Daniel Robert Elfman is a sensational film composer that has been in the music industry since the 1970s. He is famous for his uniquely dark and bizarre compositions, especially for those in Tim Burton films. He has received numerous awards, and is astonishingly still composing for several upcoming hit films. Danny Elfman was born May 29, 1953 in Los Angeles, California. His father, Milton, was a jazz trumpet player before he and his brother were born. He grew up listening to classical music in his home.As a teenager Daniel played the jazz guitar and the violin. He did not take music lessons, but he could listen to a guitar solo and figure out how to play it along with a complex violin accompaniment (Bing Entertainment, 2011). He exhibited true talent having acquired his musical skills solely.
He particularly favored Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky. He states that his influences also come from classic Hollywood composers Bernard Herrmann, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, MiklosRozsa and Franz Waxman.
As he entered adulthood he traveled to France to meet with his brother, Richard. There he joined him in a theatrical group, “The Grand Magic Circus.” Danny played the violin alongside Richard, the percussionist. Their opening musical number was Danny’s first composition, which began his long journey to his successful career. He then voyaged to Africa for a year, traveling across the whole continent; experiencing their different styles of music. Danny returned home in 1972, and became the musical director to his brother’s newly formed musical theatrical group, “Mystic Knights of the OingoBoingo.” (Elfman R. , 2009)They played songs re-created from artists that no longer performed, including Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, DjangoRheinhardt, and Josephine Baker. They also played Danny’s original compositions. Their music had heavy use of brass and percussion, which is still a trademark in his works. In 1976, Richard left the band to direct film and theatrical work. Danny kept the band active as he became their lead singer and director. Through the next few years they transformed from a theatrical ensemble to a rock band in order to cut costs and increase flexibility in musical style and performance. They slightly altered their band name a few times, but the name ended simply as, “OingoBoingo.” Danny balanced film composing and performing in the band until OingoBoingo separated in 1995 (Elfman R. , 2009).
The most significant part of Daniel’s career occurred in 1985, when Tim Burton asked him to compose the music for his first big-budget film, “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.” Their huge success led them to become great associates and friends. He described that Tim opened every door for him. Every score for the next 10 years opened up a new side of his career.
Daniel composed music for almost every movie Burton made with the exception of a few. Their relationship created a very unique and eccentric type of music that matched Burton’s films flawlessly. Daniel described it as, “Usually an even mix of funny, tragic, and overly dramatic, all at the same time.” The films they worked together on include: “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Mars Attacks!, Sleepy Hollow, Planet of the Apes, Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Corpse Bride and Alice in Wonderland.” (McIntyre, 2010)Danny worked with many other directors, but stated that he especially liked working with Tim Burton, because he encouraged his creativeness. He didn’t ask him to compose songs with several restrictions, instead he told him the story of what he wanted the music to illuminate. Then Danny would orchestrate it as he thought would sound most appropriate. Often, the most extravagant scores that Danny thought would be considered ridiculous were some of Burton’s favorites (Elfman D. , 1990).
One of the most imaginative animations that Tim Burton created with the help of Danny was, “The Nightmare before Christmas.” Not only was Danny the composer of the musicals; he was also the voice of several characters, including the prominent Jack Skellington: the Pumpkin King. In recent years, this film has become an epidemic to mainstream youth. The illustrations in this movie have been massed produced into everything from car accessories to clothing and the like. Various songs on the film have been covered by current popular artists. Shock Rocker, Marilyn Manson, got together with Danny to create his adaptation of, “This is Halloween,” for the 13th anniversary release of “The Nightmare before Christmas.” (McIntyre, 2010)
Danny valued composing therefore he always kept himself busy working. Burton would joke with him, asking how he could handle four other films between each of his films. Daniel explained that if he didn’t, he wouldn’t be able to do each of Burton’s films, because each film was asking more of him. He didn’t want them all to be like “Pee-wee” with a different melody or different tone. Danny formed a similar relationship with Sam Raimi, director of “Spider-Man,” and composed many tracks for his films (Yak).
Expectedly, from producing over 80 film compositions and various TV show themes, Danny has achieved outstanding recognition and numerous awards over the years. He won a Grammy in 1989 for Best Instrumental Composition in “The Batman Theme,” and received eleven other nominations over the years. The Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror presented him with five Saturn Awards and seven nominations for Best Music from ’89-2005. The Academy Awards nominated him four times for Best Music. The BMI Film & TV Awards presented him with a whopping 21 awards in 24 years (IMDb, 2011).
“Referral to introduction”
Beetlejuice (Titles) is the introductory music to the quirky, morbid movie, “Beetle Juice,” It was made only three years after Tim Burton’s first big-budget film. The Beetle Juice Soundtrack was released in 1988 by Geffen Records as it was a Warner Bros. film. It not only included songs from Danny Elfman, but it also featured two songs from Harry Belafonte making it a great success. The soundtrack managed to make it to the Billboard 200 albums chart reaching #118, and it spent six weeks on there. This was unusual for a soundtrack full of scores rather than songs by popular artists.
The compassionate and mystical Introduction for the film Edward Scissorhands appears on its Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, and was released by MCA in 1990. Danny Elfman’s fellow band mate from OingoBoingo, Steve Bartek, helps Danny organize many of his compositions; including this one. He basically makes sure that the music Danny wants is doable by balancing instruments, and sometimes even helping write out the full score. As his compositions can confirm, they’re partnership generates amazing results.
The Nightmare before Christmas Overture was created in 1991. It is presented in the stop motion musical film in 1993, and was released in the “Nightmare before Christmas Original Soundtrack,” on Walt Disney Records. The music was influenced by the poem that Tim Burton wrote and wanted to create on film. It is completely performed by an orchestra without lyrics and demonstrates what the music in the rest of the unusual fairy-tale will sound like.
Alice’s Theme is featured in Tim Burton’s version of Alice in Wonderland. There were two soundtracks for the film. One was titled, “Almost Alice,” and it features songs influenced by the movie that were created by popular artists including: AvrilLavigne. The Alice in Wonderland Original Motion Picture Soundtrack features Danny Elfman’s exquisite scores. Both soundtracks were released in 2010 by Walt Disney Records.
Edward Scissorhands Titles0:00 Introduction: The song begins with a lonely, entrancing celeste playing a conjunct melody. This instrument carries the melody throughout the whole song. It sounds very soft and serene.0:08 The string ensemble enters here accompanying the melody in a deep, sorrowful tone. 0:18 You can hear a different timbre as the women’s choir enters singing homophonically. They sing two single syllables “ooh,” and “aah,” in a high pitch. This gives it an almost ghostlike sound to match the films eeriness. The cymbals emphasize the beat for about six seconds.0:27 In this segment for only a few seconds all the instruments play ascending notes for dramatization.0:54 The string ensemble begins to play the melody louder until the next timing, and the women’s choir sings only, “aah.” This gives this part of the song a more relaxed and almost angelic quality. 1:20 Now the choir ends and celeste is the key instrument heard over all. It makes the song resemble the beginning. 1:44 The whole orchestra begins playing the melody in contrast to the single celeste. 1:53 The brass instruments play quickly, loudly, and ascending to introduce the women’s choir again.2:21 The vocals turn to “ooh,” and hold one “ooh,” until the very end. The rest of the instruments fade along with the celeste, but it is heard overall as it slowly plays its last notes.2:37 Ends
Alice’s Theme0:00 Introduction: Violins and Violas play the quick melody. Then a clarinet accompanies playing the melody as women’s choir enters. They sing the very familiar, “Ooh,” and, “aah,” for a very magical effect. Towards the end of this segment their pitch and volume ascends. 0:37 Verse 1: The lyrics begin here. They request answers in an excited childlike way, which is expressed perfectly with the fast tempo of the music. The clarinet mimics the lyrics in between the sentences of the lyrics. The celeste accentuates each word by playing one note and matching each pitch. 0:53 On the lyrics, “so in between,” the word “between” is emphasized with a tuba as it is sung with the highest pitch. You can see this in other Danny Elfman songs, whether the word is in a higher pitch or lower. 1:13 Verse 2: To distinguish this verse from the others it is dramatized with heavy use of drums. 1:45 Verse 3: This verse is the fastest in tempo, and the celeste returns playing a note on each word. It has heavy use of drums, brass, and an accompanying keyboard at the end. I think this verse is the most joyful due to the fast tempo.2:17 There is a very intimidating drum solo here, followed by a playful clarinet. This part has no lyrics, and I think is kept interesting with this excellent use of contrast. 2:41 Chorus: This part isn’t as lighthearted and has a heavy bass. This is to accompany the lyrics. At this point they are saying that Alice needs to find a way, and she needs to figure out how. 3:05 This part is included in the chorus and follows the same sound as above. It states that there’s “No time for tears today.” Meaning the music can’t be amusing, because they are telling her she needs to toughen up. 3:35 Verse 4: This verse is very similar to verse 3 in the way both the instruments are played and the lyrics are sung with a fast tempo. This verse has less emphasis of the drums though. It tells Alice that she has no time to wait, and it reminds me of the white rabbit. It almost illustrates the way he runs quickly because he’s late. 4:01 Verse 5: The chorus singing, “Aah, aah,” gives it an intense feel. The lyrics are asking Alice how she made it to Wonderland. The only difference I can find with this verse is that the other verses said, “Please, Alice!” Instead, this one said, “Oh, Alice.” To describe that they were understanding Alice’s journey was difficulty, instead of asking what had happened. 4:30 Chorus: This is the final part of the song, and is very similar to the last chorus except that the last word fades away as the song ends. The whole song was very dissonant and now finally becomes consonant as the hard drumming ends, the singing becomes quieter, and the celeste is heard effortlessly. I actually feel relieved. 5:09 Ends
Beetlejuice0:00 Introduction: This begins with a very fast tempo played on some sort of percussion instrument that is low and quiet enough to play during the whole song with different instruments overlapping it; basically playing the melody, which is a slower tune. 0:14 The phrase, “Daylight come and we wanna go…,” is sung with the tuba overlapping and completely covering, “home.” 0:20 The fast tempo is distinctly heard underneath while the trombones play two low pitched notes and a single drum beat plays at a time. The contrast sort of builds up tension for what is going to come. In the end of this segment there is a phantom like scream, “Aaah.” 0:33 The piano then plays the dark theme in minor mode accompanied by drum beats. 0:52 The French horns begins playing what the piano was playing above. You hear a distinct timbre the way this is done, because different instruments are played separate from each other. The beat is emphasized by the tuba and cymbals. 1:35 Something resembling a flute enters playing the melody, which sounds much softer than anything else played before this. 1:49 Then there’s a loud clash of the cymbals and the music sounds like circus music as the tuba plays the melody and is accompanied by the trombone in the gaps. 2:00 A chant of, “Aaahs,” is layered on top like the one on Edward Scissorhands. Though this choir sounds deeper, scarier and more dramatic. 2:16 The vocals end and drums have a solo. Then everything fades away.2:31 Ends
Nightmare Before Christmas OvertureIntroduction: Begins with the trumpets ascending louder and louder, which come to an abrupt end.0:15 Jingle bells begin to give a feeling of Christmas. This is very upbeat and cheerful.0:18 The theme is played with trombones and French horns. The trumpets and tuba play in the gaps of the two notes almost like an echo. 0:28 Then the trumpets take over playing the theme making it sound more crisp. 0:40 The mood changes here. It sound darker, representing the Halloween part of the movie. 0:42 Then the tuba plays the theme with a whimsical xylophone playing a contrasting fast beat, as was the opposite on the Beetlejuice song. You can tell how this is part of Danny Elfman’s style since you can see it throughout various songs. 0:51 A trumpet enters playing the same melody at the same time, yet giving the contrast of the higher pitch and louder volume without losing the tuba. 1:01 The cymbals enter emphasizing the breaks between the melody. 1:08 The trumpets loudly ascend as they did in the beginning to introduce a calmer and different melody that sounds different from the previous two. It’s not joyful or scary but gloomy. 1:11 The string ensemble begins, which gives contrast to the heavy brass previously played. It does a better job at expressing melancholy. It’s accompanied by a harp playing the same melody one note at a time. 1:37 A harp is plucked descending in notes quietly as the rest of the instruments fade. 1:48 Ends
“Works Citedfrom biography”
1. DANNY ELFMANBIOGRAPHY, COMPOSITION HISTORY, LISTENING GUIDES
2. EARLY LIFE Born May 29, 1953 in Los Angeles, California. Milton Elfman (Father) Jazz trumpet player Listened to classical music growing up Proficient in playing jazz guitar and violin (without lessons)
3. TchaikovskyINFLUENCES Favored Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky Other influences: Bernard Herrmann, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Miklos Rozsa, and Stravinsky Franz Waxman Bernard Herrmann
4. THE TROUPE Joining his brother, Richard Danny’s first composition Creation of “Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo” in 1972 Danny became lead singer and director (band transitions) 1995 band split
5. FIRST HIT 1985 “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure” Tim Burton’s first hit film Danny’s first famed scores Beginning of a successful partnership
6. FRIENDLY COLLABORATION Perfect match Some movies they partnered in:Pee-wee’s BigAdventure, Beetlejuice, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, BatmanReturns, The Nightmare BeforeChristmas, Mars Attacks!, SleepyHollow, Planet of the Apes, BigFish, Charlie and the ChocolateFactory, Corpse Bride and Alice inWonderland No restrictions
7. THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS Danny composed soundtrack Voice of “Jack Skellington” the Pumpkin King Mass produced and Various covers Marilyn Manson 13th anniversary release  Marilyn Manson NBC Bedding
8. WORK OUT OF BURTON Danny valued composing Challenge of Burton films Similar relationship with Raimi for Spider-Man films
9. AWARDS• Copious awards and nominations• Grammy• Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror (Saturn Award)• Academy• BMI Film & TV
10. STILL COMPOSING
11. COMPOSITION HISTORY
12. BEETLEJUICE Beetlejuice Titles Early in career Released 1988 Danny Elfman & Harry Belafonte Harry Belafonte #118 on Billboard 200 albums chart
13. EDWARD SCISSORHANDS Edward Scissorhands Introduction Sounds mystical Released in 1990 by MCA Composition organizer:Steve Bartek (Fellow band mate)
14. NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS  The Nightmare Before Christmas Overture  Released in 1993 by Walt Disney Records  Influence  Orchestra  Example
15. ALICE IN WONDERLAND  Tim Burtons adaptation  “Almost Alice”  Released 2010 by Walt Disney Records
18. ALICE IN WONDERLAND  Verse-chorus  Fast tempo  Familiarity: women’s choir & celeste  Drums dramatize  Tuba emphasizes  Clarinet plays melody
19. BEETLEJUICE  Fast tempo  Intense tuba & trombone  Dissonance…scream  Piano: Minor mode  Distinct timbre: French horn  Cymbal presents circus sound  Choir, drum solo
20. NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS  Jingle bells: Christmas theme  Brass ensemble  Tuba contrast: Halloween theme  Fast tempo: xylophone  Melancholy: strings  Finale: harp
21. WORKS CITED• Bing Entertainment. (2011). Danny Elfman/ Biography. Retrieved October 4, 2011, from Bing Celebrities : http://www.bing.com/celebrities/bio/search?q=Danny+Elfman&id=4f7f7b3b-249e-d7d8-998f- dd8b16899199&FORM=CELCOL• Elfman, D. (1990, May). Danny Elfman on Nightwatch. (Nightwatch, Interviewer)• Elfman, R. (2009, May 7). Oingo Boingo: The Complete History. Retrieved October 4, 2011, from Buzzine: http://www.buzzinemusic.com/article/music-oingo-boingo-05072009• IMDb. (2011). Awards for Danny Elfman. Retrieved October 4, 2011, from IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000384/awards• McIntyre, G. (2010, November 18). Los Angeles Times. Danny Elfman knows the score: Tim Burton ‘opened every door for me’ .• Yak, G. (n.d.). Danny Elfman Biography. Retrieved October 4, 2011, from Blunt Instrument: http://www.bluntinstrument.org.uk/elfman/bio/index.html