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This is a comments thread about Blog Post: Film Score Friday 5/24/19 by Scott Bettencourt
 Posted:   May 25, 2019 - 7:37 AM   
 By:   Jonathan Foster   (Member)

I don't know if any of the directors associated with the films I'm about to mention have a reputation for being "composer-killers," but Carter Burwell's website offers very candid accounts of his experiences as a "killed composer." Some excerpts...

"While the scoring went well, there was always a tug of war between myself and the production. They were always pulling the music in very traditional directions, which were frankly uninteresting to me. After I'd recorded my score in Los Angeles (with the considerable help of orchestrator/conductor Shirley Walker), I returned to New York. Soon after I heard that they had hired Don Davis to 're-work' the score. I had little doubt what they were after...[edited]...I spoke with Don (whom I've never met) very cordially about a potentially difficult situation. I told him I understood his assignment and just hoped that my themes would survive in some form. The music as you hear it now is mostly my thematic material, but honestly some sections sound much more like Don Davis than Carter Burwell."

"After the score was complete Michael came under great pressure from the studio to make the film 'faster-paced,' an understandable desire for an international espionage thriller. They may have shot some more footage, but after months of editing there was little left to mess with than the music. He ended up bringing on a record producer names Danny Saber to 'remix' my score. Michael politely asked if I wanted to be included in this process, but my one day of sitting in on Danny's sessions was too dispiriting to repeat. He was overdubbing electric guitar power chords over David Torn's much more interesting guitar work. In the end all I could do was listen to Danny's results and list a few pieces that I thought were frankly embarassing in that hope that Michael would not use them. In the end they were all in the film...[edited]...I considered taking my name off the film, but felt there was just enough of my music there to justify keeping it as it was. But this painful experience was the end (at least so far) of my ongoing collaboration with Michael Caton-Jones."

[These comments are actually part of a letter that Burwell sent to the Los Angeles Times after their reviewer criticized him for scoring "the movie's emotional climax with James Newton Howard's music from 'Dave.'"]

"Sketches of each of my compositions, performed on synthesizers, were played for Glenn Caron, the director, and Robert Kraft, from Fox, prior to recording. After detailed discussions, the final versions of the pieces were arranged for orchestra and recorded in February with the aforementioned principals of the film and studio present.

Three months later, long after I assumed the film had been completed, the director sheepishly called me and told me that Fox had replaced two of my pieces with music by James Newton Howard, licensed from other films. He offered the consolation that Howard would not be credited, and the glory would thus accrue to me."

"Cue number 15 (as the heroes react to the arrival of a tank and attempt to escape an Iraqi village) begins with 2:55 of my score, then segues to :22 seconds of Graeme Revell's music from The Siege, then returns to my score for :10 seconds, then plays a mix of Thomas Newman scores from Unstrung Heroes and Flesh and Bone, for about a minute. Then it returns to my cue 'The Gas.'

The piece titled 'Things Explode,' which is available for download here, is my score for this scene before it was cut and overlaid with music from other films. But even this version is not my original score. It was the result of the director explaining, moment by moment, how my music should be more like the temp music which was culled from these other films. David O. Russell would pull me aside during the recording sessions and play the temp pieces for me to remind me of what he was after, and my original concept for the score (which to put it simply was that it be humanist rather than militarist) was, bit by bit, lost. If someday I find the original recording of my work I'll post it here.

The version of the cue you'll find here was composed by me, but as little integrity as film music generally has, this has still less."

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