The Dave Grusin Archive
Music for the Scree
Milagro Bean Field War





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Stars:  Chick Vennera, Carlos Riquelme, Sonia Braga, Christopher Walken, Rubén Blades, Daniel Stern, John Heard

Director:  Robert Redford
Producer:  Robert Redford
Released:  Universal 1988

Story:  When developers attempt to stamp out the modest plantings of a small farmer, the local population of this New Mexico village rebel to preserve their way of life.

When the Motion Picture Academy informed Dave Grusin that his vibrant music for "Milagro Beanfield War" had been nominated for an Oscar, he had still not seen the movie in its final version .  Maybe just symptomatic of the rushed life.  Maybe a bit of a disagreement between scorer and director as to how things should have gone.

"I think that perhaps Bob Redford  wasn't totally pleased with the score when it was all over. I don't know whether it was his feeling that it was too romantic or didn't do the job for the film, or what,” volunteers the composer.  Nevertheless, as things turned out, his contribution netted the picture's only Academy Award (and also received a Golden Globe nomination).

Indeed the aura of “Milagro Beanfield War,” particularly the breathtaking cinematic elements capturing the New Mexico twilight, appear perfectly married  with cues in this production.  The lyrical score contains an undercurrent of the southwestern location throughout.  Dave Grusin's lifelong connections to the setting of this motion picture add a resonance which is undeniable.  This is, however, more of a thread running through the compositions.  The two main themes are primarily action based.

The fable's supernatural overtones are especially well-served by the “Coyote Angel” theme, at times ghostly, but at others, full of merriment.  Using the concertina played by the angel in the film as leading instrument, it is even used momentarily as source music which is actually heard in a scene by one of the characters.


Its full orchestral version transports one away with the rollicking feeling  of a merry-go-round.  But it also ranges from satiric and whimsical when executed in syncopated style to eerie and evocative when played by a single instrument with percussive stingers.  Accented here and there with ethnic touches which refer to the important geographical setting, the piece covers a wide number of needs in the movie.

Played over opening and closing credits, it is primarily used to indicate the sometimes comic, sometimes serious intervention of `the angel,' at critical points in the plot .

The secondary, or "Milagro Theme," is most closely associated with the actions of Amarante.  It may be here that the `too romantic' label was affixed, but the touching quality the piece adds to important scenes surely induces the greatest emotional attachment between audience and characters when depicting the friendship which grows between the young researcher from the East and the seemingly crazy old man.  Hearts open widely to the latter, who is given life and meaning well beyond his amusing actions on the screen.

There was no soundtrack album released for “Milagro Beanfield War,” but courtesy of Dave Grusin's Grammy-winning jazz record “Migration” (and subsequently his “Orchestral Album”), a suite of music from the film has become available.


On this we hear a full version of “Pistolero,” used to denote the fiery Latin blood which has been raised by the beanfield controversy in the local population.  It's a marvelous piece one could well have heard more of in the film.

Lost completely is the bright and charming “Lepita,” written for Amarante's pig.  The absence of such compositions from "Milagro Beanfield War" provides a good bit of support for the composer's absence from the cinemas to see this motion picture.

There is more incidental music with a Chicano flavor, including `Fiesta” as well as a spirited piece with a cantina sound which is very effective in the community scenes.

It is difficult to say what percentage of those who closely follow Dave Grusin's film scores would pick this one as `the Oscar' among his pictures.  But a spot in the top ten, it definitely deserves.  In any case, there can be little disagreement with the composer's assessment that “the ambience, I thought, was right.”


Supervising Music Editors:  Else Blangsted & James Flamberg
Associate Editors:  Eric Beason& Nancy Fresen

Soundtrack Album:  none but suite of themes available on "Migration - GRP  - GRD-9592 & "The Orchestral Album" - GRP - GRD 9789

Running Time:   1 hour, 52 minutes
Music Time:  (approx) 27 minutes


"Migration" jazz CD containing a suite of music from the Oscar-winning score from "Milagro Beanfield War"


Dave Grusin
Feature Films

Fuzz    






MUSIC CUES

(times approximate)



.25 - 3.31   (3.06)

Main Title (“Coyote Angel”) plays over darkened landscape of Milagro at night.  Credits roll as daylight comes over scene.


4.38 - 4.50   (.12)

“Coyote Angel” plays over scene of Amarante fetching water, ending on a shimmering note as angel speaks.


8.42 - 9.28   (.46)

Source music - lively Latino music over scenes of people drinking and chatting.  


15.35 - 16.57   (1.22)

Beginning in previous group scene,  sparkling flamenco guitar plus pan pipes play “Fiesta” over scenes of Joe energetically preparing the bean field as well as shots of townsfolk discussing news.  Fades out and plays into conversation.


17.13 - 17.33   (.20)

From the line “I'm the Mayor,” “Fiesta” resumes and plays under conversations and activities among the townsfolk.  Ends as Ruby arrives at the bean field.


17.49 - 17.54   (.05)

Punctuating Ruby's `one great thing' declaration, one last refrain of “Fiesta” plays into scene at Joe's home.


21.40 - 22.59   (1.19)

Cantina music plays over scenes of Joe working in the bean field as people watch.  Becomes faint towards end, disappearing in effect of Joe driving away.


28.27 - 28.50   (.23)

Cantina music accompanies Herbies drive to Joe's house.


32.45 - 33.16   (.31)

Milagro theme plays over Amarante arriving at the bean field with Lepita.  Drowned out at end by vehicle's engine.


33.36 - 34.13   (.37)

On angel's line `the boogie man has just come to town,' “Coyote Angel” plays  over Montana's driving up. Low strings then add a threatening touch as he moves around.  There is a hint of amusement provided by a bit of syncopation, but threatening strings persist over Montana looking into window.


36.40 - 37.24   (.44)

On a beautiful twilight scene, shimmering strings lead into “Coyote Angel” as angel  lopes  through the fields, and Herbie is seen warming himself in the shed, hearing Amarante speaking.  Music and images blend perfectly to create a ghostly and mystic atmosphere.


41.50 - 43.30   (1.40)

From “Coyote Angel,” swirling  music depicts the action of giant wind, and soars into  orchestral version of Milagro Theme as attempts to burn newspapers fails when angel creates a turbulence which blows the papers to all parts of Milagro.  Ends over darkness scene outside meeting hall.


54.42 - 55.31   (.49)

Cantina music plays over Ruby dropping Charlie off, and then trying to get people to sign her petition as Montana observes.  Ends with change of scene.


56.35 - 58.32   (1.57)

Milagro Theme plays as Amarante and angel engage in a board game, then over the landscape and various indoor and outdoor scenes of Herbie and Amarante together, their friendship deepening. (including pig pulling paper from the typewriter)


1.08.01 - 1.08.13   (.12)

Percussive motif implying gossip over people talking in the village.  


1.08.25 - 1.08.51   (.26)

Romantic flamenco guitar theme “Pistolero” plays as Amarante gets out holsters and gun.


1.11.20 - 1.11.44   (.24)

Milagro Theme played by guitar begins on image of Amarante in the bar and continues over his arrival home, with his pig, observing the bean field and Herbie repairing the fence.  Music creates an emotional attachment to the character.


1.11.45 - 1.12.03   (.18)

Long string  notes plus percussion create a sense of threat over scene of Joe and Herbie working in bean field as observers watch.


1.14.45 - 1.14.55   (.10)

“Pistolero” plays over montage of various colored boxes of ammunition hitting the shop counter as everyone  stocks up.


1.15.01 - 1.15.02   (.01)

Two notes of “Pistolero” add a final flourish to the ammunition buying scene.


1.16.39 - 1.17.17   (.38)

Ominous, danger music played by strings with guitar stinger as intimidating crosses are pulled from the ground and thrown into truck.    Continues over scene of Divine and his wife, asking him how long he's been carrying a gun, and also Divine's men in consultation.


1.18.09 - 1.18.27   (.18)

Over a blue night shot, “Coyote Angel” plays as angel arrives outside Amarante's  house.  He chats with the old man, who is in bed.  Ends as angel lopes away.


1.18.50 - 1.19.02   (.12)

“Coyote Angel” plays as night shot  following angel's advice to Amarante becomes day sequence of bean field which is about to be destroyed by bulldozer.


1.22.37 - 1.23.36   (.59)

Tense and emotional string music plays when Joe shoots Amarante, then runs across the field in panic, and puts the old man into the truck.


1.28.21 - 1.28.40   (.19)

Vocal- “Cielito Linda”  sung by posse.


1.29.33 - 1.30.39   (1.06)

Touching string music becomes Milagro theme played by guitar as Herbie makes taco offering to statuettes, chatting with them, and beseeching them to spare Amarante.


1.30.40 - 1.30.52   (.12)

“Coyote Angel” as source music played by angel on his accordion as he is silhouetted against a blue-grey sky.


1.31.32 - 1.31.54   (.22)

Source music “Coyote Angel” played by ghost, and heard by Ruby but not Charlie.


1.31.55 - 1.32.09   (.14)

Strings introduce “Coyote Angel” theme as angel's shadow is seen in Amarante's hospital room.  Ends with change of scene.


1.32.19 - 1.32.27   (.08)

Percussion plays as Montana seeks Joe amongst the rocks.


1.32.45 - 1.32.49   (.04)

Drums play as hooves of Montana's horse are seen crossing the screen.


1.32.52 - 1.59   (.07)

Intense percussion as Montana is seen in a long shot pursuing Joe.


1.34.26 - 1.34.27   (.01)

Brief percussion adds tension in pursuit sequence.


1.34.31 - 1.34.36   (.05)

Brush of symbols as Montana actually spots Joe.


1.34.40 - 1.34.45   (.05)

More intense percussion as Montana rides off in pursuit of Joe.


1.35.06 - 1.35.21   (.15)

Rattling percussion covers both Joe's flight and Montana's horse in pursuit.


1.37.42 - 1.38.19   (.37)

Guitar and then strings play Milagro theme after Shorty informs Joe that Amarante is all right, but that Joe must make his own way home.  Ends in next scene at Joe's house.


1.46.16 - 1.47.47   (1.31)

Source music -  band plays and people sing at harvest festival


1.47.48 - 1.48.26   (.38)

Latino source music of festival in the distance over scene of Amarante in the road becomes louder as view cuts directly to aerial view of festival .


1.48.27 - 1.48.42   (.15)

Guitar plays romantically as Joe and Nancy kiss against a sunset background, and then Amarante is seen walking.


1.48.43 - 1.48.44   (.01)

Shimmering symbols denote arrival of the angel.


1.49.21 - 1.51.01   (1.40)

As angel and Amarante are silhouetted walking away against a beautiful sunset, “Coyote Angel” plays merrily and closing credits begin to roll.


1.51.06 - 1.52.36   (1.30)

Milagro Theme takes over for continuation and conclusion of closing credits.


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