Allen Ginsberg


Film Info

Written, Directed and Produced by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman
Produced by Elizabeth Redleaf and Christine Walker

Composed and Orchestrated by Carter Burwell
Recording Engineers: Lawrence Manchester, Bryan Smith
Recorded at Clinton Recording Studios
Mixed at The Body Studio

Starring James Franco, Jon Hamm, Jeff Daniels, David Straithairn, Mary-Louise Parker, Bob Balaban, Alessandro Nivola, Treat Williams

U.S. Release September 24, 2010

Franco Reading
James Franco as Allen Ginsberg
James Franco
James Franco as Allen Ginsberg
Allen Ginsberg as Allen Ginsberg

Carter's Notes

A little more than fifty years ago, Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl" was published. This film celebrates that poem.

One thread is an interview Ginsberg gave about creativity, life and this poem in particular. Another thread is the obscenity trial ignited by the publication of the poem. And the third is the actual poem, read by James Franco as Allen Ginsberg and accompanied by animation. And music.

Carter at the Piano
Carter at the piano

Liner Notes

Sometimes, even before you have a fully developed concept for a film, you know who you want to work with. Before we wrote the screenplay for HOWL we approached Carter to create the score. We had worked together on our previous movie The Celluloid Closet, which was a dream come true. Carter said "If you're looking for jazz, I'm probably not your guy." We said, "We want you, and we don't want to go for the obvious."

Once Carter saw a cut of the movie his approach was to let the spoken-word poetry be the jazz. He composed a score to support the emotional ebbs and flows of the poetry, as well as the hallucinogenic rides of the animation. He assembled a dazzling ensemble of virtuoso soloists to perform it. The results, as always, are beautiful, haunting, and thrilling.

- Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman, directors, HOWL

Orlovsky and Ginsberg
Aaron Tveit as Peter Orlovsky,
James Franco as Allen Ginsberg


"Resourcefully made on a modest budget, the picture boasts top craft contributions from lenser Edward Lachman, production designer Therese DePrez and composer Carter Burwell, whose melodic, jazzy backgrounding mixes well with a number of period tunes." - Todd McCarthy, Variety, January 21, 2010.

"Carter Burwell's soothing, beautiful soundtrack to 2010’s Howl does a biggest service for the film, featuring James Franco as legendary beat poet Allen Ginsberg. Burwell’s score captures a variety of mood and encompasses multiple genres in its attempt at setting a mood, ultimately succeeding in bringing to life Ginsberg’s famed—and infamous—poem via a swift, uplifting pace..." - George Pacheco, Cape Cod Movie Examiner, Sept. 28, 2010.

Music Production Notes

In addition to the credits given under Film Info, these were the key people working on the score:

Cello: Maya Beiser
Guitar: David Torn, Marc Ribot
Violin: Laura Seaton
Woodwinds: Bohdan Hilash
Bass: Fima Ephron
Piano: Carter Burwell

Copyist : Dean Parker
Assistant Engineer: Missy Webb

Maya Beiser and Carter Burwell
Maya Beiser and Carter Burwell
Bohdan Hilash
Bohdan Hilash
Marc Ribot
Marc Ribot
Marc Ribot pedals
Marc Ribot's pedals
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