ULTRAMARATHON MAN – Cody Westheimer


Original Review by Alan Rogers

After having such a positive response to hearing Cody Westheimer’s score to the endurance running documentary The Runner I wanted to take a listen to a score that he wrote a couple of years later for another documentary film that covered a similar topic. Directed by J.B Benna (The Runner), UltraMarathon Man follows the achievements of endurance runner Dean Karnazes who ran 50 marathons in 50 states on 50 consecutive days. Beginning with the Lewis and Clark Marathon in St. Louis in September 2006 he completed his journey with the New York Marathon on November 5th. I have to admit that upon listening to UltraMarathon Man I am slightly disappointed with the score, not because it is a poor score – for one thing it has a memorable main theme – but because it does not achieve the heights I think The Runner reaches.

Westheimer chooses to use a small ensemble of instruments that sounds more like a conventional band (with electric guitar, keyboards and drum kit) that is embellished with a small strings section (that plays both as an ensemble and as a solo voice) and occasional unusual percussion. The composer appears to move the emphasis of the role of the score. Rather than being an out-and-out driver of the movie, with powerful and energetic rhythms and soaring emotional strings (as heard in the aforementioned The Runner), the music for UltraMarathon Man sounds more like being an accompaniment that emphasises the camaraderie of the runner(s) as opposed to focusing on the running itself. That’s not a bad thing. As I already mentioned, Westheimer has composed a memorable main theme (heard to great effect in “Dean Karnazes’s Schedule” and the final “Escape From New York”) that appears throughout the score. This theme does have an obvious rhythm to start but it’s not an energetic one but rather an indication of solidity and strength. Additional tracks of note include “Vows In Hawaii” with its interesting plucked string effects and “The Marathon Is Far” with its structure of starting off quiet and low-key before piano heralds a section where swelling strings and twangy guitar ends the cue strongly. The appropriately titled “Inspirational Start” features solo strings that adds an emotional edge to the cue. Solo strings appear regularly throughout the score, adding variety to the music. Variety also takes the form of a couple of cues that are more suspenseful: for example, “Wichita Storm” features unusual electric guitar and synth effects to give an ominous feel to the score.

Westheimer provides a unique feel to UltraMarathon Man that is very different from his other endurance running score, The Runner. Here, with his choice of moving away from the insistent driving rhythms and focusing more on providing a score that focuses more on the participants, he has achieved the goal of highlighting the bond that links Karnazes with the people around him: his family and those that supported him throughout his endeavours. UltraMarathon Man is an enjoyable score that’s another indication of the talents of the composer and is worth hunting down at the usual digital outlets.

Audio samples can be found HERE and then click on arrow next to running time for samples of entire album or individual tracks.

Rating: ***

  1. Dean Karnazes’s Schedule (1:10)
  2. Introverted Dean (1:33)
  3. 50 Marathons – 50 States – 50 Days (0:51)
  4. Inspirational Start (2:06)
  5. The Marathon Is Far (2:40)
  6. Downtrodden Triumph (2:45)
  7. Wichita Storm (3:59)
  8. Surviving The Storm (0:26)
  9. Seven of Fifty (0:54)
  10. Deadwood Beauty (2:27)
  11. Lighthearted Montage (1:33)
  12. Friends In San Francisco (0:44)
  13. Vows In Hawaii (1:44)
  14. Arizona Sun (2:12)
  15. Meaningful Greenbay (1:08)
  16. Hard Trail Runs (2:44)
  17. Atlanta Rain (0:31)
  18. The Fall (1:43)
  19. Run, Walk, Crawl (2:04)
  20. New Jersey Mob (0:55)
  21. Arrival In New York (1:43)
  22. Gates of New York (1:12)
  23. Triumph In New York (1:28)
  24. Escape From New York (2:11)
  25. Bad Ass Dean (Fan Film Song) (2:03)

Running Time: 42:59

Journeyfilm / New West Music (2009)

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