Seattle Symphony recording featured in The Revenant

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant (Twentieth Century Fox)

If you’ve seen The Revenant, you might have noticed some familiar music in the film’s soundtrack: Become Ocean by composer John Luther Adams. It’s part of Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s highly acclaimed masterpiece starring Leonardo DiCaprio. The Revenant received 12 Oscar nominations, more than any other movie this year.

Commissioned and recorded by the Seattle Symphony in 2013, the churning, mesmerizing music of Become Ocean makes an appearance during the movie’s first big battle scene, in which fur trappers come under a surprise attack. It’s part of a unique soundtrack written and curated by Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto.

Sakamoto’s soundtrack intermingles classical compositions — including music by Bryce Dressner and the French composer Olivier Messiaen — with electronic music to create a soundscape as expansive as the landscapes in the film.

So how did a Seattle Symphony recording find its way to Hollywood?

The filmmakers approached the Seattle Symphony before the movie’s release to request permission to use part of the recording in the official trailer, which you can watch below. An excerpt from Become Ocean underscores the first 25 seconds of the video. 

As Iñárritu and Sakamoto worked on the final soundtrack, they were drawn back to some of the tracks that Sakamoto used as temporary placeholders for the soundtrack during the editing process. Instead of discarding the temporary tracks and writing something new, Sakamoto wove them into the fabric of his score. The result is an extremely compelling collage of music that includes new orchestral works, electronic tracks, sampled sounds and existing compositions. Unfortunately, because the soundtrack included music from so many sources, it was not eligible for the Oscars this year.

Want to hear the full recording of Become Ocean? Digital downloads and CDs are available from Bandcamp, Bang On A Can and iTunes.

Posted on February 26, 2016

READ MORE BEYOND THE STAGE