Music To His Ears

Carter Burwell_photocredit_Tycho Burwell
(Photo by Tycho Burwell)

A composer’s harmonious beginnings

Carter Burwell never planned on a life of music. The American composer and New York City native enrolled in Harvard College to study animation, while taking classes in electronic music and architecture with a plan to attend architecture school. But when a love of piano followed him to college, Burwell decided to take a year off and play music, thus beginning his prestigious music career.

“I started playing piano in high school therapeutically. Just playing by myself and improving throughout college. I tried to make sure I had a piano in my room,” said Burwell of his draw to music. “I played music in New York City as an avocation, really.”

As for his success in Hollywood, Burwell deems it all an accident when a sound editor who recognized his music from the New York club scene suggested he meet renowned filmmakers Ethan and Joel Coen.

“The Coen brothers asked me if I would be interested in writing for their movies and I’m always up for something new. Then other people started calling me and then I had a career,” said Burwell.

Before he would know of his love for music, Burwell’s earliest memory is none other than that of a guitar.

“I remember being so little that I probably couldn’t walk and my mom was playing the acoustic guitar,” he said. “I don’t remember her playing the guitar, but the guitar itself…the velvet on the case, the steel wound string, the wood, I found all the materials fascinating. It’s just a beautiful object.”

Currently nominated for best score for the romance drama Carol, Burwell, to no surprise does not have a favorite score of his own. He does, however, have a soft spot for a very memorable few.

“I don’t have favorite scores, it changes all the time,” said Burwell, who grew up with the music of the James Bond movies. “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, once anyone hears it they never forget it.”

For more on Carter Burwell, see Carter Burwell’s Favorite Scores and Composing With Carter Burwell.

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Jennifer Fauci
Jennifer Fauci is the former managing editor of Long Island Weekly, Anton Media Group's award-winning special sections and Anton’s local magazines. Her passion for literature, travel and the arts lend to the unique content in her publications. In her time at Anton, she has received first place in the Folio Awards, second place for the NYPA awards and is the recipient of six PCLI awards.

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