photo & text by nacrowe
even as audiences have grown more SOPHISTICATED and attentive to the details of production regarding such as things as video editing and special effects, the subtle and almost INVISIBLE fine art of the film score is often overlooked. yet id argue that the film score is more EMOTIONALLY and PSYCHOLOGICALLY MANIPULATIVE than any visual trickery due to its often inconspicuous nature. id also maintain that former OINGO BOINGO frontman DANNY ELFMAN is one of the most prolific, fun and imaginative film score composers in modern cinema, as evidenced by a compilation of mostly his prominent 1980s scores in MUSIC FOR A DARKENED THEATRE (MCA, 1990).
such notable titles include several scores from (longtime collaborator) TIM BURTON projects including PEE-WEE's BIG ADVENTURE (WARNER BROS, 1985), BEETLEJUICE (WARNER BROS, 1988) and BATMAN (WARNER BROS, 1989) as well as television themes for both THE SIMPSONS (FOX, 1989-present) and TALES FROM THE CRYPT (HBO, 1989-1996). not to mention other scores for prominent projects ranging from WARREN BEATTY's film adaptation of DICK TRACY (TOUCHSTONE, 1990) and the RODNEY DANGERFIELD vehicle BACK TO SCHOOL (ORION, 1986), as well as his brother's EXPERIMENTAL indie film FORBIDDEN ZONE (SAMUEL GOLDWYN COMPANY, 1982).
the through line for me of all these works is his preternatural capacity to compose TRANSFORMATIVE music that transports and roots the audience in an alternate reality. there is something both deeply SEDUCTIVE and almost SOMNAMBULISTIC about ELFMAN's ability to sonically express the often fantastical realms of the mind these character's inhabit. its almost as if the viewer is caught up in an extended COLLECTIVE DAYDREAM rather than simple aural cues. also ELFMAN and his playful IDIOSYNCRATIC sensibilities allow him great freedom to utilize NONTRADITIONAL INSTRUMENTATION, odd time signatures and even a meshing of styles that showcases an EXUBERANT, INVENTIVE embrace of varying music traditions.
even at this beginning stage in his career it was obvious the seeming limitless potential that lay ahead for him which would become actualized in later legendary projects such as BATMAN: THE ANIMATE SERIES (FOX, 1992-1995), MEN IN BLACK (COLUMBIA, 1997), CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (WARNER BROS, 2005), GOOD WILL HUNTING (MIRAMAX, 1997), MILK (FOCUS FEATURES, 2008) and especially THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (TOUCHSTONE, 1993). im always fascinated by film scores and its ability to subconsciously sway our perception of visuals presented by a director, especially when done with a deft and COHESIVE sensibility. there is no better modern example of such than ELFMAN and MUSIC FOR A DARKENED THEATRE is a great place to start.
his work is most definitely worth check out for film and television fanatics alike.