"The musical score by Carter Burwell, a frequent Coen brothers colleague: effective, subtly creepy. No bombast or big orchestral wows." - Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune, November 18, 2008.
"...as good as TWILIGHT’s vocal numbers might be, there’s no denying the important, almost ever-present power that Burwell’s work gives to the film’s dreamy atmosphere. ...Burwell responds to the story’s teen fan base with swooning female voices, guitar work that can veer from the melancholy to the savage, and ethereal samples that cast a truly magical spell over the dew-speckled trees and vampire skin. It’s like a combo of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, a rock ‘shroom trip that plays the unconsummated romance between living and dead as the ultimate trip.
... Burwell’s eruptions of frantic drumming show the blood-hungry savage that Edward’s trying to keep in check, as well as the vamps who revel in it. It’s a primal beat that also ties Edward’s 'family' to the Pacific Northwest, and the Indians who know what these ageless folks are - a use of musical storytelling that shows the thought and creativity that’s gone into Burwell’s score." - Daniel Schweiger, Film Music Magazine, Dec. 11, 2008.
"... Taken as a whole, Burwell's music for the film is often less brooding than the songs on the soundtrack and adds as much subtlety to a film about a teenage girl falling in love with an 100-year-old vampire as can be added. Despite titles like 'How I Would Die' and 'The Most Dangerous Predator,' his score is rarely heavy-handed, using chilly atmospheres and drones to keep things from getting too obvious. Burwell's work is often steeped in yearning and melancholy, making him a good fit for writing music for a love story that would probably result in death if it were consummated. The romantic pieces are the score's strongest and most interesting moments: 'Phascination Phase' telegraphs how gripping infatuation can be with an insistent acoustic guitar and a piano melody that wraps around it; 'I Dreamt of Edward' brings an eeriness to its longing with slight atonality; and 'Bella's Lullaby' is romantic without being sentimental. Burwell makes sure that the story's underlying threat isn't forgotten, mixing suspense and romantic tension on 'I Know What You Are' and 'The Skin of a Killer,' which, with its complex emotions and undulating melody, is one of the most quintessentially Burwell cues in the score." - Heather Phares, All Music Guide, Billboard, Dec. 9, 2008.
"Bella's Lullaby," as it appears
in this film, was not written to be a lullaby but to speak of
love - ecstatic, tormented love. Here's that story.
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.
Years later (April 2008 to be exact) I came to Oregon to meet Catherine Hardwicke and see some of the film she was shooting, Twilight. She mentioned that the producing company, Summit Entertainment, had just requested that a new scene be added to the film. The scene existed in the novel but hadn't originally been part of the screenplay (films are not one-to-one translations of books). In this scene Edward would play piano for Bella. I wasn't officially working on the film at that point and they didn't know what Rob Pattinson (Edward) should play during the shoot. This is not an unusual situation - many films have an actor sitting at a keyboard, swaying back and forth, pretending to play music that was only written after the film has been shot and edited. This case was unusual in that Rob is a fine musician, and fully capable of playing the piano or probably any other instrument.
My concern, as a composer, is to make the film
as a whole compelling, dramatic, emotional and cinematic. But in
this case other extraneous concerns quickly started to pile on,
all driven by the fans of the book. The piano scene was added because
Summit realized fans wanted to hear Edward play the melody referred
to as "Bella's Lullaby," and each of those fans has their own idea of the tune. Because I hadn't started writing
yet there was a musical vacuum into which other music started to
be pulled. Rob improvised a tune for the shoot. Matthew Bellamy,
of Muse, sent in his idea of "Bella's Lullaby." And countless readers and musicians sent in their own
ideas or posted them on the internet. None of this made my job easier.
When I finally began writing music for Twilight, in early July, I moved myself, my family and my studio from New York to Los Angeles to work more closely with Catherine and the editorial team - Nancy Richardson the film editor and Adam Smalley the music editor. I began the score with Bella and Edward, specifically the scene in which he carries her into the treetops. I wanted to capture the excitement but also the challenge of this love which spans barriers of time and species. The film had been edited so that the piano scene followed the treetops scene, and the whole montage had very little dialogue so it was a good canvas on which to paint Bella and Edward's love theme.
After trying many different approaches with mixed
success I put the tune I wrote years ago for my ecstatic and tormented
love against the picture and it seemed quite perfect. It has an "A" theme
which is a bit ambiguous, like two people trying to find a common
ground, climbing to a high, then tumbling down, and a "B" theme
that is forthrightly joyful (at least as joyful as my music gets).
I showed it to Catherine Hardwicke and she found
so this unnamed tune became "Bella's Lullaby." It's worth noting,
though, that neither Catherine nor I ever called it that. We always
referred to this tune as the "Love Theme" and I think
it makes much more sense if you think of it this way. It's more
complex and emotional than any lullaby I've ever heard.
I started using this theme for Bella and Edward's relationahip as it develops in the film - starting from the biology class in which he first speaks to her. The more we lived with the "Love Theme" the more Catherine longed to reshoot the piano scene so that Rob's fingers would match the music. Summit Entertainment, who were paying for the film, would have to approve the cost of this.
I usually start writing at the piano and then move
to computers where I can make a "demo" or "sketch" that sounds as if it were played by the actual instruments - in this case piano, strings, woodwinds, guitars and percussion. I always play these sketches for the director so he or she can picture the final sound of the score while I'm writing. Because Catherine needed Summit's approval for the reshoot we arranged to play the sketches for the Summit executives as well as the film's producers.
The executives assumed that since I've written
60 or more film scores (I don't know exactly) I must have been
through that process before. But in fact I've never had to sit
in a room and play my work for executives . Typically I work with
the director and if anyone else is going to be involved I ask that
they talk to the director, then the director talks to me. That
way the film still reflects a singular point of view - that of
the director - even though we all know it takes an army to make
To our surprise, one of the executives
wasn't in love with the "Love Theme." In particular he
objected to the opening note of the melody, which he correctly noted
is dissonant (the high note is a B flat, over A and B natural in
the harmony). The dissonance is immediately resolved to a consonance,
but he couldn't get the initial note out of his head. Music is enormously
subjective: For Catherine and myself the tune was wonderfully romantic
and moving. For him it was off-putting.
As a film composer it's nothing new to be asked
to throw compositions away, or rewrite them. It happens all the
time. However I felt this tune was one of the best I'd written,
perfect for the film and the scene, and so I didn't take Summit's
complaints very seriously. The wrinkle in this case was that Catherine
wanted to reshoot the piano scene in about a week and she needed
Summit to approve what Rob would play.
I had reached the end of my stay in L.A. and
was packing up to go on a short vacation in Maine with my family
(whom I hadn't seen much while I'd been writing), then back to
New York to start the school year. The day before we left L.A.
I started getting desparate calls from Catherine and producer Wyck
Godfrey. They told me that Summit would not approve the reshoot
with the current "Love Theme". Then the head of production
at Summit called and confirmed that it was his call - the B flat
was not acceptable - he would not "sign off on it." He
said that the teenage girls that were the audience for the film
would want something sweeter, simpler.
The beginning of the original melody
In his defense, I think part of the problem was that Catherine and I saw this as Bella and Edward's "Love Theme" whereas he saw it as "Bella's Lullaby." And indeed, for the 30 seconds during which Edward is playing piano it is the "Lullaby." But the theme also has to play the romance that drives the story, and I thought that was a much more important role.
There were other issues for me as well. The suggestion that teenage girls would want a sweet tune was somewhat condescending, and that was something I tried to avoid in this score. Also I don't believe it's possible to know how music will affect someone else, even though film composers claim to. The unpredicability is what makes it interesting (although I understand that's not what the investors want to hear). And can you imagine what it would be like - as it was occasionally on this project - trying to compose music to satisfy a director who's trying to satisfy a male executive who's trying to satisfy ten million teenage girls?
My equipment was packed up, I was getting on a plane to Maine, and suddenly they needed a new love theme in a matter of days. Everyone (other than me and my family) thought I should stay in L.A. I told the folks from Twilight that I'd understand if they hired another composer and got on the plane.
Once I landed in Maine I was a bit less upset and
offered to try some variations on the "Love Theme",
writing at night so it wouldn't interfere with my family's days.
It turned out that removing the B flat also removed all the interest
from the melody. Eventually I had 5 or 6 variations, ranging
from vapid to acceptable, and I sent them to Catherine. I don't
know how many she played for Summit. One was approved, and I put
it on paper for Rob to play (which he did very well). Catherine
and I tried to come up with a title for the piece that would more
accurately convey its purpose, but Summit insisted it be called "Bella's
Lullaby," and I'm happy
to think of it as such. The opening piano melody is the original
version I wrote so many years ago (I kept it in the movie despite
Summit's objections), and the melody Rob plays toward the end is
the variation that Summit approved. You will hear both peppered throughout
the film. I comfort myself that the original tune predominates, because,
for me, it's more memorable. Which one do you remember?
The beginning of the variation melody
I should mention that Christine, the woman for whom I first wrote the melody years ago, is now my amazing and challenging wife. In my heart the tune will always be ours, but now it's yours (and Bella and Edward's) as well.
In addition to the questions answered below, you may want to look at my more general FAQ page, which answers questions about myself and film scoring in general.
I have a song or lyrics that would be perfect for Twilight, can I send it to you?
I'm not allowed to listen to "unsolicited" ideas,
whether musical or lyrical. This is a general rule in show business
so that we don't get sued later by people who claim we've stolen
their ideas. For better or worse, this is one reason there are
so many layers of "middle-people" like
agents, producers, and guilds. They register the passing of
ideas and create a paper trail so that later disagreements
can be adjudicated. I know this sounds like a ridiculous headache
and one must wonder how anything heartfelt or imaginative can
result from it. Believe me, it's a challenge..
I would like to perform or record a piece from Twilight - whom do I contact?
Please contact the publisher of the music:
Rimutaka Music Publishing
1630 Stewart Street
Santa Monica, CA 90404
is a theme? And what themes are in the score to Twilight?
A theme is a musical element, usually a melody, that is associated
with some element of the film - a character, a thing, a story.
The composer creates this association by playing the theme whenever
the element appears, and the audience unconsciouly forms an association
between the two.
It need not
be a melody. In Twilight, the "Nomads" - James,
Victoria and Laurent - have a theme based not on melody but on
a bass-line, a drum beat and a distorted guitar sound.When
the Nomads interrupt the baseball game, the sound of the guitar
tells you they're there before you can see them.
In the case of Bella and Edward, their "Love Theme" is
hinted at in the biology scene where they first speak, but is
only fully realized in the middle of the film when they climb
into the treetops and then Edward plays "Bella's Lullaby" for
her on piano.
Another theme in Twilight is the "Predator Theme".
It is the opening music in the film, playing as someone is chasing
a deer through the woods and continuing over Bella in the desert.
You may suspect that it is Edward chasing the deer, and the
Predator theme is intended to play his vampire nature and his
discomfort with it. It develops as Bella starts to investigate
his nature and confronts him about it, and reaches an operatic
pitch in the final showdown in the ballet studio where Edward
fights James and questions whether he has the self-control to
Finally there is a theme for The Cullens. It only appears twice
in the film - when we first see them in the school cafeteria and
when Bella is at their house for dinner.
How much time did it take to compose the music for Twilight?
It took 8 to 9 weeks to compose the music and another week or so to orchestrate it. It was recorded in about 9 days and mixed in about 6. This is actually considered a generous schedule as film scores go, but a lot of this time was not well spent.
There was a lot of composing of music that no one wanted to
put in the film, just so that everyone could feel that we'd exhausted
all the options. About 150 versions of cues (as we call each
piece of music) were written and sketched for the director, although there are only 32 cues
in the final film.
What is orchestration?
When you arrange a piece of music for an ensemble of musicians - selecting exactly which notes will be played by which instruments and in what ways - you are orchestrating. For instance, a composer might write a piano score and hand it to an orchestrator who can expand it (some say "explode it") onto a full 80-piece symphony orchestra score.
I chose to orchestrate Twilight myself because I felt it was important that all the nuances of the music be as personal as possible. Also, a lot of the musical arrangements in the score are unusual. For instance the Predator theme (as in "I Know What You Are") is often played by string quartet, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, piano, harp, acoustic bass, electric bass, three electric guitars, drum kit, quite a lot of percussion and electronics. Because this is not a standard ensemble (to say the least) it would be hard for anyone other than myself to know how I intended it to sound. Even for myself it was challenging.
Was it different writing music for a youth-oriented film?
I have to admit the only audience I consider when I'm composing is myself. Of course I ultimately have to satisfy the director of the film, and sometimes the producers, and in this case even the studio executives. But I never really know what any of those people is going to think, so there's no chance at all that I'll be able to guess what those millions of unknown audience members will think.
In the case of Twilight, I hope that this attitude results in the score refusing to condescend to the audience, but to instead respect the maturity and depth of their hearts, minds and ears. Stephenie Meyer did this in her books and Catherine Hardwicke has done it in the film, and I aspired to do the same in the music.
In addition to the credits given above, these were
the key people working on the score:
Assistant Engineer: Olga FitzRoy
Assistant Music Editor: Scott Johnson
Assistant Orchestra Contractor: Lucy Whalley
Copyist: Vic Fraser
Composer’s Assistant: Dean Parker
Guitars: David Torn, Mitch Dalton, Kaki King
Piano: Dave Hartley
Violins: Rosemary Warren-Green, Ralph De Souza, Warren Zielinski, Jonathan Evans-Jones, Debbie Widdup, Mark Berrow
Violas: Peter Lale, Vicci Wardman, Bruce White
Celli: Jonathan Williams, Caroline Dearnley, Dave Daniels
Double Bass: Andy Pask, Chris Laurence
French Horns: Richard Watkins, David Pyatt, Richard Clews
Oboe: Jane Marshall
Clarinet: Nicholas Bucknall
Bassoon: Gavin McNaughton
Flute: Philippa Davies
Harp: Skaila Kanga
Percussion: Paul Clarvis, Dave Hassell, Frank Ricotti, Bill Lockhart
Drum Kit: Ian Thomas
Vocals: Lizzie Pattinson
The score was recorded in late September, 2008 at Air Lyndhurst Studios in London, a wonderful studio built inside an old church. Two pieces of music were recorded with about 24 players - "Bella's Lullaby" and "Showdown in the Ballet Studio," and the rest were done with a core ensemble of 4 strings, 3 woodwinds, piano, harp, bass, guitar and percussion. Many of these pieces also had electric guitar parts played by David Torn in my studio in New York, where Kaki King also played on a few pieces. David is a unique guitarist and composer in his own right with whom I've been working for years, and I can't overstate the importance of the sounds he brought to this, and many other, scores.
I've recorded music with orchestras of 80 players or more, but this kind of small ensemble is much more challenging for the players. They aren't playing the same note as the person sitting next to them and each of them can be heard quite clearly - for better or worse. It's more challenging for the orchestrator (myself in this case) to get a full, rich sound from about ten instruments. It's also more fulfilling.
The vocal part in the middle of "Who Are They?" was sung by Lizzie Pattinson, Rob's sister, who is a wonderful singer-songwriter based in London.
There's a tension between the intimacy of this small ensemble and the occassional outbursts of darkness and aggression in the score (and story), and this shifting is one of my favorite things about the movie.