×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Carter Burwell Goes West for ‘Buster Scruggs’ Score

Two-time Oscar nominee Carter Burwell has penned music for the films of Joel and Ethan Coen for more than 30 years, including such classics as “Fargo” and “The Big Lebowski.” But “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs” was unique: a six-part Western with stories ranging from comic to bleak. As Joel Coen told him, the single thread that bound all six together was that they all involved “non-accidental death.”

“Each of the films is so different in tone and characters and story that I couldn’t find a musical solution that would work for all of them,” Burwell concedes. Ultimately, he decided to bookend the film with versions of the old cowboy song “Streets of Laredo,” and there are guitars, harmonica and tack piano sprinkled throughout.

But, he adds, “We needed a big, traditional Western sound” for four of the six segments, which needed “a Dimitri Tiomkin sense of scale,” referring to the composer of such ’50s classics as “High Noon” and “Gunfight at the OK Corral.” This was especially true for the segment with Tom Waits as a gold prospector and one with Zoe Kazan as a would-be bride on a wagon train headed for Oregon.

Burwell researched old cowboy songs, recorded in the early 20th century for the Library of Congress. “They’re generally lonely and sad songs,” he says, “but I wouldn’t say anything I wrote was especially inspired by them.” He focused on “the folkier aspects of the orchestra” without leaning too far into Classic Western territory; “it’s still a Coen Brothers movie,” he notes.

More Film

  • Billie Holiday (1915-1959, born Eleanora Fagan)

    Billie Holiday Documentary Draws Buyers as Concord Boards Project

    Concord, the successor to the Billie Holiday Estate, has boarded James Erskine’s documentary “Billie,” which tracks the iconic jazz singer’s life. Altitude Film Sales has sold the project to several territories. Also joining the project, now in post-production, is the Brazilian colorization artist Marina Amaral. Most of the filmed and still images that exist of [...]

  • My Extraordinary Summer With Tess review

    Film Review: 'My Extraordinary Summer With Tess'

    Winner of a special mention from the Berlinale Generation KPlus’ adult jury, the family-friendly, light drama “My Extraordinary Summer With Tess” is straightforward youth cinema with surprising emotional depth. Based on a prize-winning novel by Anna Woltz, a beloved Dutch writer of work for young readers, it explores family relationships and emphasizes the importance of [...]

  • UCLA Hollywood Diversity Report: Women, Minorities

    Hollywood Diversity Gains in TV but Falls Short in Movies

    Minorities and women have registered gains in several key areas of television but women continue to lag in movies, according to a report issued Thursday by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA. “My basic take is that TV is improving more for minorities and women than film,” said Dr. Darnell [...]

  • Ghost Fleet review

    Film Review: 'Ghost Fleet'

    The revelatory documentary “Ghost Fleet” condemns the modern-day slave labor fueling the Thai fishing industry while focusing on the work of Bangkok-based advocacy organization Labor Rights Promotion Network Foundation (LPN), a group dedicated to ending slavery at sea. Combining chilling testimony from formerly enslaved men, some wincingly arty recreations of their ordeals, and on-the-ground footage [...]

  • WGA West Logo

    WGA Plans March 25 Member Vote on Talent Agency Rules

    Leaders of the Writers Guild of America plan a March 25 vote for members to decide whether to implement tough new restrictions on how Hollywood talent agencies as operate as agents for writer clients. The vote comes as the guild is in the midst of pitched negotiations with the Association of Talent Agents to renew [...]

  • Netflix Buys Chinese Sci-fi Hit 'The

    Netflix Buys Chinese Sci-fi Hit 'The Wandering Earth'

    Netflix has bought rights to “The Wandering Earth,“ the smash hit film pitched as China’s first mainstream sci-fi movie. The movie was the sleeper hit of Chinese New Year. It opened in fourth position on Feb. 5 but climbed to the top spot and has not yet relinquished it. After 14 days in theaters, the [...]

  • Michael B. JordanAFI Awards Luncheon, Los

    Film News Roundup: Michael B. Jordan's Hitman Drama 'Silver Bear' Gets Director

    In today’s film news roundup, Michael B. Jordan’s “The Silver Bear” finds a director, biopic “Running for My Life” is in the works, Fox is using new trailer compliance software and the 14-hour “La Flor” gets distribution. DIRECTOR ATTACHMENT Gerard McMurray, director of “The First Purge,” will write and direct Michael B. Jordan’s thriller “The [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content