Arts & Entertainment, Music

Storytelling Through Music

Danny Elfman

Lesson time 10:45 min

To be a film composer, you must first be a student of cinema and film scores. Danny highlights how various scores throughout film history have elevated the director’s vision as well as influenced his own work.

Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars

Topics include: The Importance of Cinema · Influences · Bernard Herrmann · Storytelling Through Music


[FOREBODING MUSIC] - Filmmaking, as a collaborative art, how seriously should it be taken? Well, that question applies to every part of filmmaking. Should films be taken seriously? Should any part of cinema be taken seriously? Is it all just light entertainment that doesn't take itself seriously? And since the 1900s began and films began, that's a question that's been going on and on and on. Film music is just as important-- no more, no less-- than filmmaking. So if you believe that filmmaking has value and filmmaking can be important, then the music can and is as well. So your job as a composer is exactly that important. It's however important that you take the subject of cinema. When I started watching the movies, I'm guessing I was around 5 or 6. Because I remember the first movie that scared the crap out of me and kind of started a bit of a lifelong obsession was a movie starring Peter Lorre called "The Beast with Five Fingers." Now "The Beast with Five Fingers" was a horror movie from actually the '40s or '50s. But this Peter Lorre character became a lifelong obsession with me. And oddly, the hand that was pursuing him-- because that's what it was about. It was the hand of a pianist that he was instrumental in killing, this pianist. Then he was haunted by the hand that continued to play the piano and-- whenever he was alone-- would come after him. And it would be climbing up his shirt. And he would be pulling it down. It was always going for his neck. And anybody who knows their classic films-- Peter Lorre, who I identified with greatly, was better than any actor has ever been in terms of showing angst and the pain of a situation and the horror of a moment when the hand was going up. And I loved it. That had me. And I couldn't have been more than six years old. Because it started lifelong dreams of being pursued by an amputated hand. And if you look around my studio, you'll see I'm obsessed with hands. I collect hands-- hands that are human, hands that are not human, anatomical hands, wax hands, real hands, mummy hands. And so the things that frighten me are now the things that I stayed obsessed with. But I also noticed there was a great piece of music in there. Now I learned later that this was Max Steiner doing the score. The Steiner score was magnificent. And I didn't know who this was. But I began noticing music but not really paying attention. I didn't know the name Max Steiner. When I was about 11, I saw "The Day the Earth Stood Still." And "The Day the Earth Stood Still," of course, was scored by Bernard Herrmann. And this time, I noticed the music. The music-- something moved me. It grabbed hold of me. And I actually went and checked who wrote the music. And I got to a point where, by the time I was an early teen, I'd go, oh, I'll bet that's Miklos Rozsa. I'll bet that's Korngold. That's got to be Korngold. And I was getting proud of myself for being able to hear the styles of different compose...

About the Instructor

From The Simpsons theme to the soundtracks of Tim Burton’s Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and The Nightmare Before Christmas, Danny Elfman’s compositions are original, memorable, and exuberantly weird. Now the Oingo Boingo founder and four-time Oscar nominee shares his unconventional (and uncensored) creative process. Step into Danny’s studio and learn his techniques for evoking emotion and elevating a story through music.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Danny Elfman

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

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