"... the vibrant lensing of Lance Acord, nimble editing by Eric Zumbrunnen, eclectic production design by KK Barrett and charmingly offbeat percussive score by Carter Burwell -- all 'Malkovich' vets -- are all of a piece with the whole." - Todd McCarthy, Variety, Nov. 11, 2002.
"Burwell's music has always seemed 'otherworldly', ... His style may not
be for everyone, but it usually transports the listener to an alternate universe." -
Cary Wong, Film Score Monthly.
After a long night of negotiation, Carter Burwell and Spike Jonze agree
on the terms of Carter's commission to score Adaptation.
From the liner notes to the CD:
Three themes wind through this musical score. "The Swamp" - the unknowable,
the primordial soup of doubt. "The Ghost" - the unattainable object
of desire. "Creation" - the great process, which is always the unfolding
of some earlier creation, suggesting a spinning wheel of recursion. Hopefully
these themes are general enough that they can apply simultaneously to the characters
in the narrative of the film, and also to the processes of evolution and adaptation
which they study and within which they are bound.
Musical equivalents evolved to help with this. The inharmonic overtones of struck
metal and the plaintive sound of english horn suggested the random walk of mutation
and the endless losses of natural selection, while also playing the confusion
and sadness of the characters. Cyclical structures in the score mimic the meaningless
engine of life and death, sad on the personal level but so awfully necessary
for life itself, while also playing the spinning wheels of the creators of the
Is there anything entertaining about looking into the mind of a creator? Wasn't
postmodernism supposed to save us from considering the creator at all by seeing
creation only in the eye of the beholder? Isn't it hopelessly modern for writers
to write about the act of writing? And why do I have to write my own liner notes?
I didn't want the music to state what the film is "about", since this
ambiguity is one of the film's attractions, but to write these notes I have to
pretend that I do in fact know what it's about. Unknowable, primordial soup of
doubt? Meaningless engine of life and death? Would I have made any of these ridiculous
claims if I didn't have to write these notes? And what's with all these rhetorical
questions? Who do I think I am, Socrates? If he was so great, why didn't he make
it to the final cut of the film?
In the end, I guess that's the moral of the story, of evolution. That's why you
read this. I made it to the final cut.
- Carter Burwell, October 2002
Carter conducting the Adaptation Orchestra, Right Track Studio A, March
photo by Spike Jonze
Directed by Spike Jonze
Written by Susan Orlean (book), Charlie Kaufman, Donald Kaufman
Produced by Vince Landay, Jonathan Demme, Ed Saxon
Composed, Orchestrated and Conducted by Carter Burwell
Music Editor: Adam Smalley
Music Scoring Mixer: Mike Farrow
Contractor: Sandy Park
Recorded at Right Track Studio A
Mixed at The Body Studio
Starring Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper
Released December, 2002
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Music Production Notes
This score was recorded and mixed by Mike Farrow (of Planesong).
We recorded at Right Track Recording's Studio
A in New York City on March 21-27, 2002 and mixed
at The Body during the following
The score was orchestrated and conducted by Carter Burwell. The
contractor was Sandy Park, the copyists were Tony Finno, Adriana Marinescu, and
Evan Barker. The music editor was Adam Smalley, the second engineers were Ryan
Smith, Jason Stasium, and Dean Parker was Carter's
assistant. Special thanks are due to Christine Sciulli who gave birth to my
first son Tycho two weeks after we finished mixing.
The musicians were:
VIOLINS: Sandra Park, Sharon Yamada, Myung Hi Kim, Sarah Kim, Elizabeth Lim, Lisa E. Kim, Jung Sun Yoo, Yurika Mok, Melissa Kleinbart, Ann Kim
VIOLAS: Robert Rinehart, Rebecca Young, Vivek Kamath, Tom Rosenfeld
CELLOS: Alan Stepansky, Eileen Moon, Judith McIntyre
BASS: Jeremy McCoy
ELECTRIC BASS: John Patiticci
HARP: Stacey Shames
ENGLISH HORN: Shelly Woodworth
PIANO/CELESTE: Bill Mays
PERCUSSION: Gordon Gottlieb, Erik Charleston
GUITARS: David Torn
SYNTHS & SAMPLES: Carter Burwell
Here, for demo purposes, are excerpts from the CD: