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The World's Largest Salt Flat, Set To A Celestial Score

It's hard to imagine a more desolate, soul-crushing landscape than the great salt flats in Bolivia. The Salar de Uyuni stretch as far as the eye can see for thousands of square miles, with nothing to disturb the horizon but a vast layer of salt several feet thick. It's like a surreal, alien planet completely incapable of supporting any life.

This is the unimaginable backdrop for a breathtaking new video for Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie's drifting ambient piece "The Few Of Us Left." Wiltzie, best known for his work in Stars Of The Lid and A Winged Victory For The Sullen, named the song after the impoverished people who spend their days laboring on the great flats, scooping shovelfuls of salt into mounds to sell. There aren't many of them left because the Bolivian government is tearing up the flats to mine the infinitely more valuable lithium recently discovered below the salt.

A new documentary, Salero, profiles the remaining salt harvesters and their struggle to hold on. Wiltzie provided the deeply moving score for the film, which includes "The Few Of Us Left." The video for the song is a compilation of scenes from the film, beautifully edited together by Marina Katz.

"I have always said that composing music is infinitely easier when you have beautiful images to be inspired by," Wiltzie tells NPR Music in an email. "I was fascinated by this mythical space and its ability to define the identities of the people who live in its vicinity, where this vast salt flat itself would be a central character."

Salero was directed by Mike Plunkett. "I gravitated towards Adam's music early in the process of making Salero," he tells NPR Music. "His score is an elegant blend of haunting, otherworldly tones, and emotional, bittersweet swells. It captures the complex character of the Salar, and it elevates the film's emotional journey."

The film Salero is out Dec. 1, while Wiltzie's complete soundtrack is due out Nov. 11.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Robin Hilton is a producer and co-host of the popular NPR Music show All Songs Considered.