"So the job description on 'All the Pretty Horses' from Billy Bob was, 'Oh, pretty much the same as on "Daddy and Them," ' " Stuart says. "But then I got a call from Harvey Weinstein the next day, and he said, 'It's Elmer Bernstein. We want big!' " The Miramax chief was referring to the famous film composer whose credits include "To Kill a Mockingbird."
Stuart continues, "So I had to come up with a way to satisfy both Billy Bob and Miramax. The answer was in the film."
Along with fellow composers and Nashville veterans Kristin Wilkinson and Larry Paxton, Stuart envisioned a sound that was "Buddy Holly & the Crickets, in the middle of Santo and Johnny, in the middle of an orchestra."
They studiously avoided anything that would sound like references to the jangling guitars of the "Bonanza" theme, the mysterious vibes of "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" or generic mariachi music. Because the film bridges the metaphorical distances between the New West and Old West, oil-patch Texas and cattle-country Texas, the United States and Mexico, the score also had to look beyond both Nashville and Hollywood, and embrace various border rhythms.
"I'd try putting electric guitar cues in there, and it would spit them right back at me, so I had to go back to the classic sounds," says Stuart. "I wanted the elegance of Spanish music and the elegance of American music at its finest. I listened to Bernard Herrmann, because he so understood the art of doing this.
"It was a challenge, but I did manage to sneak in some bluegrass things that they thought were orchestral . . . and a Bill Monroe tune."
More than anyone else, Stuart said, "the man I thought about was Owen Bradley, a great arranger who produced all of Patsy Cline's records, which were very orchestral."
Stuart's "Marty Party" fans needn't fear that he's going Hollywood on them, however.
"Do you remember a John Prine song called 'Sabu Visits the Twin Cities'?" Stuart asks. "The song was about keeping things in perspective. 'Horses' is a danged old cowboy picture. In six months, you'll be able to rent it for $1.95."