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January 23 2005

Carter Burwell is no longer working on Serenity. More details here. (Added) Joss adds his thoughts about this in the thread.

Changed the title of the post to something a little less dramatic.
Does anybody know why Greg Edmonson isn't scoring Serenity anyway? I mean, it seems like he's the obvious choice ... he did such a fantastic job on the series. I'm hoping that, with the job open now, Edmonson will be able to take it on.
That sucks. I love Carter Burwell's music. Maybe his style just wasn't a good match for the movie.
I guess I just always assumed that the movie would have the same score-er as the tv show did. Wow. I wonder why the guy got the axe? Maybe it was because he wanted more COW BELL?

[ edited by leaveittoreaver on 2005-01-23 06:13 ]
Yeah ithilien, I'm wondering the same thing. That scene in "The Message" with Tracey's funeral gets me especially because of Edmonson's music.
You can never have too much cow bell.
Agreed, Mallory. Agreed.
They should get Christophe Beck. He's the musical counterpart to Joss' genius.
I was disappointed when I first read it wasn't going to be Greg E. It may have been a studio thing that brought Carter B. in (nothing against his music--I don't know remember it, though I've seen a number of the movies he's scored). Once again I hope for G.E., but I'm sure there are a lot of composers that would do it justice.

One interesting question is, could Howard Shore pull off Serenity? As much as I love his LotR scores, I would lobby for G.E.
We know how important this movie is to Joss. Though Carter Burwell's music is beautiful, perhaps Joss felt it wasn't quite the match for his film. This happens more often than not in the film industry. When one style doesn't fit, you try another.
Howard Shore did some great work on LotR. (Especially the scene in Two Towers when the Ents march to war.) May be he's too expensive now though, hehe. I hope Serenity's new guy won't be the same who did X1 (forgot his name). That was a thoroughly underwhelming score.

One of my favorite soundtracks this side of Morricone is John Ottman's work for The Usual Suspects. That really conveyed what was going on, including the myhtolgocical atmoshphere that was lurking underneath. But a lot of it was also still very beautiful music to just listen to. Many soundtracks these days can become ugly and so overbearing that they actually shake me out of the story while I'm watching the film

(Like Van Helsing for example. What a cacaphony of noise that was...)

Anyway, Burwell admits his style of working didn't quite fit the needs for the project so...how it goes. I hope whoever they wind up getting, that it will be a soundtrack I'd want to buy.
I nominate Shirley Walker. Her scores for Space: Above and Beyond and Batman: The Animated Series were always memorable.
Shirley Walker--that's an interesting choice, oddjob. I was just watching some Batman: The Animated Series with my son today on DVD.
Maybe now that Serenity's release date has been put back, Joss is able to get more of a sound that he wanted.
The score is fundemental to the movie experience, and can even make a mediocre movie fantastic viewing.
There must have been very good reason for the job loss.
Not saying anything against this guy, it just mustn't have been what J wanted.
And as far as I'm concerned, whatever Joss wants, Joss can have!
Well that's a shame. So any takers on how long it will be to get a totally new soundtrack ready? I'm presuming it can't be ready a couple of days before the premiere.
This news would be a bit scary if Serenity hadn't been pushed back. I know recording was to begin in February and it doesn't take three months to do, but still. It's reassuring that they have tons of time now to get the score right and finetune the sound to perfection.

Definitely want Greg Edmonson to fill the spot.
I'm quite fond of that Robert Duncan myself. I love the music he did for Chosen. It has that epic emotional sound that deserves to be heard in the cinema.
I notice that he has a quote at the bottom of the page. The one that came up when I checked out the article seemed somewhat appropriate.

'I really screwed up this time' - Jeffrey Dahmer to his father, before his trial
I was leaning towards Christophe Beck at first. His score 'Sacrifice' for The Gift is hauntingly touching. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that his style may not fit in the Firefly theme. I agree that Robert Duncan would be an excellent choice. 'The Final Fight' was a wonderful piece and I often listen to it when I'm relaxing. Still thrilling.

Simon, put me down for October 21, 2005 for the 'Serenity' soundtrack release.
I loved so much of Chris Beck's music. "Sacrifice", "Waking Willow", "Lover's Walk", "Buffy/Angel Love Theme" "Restless", "Hush" and any contribution to "OMWF"--just to name a few. "The Final Fight" was of course amazing. I'd be happier with either one, but I have full confidence in Joss with whoever he chooses, how could I not??
I have a fevah! And the only cure is more cowbell!

Actually I don't see the fuss over a score. All they need is to find an acoustic guitarist, right? I know some talented people here in Texas who could just sit in a sound studio with a rough copy of the movie played in front of them, they'd strum on the guitar whatever the show made them feel, and Whedon could edit and move things around at his leisure. Would probably take inside of a week. Somebody tell Joss Whedon to call up Kristy Kruger or Annie Benjamin. He wouldn't be disappointed in their efforts, I'd guarantee that.

I was watching Firefly again just a day or two ago. Isn't that all they used? I don't recall hearing much more than the occasional folksy twang whenever they cut to an outside view of the ship, but then I wasn't focusing on the music.

...Cool. Now I have another reason to watch Firefly again. =)
I know some talented people here in Texas who could just sit in a sound studio with a rough copy of the movie played in front of them, they'd strum on the guitar whatever the show made them feel,

One of my all time favourite movies, The Third Man, was more or less scored like this. The zither was played by Anton Karas, who didn't speak any English, with Carol Reed gesturing 'Faster', 'Slower', 'Louder' etc.

Worked out okay.
I'm a Coen brothers fan and love Carter Burwell's work, but I can see how it might not fit with Serenity. If I picture the Coens' take on space opera, it's not pretty.
Leaves a bad taste in my mouth. He sounds like a nice guy who thought things were doing okay and has no idea why he was fired. He has enough class to refrain from any negative comments about the people involved. I might be biased because of my own observations of corporate callusness, but I do think people should be given a reason when they're let go so they're not just left scratching their heads.

On the plus side, I would love to see Edmonson enlisted for the project, because the Firefly score is gorgeous.
Well, I just read the link to Carter's page. Not overly verbose, is he? Anyway, I thought I'd let you all in on the details of the sitch, as best I can.

First off, when this movie got off the ground, the studio made it clear that I would need to use someone with a good deal of movie experience to score it, which was perfectly valid, though it ruled out a lot of guys, including Greg, that I loved working with. So entering the world of big-or-medium-time movie composers, the first person I thought of was Carter Burwell. I'd known his work since Blood Simple, have always been (and always will be) a slavish fan. We're talking about a guy who's penned some of the most indelible tunes in movies: Raising Arizona, Miller's Crossing, Rob Roy, Gods and Monsters, even It Could Happen To You had an achingly beautiful score. I had met him years ago and he's a gent. I was surprised and thrilled to have him on the film.

You know how it is when you have two friends you love very much and you set 'em up on a date? Hiring a composer is kind of like that. However much you might love your friends and think they'll be a perfect match, the odds of their actually getting together are slim. Also, sometimes you forget to tell one of your friends something important about the other, like she's very political, or narcoleptic, or doesn't have a face... The movie as I first described it and the movie as it turned out were kind of different, the needs of the score different as well. Carter did some great work, really interesting, but in the end my two friends didn't end up dating. It happens, as I've learned, a lot. The fact is, Carter and I both felt the tension, an imperfect sympatico on the project, and this hardly came out of the blue. We might have soldiered on but he has other obligations looming and we kind of had to start from scratch, so it just became untenable, schedule-wise. I will always be a huge fan of Carter's and may one day make the kind of film that's right for him. Meanwhile, we move on. I will have a new composer soon and the work will continue. The movie will be what it needs to be.

But most importantly, who DOESN'T want to see a Coen brothers Space Opera? Dreamlogic, are you nuts? I'm salivating over that!

This wasn't a fun week for anyone, but we learn as we go. I'll check in with you guys anon. -j.
Thanks JW. I think I dated that girl without a face . . .
Well, whatever works best for "Serenity", works best for me. Thanks for posting to explain things Joss
So, I guess the problem wasn't the cowbell...
Well I'm sure it wasn't easy for the both of you. Thanks for posting.
Well, hey, if John Williams or Howard Shore aren't busy... :)

Thanks for the post, Joss. It's sad news, but I can understand where it's coming from. Have you thought about bringing back Christophe Beck? He's obviously done a few film scores in the last few years. And I'm sure he'd love to hear his music used in a film that's a bit more successful than Elektra.

[ edited by The Dark Shape on 2005-01-23 22:09 ]
Heh, I was wondering yesterday if this was something you'd comment on, Joss. Well too bad it worked out that way. Probably even a little more difficult because you guys got along well and you admired his work.

Just PLEASE don't have a soundtrack where the brass section sounds like a bunch of giant mosquitoes on crack that scream in my ear every time something of action happens! I already mentioned Van Helsing, but many movies these days do it. Even parts of veteran John Williams' score on Phantom drove me insane during the movie.

OH and could there be at least one major theme melodie? Like this epic, slightly sad but also grand and uplifting theme that recurs here and there? I miss that in scores lately.

"But most importantly, who DOESN'T want to see a Coen brothers Space Opera? Dreamlogic, are you nuts? I'm salivating over that!"

Part of me salivates over that too because there's some Coen brothers movies that I adore. Then again there's also some that leave me scratching my head in bewilderment, so....depends, hehe.
Thanks for posting, Joss...somehow I couldn't imagine you being like my boss.

John Williams? Too clean-cut and ordinary. Serenity needs more of an artistic edge...
Have you HEARD his Prisoner of Azkaban score? It's beautiful. And I was being sarcastic :)
Thanks for the explanation Joss, even though I don't think you owed us one. I love Firefly and I only want what's best for Serenity. If it wasn't clicking with Carter then I'm glad you've realized that and have time to find the right person. I've always felt that part of the greatness of BtVS, AtS and Firefly was the music and how much a huge part it adds to the story.
So I have a friend who scores/writes songs for films... (The Boxer, Angel Baby, In America, Disco Pigs, In the name of the father) and wouldn't it just be heaven on earth if he and his writing partner would gel with a whedonesque project such as Serenity... It would blow my mind. Unfortunately, I don't think they'd fancy each other, or even consider a one night stand. Timing's not right either. 's a damn shame.
I bet Joss feels pretty creeped out visiting Whedonesque.com everyday. It'd be hard not to become a friend-firing megalomaniac. He's got a website that does nothing but lioniz him. We should spend some time to take him down a few pegs.

Some of those Roseanne scripts? Tepid! "Once More With Feeling" will never compare to his father's work penning the zany antics of Blanche, Rose, and the gang on Golden Girls.

There. Maybe that helped.

[ edited by Chirp on 2005-01-24 00:25 ]
Uh... Titan A.E. ripped off Star Wars!

I feel dirty.
Er... either I left my sense of humor at the door, or that just wasn't funny.
It's definitely the latter.
I agree with you about Azkaban, Dark Shape, and I think John Williams has done some really good stuff (even if you were being sarcastic!). It's just not usually that interesting.
Tom Waits. PLEASE see if you can convince him to do it. I know, I know, he doesn't have a "great deal of film scoring experience". Just imagining the combination of two of my major obsessions though ...
Really appreciate the words, Joss. I do hope you are considering how Greg might work with this project. Honestly, the music he provided for Firefly fit so perfectly and was of such a high quality that I can't help thinking he would do it justice. Above all else, he clearly UNDERSTANDS, and that means a lot when it comes to the music.
It's really difficult to have to let someone go, especially over creative issues, and even more especially when it's someone you have the greatest respect for. To have that be so public as well -- must be really hard on both sides. My guess is that "this wasn't a fun week for anyone" is an understatement.
Insightful of you, palehorse. I had similar thoughts.
Just wanted to observe that Carter writes on his page - linked at "more details here" above, - that whedonesque.com is "Joss Whedon's site." Not actually the case, but nice to be so thought of nonetheless . . .
Believe me, Nancy. I've looked. Whedonesque.com is the best Whedon oriented site on the Web. It should be, in some unofficial capacity, Whedon's unofficially official website.

Chirp said: "He's got a website that does nothing but lioniz him. We should spend some time to take him down a few pegs."

Believe me. I try to knock Whedon down a peg or two when I can. It's just very difficult for me to find fault in his work. Trust me, I don't try to kiss Whedon's ass, but it's just so darn juicy. ...Metaphorically speaking, I mean.

Is 'lioniz' a word?

Seriously, Joss. Benjamin and Kruger. Can't go wrong with women playing guitars. *Makes cat calls* I mean come on! Bernard Herrmann did the Psycho soundtrack with nothing but strings, and that turned out okay. Just please. No brass section. It gives me gas. Oh! And more cowbell!

[ edited by ZachsMind on 2005-01-24 05:08 ]
I wonder if it is possible to see a collaboration?

Greg Edmonson obviously knows the subject matter better than any other composer. If he could team up with someone that has some solid experience in movie scores, it could work out very well.
I guess this link is as good as any Firefly/Serenity link to say what I've got to say:

I have finally seen the Firefly DVD's (Christmas gift...yay!). Wow!!
I, like many, greatly anticipated the pilot of Firefly on Fox and like many, was disappointed. Why??? Well, because the episodes were aired out of sequence, of course! I just didn't get who was who or worse, I didn't care.
Now that I've seen them in sequence I just cannot understand, no matter how moronic a decision-making executive might be, how in the world they could air the series showing 'Train Job' first??!! And, why?
OK...it's all been said before. But, man! Just ridiculous.

I'm so happy. Firefly is wonderful. I can't wait for Serenity.
Thank you, Joss!

(I know...I have an astute grasp of the obvious. Done now.)
If Greg Edmonson could handle the Firely pilot "Serenity," which was just as long and involved as the average movie, then I don't see why he wouldn't have enough skill for the job. It probably has more to do with industry prejudice than actual ability.
Yeah, I think it has to do with the executives who control the purse strings and their checklists. Especially when they can't check the "director with proven major motion picture hit" box, they are going to insist on checking the "composer who scored N major motion pictures" box.

I still want Greg E.
So Joss, you took the studio's advice (requirement) about hiring a composer and it didn't work. From every bit of info that's been made public, Universal's being really great to you guys and that's awesome and hugely important...but would they be willing to let you hire whoever you want now? Can Greg Edmonson, if available, please be contacted about taking on the job?

ZachsMind said:
I don't recall hearing much more than the occasional folksy twang whenever they cut to an outside view of the ship, but then I wasn't focusing on the music.

Definitely a good excuse for a re-watch like you said. There were a lot of pretty standard twangy pieces used for transitional scenes, but the really emotional stuff had some beautiful background music. I especially liked material in "Safe", "Out of Gas", "Ariel", that funeral scene in "The Message", and certainly "Objects in Space". Plus that quiet little bit with River and Simon hiding outside the ship in "Bushwacked", both of them staring out into the abyss with vastly different reactions, loved that scene. People say the main setting (Serenity) was also one of the main characters, I sometimes felt that way about the music when it was really affecting.

Right on Ilana. I wonder if there's an e-mail or mailing address we can contact Edmonson at to encourage...nah, that's a bit intrusive, really not our place I suppose. If Joss and/or Universal makes the offer (or if they already have), great. If not, then I'm sure whoever they pick will do well.

[ edited by Kris on 2005-01-24 08:28 ]
Greg is well aware of what is going on. Over at the official Firefly board, there's a thread about Carter Burwell leaving Serenity. Mr Edmonson posted the following yesterday:

Hi To all,

Your unceasing support has meant everything to me. I am constantly amazed that you still remember and love a show that met such an untimely demise (at least temporarily).

I am taking a risk (of sorts) by responding to this subject at all so I need to be very clear. There are no negatives here. My experience working on "Firefly" was nothing but wonderful. A lot of hard work but wonderful and supportive people (who really cared)

Would I love to do this project--of course. I believe that you all knowthat I truly loved this show and it was and is one of the great joys of my professional career.

Joss gave me an opportunity (on the TV version) and I believe that I did not let him down. Should such an opportunity come again (and I would need a champion on this one) I would not fail to give it everything that my heart has to give--Thanks again for your wonderful support

Greg Edmonson

Sad to hear that Carter Burwell didn't work out, but I hold out great hope that whoever scores the gig will grok the Serenity vibe and blow our minds. Music adds such an important dimension to the entire experience of movie-going (imagine, say, the first appearance of Darth Vader in Star Wars without his signature background accompaniment) by helping to mirror or, it sounds like in CB's case, contrast the emotional colors of what we see onscreen. I can't stand being manipulated or shoved around by a score, which is unfortunately characteristic of a lot of Hollywood's big budget efforts. In Serenity's case, I'm expecting a degree of musical sensitivity to match the level of storytelling that will also bear repeated listens as a soundtrack album. But no pressure! :)

Joss mentions that the movie altered somewhat from its idea stage to the finished product, so perhaps it was a case of CB being the perfect fit going in and not so perfect as time and changes went on? I'm looking forward to this other project CB mentions he's working on. I wonder if it's Spamalot, which would be just too amazing. At any rate, I think whoever is meant to do the music is out there, and all will be well. Things happen, you bend with it, and things go on.

I think GE would be my choice also, as his pieces struck just the right balance of sinewy, bootstrap-leather twang and sweet, Appalachian-tinged melancholy. But I'm sure the person who's right for the job, if it isn't and can't be him, will be drawn to fill the void. (But it sounds like Greg is definitely up for it!)
Sorry to hear about Carter too. Failed dates between friends are always painful for both sides.

Personally, I'd think an improvised Neil Young score would be awesome. Dead Man in space... aheheheheh.

P.S. Joss you suck. :)

[ edited by biki on 2005-01-24 11:06 ]
Joss, we really appreciate you explaining the facts in this matter and it's perfectly understandable. I had to let a friend go from a job once and I know it's a painful experience. His skills were unquestionable, they just didn't fill the job in the manner I needed. Business is business and we both knew that. And yes, we're still good friends to this day.

Simon, thanks for the link to the response from Greg Edmonson.
My take on this is that JW feels really really bad about 'firing' Cater Burwell and I think that for once his posting here is for his benefit and for Carter Burwell's benefit and not so much for us Whedonesquers.

I think it's incredibly interesting in terms of social and professional behavior that all these people (JW, Carter Burwell, Greg Edmonson) are comfortable communicating through the internet and find it appropriate to do so. Just another peculiarity of 21st c. society, I guess.

Oh, and a Coen Brothers space opera - I'll be there (as long as I don't have to choose between that and a JW film). Actually, I think many of the Buffyverse actors would fit wonderfully into a Coen Brothers movie - Emma Caulfield and Nick Brendon for instance.
Caroline said " So I have a friend who scores/writes songs for films... (The Boxer, Angel Baby, In America, Disco Pigs, In the name of the father) and wouldn't it just be heaven on earth if he and his writing partner would gel with a whedonesque project such as Serenity"


Wow! Do you know Maurice Seezer??
I love Billy Boola...one of my all time fav songs!
And yea...that would definately be an interesting score!
Be nice to get Gavin Friday on board too.

Plus, Joss your such a champ writing to us to clear this up so we all weren't just left wondering..."what the???"
Oh and biki...Dead Man in Space...LOL!
Could try Mark Knopler, he did a lovely score for Local Hero and Princess Bride!

OK don't all throw stones at me at once, my 14 year old daughter suggested Rob Zombie!
Throw the rocks in her direction...quick before she runs away!
If we are nominating replacements, I am putting forward the genius that is Mel Brooks. He could at the same time fix any rewrites that Serenity requires, fix the direction, fix the costumes (you wanna see really tight tights?), fix the sets (where are the schwartzes I ask you), introduce some puppets in space, oy what a film we could make of this :)

If you don’t hear from me again, a big thunderbolt has come down through the ceiling and struck me down.

More soberly, very stressful to disagree creatively and shame because this collaboration sounded great in theory, but nobody’s ability is under question here. The most important thing is for all parties to stay professional during and afterwards, which everybody is doing. “Onwards and upwards” as my old boss would have said (trite maybe, but I found it usually helped).
@Nixygirl: check my user page :-)
Joss, have you considered contacting the semi-legendary anime composer Yoko Kanno -- the eclectic genius behind "Cowboy Bebop," "Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex" and "Macross"? Not that people need encouragement to draw more connections between "Bebop" and "Firefly," but she's written some fantastic Western-flavored tracks and regularly bridges Eastern and Western influences in her writing....
YESSSSS!!! Yokokannoyokokannoyokokanno!!!

That would ROCK.

Or Greg Edmonson. Because we LOVE him. I cried my EYES out at the music for The Message.
It's generally because of the music and that brilliant funeral scene that I show people The Message after Objects in Space.
Come on, give Greg a chance. Let him score 5 minutes or something of that sort, show it to the people at 'versal and I'm sure they'll understand the genius that is Greg.

As a sidenote, do you think that there's a chance that the Universal can appear as "'versal" in the finished film? That would make me so happy (if I for some mysterious reason aren't happy already because I'm pretty sure I the premiere of the movie itself will make me pretty happy already... to say the least).
Caroline!!!
HA!!!
I had NO idea you were a huge Gavin Friday fan!
Brilliant!!!!!
I'm off to check out your other sites!
How very kool!

And might I add, will be trying to get a hold of your books...
I myself am a rabid U2 fan

[ edited by nixygirl on 2005-01-25 07:50 ]
All we are say-ing, is give Greg a chance.
I'm watching the shows again, and am blown away by the music. I hadn't paid attention to it to this degree before. There's violins and guitars and flautists. Very occasionally I catch piano. All kindsa things are going on musically, but it's often understated and almost visceral. On first viewing, the music doesn't stand out, but it's so dramatically important in capturing the audience and riveting them to pay attention when and where it's necessary. Like a mother guiding hand helping her child walk for the first time. It's a very precious and gentle touch, this music.

I've read vague reports that the new movie downplays the western edge so prevalent in the series. I don't know how serious to take the reports. It's been very difficult for a spoiler whore such as myself to find good rumors. So maybe Whedon's going for a broader sound that incorporates a full orchestra, but part of what makes the series so heartwarming is the incongruity of a science fiction story musically kissed with the soul of a western desert sky rounded out by a shot of whiskey.

All I want personally is a guitar, some violins and a flute. Keep it simple. Granted, my opinion and a few bucks'll git you a coffee at Starbucks' but I feel duty bound to reiterate my plea.

Annie Benjamin plays a flute. She knows some fiddlers. Really, Joss needs to give Benjamin and Kristy Kruger a couple emails. Give them a listen online. Give them a chance. We're not talking country or bluegrass, but a variety of sounds from those genres to folk to rock. Musics of the past influencing a vision of the future. Just like the film itself.

Benjamin's voice would be ideal doing the theme song... Okay so you'd have to change the key signature a bit cuz she's female. I recommend listening to Mud Flap Girl and West Texas Wind. Those two tracks show her range. Kristy's songs Monsoon and Comin Round The Mountain are breathtaking. She's got a band now and has been touring the clubs. Both of these women, and perhaps countless more out there, have what it takes to help make Serenity something that no silver screen has ever seen, heard, nor felt before.

I know the Universal suits might want someone with specific movie score experience, but what this film needs is the sound of the old west coupled with a modern and feminine sensibility that can look to humanity's destiny. If you want to capture the spirit of the good ship Serenity, you need a lady's touch.

Please listen to me Joss: you. can't. go. wrong. with women playing guitars.

[ edited by ZachsMind on 2005-01-25 13:15 ]

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