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Composed, Orchestrated, Conducted, Performed, and Produced by:
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(November 26th, 2002)
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Regular U.S. release.
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   Availability | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... if you are confused, if you like being confused by the nature of life, and especially if you like music that is incongruous and confused.

Avoid it... if experimental scores dealing with existential issues frustrate you with their awkward and disturbed contemplations of the inner workings of the mind.
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WRITTEN 2/4/03, REVISED 3/2/09
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Adaptation: (Carter Burwell) The team of director, screenwriter, and composer that brought you Being John Malkovich returned in 2002 for a creative encore, one that even included parts of that prior film. The story of Adaptation is one of evolution, life, frustration, and the great unknown, and its primary character (played by Nicolas Cage) is a sexually inadequate and mentally troubled screenwriter who is living a nightmare adapting a novel into a screenplay for a movie. The cyclical nature of Charlie Kaufman's idea for Adaptation, telling the tale of this exact film's formation in such a way that it becomes a story within a story within a story, causes an understandable potential for mind-boggling confusion. But that's the nature of the film's exploration of psyche, eventually evolving into a larger existential question and answer session that only those ready for heavy thought at the cinema will appreciate. The audience is treated to Kaufman's problems with a blunt slap across the head, and Carter Burwell's score emulates that feeling perfectly. As Burwell states, it is difficult to write a score about nothing in particular, and more specifically, a film about not knowing if there is anything to know. He went ahead and had to score the film as though he personally knew what both the film and the meaning of life are all about, and the resulting collection of inharmonic clangs and suffering mutilations of overlapping motifs makes for a ear-wrenching musical experience both in the film and alone on album. Burwell's sense of humor about the project is perhaps the most intriguing element of the work, for the music itself could easily drive a person (or animal, for that matter) insane. There is inherent in Burwell's career a habit of writing melodies that are not crisply harmonic, moving through progressions with a slightly dissonant and rhythmically staggering personality. This style is sometimes difficult to admire in more straightforward dramatic scores, and when he intentionally adapts that sound into a realm of infinite experimentation of thought, as is the case with Adaptation, the results are really quite frightening. Trophies should be awarded to people who can fornicate to music as disruptive as this.

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Average: 1.76 Stars
***** 18 5 Stars
**** 25 4 Stars
*** 61 3 Stars
** 147 2 Stars
* 294 1 Stars
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Track 1
Nathan Holder - February 28, 2006, at 1:09 a.m.
1 comment  (2445 views)
did I mention that this reviewer is an idiot?
morro - November 17, 2005, at 9:51 p.m.
1 comment  (2370 views)
is this review for real
morro - November 16, 2005, at 8:29 p.m.
1 comment  (2252 views)
What?   Expand >>
Seth - March 9, 2004, at 10:01 a.m.
2 comments  (3881 views)
Newest: March 9, 2004, at 10:06 a.m. by
Cintia - February 21, 2004, at 9:08 p.m.
1 comment  (2020 views)
It's for Burwell to go Bruckheimer
Greg - July 24, 2003, at 11:36 p.m.
1 comment  (2102 views)

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
Total Time: 47:27
• 1. Adaptation (Fatboy Slim Remix) (4:50)
• 2. The Evolution of the Screenwriter (1:12)
• 3. The Writer and the Crazy White Man (3:23)
• 4. An Unashamed Passion (3:15)
• 5. The Evolution of Evolution (2:08)
• 6. On Judgement, Human and Otherwise (1:43)
• 7. Whittle the World Down (1:52)
• 8. On the Similarity of Human and Orchid Forms (1:17)
• 9. The Screenwriter's Nightmare (1:00)
• 10. Approaching the Object of Desire (3:31)
• 11. Shinier Than Any Ant (1:13)
• 12. The Slough Pit of Creation (3:30)
• 13. Adaptation Versus Immutability (2:33)
• 14. Effects of Sibling Pressure (3:21)
• 15. Evasion and Escape (7:05)
• 16. The Unexpressed Expressed (1:38)
• 17. The Screenwriter's Nightmare (Fatboy Slim Remix) (0:55)
• 18. Happy Together - performed by The Turtles (2:53)

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The insert includes pictures from the recording and mixing sessions, along with the following note from Carter Burwell:

    "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 story.

    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 the cut."

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or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Adaptation are Copyright © 2002, Astralwerks and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 2/4/03 and last updated 3/2/09.
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