Thoughts on A Quiet Place's Musical Score (Marco Beltrami)
Updated: Jul 16, 2019
[Original publication: April 10, 2018]
A Quiet Place lives up to its title. The film is grippingly silent and truly commands the silence of the audience. John Krasinski did a truly masterful job directing, and his choice for a composer to score the film was perfect as well, in my opinion.
Marco Beltrami is highly skilled in his use of minimalist and indeterminate composition. The cues he crafts provide a unique final puzzle piece that complete the tension and emotion of their scenes. Judging by his scores for Logan and World War Z, he is the perfect choice for a tense, gripping film like A Quiet Place.
At the same time, Beltrami is capable of creating cues that are very ethereal or thick and emotional. He weaves that facet of his composition style into this score as well.
A Quiet Place is essentially a silent film for about 90% of its runtime. It almost could have functioned narratively and emotionally without having a musical score at all. That being said, Beltrami’s score provides the perfect enhancement to the intense moments on screen. The film would have been mostly effective without his score, but it is made wholly effective with the addition and cuing of his score.
We find the main characters in a not-too-distant dystopian world in which most of humanity has fallen victim to a supposed alien invader that hunts its prey through noise. The family, with John Krasinski and Emily Blunt as the parents of three children, is living out their days in an environment where they cannot audibly express just about anything. It makes for a completely new and nerve-wracking way of life. In this unique context, the film’s score becomes an enthralling expression of the internal emotions characters are unable to express themselves.
While this score is not necessarily an enjoyable listen apart from the film, it does function very, very well alongside the film. There are two main musical motifs: A sliding, guttural, 2-3 note motif that sounds whenever the alien creatures are near, and a seven note theme associated with tender family moments. The alien creatures’ motif is supported by bent and altered pitches on stringed instruments. The family’s motif is built upon relatively thickly orchestrated strings that feel natural and ‘at home’. Both elements are expanded upon through the score.
What fills the rest of the score in multiple standout cues is the aforementioned expression of characters’ internal emotions. Thick, swelling strings and bent pitches fill scenes where characters must remain completely silent, representing the characters’ immense tension. Minimalist piano and sliding string tones also embody the tight pull of these rigid moments. Jarring, quickly rhythmic low-voiced strings execute a hold over the audience as the family runs for their lives on multiple occasions.
These strings often mimic the exact pacing of the scene, making the characters’ escape all the more nerve-wracking. Beltrami utilizes a processed beat to represent the rapidly increasing heartbeat of family members. When the sliding motif for the creatures sounds, the viewer knows they are near, and the music consistently escalates from there, never relinquishing its emotional grip.
The score’s cues, with clever names like ‘A Quiet Family’, ‘It Hears You’, and ‘Rising Pulse’, capture the senses of viewers by releasing the pent up emotions of the family on the screen. At the same time, the overarching sound of this film is a character in itself. Nearly half, if not more, of the film is completely silent, making the instances that contain sound all the more prevalent and intensely effective. This is especially true for moments in which Krasinski chose to include underscore. Marco Beltrami crafted a score that is uniquely potent, jolting, and emotional that aids in making A Quiet Place a thoroughly great film.