‘Yellowstone’: Why Composer Brian Tyler Traded in Superhero Capes for a Fiddle

Composer Brian Tyler made a name in Hollywood writing scores for big action and sci-fi franchise films like “Iron Man 3,” “The Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Fast & Furious,” and “The Expendables.” In the last two years, Tyler has made a point of picking projects that were against the grain of how he is seen by the industry with the romantic comedy “Crazy Rich Asians” and Taylor Sheridan’s western period drama “Yellowstone.”

“It’s like anything, we all start a career and you do one thing and it leads to another,” said Tyler, who appeared at IndieWire’s Consider This FYC Brunch earlier this month. “I love all genres, I love superhero films, sci-fi and fantasy, but I wanted to do a few things where people said, ‘Wow, Brian did that? That’s interesting.’ And for me, creatively, it makes it fresh when I go back and do a film with someone with a cape.”

The opportunity to collaborate with Sheridan on “Yellowstone” not only offered Tyler an avenue to create a different type of score, but he was given time and a budget to work in a different way. It’s a collaboration that started well before cameras start to role.

“Usually on a show you get in a crunch of every five to seven days you are mixing a new episode and you really have to crank it out,” said Tyler. “It’s super challenging and you have to do things with samples and in-the-box to create simulations of orchestras. And with Taylor it was completely different angle – by design we were going to do music ahead of time.”

With the extra time, Tyler was able to research and discover the type music that came before the “American Western” sound that was so well defined by composers like Aaron Copland and Ennio Morricone.

“We’re a nation of immigrants and people would come over here, these weren’t the wealthy and powerful, these were people looking for a home,” said Tyler. “Instead of bringing over a Stradivarius violin, they’d bring over a cheaper version of it – and that’s what we know as a fiddle – and they would entertain themselves while riding across the planes. It’s that music that developed into what we know as that American sound.”

In a show about flawed characters Tyler wanted to keep a human element to the score. To execute this the composer once again relied on the unique amount of time and resources he had to try something different: Recording live instruments played by musicians.

“We wanted to capture the flaws of when you have a bunch of humans in a room playing music, not polish off those rough edges that often happen when you are in a scenario where you have to work in-the-box and have to use samples, which are so perfectly auto-tuned,” said Tyler. “I took the tack of doing one or two takes, after that it became too polished and too perfect. I would always stop, even if there were little human errors in the live playing. It’s so unusual to hear that type of sound on a TV show. It’s almost like film grain, we wanted to retain the beauty of human imperfection in the music.”

Brian Tyler is eligible for “Yellowstone” in the Outstanding Music Composition for a Limited Series, Movie, or Special (Original Dramatic Score) category. 

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