Joel McNeely scores A Million Ways to Die In the West

Posted on June 3, 2014 by Dan Goldwasser



This past April, composer Joel McNeely was at the MGM Scoring Stage at Sony to the record his score for Seth MacFarlane’s western comedy, A Million Ways to Die In the West. The film, which opened last weekend, marks the third time McNeely and MacFarlane have collaborated, following their work on American Dad and Seth’s Grammy-nominated solo album, Music Is Better Than Words. ScoringSessions.com is excited to bring our readers exclusive photos from the scoring sessions!

Conducted by Joel McNeely, A Million Ways to Die In the West was recorded with a 98-piece ensemble of the Hollywood Studio Symphony at the MGM Scoring Stage at Sony Pictures Studios. The music is a classical big-screen western score, hearkening back to the glory days of cinematic western scores ala Elmer Bernstein, Jerome Moross and Alfred Newman.


Composer Joel McNeely conducts the orchestra

The woodwinds

Principle oboist David Weiss, pictured above with the rest of the woodwind section, suddenly passed away two weeks ago. A Million Ways to Die was one of the last films he performed on, and composer Joel McNeely was blessed to have Weiss featured on many solos in the score.


The brass section

The French horns

The strings

Composer and conductor Joel McNeely talks to the violins

Percussionist Greg Goodall with the rest of the percussion team

In the booth, McNeely’s wife Margaret Batjer handled the booth reading duties, while scoring mixer Richard Breen ensured that the orchestra sounded spectacular. Director Seth MacFarlane, quite the film music aficionado, was hands on with feedback to Joel and the orchestra. Also present in the booth to lend assistance were music editor Chuck Martin, orchestrator Dave Slonaker, and music librarian Mark Graham.


Scoring mixer Richard Breen poses for the camera as booth reader Margaret Batjer and director Seth MacFarlane listen to the score

Music editor Chuck Martin, orchestrator Dave Slonaker, and music librarian Mark Graham discuss a cue

A soundtrack album featuring McNeely’s score, as well as the main title song performed by country music star Alan Jackson, is now available from Backlot Records.

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