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12 May 2021, 17:17 | Updated: 13 May 2021, 14:42
Everything to know about how director Chloé Zhao chose Ludovico Einaudi’s meditative music to score her Oscar-winning film – and how you can listen.
Nomadland is a story of survival, set in the American West. Fern, the main character played by Frances McDormand, is forced to abandon her life and identity after the mining town where she lived with her late husband is shut down in the economic recession.
On the road to finding work and a new purpose, Fern meets real-life nomads, cast by director Chloé Zhao, whose stories and testimonies reflect the genuine experiences of the country’s nomadic community.
But did he write it for the film, and why wasn’t it nominated for an Oscar? Do read on…
On the Nomadland soundtrack, now available on Spotify, we hear two pieces (‘Golden Butterflies’ and ‘Low Mist’) from Einaudi’s 2019 Seven Days Walking project, a collection of seven albums released over seven months.
The album, inspired by his walks in the Italian Alps, became the fastest-streamed classical album of all time worldwide, in its first week of release. It exceeded two million streams on release day alone, giving classical streaming as a whole a healthy boost.
Other Einaudi tracks including ‘Oltremare’ from his album Divenire, and ‘Petricor’ from Elements, are also woven into the reflective score.
Still firmly in the atmospheric soundworld, we hear a previously unreleased track from Icelandic composer Ólafur Arnalds halfway through the soundtrack, as well as five tracks performed live on-camera in the film, which are only included in the official Nomadland album (listen below).
On Experience: The Ludovico Einaudi Story podcast, director Zhao spoke to host Joe Dempsie about the moment she discovered Einaudi’s sound.
“I went online to search for classical music inspired by nature… [I found] a YouTube video to his Elegy for the Arctic. I then started listening to Seven Days Walking and was so amazed by how I felt Ludovico was walking in the Alps.
“I felt like he and [the character of] Fern were walking in parallel; their shared love of nature connects them, and I knew then his music would fit perfectly with our movie,” Zhao explained.
“I wanted the music to feel like the inner dialogue that Fern has with herself. In this silent moment as she’s going through all these different landscapes, it’s as if she is talking to us, making us understand how she has changed.”
Nomadland was a critical and awards season hit, with Entertainment Weekly even hailing it, “The best film of the year.” At the 93rd Academy Awards, Zhao became the second woman ever to win an Oscar for best director, Frances McDormand won Best Actress and the film even scooped the coveted Best Picture prize.
The soundtrack, however, wasn’t deemed eligible for a nomination. Oscar-eligible film scores have to contain 80 percent new material, while Einaudi’s had already been written and published in 2019.
Chloé Zhao’s third feature film tells of a real-life mining town, Empire, in rural Nevada. After being hit by the economic recession, the town is forced to shut down, leaving its working residents no choice but to move away to find a new life, identity and means of living.
Fern (Frances McDormand), who once lived and worked there with her late husband, sets out to find a new purpose. She moves into a van and travels the country in search of work, journeying through the spectacular landscapes of the American West.
Nomadland is available to stream in the UK for all Disney Plus subscribers. A subscription costs £7.99 a month, or Disney+ offers all new subscribers a seven-day free trial.