Dances with Wolves

CD: Epic Associated ZK 46982
Mastersound Gold Edition CD: Epic Associated ZK 66817
Sony Legacy CD: B0001CCY7E

  1. Main Title - Looks Like a Suicide (3:57)
  2. The John Dunbar Theme (215)
  3. Journey to Fort Sidgewick (3:22)
  4. Ride to Fort Hays (2:00)
  5. The Death of Timmons (2:25)
  6. Two Socks - The Wolf Theme (1:28)
  7. Pawnee Attack (3:45)
  8. Kicking Bird's Gift (2:08)
  9. Jouney to the Buffalo Killing Ground (3:39)
  10. Buffalo Hunt (2:41)
  11. Stands with a Fist Remembers (2:07)
  12. The Love Theme (3:52)
  13. The John Dunbar Theme (2:05)
  14. Two Socks at Play (1:57)
  15. The Death of Cisco (2:12)
  16. Rescue of Dances with Wolves (2:07)
  17. The Loss of the Journal and The Return to Winter Camp (2:07)
  18. Farewell and End Title (8:40)


The following additional tracks are on the Mastersound Gold Edition CD:

  1. Fire Dance (1:41) [written by Peter Buffett]
  2. The John Dunbar Theme (3:41) [Only on the Gold cd]
  3. Dances with Wolves (5:15) [Only on the Gold cd]

The following additional tracks are on the new Sony Legacy CD:

  1. Spotting the Herd
  2. Buffalo Hunt (film version)
  3. Falling in Love
  4. Pawnees/Pawnee Attack/Stone Calf Dies/Toughest Dies
  5. Victory
  6. John Dunbar Theme (film version)

The following tracks have been expanded on the new Sony Legacy CD:

  1. Main Title - Looks Like a Suicide
  2. Journey to Fort Sidgewick

The Movie

This always struck me as a hippy fantasy movie—disillutioned man wanders, finds another culture that he's more in tune with, and drops out of society. The Establishment steps on his neck and refuses to let him go. It was just twenty-years late in arriving.

I thought it was pretty good until the 3rd act, when they played the race hatred card and made the whites so worthless and evil that Dunbar's decision to get away was inevitable. It wasn't enough to have an interesting character who was simply out of phase with his own society—they had to demonize the society so that even dead people could figure out the plot. These stories would be a little more rich and meaningful if the choices weren't so easy, the adversaries not so plainly awful, and the contrasts so clearly defined. But I wasn't consulted. And the movie made a gazillion dollars and got 7 Oscars out of 12 nominations, so what do I know?

Except that I saw it once in the theater and that was enough.


The Music

John Barry, again, was in interesting choice. At the time this movie was being made (around 1990), there were two living film composers who owned the western epic genre—Elmer Bernstein, who had scored movies like The Magnificent Seven and True Grit, and Ennio Morricone, the italian who'd single-handedly redefined the musical standard with his scores to A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Barry, at this point in his career, was still linked with action movies like the Bond pictures, romances like Out of Africa, and little films like Until September. Barry's first, last and only western to that time was 1970's Monte Walsh.

Actor/director Kevin Costner went with him anyway, asking for a traditional western score. Barry instead talked him into going in a different direction with a personal, downbeat, quiet score instead of the big, sweeping Alfred Newman style score. For a movie that went against many of the western traditions, the music was a healthy part of that divergence.

Stylistically, the Dances with Wolves score would set the stage for Barry's sound in the 1990s: a full symphonic orchestra based in strings, as opposed to the big-brass jazz sound he was tied to in the 1960s and 70s. Jazz would still play a part in his scores, but most of his music would have that same slow-tempo, lush, string-predominent sound that won him Oscars for Dances with Wolves and Out of Africa.

It turned out to be a popular choice. The Dances with Wolves soundtrack album was a big seller, he won the 1990 Oscar for Best Original Score (he had previously won for The Lion in Winter, Born Free, and Out of Africa), and the music continues to be used in other things: I heard it in a commercial for an NFL charity. And the soundtrack album continues in print in various forms.


Release Notes

The original soundtrack was released by Epic with the movie in 1990, and that set its standard form of 18 tracks.

Epic later re-released the soundtrack as a "Mastersound Gold" edition CD and included three bonus tracks: Peter Buffet's "Fire Dance" and two radio mixes of "the John Dunbar Theme" and the "Dances with Wolves theme." These were upbeat versions with a heavy, syncopated beat—and because they were not on the soundtrack, they were sought-after by people who had heard them on the radio but were unable to find it on any commercial release.

In 2004, in conjunction with Barry's 70th birthday, Sony Legacy rereleased the soundtrack with six additional (to the original 18) cues: "Spotting the Herd," "Buffalo Hunt," "Falling in Love," "Pawnees/Pawnee Attack/Stone Calf Dies/Toughest Dies," "Victory" and the film version of "the John Dunbar Theme." Also, the first track "Main Title/Looks Like a Suicide" and the third track "Journey to Fort Sedgewick/Shooting Star/The John Dunbar Theme/Arrival at Fort Sedgewick" have all been expanded to include previously unreleased music.

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