News Archive... AKA The Old Blog

Friday, July 28, 2006

Sony sells 'Serenada'

Danny Elfman's first concert work "Serenada Schizophrana" in stores October 3rd on Sony

Grammy-winning, Oscar-nominated composer of music for over 100 films and tv series – Batman, Spiderman, Beetle Juice, "The Simpsons"

Work premiered at Carnegie Hall in 2005, with American Composers Orchestra conducted by Steven Sloane – music later featured in IMAX’s Deep Sea 3D

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.

The world premiere of Serenada Schizophrana at Carnegie Hall on February 23, 2005 drew ecstatic reviews across-the-board from both classical music and pop culture critics. It subsequently received worldwide exposure as the featured music in the soundtrack to the IMAX film Deep Sea 3D which was narrated by Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet. The Sony Classical recording is conducted by John Mauceri, best known for his sixteen years as conductor of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.

The genesis of Serenada Schizophrana was a commission from the American Composers Orchestra (ACO), a new honor for Elfman and a challenge that he welcomed. Without the usual visuals to drive his orchestral music, he writes, "I began composing several dozen short improvisational compositions, none of them related. Slowly, some of them began to develop themselves until I had six separate movements that, in some abstract, absurd way, felt connected."

Serenada Szhizophrana was scored for large orchestra, electronics, two pianos, and female voices, with Steven Sloane conducting the ACO, joined by the ACO Singers, directed by Judith Clurman. "With six movements, rolling piano solos ... and the charming hoots and chirps of eight female voices," wrote Bernard Holland in the New York Times, "Mr. Elfman gave us music comfortable in its own world and highly professional in its execution ... The composer of this piece has an ear for symphonic colors and how to balance them."

"In keeping with the piece's title," Mac Randall also noted at the time in the New York Observer, "the music veered madly from Ellingtonian whimsy to Bernard Herrmannesque agitation ... The tortured swing of the third movement conjured up the image of a jazz band on a storm-tossed raft, with trash-can cymbals acting as the crashing waves. And the furious horn-stoked climax and surprising last-second resolution of the closing movement made for a rousing finish."

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 Bartók, 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.

Serenada Schizophrana is a ‘gumbo' of all these styles and influences, as conjured up by the imaginative and often surreal pen of Danny Elfman. A prolific composer for more than a quarter-century, Elfman has written music for over a hundred films and TV series. He is well-known for his collaborations with equally eccentric director Tim Burton on a partnership that began in 1985 with Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, and went on to include Big Top Pee-Wee (1988), Beetle Juice (1988), Batman (1989, whose theme won the Grammy for Best Instrumental Composition), Edward Scissorhands (1990), Batman Returns (1992), TV's "Family Dog" (1993), Mars Attacks! (1996), Sleepy Hollow (1999), Planet Of the Apes (2001), Big Fish (2003), Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (2005), and Corpse Bride (2005).

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), Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), Teen Wolf Too (1987), and Ghostbusters 2 (1989), 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), Spy Kids (2001), Chicago (2002), Hulk (2003), and Nacho Libre (2006). Upcoming projects include Disney's animated Meet the Robinsons, Paramount's adaptation of Charlotte's Web, and a reunion with his brother Richard on The Sixth Element.

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