Okay, I am so excited to write this week’s segment of New Music Wednesday! This week I’m going to highlight my favourite composer, Danny Elfman.
So, if you don’t know who Danny Elfman is, you do. Seriously! He’s done a ton of different projects, and not only as a composer. Let me list some of the scores he’s done just off the top of my head:
- Everything from The Nightmare Before Christmas
- The opening theme from Batman: The Animated Series (the 90s cartoon)
- As well as Tim Burton’s Batman film (which is consequently my favourite Batman film)
- The original scores for Silver Linings Playbook (one of my favourite films of the last 15 years, and I wrote about it)
That’s all I have off the top of my head. But, fun fact, Elfman does the singing vocals for Jack Skellington in Nightmare, and on that note, he also does the scoring for every, if not most, of Tim Burton‘s films, even ones he just produced (Like Nightmare). If you want a full list of all the movies Elfman has scored for, as well as his other work, you can check him out on IMDb or Wikipedia.
The reason I’m choosing to highlight Elfman this week is because he is my favourite score composer, and that’s really something I pay attention to. He’s my favourite for several reasons, but let’s start with the fact that he was the first composer I ever really started paying attention to.
When I was, maybe, 8, my cousin, who is three years older than me, introduced me to The Nightmare Before Christmas. It immediately became a childhood favourite of mine, and I still love the film. Now, I see it as a true piece of artwork, showcasing the talents of many different artists, not just the directorial talents of Selick or the musical talents of Elfman. The next time you watch the film, remember that every second, 24 frames had to be shot (check out this informative article on Buzzfeed). Stop motion animation is truly one of the most courageous forms of film-making, simply because of all the time that needs to be invested into literally every second of filming. But, I digress.
I loved the film with all my heart. I sang the songs, pretended to be the characters, and such things as any child would do upon seeing this musical. As I got older I noticed the music more; when I was 13 or 14, I became very OCD with my iTunes library and sought out the artists who composed the pieces I so frequently listened to, as opposed to putting them on my iPod nonchalantly (some songs without artists, even. Dear Lord.). Before I knew who Danny Elfman was, I knew who Danny Elfman was. His music became ingrained into my head. Though my love for his scores began with Nightmare, I grew up watching the Batman cartoons with my father; and Elfman used his musical prowess to compose the iconic opening theme to that amazing cartoon (dun dadadadadadada dun… DUNDUNDUN DUUUUUUN DUN). His scores pervade my childhood in these two main ways, and many others, I’m sure, as he actually did the opening theme for The Simpsons, and, of course, the music for my favourite Batman film, Batman from 1989, starring Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson.
My love for Elfman’s work is probably what got me interested in movie scores in the first place. It’s something that, now, I always look out for, and would love to do one day. Some other composers you should look out for are Alan Menken, Hans Zimmer, Alexandre Desplat, James Newton Howard and John Williams. Actually, hilariously, four out of the six composers mentioned in this article compose(d) for Disney. Wow, I don’t know if that tells you I have a completely shameless love for Disney or Disney hires great composers. But, all of the aforementioned musicians are great in their own right, and they deserve for you to check them out. Seriously. Go do it. Now.
Danny Elfman is a truly gifted composer. I read that he went into Pee-wee’s Big Adventure with no formal training; that film scoring that he did got him a job with Tim Burton for (we’ve gone over this before, and I can’t really confidently say every, even after looking it up) basically every film he did from that point on. I can’t get enough of Elfman, and neither should you! Now, whenever you watch a Tim Burton film, or any other film he’s scored (such as Hellboy II, Men in Black, Good Will Hunting, or American Hustle), you’ll be able to tell your friends a little about him. Sometimes music in films goes unnoticed because you forget its there; a good film score should effortlessly corroborate the feelings in a scene, so if you don’t remember it, maybe that’s because the composer did a good job. But the second, or third, or hundredth time you watch a certain film, notice the music.
(Danny Elfman is also an actor, but because I best know him as a composer, that’s what I chose to highlight.)
For your viewing pleasure!