Carter Burwell discusses ‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 , Part 2’

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2 (the soundtrack)

Did you know where you would be taking “Breaking Dawn – Part 2” before you actually jumped into it?

I knew a fair amount about it. I read the scripts for Part 1 and Part 2 before they shot them, so I knew the general idea of where we were going. And one of the most important musical elements, which was the theme for Renesmee, I had to write before they even shot Part 1 and Part 2.

They shot both films together, and there was a scene where Rob Pattinson plays that piece of music on the piano for Renesmee, and then she plays it with him, and finally, she plays it by herself. So that had to be written before they even shot the scene. So yeah, we had a pretty good map of where we were going.

As the film series progressed, the musical base has gotten broader and more expansive. Is that simply because of the progression of the story, or was there a part of you reacting to the works of Alexandre Desplat on “New Moon” and Howard Shore on “Eclipse”?

I wasn’t really taking the scores for “New Moon” or “Eclipse” into account, because I wasn’t really that familiar with them. But one thing that changes throughout the series is that the characters mature in their lives and their predicaments, like marriage and parenting, as well as these larger-scale issues like the vampire community they belong to and how it fits in with the entire vampire world. Things just get bigger and bigger.

The premise of the original “Twilight” was that you were following this normal teenager who goes to a normal high school. And by the time you get to these last two episodes, there is almost nothing normal left. There are also almost no humans left in the story, so the entire milieu of the story has changed from the beginning.

The “Twilight” film series started out as something very personal and introspective, almost like a spiritual journey. But in “Breaking Dawn – Part 2,” the external forces become more of a dominant presence to where those intimate moments are almost fleeting. How do you musically bridge the gap between nurturing a child to preparing for battle?

[Laughs] The way that we solve that problem musically is through these musical themes that we’ve developed since the first film. And we can reference these themes to remind us of the history of the character and various aspects of the character. And you’re right; the issues that these characters face in this film are externalized to where they actually battle. And the music, for about 30 minutes of the film, is big, battling music.

But still, within that, there are moments of ‘Bella’s Lullaby’ and Renesmee’s theme, because we need to continue to remind ourselves of these characters and what their concerns are. So, even though everything has gotten ‘huge’, the material is the same as when it started – with the guitar and piano and small ensemble that we used back in the first one.

One of the things I have really enjoyed about the “Twilight” film scores is the idea that they could very easily become these overtly-dramatic and dreary depression-fests that would otherwise be difficult to listen to as a musical product, but you seem to go out of your way to inject surprises and left-of-center musical decisions to make them fun and to keep the listeners on their toes. I’m speaking specifically to things like the horror element in ‘What You See in the Mirror’ (in “Breaking Dawn – Part 1”) and that wild swagger in ‘A Yankee Vampire’ (in “Breaking Dawn – Part 2”).

I will say right away that it’s a challenge for me to write music that never stops in the films; especially these last two “Breaking Dawn” films. They are like traditional melodramas, where one piece of music is ending, another one is beginning, and music plays through almost everything. For “Breaking Dawn – Part 2,” there was almost 90 minutes of scoring – there really is music playing all the time. So, what I do to make it palatable for myself is to keep it changing as much as I can and finding different tonalities.

And sometimes, we take that melodrama and try to make a joke out of it and go completely over-the-top, or I try to throw in something unexpected. For example, one of the things that happen in “Breaking Dawn – Part 2” is the introduction of dozens of new characters; there are vampires from all over the world coming together. And it’s not possible to write a new theme for every single character.

But ‘A Yankee Vampire’ was written for a character named Garrett, who talks about having been present at the Revolutionary War, but he dresses more like a member of a rock ‘n’ roll band. So, with the music, I tried to combine Americana with early rock ‘n’ roll. I was reaching for these strong musical tags that I can put on some of these characters that come and go very quickly. There are just so many things going on and so many characters in this film that it becomes the norm. And it’s just one of those things that I do to try to keep things varied and from sounding the same.

On these “Twilight” film soundtrack releases, you contribute one piece of music to each of them. For “Breaking Dawn – Part 1” you created ‘Love Death Birth’, and for “Breaking Dawn – Part 2” you offered ‘Plus Que Ma Propre Vie’ [French for ‘More Than My Own Life’]. Were these written before the scores, or were they compiled specifically for the soundtracks?

Those were compiled for the soundtracks, and I have mixed feelings about them. On the first “Twilight” soundtrack album, they weren’t originally planning to put anything of mine on there. But once ‘Bella’s Lullaby’ was written and recorded, it was such an important aspect of the film that Catherine Hardwicke, the director, really thought it should be on the soundtrack. And I think that made perfect sense.

But subsequently, every composer (including me) has put a piece on the soundtrack album. And I really don’t see how they go along with the songs. They don’t seem to mingle well with the songs, if you ask me. I guess it had just become a tradition with the “Twilight” series, and when we came to these last two films, they asked me to create suites to include, so I did it.

Well, what I like about them, especially these last two, is that there seems to be a tone poem quality to them, and I don’t know if I’m looking at them too philosophically or what. But ‘Love Death Birth’ really seemed to symbolize Bella’s transformation or growth into what or who she is now. And ‘Plus Que Ma Propre Vie’ starts with the end of that and pulls back, showing that she is merely a cog in a wheel and not as much a major component to the grand scheme she may have thought she was.

That’s interesting. I like your interpretation, in particular ‘Love Death Birth’ – there is a certain shape to it that does parallel Bella’s experience in that film. I have a harder time finding a shape like that with “Breaking Dawn – Part 2,” but I will accept your explanation…it’s as good as any I’ve got about what that piece means.



Check the full interview at soundtrack examiner Here


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Comment by Twilight fan on November 12, 2012 at 6:22am

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