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The Film Music of Danny Elfman

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Album Review

Since he emerged as a Hollywood movie composer with Pee Wee's Big Adventure in 1985, surprising those who knew him only as the leader of the new wave group Oingo Boingo, Danny Elfman has worked extensively, at first with director Tim Burton, who also made his initial mark with Pee Wee's Big Adventure, and then with others as well. It's hard to say whether Elfman's characteristic musical style, a vibrant approach that often sounds slightly demented, is the product of his own tendencies or of the projects he happens to work on, including such cartoonishly macabre efforts as Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and The Nightmare Before Christmas, all films that also involved Burton as director or producer. Either way, Elfman has displayed, as this album's annotator Glen Aitken observes, the influences of Richard Wagner and Bernard Herrmann, that is, when he wasn't borrowing from klezmer and big-band jazz, and no matter what he was mixing together, a certain manic quality remained. Silva Screen Records specializes in re-recording and anthologizing film music, often using the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, which earns top credits here, although there are also tracks by London Music Works and the Daniel Caine Orchestra, the latter contributing the rock-oriented electric arrangement of the theme for the TV series Sledge Hammer! This is only a slice of the music the composer has written for the big and small screen over 20 years, but it is a representative sampling that gives a sense of his imaginative and off-kilter work.

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