Danny Elfman celebrates Tim Burton film scores with symphonic concerts

Oct. 29, 2013 | 2:10 p.m.
dannyelfman Danny Elfman celebrates Tim Burton film scores with symphonic concerts

Composer Danny Elfman poses for a portrait at his studio in Los Angeles on September 16, 2013. The character Jack from "The Nightmare before Christmas" is at left. (Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times)

elfman1 Danny Elfman celebrates Tim Burton film scores with symphonic concerts

Composer Danny Elfman poses for a portrait at his studio in Los Angeles on September 16, 2013. (Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times)

elfman2 Danny Elfman celebrates Tim Burton film scores with symphonic concerts

Composer Danny Elfman poses for a portrait at his studio in Los Angeles on September 16, 2013. (Anne Cusack/Los Angeles Times)

Prolific composer Danny Elfman is celebrating his years-long cinematic partnership with Tim Burton in a unique way this week: Beginning a three-night run at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Elfman will present a live symphonic program of the 15 movie scores he’s penned for the filmmaker.

“Danny Elfman’s Music From the Films of Tim Burton” will even see Elfman take the stage to sing selections from the soundtrack of the stop-motion animated fable “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Conductor John Mauceri will lead the 87-piece Hollywood Symphony Orchestra through the three performances, which also will feature the 45-member Page L.A. Choir.

The duo is soon set to begin work on their 16th collaboration, Burton’s forthcoming “Big Eyes” about the painter Margaret Keane and her husband, Walter, who took credit for her art. But in a recent interview about the concert performances, Elfman had occasion to reflect on his creative past.

People wrongly assume that he and Burton have a shorthand, Elfman said — even after so many years, their process remains a mystery to him.

“It’s the same process as it ever was. It’s very often roundabout and circular,” he said. “Some directors hear something and go, ‘That’s it!’ Tim’s not like that. He’s just not wired that way. I expect to have to work to get inside his head. His head is a complicated and fairly elaborate place. Occasionally it goes quicker and easier than that, but then I’m surprised.”

Tim Burton and Danny Elfman. (Warner Bros. Records)

Tim Burton and Danny Elfman. (Warner Bros. Records)

Some scores arrived more swiftly than others, however.

“The easiest was ‘Mars Attacks,'” Elfman said.  “I don’t know why. I saw a first rough cut of the sketch of the opening of the flying saucers and – I wish my whole career was like this – I heard the piece of music in my head that ended up becoming the theme. I went home and wrote it down. That’s by far the exception to the rule. Usually it’s a much more torturous process.

“The other would be perhaps ‘Edward Scissorhands,'” Elfman continued. “People ask if that’s my favorite. The experience was probably my favorite… ‘Edward’ was like its own unique entity. The movie was so strange in tone there was no model, and what I was coming up with just seemed to be working. But I had two themes and there was a point where I said, ‘Tim, we have to choose one or the other.’ I’m not sure if it was Tim who said, ‘Why?’ So ‘Edward’ had two themes. Logically it didn’t make sense but emotionally it seemed to feel good. In hindsight, I can go, that was a great experience, almost of being off on an island and doing something that was designed to please nobody.”

Visit our sister blog Culture Monster to hear more from Elfman on Burton, their chemistry and bringing the new symphonic performance to the stage.

— Gina McIntyre

Follow us on Twitter: @LATHeroComplex


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10 Responses to Danny Elfman celebrates Tim Burton film scores with symphonic concerts

  1. Kandee says:

    Article is just in time for Halloween—- How many times did I see Oingo Boingo do Dead Man's Party on that night :)

  2. Jaleen Wedlow says:

    The concert last night was astounding! If I could afford it, I'd see it again and again! The orchestra, the choir, the conductor, Danny, Catherine, and all the other artists were simply incredible!! It felt so surreal to see the soundtrack live and the fact my aunt won tickets to see this wonderful art in the mist of Los Angeles! LA needs more art like this! Real and true art need more recognition, in my honest opinion! I was that blown away! That was so freaking awesome that this was done and glad there's two more dates for others to see this greatness! Still hard to believe Danny Elfman is from Baldwin Hills, I live near the area!

  3. lolli says:

    tims burtons filsm are great butn why are they so unique?

    • Jaleen Wedlow says:

      To answer your question, Tim Burton used what he knew as a child all the way he became an adult. He also have his own style that is unique, it's just something about his ability to write ideas and stories that make him so special. Not only that, he's also uses real art and not mock it at all. He's one of the last few people that I consider real artists. Sure not everything he does is perfect but most of it is to others and to some, nothing. I love this because there's combination of multi-cultural art in his work and adding Danny Elfman's already creative touch just makes it all harmonizing rather than having a cacophony that doesn't work. What I'm really saying is, that everyone is entitled to their own opinion on his work, I love it because his art comes from the heart and it's not just one thing he focus on. Even if it is Disney, look at the other Disney material and look at his work prior and during Disney, he still have his own voice. Even with Frankenweenie, I'm still utterly appalled because they only gave it a 2 star when that movie had a simple moral, it stuck out more strongly than Brave would ever do but that's just my opinion and where I grow up on good morals like that. I mean the idea he chooses for his work is fascinating.

  4. Rob says:

    We went to the Weds. night Concert and it was wonderful. Danny Elfman knocked it out of the park with his singing of Nightmare.

    as I was sitting there listening, I couldn't help but think that one of his influences is the composer Raymond Scott from the swing era, especially the piece "Powerhouse"
    It was such a rare treat!

  5. I saw the show last night totally awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) happiest camper ever. Got to see the man dance&sing again. Never thought I’d actually see that again, so friction HAPPY! :-) :-) THANK YOU DANNY!!!!!!!!!! :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)

  6. Jessica says:

    Amazing Halloween show last night!!! Tim Burton himself came out and it was just spectacular to see these two on stage in front of me!!! Best night of my life!!! :)

  7. Kathleen says:

    The show on Halloween night was simply amazing to say the least. Elfman is a genious!! His composing combined with his acting took my breath away. Even Elfman himself appeared on stage dancing and singing "The Nightmare Before Christmas". There may or may not be an Oingo Boingo Reunion, but after what I saw last night, as Elfman gracefully took the stage and all hell broke loose…..de ja vu…WOW! FANTASTIC!!!!

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