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MohicanLand Musical Musings: The Music of The Last of the Mohicans

"River Walk and Discovery" (by Randy Edelman) appears to be two separate pieces, and although on the CD they flow directly from one to another without a pause or break between them, they do not appear together in the movie. And they are very different in character. Like "Pieces of a Story", this work begins in an optimistic and comfortable major key and has a gently melodic and generally happy or peaceful feeling; it then turns dark, ominous at what appears to be the "Discovery" section, ending in a somber minor key.

As just mentioned, portions of "River Walk and Discovery" appear in several different places in the movie:

  1. We first hear the gentle strains of "River Walk" as Chingachgook calls out, "Hallooo, John Cameron" when our three heroes approach the Cameron's cabin at night following the elk hunt. The music fades out as the discussions begin, ending just before "Discovery" begins (at about 0:40 on the CD version). The movie version differs slightly in orchestration from the CD, in that the movie version is more gentle, with a "native" quality established by the sound of wood flutes, while the CD appears to use two flutes in unison, one a metal flute with a clear sound and the other a wooden, possibly a native Indian flute with the light, breathy sound. Also, the strings are more prominent in the movie version. The CD version has less emphasis on the flutes and strings, and more emphasis on the guitar.

    In the middle of this scene, when Uncas begins to play with the Cameron boy (including when he says, "Turn me old too fast."), we hear a section of "Pieces of a Story", which ends when John Cameron puts the boy on his lap. Almost immediately after that, "River Walk" repeats, continues as the scene fades into the next scene at the gathering, and ends as the recruiter begins to speak.

  2. We hear a portion of "Discovery" in the scene at the gathering where the men are being recruited to join the militia, at the moment where Hawkeye says, "What if the French send war parties to raid their homes?" It is used here perhaps to foreshadow the death of the Camerons in their home.

  3. Approaching Cameron's CabinWe hear the bulk of "Discovery" when Hawkeye, Uncas, and Chingachgook return to the Camerons' home, with Duncan, Cora, and Alice, only to find the house burned out and their friends murdered by the Ottawa. The music begins at about 1:31 on the CD, when the three men climb over the fence, and it continues into the beginning of the next scene at the Burial Ground. While the orchestration appears to be the same in the movie as on the CD, it is played more slowly in the movie. The slower tempo makes the scene that much sadder, more morose, and probably helped slow down the pace in the film.

  4. A portion of "Discovery" appears as background to the scene where Cora finally rejects Duncan, not coincidentally after he has just denied the significance of their "discovery" at the Cameron's burned-out cabin.

  5. A portion of "Discovery" (beginning at 1:28 on the CD) is also the background music to the scene where Hawkeye is arrested and taken away for assisting the colonials' desertion (so that they may go to protect their own families from the Cameron's fate).
Notice that the music called "River Walk" is not actually heard during the scene and at the location we know of as the River Walk. It is possible that the music was written for the scripted River Walk scene but ended up not dramatic enough. If you recall, the River Walk scene opens immediately after the ambush and rescue on the George Road: our three heroes lead Duncan, Alice and Cora out over the rocks at the base of the falls and the music we hear is the grand "Main Title" (played just as at the opening of the movie, with the A-A sections followed by the B section at the moment when Uncas looks up at Alice as she prepares to climb the rocks). The "Main Title" fades at the second part of the River Walk, as they walk beside the river and Hawkeye asks Duncan why Magua would want to kill the girl, "Miss Cora Monro". This scene is backed by deep but non-descript, unidentified music. We know from various interviews that the quick shot of Uncas looking at Alice was filmed a month or so after the rest of the River Walk scene was filmed (Note: probably a bit less ... MP), perhaps to build up the Uncas/Alice relationship. It is possible that during the month or so in which Mann decided on the need to film that "look" he also rethought the entire tone of that opening to the River Walk scene, abandoning the original music and recasting it with the "Main Title". It would be nearly impossible to argue that the gentle, easy-going music called "River Walk" is more fitting for this shot than the dramatic "Main Title" when Hawkeye, Uncas, Chingachgook, Duncan, Cora, and Alice commence their long and terrible ordeal at the foot of Bridal Veil Falls where the scene was filmed.

On to "Pieces of a Story"
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