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John Williams: "The Cowboys"

April 8, 2016

The Cowboys

John Williams

Born: February 8, 1932, Floral Park, New York

Original Instrumentation: Orchestra

Duration: 10 minutes

Composed: 1971

Arranged: 1985, James Curnow


John Williams, The Cowboys, arr. James Curnow

Siena Wind Orchestra


This suite, arranged by James Curnow, is a typical example of John Williams' capacity to enrich a film story with an almost narrative musical score. Through music, we are transported to the Old West and experience the joys and hardships of cowboy life. Taken from the 1972 motion picture “The Cowboys” starring John Wayne and Roscoe Lee Browne, the music complements the story of a 60 year old Montana cattleman who enlists (and ultimately mentors) ten schoolboys as cowboys after the regular ranch hands have left with Gold Rush fever. The 400-mile cattle drive provides the boys with a different and harsher schooling as they learn the rigors of the job and have to deal with rustlers. The music conveys the high spirit of wild horses and their taming. Jollity around the campfire is contrasted against the loneliness of the open range. The plains have a beauty, though, which is reflected in the song of a lark. The hard work of the cattle drive, including the fording of the wide, muddy river and dealing with many fears and threats, succeeds in maturing the boys into men.

            - Note by Norman E. Smith


Additional Resources:

The Cowboys - Original Theatrical Trailer



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