If you're a true movie fan, you listen to film scores. Nerdily, I'll admit, most of my Spotify is dedicated to great tracks from movies. We're talking everything from Michael Giacchino, to Alan Silvestri, to Hans Zimmer, to Alexandre Desplat - and, of course, John Williams. Today we celebrate none of those... but we commend a composer who has brought us unique tunes and catchy theme songs like no other. Danny Elfman brings magic to life through the combination of colour and symphony. He aids scenes, soothes sequences, swells us into adventure, and captures our hearts.
Many have written about his unique compositions, utilising organic and traditional instruments to send audiences into a fantastical frenzy. Whilst he is truly an artist when it comes to holistic sounds, he is credited for being the master of letting instruments stand out for themselves, knowing how to empower a melody by making one instrument the hero of the score. His music has always had a soft spot in my heart for always being whimsical - transporting us fully to the world of the story with harps, choirs, woodwinds and swells that gives you goosebumps. From themes universally known to stranger picks, these are my must-listen scores from Elfman's chronicles. They are deserving of so much more than taking a spot on playlists for studying; listen to them while you cook, when you drive or as you walk... play guessing games with your family by putting tunes to movies! Whatever you do, give this composer the credit he deserves for the melodies he dreams for us.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Elfman is a well-known supporter and friend of Tim Burton, so you're sure to see a few of his films on this list. I say this not because the score is the perfect accompaniment to the Disneyland ride, but because of how fun it is. I've written above that this man has a talent for taking people to the worlds of the narrative, and I think this dynamic, spooky and absurd score is the perfect aid to the movie. It swells you inside and fills you to the brim with anticipation. It nails the tone, and has that little bit of quirky Christmas excitement!
Good Will Hunting
This organic score is a sentimental piece of music. It is mainly acoustic, and softly accentuates the emotion of the movie. Perfect for rainy days with warm drinks - the best songs of this motion picture bring about an amazing peace, whilst also making you think.
This one must be included in this list, purely for its universally-known theme song. It's the go-to song that gets hummed when someone has a chore for you, it's copied for action sequences in B-grade films or iMovie templates, and it's splattered across the internet. Any action movie wants this kind of go get em' catchy tune, and part of the film's success is owed to its action score.
The obscurity of this "fairytale" is communicated through the enchanting nature of its score. I don't know what Burton must have said to Elfman, but somehow, he managed to capture the essence of a story about a man with scissor hands in a disturbing neighbourhood, whilst a love story takes place. The greatest point of this album is 'Ice Dance.' It's one of those moments you wish you could be dancing in the snow with this melody. I can't have snow... but it does make me spin around my kitchen.
Silver Linings Playbook
This score is a lot more stripped back in some senses. Usually accompanying tales of adventure, heroism or fantasy, Elfman has dramatic swellings of music. The nature of this film is about conflict and relationship, so similar to 'Good Will Hunting' he utilises these songs to aid emotion and create beauty out of simplicity. It's a perfect balance for the screen - and when listened to, it brings serenity, especially with the heavy use of piano.
Elfman finds it amusing that something he spent so little time on will probably be his most remembered work... he goes so far as to say it will be on his epitaph. 'The Simpsons' theme song has been around for decades - everyone can whistle it, hum it, name it. It's probably his most famous piece of music, which is deserving given the character of the tune, fitting for the characters it resembles. The greatest component of this music is the lasting memory and nostalgia it brings about for so many.
The Corpse Bride
It's just very pretty. Very, very pretty. So soothing, so soft. If you don't instantly fall in love with 'The Piano Duet,' you are crazy! Even with the left-in dialogue, this dramatic tickle of the ivories is great over a loudspeaker, oddly haunting but very amusing.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
I am literally just putting this one in for the superhero nerds out there to point out how mainstream my man Danny is... following up on Alan Silvestri's work. My goodness, the versatility! One minute he's writing for surreal stories and dark fantastical tales, the next he's all over the superhero scenes. You know the punch with this one - very dramatic, very actiony... very not really listening to for enjoyment on the ears, but it makes shit look cool on screen. Probably a good time to mention he also did Rami's 'Spiderman' films.
This is odd, and probably very forgettable to a lot of people. Even in Burton's case, this film really doesn't get a lot of notoriety and hype. But from a music perspective, this has to be one of my favourites, namely for 'Jenny's Theme,' and 'The Finale.' The pieces are nothing short of gorgeous, and never fail to make me emotional. They enliven memories and fill an environment with warmth and meaning. The beauty these pieces encapsulate make me wish Elfman created a track just for my life. The tunes will fill you with warmth, make you remember and feel bittersweet.
Scores in themselves, I find, are underappreciated in a movie. It's like sound - they've done a good job when you don't notice it. Because to you and to me - to all audiences - the music just accompanies the emotion. But the greatest things we experience in film are to do with those melodies, those beats, the swell, the instruments - they set the vibrancy, the tone, the moments we remember. Elfman deserves to be credited for all that he has made us feel throughout his time composing, and I'm excited for many more. All the thrilling worlds we enter, adventures we tag along on are created in emotion for us, by him. He has a talent for enticing the heart and soul of a film within us, and these are only a few scores I wanted to name, but there are so many more. The greatest part you'll discover and learn from all of this is that your favourite moments of a movie - of any movies - are captured in the few notes of a song. It's so intriguing to go and discover this through an auditory journey. Go and discover a film this week, but here's my challenge - don't do it with your eyes, do it with your ears.