Interview with Carter Burwell, Composer for Twilight, A Knight’s Tale and More!

carter-burwellCarter Burwell is a man of many talents whose abilities range from the technical to creative. During the course of his professional life, Carter has pursued the art of animation, software development, music performance and–of course–composing music for movies. Interestingly enough, he also enjoys other forms of composition which involve writing music for dance and theatrical performances.

As a composer, Carter Burwell wrote the theatrical score for over fifty films including Rob Roy, A Knight’s Tale, Hamlet, and Burn After Reading as well as his most recent work on the film Twilight.

Recorded in a London studio, Carter Burwell composed, orchestrated and conducted the musical score for the film about a girl who falls in love with a vampire. As an experienced songwriter, Burwell has been able to translate mood into music, marrying fear with love. One such song in the soundtrack that has gotten rave reviews from Twilight fans and music lovers is the song, “Bella’s Lullaby.” We’d like to provide you with a quote about the origin of this song in Carter Burwell’s own words:

Years ago I was in love with an amazing and challenging woman named Christine Sciulli. She left me, I was heartbroken, and I wrote a piece of music that tried to express the thrill and pain of having my heart pierced. She wouldn’t speak to me, so I sent her the music to speak in my place. QUOTE: Carter Burwell’s Notes on Twilight

Twilight Soundtrack Cover ArtIf you read the story of how Bella’s Lullaby evolved from the version that Carter Burwell first wrote for the woman that would later become his wife, you can see how complicated writing music for films can be. For the first time in his work on films, Carter performed his original work for the movie executives who didn’t fall in love with the song right away. In the end the song evolved to the form that you know if today.

Carter has been very open with the composition process on his personal website located at: www.carterburwell.com. We were fortunate to ask him a few questions and would like to share these with you today.

You’ve worked on several different types of films from dramas to action movies and love stories like Twilight. What is your favorite type of movie to score and why?

My favorite type is the dark comedy, just because it matches my view of the world pretty well.

Some fans believe that “The River Flows in You” by Yiruma is the “true” version of Bella’s Lullaby? Can you clarify this for your fans?

The book Twilight had been popular for many years before I started working on the film, and many readers had their own ideas about “Bella’s Lullaby.” Some people liked the song “The River Flows In You” and it, along with others, was tagged as “Bella’s Lullaby” on YouTube. You have to remember that anyone can post anything on YouTube – it is not a source of information, but a source of entertainment.

What would be your advice to musicians or songwriters interested in writing music in today’s market?

The good news is that it’s so much easier to be a musician than an architect or dentist – you don’t need someone to give you millions of dollars, or offer to let you in their mouths (e.g. the dentist). And with current technology it’s easy to record music and post it on the internet – even sell it there. The parts that are still hard are learning how to write and record well – and I can only suggest that one work with people you admire, and learn from them – and getting yourself noticed – for which I have no good advice.

When you go to a movie now in the theaters, do you automatically hone in on the score?

If the film is good I don’t pay any more attention to the score than most people. If the score gets my attention it’s not usually a good sign.

How many instruments do you play? Are you a singer?

I play keyboards – piano, synthesizer, accordion. I play other instruments, like guitar and bass, badly. And I can sing really badly.

What do you like to do when you’re not making music?

I play with my kids. And I occasionally run marathons.

Any plans to release the “Best of Carter Burwell” CD?

I’m waiting until I really don’t have anything better to do. And I’m hoping that won’t happen for a while yet.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a film version of Where The Wild Things Are with a singer / songwriter named Karen O (of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs).

Musicnotes.com would like to extend a very special “thank you” to Carter Burwell for the time he took for this interview. We wish him well in his life’s endeavors and hope that he continues making great music! If you’re interested in playing the movie sheet music that he has composed, visit Musicnotes.com to see sheet music composed by Carter Burwell.

We hope you enjoyed this interview with Carter Burwell. To find out more about him, visit the official website of Carter Burwell.

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