The Pacific Crest Trail is a 2,650-mile national scenic trail on the west coast of the United States that runs the length of the country from Mexico to Canada. Along its length it passes through six of the seven North America’s “ecozones” including high and low desert, forest and arctic-alpine climes. In June 2005 ultra marathon runner David Horton set out to become the first man to run this trail and 66 days later he completed his goal, averaging over 40 miles per day in the process. J.B. Benna’s documentary The Runner: Extreme UltraRunner David Horton follows Horton on his adventure and composer Cody Westheimer composes a wonderful score to accompany the runner’s mammoth journey.
Westheimer bases the score around a strong theme and he sets it out memorably in “The Runner: Main Title”, acting somewhat as a call to arms, an encouragement for the journey ahead. Heard in the strings, the theme is backed by a strong complement of driving percussion (including Taiko drums) – which is a recurring aspect of the score. The various drum rhythms act as the musical equivalent of the driving determination of Horton’s running. Tracks such as “Meeting David”, “Running Far” and the climactic “The Arrival” all propel the listener with this powerful percussion using a variety of percussion instruments (though the use of the percussion is not overwhelming to the listener). Along with this rhythm, we hear the main theme being played in a variety of orchestrations, but always seemingly soaring overhead above the drums. To me, Westheimer, using a relatively small ensemble of instruments (percussion, strings, oboe, flute, guitar and piano), skilfully encapsulates Horton’s determination in terms of the physical aspects of the run (the percussion) and the mental determination (the soaring theme) needed for such a Herculean task. Of these driving cues, “The High Sierra” is a highlight. It brings together all these various aspects of the score into one inspirational piece of music. [Read more…]