Music & Entertainment

List of Famous Composer-Director Duos, Including Danny Elfman, Tim Burton, and More

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 9, 2019 • 1 min read

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Danny Elfman Teaches Music for Film

As a composer, your relationship with a director is among the most important professional relationships you’ll have on a film project. Once you’ve earned a director’s trust, you may be able to look forward to gainful employment on their future projects. Even more important, it’s possible you’ll be able to play a role in the creative process.

Danny Elfman’s journey as a film composer began after he founded the band Oingo Boingo and came to the attention of a young Tim Burton, who asked him to write the score for Pee-wee’s Big Adventure. He’s gone on to score the majority of Burton’s other movies and worked with him on the unforgettable music for Nightmare Before Christmas. “Tim and I were in complete synchronicity,” he says. “It’s like, let’s just do our thing and have fun.” Thirty-four years later, the two have forged one of the most fruitful composer-director collaborations in film history.

Here are a few other creative relationships that have resulted in some of film’s most memorable scores.

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Danny Elfman Teaches Music for FilmDanny Elfman Teaches Music for Film

Oscar-nominated composer Danny Elfman teaches you his eclectic creative process and his approach to elevating a story with sound.

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Bernard Herrman and Alfred Hitchcock
Vertigo, Marnie, North by Northwest, Psycho

Ennio Morricone and Sergio Leone
A Fistful of Dollars; For a Few Dollars More; The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

John Williams and Steven Spielberg
Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jaws

Carter Burwell and the Coen Brothers
Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men

Alexandre Desplat and Wes Anderson
Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel

Clint Mansell and Darren Aronofsky
Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, Black Swan

Jonny Greenwood and Paul Thomas Anderson
There Will Be Blood, The Master, Inherent Vice, Phantom Thread

Want to Learn More About Composer-Director Duos?

Whether you're an aspiring film composer or simply want to learn more about musical composition, navigating the complex world of music and film can be daunting. No one knows this better than versatile and accomplished film composer Danny Elfman. Danny has scored over 100 films ranging from The Nightmare Before Christmas to Good Will Hunting. In Danny Elfman's MasterClass on music for film, the four-time Oscar nominee shares his approach to working with directors, writing feature scores, and identifying themes and melodies.

Want to become a better composer? The MasterClass All-Access Pass provides exclusive video lessons from master composers, including, Danny Elfman, Hans Zimmer, Itzhak Perlman, Herbie Hancock, and more.

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