Notes on The Music of Danny Elfman

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When I decided a few years ago to begin celebrating the music of film composers by programming a concert of the music of John Williams, I knew that it’d be popular, but I had no idea that it would resonate with the Las Vegas community in the way that it did. We immediately programmed a second John Williams concert and began thinking of which film composer to program next.

Hans Zimmer, James Horner, Ennio Morricone, Howard Shore….there’s a very long list of amazing film composers that are worth celebrating. However, it was Danny Elfman who seemed to be the most logical and fitting choice to follow the composer of Star Wars. Why?

Elfman’s music, like John Williams’s, spans generations and genre, and it has seeped into our DNA - I think all of us can hum the opening music to the Simpsons - but it is his partnership with the film director, Tim Burton, for which I think he will be most remembered. Their collaborations are almost too numerous to mention: Beetlejuice, Batman, Nightmare Before Christmas, Batman, Edward Scissorhands. But, in a word, it’s his zaniness that I love. It’s Elfman’s ability to be irreverent and keep his edginess front-and-center (he was the frontman of the seminal new wave band, Oingo Boingo), while using the seemingly old-fashioned palette of the symphony orchestra that I truly admire.

Like so many before him, Elfman shows us that the symphony orchestra is endlessly fascinating in the combinations of instruments that can be employed and the emotions and intentions that can be created from this incredible collection of instruments and musicians is the perfect foil for narrative and visual impact of film.

Written by

Music Director of the California Symphony and Las Vegas Philharmonic

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