Music From The Twilight Saga

Silva Screen Records – SILCD1380 (2012)

Music performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra



Love and Death
The Music of the Twilight saga

When Hollywood sank its teeth into Stephanie Meyer’s bestselling novel ‘Twilight’ it became quickly apparent that it was onto a winner. The book alone was a hit, selling some 100 million copies and making it to the top spot on the New York Times bestseller list and going on to propagate a further three volumes. Indeed films of New Moon, Eclipse and Breaking Dawn quickly followed, with the latter split into two parts. October 2012 sees the release of ‘Part Two’ of that fourth and final tale, thus rounding off five years of obsessive film fandom and adding to a Box Office stash that has already topped the 2.4 billion dollar mark.

As we near the end of the saga – one drenched in melodrama, melancholy and as much teen angst and sexual tension as a PG-13 certificate allows – it’s hard to imagine life before Bella, Edward, Jacob and the good (and bad) people of Forks, Washington. I expect the ‘Robsessives’ among us will find a way to move on, with the books, the films and of course the music a comfort; the latter underscoring their memories of that most dangerous of romances.

Three composers are responsible for the notes, joining the series’ four directors in recreating Meyer’s evocative prose for the screen and in turn supplying atmospheric, romantic and broodingly dark materials for this solemnly sexy saga…

Twilight (2008) – music by Carter Burwell

It fell to director Catherine Hardwicke to fashion a movie out of Meyer’s first novel and, arriving some three years after the book’s publication, anticipation was understandably high. While composer Mark Mothersbaugh had till then been her composer of choice, it was to the Coen Brothers’ favoured maestro Carter Burwell to whom she turned for the music; Hardwicke had served as Production Designer on the Burwell scored War drama Three Kings. Certainly well versed in scoring tales with equal measures of light and dark, though perhaps mainly dark, Burwell was a good choice to underline this particular tale and ended up becoming the overriding ‘voice’ of the saga, providing bookend scores for the series.

Twilight sees Burwell creating an atmospheric, sometimes introspective romantic undertone with guitar and drums sitting comfortably besides electronics and solo piano. The score manages to perfectly capture the subtle torments of young love and the particular conflicts within Bella, who becomes transfixed on the mysterious Edward Cullen, not to mention the burgeoning jealousy roiling within Jacob. It’s a contemporary musical voice for a modern fairy tale, cast with a distinct ‘Rock’ hue and a dreamlike countenance that subtly runs through the veins of each of the scores that followed

Thematically it is Burwell’s love theme for Bella and Edward which is the stand out composition in this first score, oozing sexual tension and capturing the beauty and pain of forbidden love. The piece (heard on this disc in ‘I Dreamt of Edward’ and ‘The Lion Fell in Love With the Lamb’) in fact pre-dates Twilight, born of a piece Burwell composed for himself years earlier. Written to express the pain of a broken heart, the theme served the film’s central liaison brilliantly. At the insistence of director Hardwicke, a newly added scene in which Edward plays to Bella on the piano was re-shot using a variation on the piece, so enamoured was she with its power. Robert Pattinson, an accomplished musician, performed the piece himself on camera from notation sketched on a piece of paper by Burwell.

New Moon (2009) – music by Alexandre Desplat

Time constraints and commitments to other projects meant that Catherine Hardwicke was not able to direct Twilight’s sequel, New Moon. Instead director Chris Weitz was brought aboard, following an impressive turn in bringing Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass to the screen. He brought with him that film’s composer, Alexandre Desplat, who would add New Moon to his considerable 2009 line-up; indeed it was the sixth of six films he would score that year.

While the romance between Bella and Edward is stalled somewhat in the second story, the yearning and emotional connection remains and if any composer can nail romance on this scale it’s Alexandre Desplat. The film’s story also spreads its wings from the small town of Forks, to take in Florida and Italy. With these broader visual strokes in mind it seems fitting for the composer to bring in the big guns of the London Symphony Orchestra, replete with swathes of luscious strings and all of its symphonic refinery. It’s a world away from what Carter Burwell designed for film one perhaps, but it certainly takes the story to new heights of emotional intensity.

The composer clings to his own central love theme for New Moon, this time less introspective and more wide-eyed with an urgency that foreshadows the power of Bella and Edward’s inevitable union, not to mention their deeply emotional connection.

Eclipse (2010) – music by Howard Shore

With pre-production on the third instalment, Eclipse, beginning while post-production on New Moon continued, a new director was brought in to put the new chapter onto the screen. With pitch black vampire horror flick 30 Days of Night under his belt, David Slade was perhaps as ideal choice to helm Eclipse. Bringing with him proven genre sensibilities and a suitably dark vision, this third film pushed its PG-13 rating to the limit. Also joining the Twilight family to create score was Oscar-winning composer Howard Shore, an artist with a dark side, musically, and more than enough experience in delivering blockbusting epics.

While the ring in this particular story is merely one of the engagement variety, its existence still holds a lot of emotional weight. Shore captures the tension, doubt and inner and outer struggles of Bella, Edward and – in particular – Jacob with a simple but finessed approach. Lone piano themes for Bella and Jacob resonate emotionally, while the increased bloodshed is succinctly underlined with brooding and sometimes violent intensity.

With love themes so central to the preceding scores, Shore’s own contribution is stripped down to a simple theme for what is initially a private engagement. The tone is more wistful, the pair relaxing into their dynamic and embracing something of an uncertain future together. The theme itself is the basis of an original song by Shore, written with the group Metric. Called ‘Eclipse (All Yours)’ the track opened the original soundtrack album and was nominated for a 2010 Satellite Award.

It is Shore’s theme for ‘Jacob Black’ though that is his crowning glory in this score; eclipsing, if you will, the rest of the music with its plaintive and soulful rendering of a character at odds with his heart, longing for the love of a girl he simply cannot have.

Breaking Dawn: Part One (2011) – music by Carter Burwell

With the first three Twilight stories developed into films, it was inevitable that the fourth would follow suit. Or was it? Stephanie Meyer herself had doubts as to how certain elements of her story would be achieved on film and insisted that if any film were produced, it would have to be split in two. So, mirroring somewhat Harry Potter’s final bow, the denouement of the Twilight saga would indeed be spread across two films.

To direct the final curtain of what had become a very important franchise for the studio, Summit Entertainment actually auditioned directors. Winning his place in the director’s chair was Bill Condon, the Oscar-nominated director of Dreamgirls, Kinsey and Gods and Monsters. But what of the music for this double-bill? Well the latter two of that trio of films was scored by none other than Carter Burwell, so when the composer learned of Condon’s hiring he quickly put himself in line for the job of finishing what he’d started in 2008.

With the wedding of the year on the cards, the most anticipated love scene in modern movie history and a pack of wolves baying for the blood of an unborn ‘demon’ child, Burwell had a lot to inspire him when it came to providing a new score. The composer himself did admit that Breaking Dawn was his longest score to date (some 80 minutes of music) and not without its challenges.

While Condon allows a return to some of the awkward teenage yearning of the first Twilight film, Breaking Dawn is nothing short of pure melodrama and with that in mind Carter Burwell stepped up to the podium to deliver a dramatic score full of intensity, exhilaration and some dread. That said, he was able to embrace a little of what he set out in film one, in particular the love theme for Bella and Edward, which is noted here in ‘Let’s Start With Forever’.

Breaking Dawn, Part Two was filmed alongside Part One, though the score is yet to be completed. One thing’s for sure, with Carter Burwell on board, the franchise’s final moments are in safe hands and with source music for another on-screen piano performance by Robert Pattinson completed early on, that love theme is sure to play a central role.

Music for an un-beating heart, you might say…


Album notes © Michael Beek, 2012.