The Road: How To Compose A Soundtrack For A Dystopian Drama


The musical score for The Road was composed by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Cave is an Australian composer who has also worked as an author, actor and musician. He is perhaps best known for being the lead singer of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, an alternative rock band formed in Melbourne in the 1980's. His lyrics are frequently dark and disturbing dealing with issues such as religion and violence. He has worked in collaboration with Ellis for numerous films – The Road (2009), The Proposition (2005), and Lawless (2012) are among the most well-known. He had a brief acting career, and he appeared in the 1991 film Johnny Suede alongside Brad Pitt. Cave incidentally also wrote the screenplay for The Proposition, a movie that went on to receive widespread praise from movie critics. British music magazine NME described Cave as a “lord of gothic lushness”. Cave is married to retired British model Susie Bick. He now lives in the United Kingdom with his wife and children after he emigrated from his native Australia in 1980.

Warren Ellis is an Australian musician and composer. His tendency to collaborate with Nick Cave in composing music comes from their long-standing friendship. Ellis became a member of Cave's band Nice Cave And The Bad Seeds in 1995, after being invited to perform with them. He continues in that role to this day and he also performs with Grinderman, who are a spin-off group of Cave's successful band. He has released a solo album entitled Three Pieces For Violin. His collaboration with Cave on the musical score for The Proposition earned the pair the award for Best Original Musical Score at the 2005 AFI Awards. The duo released an album in 2009 entitled White Lunar. It contains new music and also features tracks from their previous collaborations. Ellis lives in Paris with his wife and their two children.

The music for The Road predominantly features violin and piano. The wonderful sound of the instruments is complemented with ghostly melodies that capture the ambience of the movie to a tee. The frenzied percussion adds a touch of extra terror to scenes where we are given glimpses of the horrifying cannibal gangs. This really adds to the atmosphere. Cave and Ellis did a great job of giving purpose to their musical score. It was not there only for background noise. The music was composed with the idea that it should add something to the film that wouldn't be there without it.

The scenes that feature the most intense moments between father and son feature melancholy lyrics and retain a haunting vibe. These are among the most important scenes in the movie, especially the moments when the father is dying. Cave and Ellis tweaked the music in these moments to provide a more human vibe associated with the loss of a loved one. Sadness is the predominant theme in both the movie and the music in the penultimate scenes as the father realizes he is on his last leg and attempts to impart some dying wisdom onto his son.

The score is nothing too complex, not utilizing a large range of orchestral instruments. It seems to have been composed with a light touch – conveying the torrid post-apocalyptic world truly, without resorting to melodramatic music that overshadows the dialogue and important scenes. In a movie like this, it is important to find the right balance. Cave and Ellis have no doubt achieved this feat. The musical score manages to be an impressive piece of music as a stand-alone piece whilst also complimenting the on-screen action. It follows on from the pair's impressive work on The Proposition.