- A Conversation with Carter Burwell and Mark Suozzo
I think we can get started and get as much time as possible with Carter Burwell. I'd first like to say we're going to do this as a conversation interview,1 and my colleague Mark Suozzo will be coming up in a second. Mark composes music for feature films and documentaries. He's worked with some of America's finest independent filmmakers over the years, with Whit Stillman's Metropolitan,2 which got an Oscar nomination; Barcelona;3 The Last Days of Disco,4 whose twentieth anniversary was just celebrated at Lincoln Center last night; Damsels in Distress;5 The Cosmopolitans;6 and most recently, art-house favorite Love & Friendship,7 with Shari Springer Berman and Bob Pulcini, he worked on American Splendor,8 also an Oscar nomination, and The Nanny Diaries;9 and with Mary Harron on The Notorious Bettie Page.10 His scores have been featured in documentaries for HBO, American Experience, POV (Point of View), and Independent Lens, including the series How Democracy Works Now,11 Sound and Fury,12 Roger Weisberg in Why Can't We Be a Family Again?,13 Thank You & Goodnight,14 and Well-Founded Fear.15 As an arranger he's recorded with Creed, a billboard number one, with Arms Wide Open;16 and with Aretha Franklin and Britney Spears. Mark teaches music composition here at NYU Steinhardt, where he's codirector of the Film Scoring program.
Mark, come up. [Applause]
And Carter Burwell needs no introduction, as he is among the most visible composers working in film over the past three decades. His inventive, eclectic, and highly individualized approach is evidenced through the broad range of films that bear his signature including Raising Arizona,17 Barton Fink,18 Fargo,19 Gods and Monsters,20 and The Big Lebowski.21 His most recent film scores include Wonderstruck,22 and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,23 for which he was nominated for an Oscar. Burwell graduated from Harvard College in 1977, where he studied animation with Mary Beams and George Griffin, electronic music with Ivan Tcherepnin, as well as pursuing a course of independent study at the MIT Media Lab. After graduation he became a teaching assistant in the Harvard Electronic Music Studio. In '79 his animated film Help, I'm Being Crushed to Death By a Black Rectangle24 won first place at the Jacksonville Film Festival and second place at the Ottawa International Animation Festival. From '79 to '81, Carter worked as chief computer scientist at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in Long Island, where he wrote software for image processing, lab automation, and protein analysis. He then worked at the New York Institute of Technology, where he began as a computer modeler and animator, [End Page 18] but ended up as director of digital sound research. During this period he worked on numerous computer animated television spots and films, ultimately contributing models and animation to the Japanese anime Lensman.25
During the '80s Carter pursued a parallel career in music, playing with a number of bands in New York City including The Same, Thick Pigeon, and Radiante, while also composing music for dance (RAB, which premiered at the Avignon Festival in '84), for theater (The Myth Project at Naked Angels in 1989), and for film (Blood Simple,26 Psycho III,27 and Raising Arizona). Over the course of his esteemed career, Carter has scored a large and varied body of feature films including Miller's Crossing,28 The Hudsucker Proxy,29 Rob Roy,30 Being John Malkovich,31 Burn After Reading,32 Where The Wild Things Are,33 Twilight,34 True Grit,35 Carol,36 and Anomalisa,37 as well as continuing to compose for dance (The Return of Lot's Wife38), for theater (Cara Lucia,39 Theater of the New Ear40), and other media. He's been a real citizen among the film composers' community as well, is often joined with the Society of Composers and Lyricists,41 and has been to NYU, I'm delighted to say, a number of times. Carter, welcome. [applause]
[Plays excerpt from...