Elmer Bernstein: The Magnificent Seven Main Title 

Context

Elmer Bernstein is fondly remembered as being one of the leading film composers of the 20th Century. His music is some of the most recognisable, with his scores for The Magnificent Seven (1960), The Great Escape (1963) and Ghostbusters (1984) being particular stand outs. Throughout his career, Bernstein was nominated for 14 Oscars, as well as winning two Golden Globes, an Emmy Award and was also nominated multiple times for Grammy Awards and a Tony. 

The Magnificent Seven was released in 1960 and is an archetypal American Western film. It is based on Akira Kurosawa’s 1954 Old West-style film Seven Samurai. The story is about seven gunfighters that are hired to protect a small village in Mexico from bandits. The film made a significant impact in the industry, with Bernstein’s score in particular shining through.

 

The Music

Opening with a number of thrashes from across the orchestra, fragments of the famous melody pop up quickly in different sections of the orchestra. The repetitive string accompaniment adds anticipation before the main theme is taken by the upper strings. The brass and percussion lead the accompanying line which is march-like and keeps the melody in time. 

The soaring melody is then transposed in the interlude between the winds and strings. Now higher in pitch, the intensity of the theme is much higher. The upper winds then take over the melody, accompanied only by the guitar and percussion. The syncopated string motif that interjects leads the main title to its segue into the next piece of underscore Calvera. 

 

Final Thoughts

This instantly-recognisable theme from The Magnificent Seven has remained Elmer Bernstein’s most popular theme. It has been used in a number of different TV adverts and shows. The Wild West is evoked in the music, with the soaring melodies and rumbling accompaniment leading the way into the sunset.

 

Happy Reading!

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