Best known for his work in collaboration with director Tim Burton, composer Danny Elfman created one of the most distinctive bodies of work in contemporary film music, bringing his talents to a dark fantasy world populated by superheroes, monsters and freaks. The son of novelist Blossom Elfman, he was born May 29, 1953 in Amarillo, Texas; raised in Los Angeles, he and brother Richard relocated to France in 1971, where he joined a theatrical group. Elfman subsequently moved on to Africa, returning to the U.S. only after battling a bout with malaria; he then reunited with Richard, who had directed the 1980 film The Forbidden Zone and asked Danny to compose the score. Assembling a band dubbed the Mystic Knights of Oingo Boingo, Elfman recorded the movie's soundtrack; abbreviated to simply Oingo Boingo, the group remained a going concern following the project's completion, later earning a significant cult following during the
New Wave era.
In 1985 Elfman met fledgling filmmaker Burton; after collaborating on the score to the hit Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, they reunited frequently in the years to come, with Elfman composing the music to later Burton projects including Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Mars Attacks! and the Grammy-winning Batman. In 1993 Elfman also scored the Burton-produced Nightmare Before Christmas, dubbing the vocals of the animated musical's lead character Jack Skellington. Outside of Burton's sphere of influence, Elfman also scored a number of other features, most of them strange fables such as Darkman, Dick Tracy, Army of Darkness and The Frighteners; in 1997, he composed the music for Men in Black, the summer's biggest hit. Among his television work: the theme song to The Simpsons. ~ Jason Ankeny, All Music Guide
Written by Jason Ankeny
Adding another facet to an already brilliant life in music, Danny Elfman steps out from his career-defining role as a Grammy Award-winning, Oscar-nominated composer of original music for film (Batman, Spiderman, Beetle Juice, The Nightmare Before Christmas) and television ("Pee-Wee's Playhouse," "The Simpsons," "Desperate Housewives") with the release of Serenada Schizophrana, his first orchestral composition written specifically for the concert hall.
For Elfman, a self-taught musician who had never heard any of his orchestral music performed live on stage, it was a "thrilling experience." Highly influenced by the work of such mid-20th century film composers Bernard Herrmann, Nino Rota, Dimitri Tiomkin, Max Steiner and Erich Korngold, among many others, Elfman's music is also tempered by Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Orff and Bartek, as well as early Duke Ellington. "I am forever attached to the music of the early 20th century," Elfman writes. To this mix, he adds his recent discoveries of Harry Partch, Philip Glass and Lou Harrison.
For most of this time (until about a decade ago) Elfman was a mainstay of the beloved Los Angeles-based group Oingo Boingo, which was originally assembled in the late-'70s by his older brother, writer-director Richard Elfman, to provide the music for his first movie Forbidden Zone (1980). The group flourished (over the course of eight albums) but also became ubiquitous on movie soundtracks through the '80s: Fast Times At Ridgemont High (1982), Bachelor Party (1984), Weird Science (whose title song became a pop hit, 1985), Something Wild (1986), to name a few.
Meanwhile, as his working friendship with Burton grew in the '90s (and Oingo Boingo eventually disbanded), Elfman focused on what turned into a string of some 50 signature movie soundtracks, among them: Dick Tracy (1990), Sommersby (1993), Dolores Claiborne, Dead Presidents, and To Die For (all 1995), Mission Impossible (1996), the Men In Black franchise (1997, 2002), Good Will Hunting (1997), Chicago (2002), and Nacho Libre (2006). Upcoming projects include Disney's animated Meet the Robinsons, Paramount's adaptation of Charlotte's Web.