12 Songs, 26 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Yeah Yeah Yeahs vocalist Karen O got a lot of attention for the songs she wrote and sang for the soundtrack to Where the Wild Things Are, Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s children’s story. But Carter Burwell’s score for the same film is well worth checking out as well. Burwell is one of the best composers working in Hollywood: he’s the go-to guy for the Coen Brothers, he’s scored projects as diverse as Rob Roy, Being John Malkovich, and Twilight, and his work on Wild Things is excellent. The music is subtle, melodious, and well arranged. The spare “Lost Fur” features a moody piano theme backed by throbbing bass and gentle strumming, while harp, nice woodwind writing, and wordless female vocals mark “Sailing.” “Dirt Clod Fight” actually isn’t subtle at all and it sounds great: Karen O lets out her trademark yelps, the drummer rocks, and guitar comes crashing down. “Carol’s Dark Night” creates an open and mysterious space that evokes the film’s striking visuals. The closer, “We Love You So,” is a gorgeous variation on the opening theme, a quiet, reflective orchestration that simmers.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Yeah Yeah Yeahs vocalist Karen O got a lot of attention for the songs she wrote and sang for the soundtrack to Where the Wild Things Are, Spike Jonze’s adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s children’s story. But Carter Burwell’s score for the same film is well worth checking out as well. Burwell is one of the best composers working in Hollywood: he’s the go-to guy for the Coen Brothers, he’s scored projects as diverse as Rob Roy, Being John Malkovich, and Twilight, and his work on Wild Things is excellent. The music is subtle, melodious, and well arranged. The spare “Lost Fur” features a moody piano theme backed by throbbing bass and gentle strumming, while harp, nice woodwind writing, and wordless female vocals mark “Sailing.” “Dirt Clod Fight” actually isn’t subtle at all and it sounds great: Karen O lets out her trademark yelps, the drummer rocks, and guitar comes crashing down. “Carol’s Dark Night” creates an open and mysterious space that evokes the film’s striking visuals. The closer, “We Love You So,” is a gorgeous variation on the opening theme, a quiet, reflective orchestration that simmers.

TITLE TIME

About Carter Burwell

Probably one of a very few soundtrack composers to idolize Iggy Pop, Carter Burwell is best known for his work with the Coen brothers, having scored every one of their films through the year 2010. By turns haunting and dark or quirky and experimental, Burwell's eclectic music has graced films in a wide variety of genres, and he's used the occasional big-studio project to finance his work on a number of groundbreaking independent films. Born November 18, 1955 in New York, Burwell took piano lessons as a child and learned to play blues guitar as a teenager. He studied architecture and fine arts at Harvard, but wasn't considering music as a career; upon graduating, he first worked in a biology lab, then as an animator, while playing in punk bands by night for fun.

A mutual friend referred him to the Coen brothers, who were seeking a composer for their 1984 debut feature, Blood Simple. They all hit it off, and Burwell was employed for the Coens' next project, the kidnapping caper Raising Arizona (1987); Burwell blended samples with a variety of thematic source materials. The Coens' 1990 gangster film, Miller's Crossing, was Burwell's first fully orchestrated work, and he attracted more attention for 1991's groundbreaking Barton Fink; he composed only 20 bars of music, which were then treated with various sound effects and reshaped throughout the film by sound designer Skip Lievsay.

Burwell's workload increased steadily as the '90s progressed, and he began taking on more mainstream film projects: Doc Hollywood (1991), Wayne's World 2 (1993), and Airheads (1994), among others. He won wide acclaim for his work on 1995's Rob Roy, which kicked off the most prolific period of his career -- over 35 films in the next five years. Among the highlights were the thriller Conspiracy Theory (1997), The Jackal (1997), Gods and Monsters (1998), the fictionalized glam rock chronicle Velvet Goldmine (1998), Spike Jonze's bizarre Being John Malkovich (1999), and the Gulf War epic Three Kings (1999). In addition to his film-scoring activities, Burwell has also played accordion and synthesizer with eclectic new age artists like Gabrielle Roth and David Hykes' Harmonic Choir.

Burwell remained in demand through the 2000s and 2010s, reteaming with Jonze on the music for Adaptation and scoring several installments of the Twilight Saga movie series. In 2016, he earned his first Academy Award nomination for his score for the Todd Haynes-directed romantic drama Carol (2015). That year, he also reunited with the Coens for Hail, Caesar! In 2017, he composed music for Haynes' Wonderstruck and got his second Oscar nomination for his roots-imbued score for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. ~ Steve Huey

HOMETOWN
New York, NY
BORN
November 18, 1955

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