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As we started to discuss evoking tension on screen in a previous post on Blood Simple, let’s turn to another Coen brothers film which shared some of the same ironic black comedy.

It’s a delicate thing to add music to a scene. This is a short clip of the first killing in Fargo. Less is more and the mounting tension is so delicately evoked with high strings/electonic textures. As the situation starts to build low horns/strings creep in. The decision to kill quickly moves to a fast crescendo of drum rolls, screaming brass and cymbal rolls among other things. Also note the stunned silence after the climax.

It’s effective and well within the harmonic language of modern film scores. Fargo was made 9 years after the Coen brother’s debut with Blood Simple in 1985. Obviously having a string of hits enabled them to have a larger budget and Carter Burwell’s orchestral score reflects that. No cheesy synth sounds here. Carter is in the enviable position of being the “go-to” Composer for not only the prolific Coen’s but also the gifted (and busy) director Spike Jonze.

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