The Film Music of Nick Cave and Warren Ellis

World premiere


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Nick Cave and Warren Ellis’ film scores are instantly recognisable for their minimal and hauntingly beautiful tones. Full of light and shade, creeping dread and inconsolable yearning, the heavily instrumental sounds inject humanity into the ghostly frontier towns, parched desert landscapes, post-apocalyptic war zones and extra-terrestrial vistas of their renowned films.

As part of the Melbourne International Film Festival, Cave and Ellis join the MSO for the first time to perform a selection of suites in full symphonic sound.

“This is a unique opportunity to celebrate the work and creativity of two outstanding composers who have made a significant and lasting contribution to Australian music.”

- Benjamin Northey, conductor.


Benjamin Northey conductor
Nick Cave & Warren Ellis soloists


Suites and selections from The Proposition, The Road, Hell or High Water, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, West of Memphis and Wind River.

About the performance

The past 15 years has seen Nick Cave and Warren Ellis compose for both indie films and Hollywood features. Their first commissioned soundtrack, the brutal outback western The Proposition (2005) directed by John Hillcoat and scripted by Cave himself, introduced the widescreen compositions that would become their signature for future films.

Big studio work beckoned in the shape of Andrew Dominik’s anti-western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007). The eerie score underwrote the movie’s sombre mood and the lead character’s impending doom.

Cave and Ellis reunited with Hillcoat for the adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s highly successful novel The Road (2009). The artfully minimal score combined with mournful piano and clanging industrial percussion, enhanced the lurking malice.

‘’Very often a tension can happen between music and picture that is about chance and a kind of unknowingness that can be really amazing. Just by putting together two things that were created in isolation, music and film, suddenly something quite magical can happen.”

- Nick Cave.

In 2012 Cave and Ellis composed a moving score for Amy Berg’s documentary West of Memphis about a controversial murder case in Arkansas. Returning to the American West, Cave and Ellis collaborated with David McKenzie for his masterful heist thriller Hell or High Water (2016), the score’s melancholy strains sounded as parched as the Texan visuals on screen.

Wind River (2017) was a chilling murder set on a Native American reservation in Wyoming, delivering more orchestration and vocals into their usually spartan instrumental palette. Cave and Ellis delivered drama to the film’s wintry landscapes with rousing string arrangements, haunting choral chants and softly whispered cries.

Presented in collaboration with MIFF as part of the 68th Melbourne International Film Festival.

*Advertised ticket price excludes booking fee.

MA 15+
This concert includes footage from films rated MA15+. MA15+ classified material contains strong content and is legally restricted to persons 15 years and over. Children aged 15 and under must be supervised by a ticketed adult, and may be requested to show proof of their age.

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Melbourne International Film Festival