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Question about Danny Elfman and his composing, nd has anyone worked with or met him?
Old 3rd September 2019
  #1
Gear Head
 

Question about Danny Elfman and his composing, nd has anyone worked with or met him?

Hi!

I have a question regarding Danny Elfman and if it's true that hes used ghostwriters to write his scores or..I guess orchestration? I'm a fan but have heard numerous rumors regarding this and while browsing here...I saw some comments referencing a well known story about him being overheard in a bathroom stall recording himself on tape recorder for a ghostwriter? And to "emulate that elfman sound"? What was that all about and is thre more to that?

I guess my other question is, how does it all usually work and does he actually write the actual music melody/score parts? And in all the rebuttals hes made in interviews towards these rumors, are those even true?
I'm a fan and just recently started hearing about all these in depth rumors, so...its disheartening. But .. he does admit he uses orchestrators. Like Bartek etc t0 help on odd ends etc. But no idea how far all this goes?

Below, I attached an interview where he gets into it a bit. Is any of it true?


Also..what's he like in person? Or To work with?
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Question  about Danny Elfman and his composing, nd has anyone worked with or met him?-434d07e3-4dce-4f3a-a69a-3c7e21765109.jpg   Question  about Danny Elfman and his composing, nd has anyone worked with or met him?-0b7525b1-a7e3-4850-a320-0ee97c5b110a.jpg  
Old 3rd September 2019
  #2
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drBill's Avatar


Scoring feature films is a team sport. That's pretty much all I've got to say about it. I'm not aware of any A list composer that does everything him/herself. The deadlines are too tight, and it's all a composer can do just to hang on. Teams get the job done.
Old 3rd September 2019
  #3
Quote:
Originally Posted by Synthpopbean View Post
I'm a fan and just recently started hearing about all these in depth rumors, so...its disheartening.
I have heard similar things. I am proud of Danny and hopes he continues to do what he has been doing. I wouldn’t care if he used an army of composers if it helps him to create. His success speaks for itself.

I wish people actually got to see the behind-the-scenes work of this industry. The magic is what everyone else hears. For those in the trenches creating the music, it is hard work like most other jobs. No glory or glamour while the work is being done.
Old 3rd September 2019
  #4
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Desire Inspires View Post
I have heard similar things. I am proud of Danny and hopes he continues to do what he has been doing. I wouldn’t care if he used an army of composers if it helps him to create. His success speaks for itself.

I wish people actually got to see the behind-the-scenes work of this industry. The magic is what everyone else hears. For those in the trenches creating the music, it is hard work like most other jobs. No glory or glamour while the work is being done.
I dont mind that he uses help. Totally understandable. But supposedly ghostwriters writing the entire base idea/melody or whatever and they just tack his name to it and claiming he did it? Is that what people are accusing?
He says there has been no single note that wasnt his own, in that interview. So...I wonder..was he lying?
Old 3rd September 2019
  #5
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Dale Turner's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Synthpopbean View Post
I dont mind that he uses help. Totally understandable. But supposedly ghostwriters writing the entire base idea/melody or whatever and they just tack his name to it and claiming he did it? Is that what people are accusing?
He says there has been no single note that wasnt his own, in that interview. So...I wonder..was he lying?
The interview above is from like 1995... and he's only talking about his use of ORCHESTRATORS; nothing about "composing." There are a billion interviews on YouTube of Elfman talking about how he worked like 18 hours a day, for 10 years straight, a lot of that because he was manually programming each and every note, one at a time, detailing everything in his sequencer (he also plays percussion, guitar, etc.). He taught himself how to notate when he was in the Mystic Knights, before Oingo Boingo... Watch literally any interview with him, and you'll see how wizardly, hilarious, yet deadly serious, warm (with a slight breeze...), and instructive he is... and super open about his process. There are also tons of videos of him playing his actual demos BEFORE they got in an orchestrator's hands.

At the very least, watch ALL of this (though how he works w/Steve Bartek is discussed in-depth at 25:37)
Old 3rd September 2019
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by Synthpopbean View Post
Hi!

I have a question regarding Danny Elfman and if it's true that hes used ghostwriters to write his scores or..I guess orchestration? I'm a fan but have heard numerous rumors regarding this and while browsing here...I saw some comments referencing a well known story about him being overheard in a bathroom stall recording himself on tape recorder for a ghostwriter? And to "emulate that elfman sound"? What was that all about and is thre more to that?

I guess my other question is, how does it all usually work and does he actually write the actual music melody/score parts? And in all the rebuttals hes made in interviews towards these rumors, are those even true?
I'm a fan and just recently started hearing about all these in depth rumors, so...its disheartening. But .. he does admit he uses orchestrators. Like Bartek etc t0 help on odd ends etc. But no idea how far all this goes?

Below, I attached an interview where he gets into it a bit. Is any of it true?


Also..what's he like in person? Or To work with?
I'm friends with one of Danny's main orchestrators (or he used to be, he now has his own shows and has had to stop working for Danny and others).

Does Danny and other composers use ghostwriters? Sure, they all do from time to time. But 95% of the time the ghostwriter gets credit on the cue sheet and will get royalties (at least a cowriter credit with the main composer... sometimes even 100% writer's credit).

There is so much work and orchestration to be done on films that the composer needs to delegate the work. There might be 4 to 10 orchestrators or more on a film! The orchestrators are taking mockups the composer wrote and spreading it out across the entire orchestra and then embellishing it when asked.

But... it takes a while... you start of as an assistant and slowly over time you get to move up to being an orchestrator. After a while you understand the composer's style of writing and can "emulate" him/her. There is nothing wrong with that... you just know exactly what the composer likes and doesn't like and what they composer will usually lean towards doing or against doing.

don't ever think for a second Danny or any of these other big film composers are not composing or don't know how to compose. They do and are phenomenal at it. But do they really need to spend their time writing and orchestrating whole note string pads that will be -40dB below dialogue in a scene? Wouldn't their time be best spent working on the "big" musical moments? And that is where some of the assistants and orchestrators get the chance to do some ghost writing and gain experience so they can one day go out on their own (like my friend did).
Old 3rd September 2019
  #7
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drBill's Avatar
To add to Etch's comments - there ARE situations where the "composer of note" might only sketch out a main theme, and that's the end of his involvement. Been there, done that. It happens. Even with big name composers. It may be because they want a vacation, it may be because they don't care about the film, it may be because they are off on another film, it may be because the producers want "HIS" name, but don't want his/her music. Lots of reasons. But it does happen quite frequently.
Old 3rd September 2019
  #8
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
To add to Etch's comments - there ARE situations where the "composer of note" might only sketch out a main theme, and that's the end of his involvement. Been there, done that. It happens. Even with big name composers. It may be because they want a vacation, it may be because they don't care about the film, it may be because they are off on another film, it may be because the producers want "HIS" name, but don't want his/her music. Lots of reasons. But it does happen quite frequently.
So they do a main theme, areas etc and just have some fill in the other loose areas, you mean?

As for a producer wanting a composer's name but not the music, you mean cases where they wont write any of it and it's all written by someone else and it's just under someone else's name??

But in specifics to danny, has that happened ?
If you dont wanna post anything publicly, send me a private message.
Old 3rd September 2019
  #9
Gear Head
 

Also, what's he like in person? I've heard hes a really nice person but apparently very intense in the studio?
Old 3rd September 2019
  #10
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drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Synthpopbean View Post
So they do a main theme, areas etc and just have some fill in the other loose areas, you mean?
Yes. Maybe a raw sketch, and the rest done by others of their hiring.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Synthpopbean View Post
As for a producer wanting a composer's name but not the music, you mean cases where they wont write any of it and it's all written by someone else and it's just under someone else's name??
Yes. Happens all the time. I did a film where the composer of note only wrote a string ARRANGEMENT of a popular piece of music. All the rest of the score was written by those doing "additional music". The producers wanted the composers "name recognition" but did not like any of the score he wrote. So it was thrown out, and a "additional music" composer hired to finish the film.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Synthpopbean View Post
But in specifics to danny, has that happened ?
If you dont wanna post anything publicly, send me a private message.
Not commenting. Either here or via PM. I'm not sure what your obsession is all about, but maybe contact Danny or his agent directly.
Old 3rd September 2019
  #11
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Progger's Avatar
I'm glad to see a good discussion about this topic with valuable input from experienced folks in the industry. There are so complex elements that even seasoned musicians might not know about, and I learn something about it every time I hear an insider's perspective.

I do think Danny Elfman is a very worthy hero, in professional terms, in that he's a fiercely creative composer who worked hard for his success and deserves it very much. I would absolutely love to be one of his orchestrators. John Williams is certainly another worthy hero in the film scoring/modern composer world, and he certainly has plenty of orchestration help. Sure, I can score the indie short films and television cues that I get on my own, no problem. But as @ drBill said, when you're at the top level of that game, you need a team, and who wouldn't love to be a member of Team Elfman or Williams.
Old 3rd September 2019
  #12
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
Yes. Maybe a raw sketch, and the rest done by others of their hiring.



Yes. Happens all the time. I did a film where the composer of note only wrote a string ARRANGEMENT of a popular piece of music. All the rest of the score was written by those doing "additional music". The producers wanted the composers "name recognition" but did not like any of the score he wrote. So it was thrown out, and a "additional music" composer hired to finish the film.



Not commenting. Either here or via PM. I'm not sure what your obsession is all about, but maybe contact Danny or his agent directly.
Not obsessed? Was honest question as this has been a big debate apparently and most fan groups could never answer or know of such kind of things like this. My question was more regarding the honesty end of it. This stuff I was completely unaware of, in terms of how stuff works. No reason to be weird about it. I like to educate myself.
Old 3rd September 2019
  #13
Here for the gear
Most people who do scoring at that level have teams of people and oversee the project as a whole. I have met people who work for Elfman and Zimmer— it’s definitely normal and acceptable. Necessary even to handle the work load.
Old 3rd September 2019
  #14
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Progger View Post
I'm glad to see a good discussion about this topic with valuable input from experienced folks in the industry. There are so complex elements that even seasoned musicians might not know about, and I learn something about it every time I hear an insider's perspective.

I do think Danny Elfman is a very worthy hero, in professional terms, in that he's a fiercely creative composer who worked hard for his success and deserves it very much. I would absolutely love to be one of his orchestrators. John Williams is certainly another worthy hero in the film scoring/modern composer world, and he certainly has plenty of orchestration help. Sure, I can score the indie short films and television cues that I get on my own, no problem. But as @ drBill said, when you're at the top level of that game, you need a team, and who wouldn't love to be a member of Team Elfman or Williams.
Nicely said
Old 3rd September 2019
  #15
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by scottlaned View Post
Most people who do scoring at that level have teams of people and oversee the project as a whole. I have met people who work for Elfman and Zimmer— it’s definitely normal and acceptable. Necessary even to handle the work load.
Probably more so recent stuff?
But in regards to the main score/sketches or whatever, more so about the earlier works, that was mainly him? But orchestrators n additionals to help later?
Old 3rd September 2019
  #16
Gear Head
 

All in all was more gearing at was what be said in previous interviews, early days, were truthful. That the main score was completely him and that he was not just a hummer composer..that he wrote the detailed and full everything...but sent off to orchestrators to flesh out as he was still learning about all of that. No idea about the current stuff...sounds like more people involved and in the writing process.
Old 3rd September 2019
  #17
I also wanted an explanation when it says orchestrated by.. (not by composer) what does that mean. Composer wrote it, but only sketched the orchestration? Seen that with J. Williams amongst others too.
Old 3rd September 2019
  #18
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drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Synthpopbean View Post
My question was more regarding the honesty end of it.


Expecting honesty from a group of (mostly) anonymous internet posters who are involved in the very tight knit community of Hollyweird??

Let us know how that works out!!
Old 3rd September 2019
  #19
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drBill's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Progger View Post
and who wouldn't love to be a member of Team Elfman or Williams.
It might be a small list, but feel free to put me on it. Glad to be done with features (for the most part). Film making is pretty freaking dysfunctional.
Old 3rd September 2019
  #20
Lives for gear
 

Can't resist:
Oingo Boingo
Old 3rd September 2019
  #21
You think Damien Hirst makes his own sculptures? Or Stella McCartney designs her own clothes? Or Tadao Ando designs his own buildings?

The leaders in all fields of art are more like project managers these days (maybe always have been), bringing together a team and steering it in the aesthetic direction they desire. The team learn what the boss wants, and offers up work to fit that paradigm. The boss has the final yes/no, but there isn't the time for the boss to waste their time on low or medium level creative jobs.
Old 3rd September 2019
  #22
Gear Head
 

Talking more so about at least the early days of elfman's composing. not current. As currently its known to be bigger additional team stuff..apart from the orchestration part. I guess.
Old 4th September 2019
  #23
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Synthpopbean View Post
Hi!

I have a question regarding Danny Elfman and if it's true that hes used ghostwriters to write his scores or..I guess orchestration?
I had always heard that Steve Bartek - who was the Guitarist in Oingo Boingo - did the orchestrations. They all worked with Shirley Walker as well, who conducted and composed - She did "The Flash" (1990s TV show) with Elfman.

Wiki says she did everything herself by hand, but typically there are people who write, people who orchestrate, people whop prepare parts.

"As an orchestrator, Bartek has worked on over 50 productions with Danny Elfman as of 2007, including most Tim Burton productions, Mission: Impossible, Good Will Hunting, Spider-Man and Milk, and has done orchestration work with composers Jon Brion and Stephen Trask. "

My understanding is that Elfman would make MIDI mock-ups (back in the day) and hand them to Bartek to orchestrate. Elfman may work differently now with modern tech, but if it goes out to live players, even if he did learn to read music before he was in Oingo Boingo, he may still feel it's not his forte and leaves it to someone who can get it done faster and more effectively.

I totally wish he hadn't gotten lured away by the film industry (though his brother was actually in it...) and kept Oingo Boingo going more. One of the best bands ever. Way more creative than the run-of-the-mill stuff coming out then, and now...
Old 4th September 2019
  #24
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by stevieotomy View Post
I had always heard that Steve Bartek - who was the Guitarist in Oingo Boingo - did the orchestrations. They all worked with Shirley Walker as well, who conducted and composed - She did "The Flash" (1990s TV show) with Elfman.

Wiki says she did everything herself by hand, but typically there are people who write, people who orchestrate, people whop prepare parts.

"As an orchestrator, Bartek has worked on over 50 productions with Danny Elfman as of 2007, including most Tim Burton productions, Mission: Impossible, Good Will Hunting, Spider-Man and Milk, and has done orchestration work with composers Jon Brion and Stephen Trask. "

My understanding is that Elfman would make MIDI mock-ups (back in the day) and hand them to Bartek to orchestrate. Elfman may work differently now with modern tech, but if it goes out to live players, even if he did learn to read music before he was in Oingo Boingo, he may still feel it's not his forte and leaves it to someone who can get it done faster and more effectively.

I totally wish he hadn't gotten lured away by the film industry (though his brother was actually in it...) and kept Oingo Boingo going more. One of the best bands ever. Way more creative than the run-of-the-mill stuff coming out then, and now...
That's what he also claims in interviews too. Just these rumors that he used ghostwriters to write the actual tune/theme themselves..back in the day, I mean..is what's weird.

Is what he says in the above article pics even true?
And these...are these accurate?
https://www.npr.org/templates/transc...ryId=419643892


http://www.bluntinstrument.org.uk/el...boardMag90.htm

http://www.o.org/articles/FSMBartek.html
Goes into detail about it.
Old 4th September 2019
  #25
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by stevieotomy View Post

I totally wish he hadn't gotten lured away by the film industry (though his brother was actually in it...) and kept Oingo Boingo going more. One of the best bands ever. Way more creative than the run-of-the-mill stuff coming out then, and now...
Totally agreed about the Oingo part.
Old 4th September 2019
  #26
Gear Maniac
 
Progger's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by drBill View Post
It might be a small list, but feel free to put me on it. Glad to be done with features (for the most part). Film making is pretty freaking dysfunctional.
Hah, you're not kidding. I've never worked on a big one, but even the fun little indies I've worked on have been... insanely all over the place. I love composing theme and underscore music but it comes with the price of dealing patiently with lots of logistical nightmares!
Old 4th September 2019
  #27
Gear Head
 

He also claims..as of years ago..that he only uses orchestrators..not arrangers and created each note of the songs on recorder then keyboard and would write them out but musically uneducated so and bartek would orchestrate it out. No idea about now..but back then supposedly yes. So is that part true?
Old 4th September 2019
  #28
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Just curious synth.... why the obsessive obsession here? Not at all saying these Qs should not be asked, however you are getting answers - and proper ones - but you seemingly will not be satisfied until DE himself appears in this very thread and tells you, in prodigious and dementedly immeasurable detail, precisely how he has scored every single film.

Why such an incessant infatuation?
Old 4th September 2019
  #29
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff Hayat View Post
Just curious synth.... why the obsessive obsession here? Not at all saying these Qs should not be asked, however you are getting answers - and proper ones - but you seemingly will not be satisfied until DE himself appears in this very thread and tells you, in prodigious and dementedly immeasurable detail, precisely how he has scored every single film.

Why such an incessant infatuation?
Not obsessed. Lol!
Just it makes no sense. This apparently was/is a very high profile sort of rumor that he didnt write his own melodies (aside from the orchestration part) and yet he went on record various times saying he did everything except orchestrating it. So when just reading on background of certain themes, I'd seen so many commentaries saying how its bull**** what he had said. All public stuff. So..when I asked on here, I was trying to figure out why theres so much rumor to this and if perhaps people were confusing it all with some other thing.
Plus didnt understand a thing about scoring, etc. And was looking for a non PR standpoint and info.
Cos one can never know if these interviews are honest. Kinda upsetting if say he or any artist vehemently says one thing then supoosedly other accounts claim otherwise. so was trying to get info from those in the know. Ie u all.

And everything seemed to be either wiki or just hearsay stuff so had no idea what the source is and if actually that or based on popular belief.

I get very fascinated on topics anyway.
Not "infatuated" with him or whatever.
Just odd is all..he claims one thing and others claim different. So..what's the real version?
Plus some, in general, refer to the songwriting itself as orchestrating vs scoring and some say scoring means the actual sketching ..and others say scoring is the actual creation of the song itself. So it gets confusing and wondering if everyones on same page to what I was asking.
I have trouble putting my thoughts right and clear sometimes.
Old 4th September 2019
  #30
Gear Maniac
 
Dale Turner's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Synthpopbean View Post
This apparently was/is a very high profile sort of rumor that he didnt write his own melodies (aside from the orchestration part) and yet he went on record various times saying he did everything except orchestrating it.
That bogus "rumor" is from ... like 1987.... or something. Long since quashed.
Not sure how this "make no sense?" Rumors start, truth comes out, rumors are then toast.

I recall hearing DIRECTLY from a major guy (TV composer), saying this very same thing--in public to several people at the same time--in the late 1980s. No doubt he was just repeating crap he heard (from who knows where.... other than people dismissing "rockers breaking into the biz"), and had no personal knowledge. That's how this garbage goes/went. Gossiping horse pucky dot com.
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