
  • Pawnee Are Coming/Rifles/Pawnee/Pawnee Attack/Stone Calf Dies/Toughest Pawnee Dies (8:22)
  • Victory (1:03)
  • The Wedding/The Busy Bee (3:14)
  • In My Own Time (0:46)
  • The Death of Cisco (2:17)
  • Wind in His Hair Goes Back (1:00)
  • Turned Injun (1:24)
  • I Am Dances With Wolves/Back to Fort Hays (1:37)
  • Goodbye Two Socks (2:12)
  • Rescue of Dances With Wolves/Sgt. Bauer Dies (3:16)
  • The Loss of the Journal and the Return to Winter Camp (2:12)
  • I Must Go/Only a Sioux (1:42)
  • Kicking Bird’s Gift (1:36)
  • Farewell and End Title (8:56)
  • Charge (Alternate) (1:04) BONUS
  • Journey to Fort Sedgewick (Alternate Take) (2:04) BONUS
  • The John Dunbar Theme (2:20) BONUS
  • The Death of Timmons (Alternate) (2:25) BONUS
  • Bump on the Head (Alternate) (0:36) BONUS
  • Spotting the Herd (Alternate 1) (1:52) BONUS
  • Spotting the Herd (Alternate 2) (1:52) BONUS
  • The Buffalo Hunt (Album Version) (2:47) BONUS
  • Goodbye Two Socks (Alternate) (2:09) BONUS
  • The Buffalo Hunt (Alternate Take) (4:35) BONUS
  • The John Dunbar Theme (2:08) BONUS
  • The John Dunbar Theme (with Vocal Slate) (2:33) BONUS
  • Kevin Costner in the Studio (0:35) BONUS
  • The John Dunbar Theme (Radio Promo Mix) (3:42) BONUS
  • Dances With Wolves (Radio Promo Mix) (5:13) BONUS

Running Time: 144 minutes 45 seconds

La-La Land Records LLLCD-1350 (1990/2015)

Music composed and conducted by John Barry. Orchestrations by Greig McRitchie and Mark McKenzie. Recorded and mixed by Shawn Murphy. Edited by Cliff Kohlweck. Score produced by John Barry. Album produced by MV Gerhard, Matt Verboys and Neil S. Bulk.

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