Carter Burwell

Burn after Reading [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]

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Carter Burwell, longtime musical collaborator with the writer/director duo of Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, plays it straight in his score to their black-comedy take on the spy genre, Burn After Reading, which is probably just as well. The old adage is that farce, to work, has to be performed seriously, and the same may be true for the music meant to accompany a film that is not so much ha-ha funny as outrageous and ridiculous (not to mention occasionally poignant). The score is introduced by "Earth Zoom In," a striking percussion cue, signaling that drums will be a major factor throughout. Although the music is played by a symphony orchestra, drummers Paul Clarvis, Frank Ricotti, Gary Kettel, and Ralph Salmins are credited individually, which is appropriate. The only other individual musician to be given a credit is pianist Dave Hartley, which also makes sense, since the short, circular piano figures he plays are also a key element in the music. There is no clue to the humor found in the film itself in these brief cues (23 in 36 minutes), but the confused and pathetic nature of the characters is evident, as they are swept unconsciously along by a series of accidental events that lead to intrigue, death, and utter confusion.

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