Rabu, Januari 04, 2012

Chat with Danny Elfman, film and 'Iris' composer, on Dec. 16

Danny Elfman ikutan web chat yang di-host oleh Culture Monster pada tanggal 16 Desember 2011 yang lalu, berikut kutipannya:

Will there be an Oingo Boingo reunion?
There will never be an Oingo Boingo reunion, I'm sad to say. The 17 years I had with them were good, but I sustained too much hearing damage during those years and I have to leave it behind me now if I want to continue writing music. Sadly I'm no Beethoven. Sorry, need to use my ears.

Can you tell me how Hitchcock has influenced your music? How has Bernard Herrmann had an influence on you as a composer?
Hitchcock was a huge influence. His composer was named Bernard Herrmann and he was my original inspiration and began my love of film music.

Can you comment on your Gong Show experience?
The Gong Show was a fun goof. We did it twice, but intended to get gonged and never did. We won instead, so we stopped going on.

What scoring software you prefer to work with?
I work on Digital Performer. I know they all have their advantages and disadvantages but this is the one that works the best for me.

What was the first film score you heard that sparked your interest in becoming a composer? Was it a Herrmann score?
It was "The Day The Earth Stood Still".

What kind of inspiration do you derive from working with someone with the enthusiasm and unique perspective as a filmmaker like Tim Burton?
Tim has given me great leeway to explore many different genres and styles. He's also given me a long leash to work on, allowing me a lot of creative flexibility.

How much of your music for films is synthesized and how much is done by the actual musician and instrument? Strings for instance. And how much of the score do you write out versus just play as you know what you want?
While writing any individual cue, I do a complete mock-up for the director with all the parts as close as possible to how he may hear the finished music. Once it's approved, all percussion and synthesized parts remain and all the strings, brass and winds get replaced with the real orchestra which sounds much better than the samples.

When you score for a movie, do you come to the project with an idea already? Or do you let the movie dictate the direction? How much influence does the director have on the score?
The director is GOD. The director has total say in what I can or cannot do and if the experience is creative, expressive, fun, or miserable.

Has the way that you write music or your methodology changed in the way that you write music for film versus being in a band? Or do you feel you approach it in a similar fashion?
No connection to writing for film and being in the band. In fact, it was a hindrance I had to overcome. Writing songs has verses and choruses, in film music one has to let all that style of construction go.

What is your process for composing for a film?
My process is simple but without method. I just watch the film a lot and absorb it as best I can and wait for something to happen...

Little Demons? Any chance it will ever see the light of day?
Who knows anything can happen in this world.

There's lots of curiosity here about your work with Tim Burton. Why do your sensibilities match up so well?
Tim and I grew up on a lot of the same influences, mostly horror, fantasy and sci-fi from all over the world. We grew up in an era where all kids had access to all of this stuff all around them. Every weekend two new movies at every local theater. It was a great time to grow up on film. We probably saw 10x as many films from all over the world as most kids see today.

Will you be scoring the Frankenweenie movie that Burton is directing?
I go immediately to Frankenweenie after finishing Dark Shadows.

How is composing for a live show like Iris different than movie scores. Do you have a preference?
Composing for Iris was unique to anything I had ever done. Very much different from film. writing for the live performers was a unique challenge. Even having written a Ballet, this was very different. All the different performers had different requirements. And making it all work live every night was an unbelievable challenge. But, one of the most personally rewarding things I've ever done.

Please tell us 'Rabbit and Rogue' will be recorded and released.
I'm still trying to find a way to record Rabbit & Rogue. It's difficult, it’s a complicated piece and I hope I get a chance to get it out into the world at some point.

I always wondered why you dropped the Mystic Knights from the Oingo Boingo name. Was it just way too long?
Good question. It was laziness. When I retired the Mystic Knights of The Oingo Boingo, we tried playing with dozens and dozens of different names we very nearly were called "Plan 9", but in the end we just stayed Oingo Boingo.

Do you ever just write from your heart? Unscripted?
I do, but not enough. Writing for Twyla Tharp and for Cirque both gave me a strong desire to do more writing away from film. I intend to begin writing chamber music this year for myself (if I could possibly find some time).

Do you ever compose without any of the instruments and solely the manuscript paper in front of you? Or do you use instruments for creativity?
No I'm afraid not. I write solely by ear. Meaning I have to hear what I'm writing. I know the great "Herrmann" and many other great composers could go straight to paper but alas I cannot. I need at least a keyboard in front of me.

Is there any genre of film you would feel uncomfortable scoring, or that would require additional "homework" or preparation on your part?
Yes, in fact there are things I would feel uncomfortable doing. A contemporary light romantic comedy makes me feel completely lost. And I probably would not take on a contemporary jazz score as I feel I am not properly equipped and wouldn't do it justice.

How do you get though writer's block?
Writer's block? A tough one. simply cannot acknowledge its existence. Or I'd never get anything written. I think the best way to avoid it, is to force yourself to write every day even if you feel you can't. It's like working gears that get stuck. If you start them moving they just might get going again.

In your opinion, what films (without your collaboration) had a score that you felt really made the film?
I don't think any score can make the film. All we can do is enhance what's there. Can't make a crappy movie good. I suppose I could make a good movie crappy???

When you score a film, do you conduct an orchestra for the recording yourself for the non-synthed parts, or do you have someone else record it?
My parts meaning all the funny sounds percussion sounds and non-orchestral sounds are already finished when I'm done writing the cue and need no conducting because I've played them all. For the orchestra, I will never conduct if I can help it. Conducting is a talent to itself and I do not consider myself having that talent. If I conducted it would be for my ego only but not for the good of the music.

You have worked very closely with Tim Burton on so many projects. What would you say are the advantages and disadvantages to working with a single person on so many projects?
The advantage of working with a director multiple times is you know what to expect from them. Not that you know what their movie will be like but half the job of being a film composer is being a psychologist, getting inside a director's head. Having been in there before helps.

What effect have your non-film music had on your film music?
More and more I have come to believe that the non-film music is essential for me to keep my sanity. Working in films only, I have no doubt, would kill me or put me in the nut house.

What film scores are you most proud of when you return back to and listen to them today?
I don't have any single scores that I can say "that was really great". I tend to have moments in many different scores that I'm proud of, usually when I manage to pull off something different than what I had done before.

Do you have an instrument you wish you could be better at?
Yes i'd settle for being good on any musical instrument. I've never really been a musician. I never took lessons on any instrument or stuck with any single instrument. I was always more a jack of all trades master of none.

I know with film scores you have an inspiration to work with and write to but how did you go about writing Serenada Schizophrana, what inspired you to write it?
Writing Seranada was a cathartic experience. It was my first time writing for orchestra away from visual images, and it opened many doors in my mind and possibilities. Certainly something i will continue doing. Time? Time? Time? It’s all about finding the time.

Would you ever consider doing a live performance of some of your film scores?
I've been asked and it’s a hard question. I hate going back over my past music. And to do a concert means putting a lot of energy into that. It's something I may do, but I've always put off. Too many new things on my plate.

What current film composers do you admire?
So many good composers today, can't think of them all. I love Desplat of course, Tom Newman, Mansell, Carter Burwell and many others. This kind of question always makes my mind go blank and gets me into trouble. I'll have ten more as soon as I move on to the next question.
Scorewise, are endings the hardest part to come up with?
No the ending is easy once everything is layed out properly. It’s getting started and finding the themes that's the hard part.

What were your inspirations for writing such dark scores like Batman, Nightmare Before Christmas, Sleepy Hollow and Sweeney Todd?
My inspirations??? I have no idea. I think it’s just a mish mash of everything I've heard, I never know what my inspiration is at any moment when I'm working.

How much time each day do you spend on writing music?
I try to put 12 hours a day if I possibly can. It gets spread out however. I do most of my work at night. and usually write until 1:30 or 2 in the morning.

When you are writing the score to a film, do you already have the piece laid out in your head? Do you have the basic structure or rhythms or melodies already formulated? Or do you just write the music as you go?
The answer to both questions is yes. In the beginning I spend a lot of time working out the themes, components and elements that I'm going to use. When I feel comfortable that I have them, then I go by the seat of my pants, and let the music pretty much run itself. That's the fun part. When I'm working on 8 bars I don't necessarily know what the next 8 bars are going to be. That's the fun part.

During the writing process, how confident are you about the quality of your music. I fear I live in a perpetual state of "My Music isn't Good Enough" Do you ever feel like that?
You are not alone I never feel like my music is good enough when I'm writing it. If I do feel that way, it may be years later.

What has been the most challenging assignment of your career?
I really have to say Iris was the most challenging assignment of my career. What we were attempting to do, had no previous project to use as a model. Combining a full orchestra with "live" cirque was an experiment that we had to invent as we went. There were moments where I felt it was impossible, and probably it wasn't until the official opening that I felt I had not created a complete disaster.

Reed Johnson: Alas, we're out of time. Thank you everyone for the thoughtful questions. And thank you Danny for taking part in our chat today, and for clearly inspiring so many with all your great music!
Danny Elfman: Thanks Reed, thanks everybody. this was really fun. look forward to the next time.

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