Danny Elfman Scores

GRAMMY winner discusses his extensive career composing music for film
  • Photo: Rebecca Sapp/WireImage.com
    Danny Elfman
August 24, 2011 -- 11:24 am PDT

GRAMMY-winning film composer Danny Elfman was the featured guest for a recent installment of the GRAMMY Museum's An Evening With series. In a one-on-one interview setting, Elfman discussed his early film music influences, musical brainstorming tactics and composing scores for films such as Batman, Beetle Juice and Pee-wee's Big Adventure.

"In hindsight, it's still a melodramatic film," said Elfman regarding Tim Burton's 1989 adaptation of Batman. "We were looking for a [musical] tone that was not John Williams. I reached back to my own earlier roots of Max Steiner and [Erich Wolfgang] Korngold and composers that I really loved. [It was] definitely an old-school approach."

Born in Amarillo, Texas, and raised in Los Angeles, Elfman moved to France as a teenager and worked with a theater group and studied orchestra. Upon returning to the United States, Elfman assembled a band, Mystic Knights Of Oingo Boingo, which was later shortened to Oingo Boingo. The band recorded several albums and earned a strong following during the new wave era of the '80s with minor hits such as "Weird Science," "Just Another Day" and "Dead Man's Party," the latter of which was featured in the 1986 comedy Back To School starring Rodney Dangerfield.

In 1985 Elfman met filmmaker Burton and collaborated with him on the score to the hit film Pee-wee's Big Adventure. The duo forged a successful partnership with Elfman composing music for several of Burton's films, including Beetle Juice, Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Batman, among others. Elfman earned his lone GRAMMY Award to date for Best Instrumental Composition for "The Batman Theme" in 1989. In addition to his work with Burton, Elfman has composed scores for films such as Darkman, Dick Tracy, The Frighteners, and Men In Black. Elfman also composed the main theme to the longstanding hit TV series "The Simpsons." In conjunction with Burton, Elfman released The Danny Elfman & Tim Burton 25th Anniversary Music Box in May. The elaborate set features expansions of the 13 original scores that Elfman has composed for Burton's films, previously unreleased masters, demo recordings, work tapes, and other rarities.

Upcoming GRAMMY Museum events include Celebrity Autobiography: The Music Edition (Sept. 14), An Evening With Dave Alvin (Sept. 19) and An Evening With Blind Boys Of Alabama (Sept. 28).

Click on the "GRAMMY Museum events" tag below for links to other GRAMMY News stories in this series.

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