Busy Awards Season for Carter Burwell

Carter Burwell reflects through a pane

Composer Carter Burwell (Photo courtesy SoundWorks Collection)

The first of three fall films to feature music by composer Carter Burwell is Goodbye Christopher Robin, hitting U.S. screens Oct. 13 from Fox Searchlight, which also has Burwell in the queue for the Nov. 10 quirky whodunit Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.

Burwell — best know for his 15 collaborations with the Coen Brothers — will also be heard on the Oct. 20 release Wonderstruck from Amazon studios and director Todd Haynes, with whom Burwell has teamed on three prior occasions — most recently 2015’s Carol, which earned the composer his first Academy Award nomination.

Goodbye Christopher Robin is directed by Simon Curtis, who executive produced the riveting 1997 Virginia Woolf drama Mrs. Dalloway and directed 2015’s Nazi art theft saga Woman in Gold.  The story of the relationship between beloved children’s author A. A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) and his son Christopher Robin (Will Tilston), whose toys inspired the magical world of Winnie-the-Pooh, it is Burwell’s first pairing with Curtis. Margot Robie and Kelly Macdonald also star.

“One of the riskier decisions Simon Curtis and I made with the score was to withhold the main theme until the middle of the film, when A. A. Milne begins to write and his friend Ernest Shepard begins to illustrate Winnie The Pooh,” Burwell shares. “We did this to make that moment especially noteworthy, to make it the turning point of the story. Before that point, the music plays many things — the trauma of war, the transition from city to country life, the awkward relations between Christopher Robin and his parents. But then Pooh changes everything.”

Two well-defined themes in Goodbye Christopher Robin are “the play of imagination, and the trauma of war,” Burwell explains on his official website. “The ironic twist is that the success of Pooh’s stories, based on the innocent play of his son Christopher Robin, ends up robbing Christopher of his innocence.” Specific to the instrumentation, Burwell “didn’t try to focus on the period of the film, the 1920s and 1930s, but I did think the instruments should accord with that time. I thought particularly of the English pastoral tradition, such as George Butterworth’s ‘Two English Idylls.’”

Musically, Burwell was called upon to make Christopher’s mother, Daphne (Margot Robbie) more “likable” for U.S. audiences, who couldn’t relate to the chilly Brit tradition of hands-off parenting.  “I did the little I could without being ridiculous. Suffice it to say that in real life the relationship between Christopher Robin and his mother was much, much worse than anything you see (or hear) in this film.”

Sony Classical will release the Goodbye Christopher Robin original motion picture soundtrack, which arrives digitally on Sept. 29 and on CD Oct. 20. Based on Brian Selznick’s 2011 novel, Wonderstruck is the tale of the intersecting lives of two children who grow up in different eras. The film caused something of a soundsation at the Cannes Film Festival, where Amazon premiered a teaser trailer set to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” The Lakeshore Records soundtrack for Wonderstruck will be released simultaneous with the film on Oct. 20.

Three Billboards again teams Burwell with writer-director Martin Mcdonald, with whom he worked on the piquant critical and popular hit In Bruges (2008) and 2014’s Seven Psychopaths. This time, he is exploring the heartache of a smalltown mother who takes on the local police force when they fail to solve the mystery of her daughter’s rape and murder. Varese Sarabande will bring the soundtrack out Nov. 10 commensurate with the U.S. debut of the film, which won the audience prize at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month.

In all, Burwell has composed the music for more than 80 feature films. In addition to the Coens’ Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink and Fargo, he scored Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich (1999), Adaptation (2002) and Where the Wild Things Are (2009). He also scored Twilight and Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 & 2. His work with director David O. Russell, which includes The Three Kings (1999) and Olive Kitteridge (2014) has earned acclaim, including a Los Angeles Film Critics Association’s Award for best music score for Anomalisa. 

In addition to an L.A. Film Critics Award and an Oscar nomination Burwell’s score for Carol also landed him a Golden Globe nomination and a Critics’ Choice Movie Award. Burwell’s theater work includes the chamber opera The Celestial Alphabet Event and the Mabou Mines productions Mother and Lucia’s Chapters of Coming Forth by Day. Born in New York City, Burwell has taught and lectured at The Sundance Institute, New York University, Columbia University, and Harvard University.

Burwell had a lackluster 2016 awards season, with a trio of films that didn’t catch fire: John Lee Hancock’s McDonalds Croc saga The Founder, the Coens’ Hail, Caesar and  the earnest Coast Guard drama The Finest Hours (which did manage earn him a World Soundtrack Awards win). This year, he’s doubling down. You can sample some of his 2015 contenders at the SoundWorks Collection.

Goodbye Christopher Robin  Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Tracklist:
1. Tree of Memory
2. Birth
3. First Night
4. Cotchford Farm
5. The Object Of My Affection (The Boswell Sisters with Jimmie Grier)
6. Toys and Stars
7. Into the Forest
8. Bear Hunt
9. Goes to Town in a Golden Gown
10. To the Zoo
11. Balloons
12. Snowfall, Snowrise
13. A Man and His Dream (Al Bowlly)
14. Drawing Pooh
15. I’m Billy Moon, and I’ll Be Back Soon
16. When We Were Young
17. The People a Person Loves
18. Fame
19. Tea With Christopher Robin
20. Keep Your Memories
21. Down the Stairs, Nobody Cares
22. Not Another Word
23. Private Milne
24. Billy Leaves
25. Well, If It Isn’t Billy Moon
26. Home, I Should Think

One Response to "Busy Awards Season for Carter Burwell"

  1. Pingback: ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin,’ Score by Carter Burwell | MaxTheTrax

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