From young high school drop-out to renowned music composer Danny Elfman
Childhood • Danny Elfman was born in Los Angeles, California on May 29, 1953 • Danny’s mother, Blossom Elfman, was a writer of children’s books, and his father, Milton Elfman was a teacher. • In high school Danny was shy, and he made friends who liked poetry and music. This is when he first had desires to work with music. • Although he had the desire, he felt as though he was already too old to start learning any musical instruments. • It is no surprise that in high school he was also in love with the motion picture. Almost every weekend he would spend his time at the nearby movie theater.
Following his Dream • Elfman was never destined to follow the conventional path of high school and college. He only knew that he want to follow his dream. • His brother Richard was living in France at the time, so Danny bought a violin with the intentions to learn how to play it, and he moved to France to live with his brother. • One day Danny was overheard practicing by the director of Le Grand Magic Circus, an Avant-Garde Theatre Troupe. The director offered Danny room and board to come play on tour in Africa with them. • While in Africa Danny says that he played a “poor but serviceable fiddle,” but he also acquired some West African percussion instruments that definitely had an influence on the music he created in the future.(College commencement Address, 2007)
Danny Elfman: Music Director • Eventually he finished his tour in Africa, and returned to the United States, where his brother already had plans for him. • Elfman stated “While I was traveling, my brother had come back to the States and founded his own street troupe, inspired by the French experience, and upon my return he immediately inducted me to be their “musical director.“ I didn’t even know what that meant, least-wise what I was supposed to do. I had still never taken a lesson nor could I read or write music. (College commencement Address, 2007) • Elfman’s brother Richard gave Danny his first opportunity to write music for a feature film. • To write the music for the movie they made a group called ”The mystic Knights of the OingoBoingo.”
OingoBoingo • After the movie was finished, Elfman felt as though he had found his passion. The group started touring as a rock group with what they now just called “OingoBoingo.” • For years OingoBoingo continued to grow in popularity until everything changed when after one show a young animator came to meet Danny, and introduced himself as Time Burton.
Danny Elfman and Tim Burton • Tim Burton asked Elfman if he would score the music to his first feature film. After almost saying no, Danny agreed to write the music to “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure.” • This was where Elfman’s life took a big turn, and he started to become the composer who we all know him as. • Danny Elfman and Tim Burton began a long relationship that has been very beneficial for both of them. • Some of their films together include: “Edward Scissorhands,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” and “Corpse Bride.”
Danny Elfman Today • Although sadly his days with OingoBoingo are done for, we are all the beneficiaries of the great music he has composed. • As a child in Los Angeles he never could have imagined what this life would bring for him, but he was always someone who had dreams, and was determined to follow those dreams. • Elfman continues to compose, and we look forward to enjoying the music that he will produce in the future.
Music History • At the time when the group OingoBoingo started, Danny Elfman “had still never taken a lesson nor could [he] read or write music.”(College commencement Address, 2007) • His musical talents and abilities had mostly come from his travels in France and Africa. • During this time with Le Grand Magic Circus he found he said “I didn’t get good at the violin, but I did fall in love with percussion, and got to listen to a lot of incredible music and shipped quite a few instruments home.” You can tell that “Stay” and the other music that he played while with OingoBoingo were directly impacted by this. • OingoBoingo began as a group to make the soundtrack to a feature film that Danny Elfman’s brother was making. But when their project with the movie ended, the group decided to stay together and go on tour.
A couple years later in 1985 Danny Elfman began his journey with Tim Burton. • Seven years after they worked together on their first film, “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure,” They began to work on “The Nightmare before Christmas”. • It forever will be a mystery whether this is a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie. • Along with making the score for this movie Danny singing plays the voice of Jack Skellington, and Danny adds the perfect emotions to go along with Jacks character. • Elfman has worked with all different styles of music. He is quoted saying “I don't think there's a trademark Danny Elfman element that has been consistent in my work. I don't hear many similarities in what I do and I don't think it's necessary that I have a particular style. Having a particular style is not bad, but I prefer to push myself in the direction of being a composer who you never know what he's doing next.” (I don’t think there’s a trademark Danny Elfman element, Danny Elfman).
Listening Guide Stay by OingoBoingo Click on link to listen: http://grooveshark.com/#!/search?q=Stay+by+Oingo+Boingo 0:00 – Intro. This piece starts off with some type of electric instrument that fades in. It begins by switching between two notes. 0:08 – Percussion, Guitar, and vocals are introduced. The humming vocals mimic the electric instrument. 0:28 – The first verse begins. The Percussion and the keyboard continue along with the vocals, but the guitar cuts out. 0:44 – The chorus plays for the first time. The guitar comes back in to join the keyboard, percussion, and vocals. 1:09 – 2nd verse begins. The instruments are all the same as the first verse, but the words are different. 1:24 – The chorus is played for the 2nd time. The same as the first. 1:41 – Following the chorus it gets changed up. Trumpets are introduced. They play a few quick pairs of staccatos.
1:49 – Bridge. This time around, the verse is a little bit different. There is trumpet and guitar, and the verse lasts a little bit longer. 2:21 – Chorus is played for the 3rd time. It is played the same as the first two times. 2:37 – Following the chorus this time humming is added. 2:45 – The 4th verse sound like the first two verses, but unlike the first two times, it includes a guitar. 3:10 – Outro. The music slowly fades out. Almost just like the song begins. The last instrument you can hear is the same electric instrument and the same two notes from the beginning of the song.
This is Halloween by Danny Elfman Click on link to listen: http://grooveshark.com/#!/album/Tim+Burton+s+The+Nightmare+Before+Christmas/291339 0:00 – Intro. Begins with string instruments. Percussion quickly comes in with some chimes. Then the brass is introduced playing the melody with the accompaniment of some woodwinds. 0:14 – 1st verse begins. All sorts of strange creepy voices begin to sing with all sorts of instruments fading in and out. 0:26 – The chorus begins for the first time with “this is Halloween.” 0:43 – another verse begins but with one voice at a time. There is less accompaniment so that you can hear clearly what the voices are saying. 0:54 – chorus plays for the 2nd time. 1:06 – Another verse is sung with characters taking turns singing their separate parts. 1:52 – This time the chorus is sung a little differently. There are different voices as well. 2:02 – 4th verse is sung while the accompaniment is quickly switched between percussion, brass, and woodwinds.
2:48 – Outro. All voices come in at once. Some are humming, some are cackling. It slowly fades out until the last instruments you can hear sound like a bass clarinet and an oboe.
References College commencement Address. (2007). Retrieved from http://www.gearslutz.com/board/so-much-gear-so-little-time/150606-life-danny-elfman.html On composing scores for Tim Burton. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000384/bio?ref_=nm_dyk_qt_sm#quotes I don’t think there’s a trademark Danny Elfman element. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000384/bio?ref_=nm_dyk_qt_sm#quotes