The vision was to present a highly varied show that balances music and visuals, orchestra and choir, large ensembles and soloists, instrumental music and songs. Danny Elfman decided instead of just performing the music as originally created for the films, he would reconceive his music as concert works by arranging original orchestral suites created uniquely for this show. Tim Burton reached into his library of original art and film clips and assembled visual collages to complement those musical suites.” – Lincoln Center Festival 2015
What pops into your mind when someone says Tim Burton? I imagine striking characters and costuming, gothic influenced imagery, and of course the versatility of actor Johnny Depp. However, one of the most defining aspects of Tim Burton’s work is his long time collaboration with composer and lyricist Danny Elfman. Their combined visual and musical personalities in films like Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Planet of the Apes, and The Nightmare Before Christmas, to name a few, pave the way for limitless storytelling opportunities to be shared with audiences throughout the world.
Rather than devise my own take on the creative collaboration between Burton and Elfman, I thought it would be prudent to share the sentiments of Mr. Depp:
Danny and Tim, without doubt, are the two greatest gifts this job ever gave me. I would be neither here, there, nor probably anywhere without them and their general magnificence.
Now, the world is fully aware of the individual genius to be found betwixt the two, but what is more important here is the way in which these unique talents combine and ultimately complement one another, allowing the other’s work to bloom in a way unforeseen independently.
Essentially, Danny’s darkly sonorous creations are the audio manifestations of Tim’s singularly shadowy visions. He is the Ralph Steadman to Tim’s Hunter S. Thompson. Together they breathe color into one another’s world from my initial experience, working alongside them both on Edward Scissorhands, throughout the many projects that constitute a relationship, which now spans some 20 years…and counting. His music, so warm and inviting, yet somehow unnerving, ultimately manages to sound both elegant and haunting, perfectly defining the character of that very first collaboration. Having then unearthed the precise mood of Tim’s film, within the divine notes of his celestial score, Danny soundtracked the tale’s soul deep into the hearts of millions.
Subsequently, their working relationship has never floundered. Time after time, their industry gives birth to new beings of wonder and weirdness, charged to delight and excite cinema goers the planet ‘round.
So, a match made in the stars, you might say. Tim and Danny, it was simply meant to be.” – Johnny Depp
These remarks form the foreword in program notes for the Lincoln Center Festival 2015 – Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton. See the full program notes here.
While the show was part of the July 6-12th week in the festival, PBS aired the full performance on October 30th, 2015 for the Halloween season. See the archived stream here.
See this New York Times announcement to learn more about the life of Danny Elfman.
I really appreciate how this show draws upon various mediums to capture the creative process of Tim Burton and Danny Elfman. As an audience member, I always find it helpful to see this kind of variety in a performance. Even a quick spoken introduction of a piece goes a long way and gives the listener some clues of what to look for.
One of the highlights in the lineup was works from The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), sung by Danny Elfman himself. Interestingly, with the use of stop-motion animation in this film, planning and production took several years. As such, Danny Elfman worked to develop the songs before filming even began, meeting with Tim Burton to look over storyboards and sketches. This timing allowed Elfman to compose and record the songs to be referred to in filming. His vocal performances for Jack Skellington’s songs were even used in the final cut! Watch this “Making Of” video to learn more!
I can’t think of a more immersive storytelling experience than to have the composer and singing personality of a main character take center stage with the New York Philharmonic, in addition to viewing footage and artwork supplied by the film’s producer!
For me, Danny Elfman’s Music from the Films of Tim Burton reminds us that just as hard work fuels passion, teamwork can transform great concepts into exceptional ones. The marriage of skills and ideas between Elfman and Burton provides this creative palette in which there is something for everyone to appreciate.