Fans of Elfman have had to wait a long time to get a compilation of Mr. Elfman's works, but the wait has been worth it. Music for A Darkened Theatre - Film & Television Music Volume 2 is a two CD set containing almost two and a half hours of music. While musicologists debate whether Elfman is more steak or sizzle, it is difficult to deny that in a world where most tv/film composers sound alike, he has a distinct sound and many imitators.
For those who are not familiar with the music of Elfman, consider the music to the Pee Wee Herman films, Beetlejuice, and The Simpsons theme. Of course, those are not on this CD (I'm so cruel). However, there is plenty of excellent music from such movies as Dolores Claiborne, Batman Returns, Mission Impossible, and Nightmare Before Christmas. As an added bonus, you will find a number of tracks that have never been released including the theme music to Pee Wee's Playhouse and television music he created for Spielburg's Amazing Stories series. The "best" of each film score is contained in a 15-minute suite for each title, showcasing the maturation of Elfman's style during the 1990s and his mastery of many genres. The suite from Sommersby is horrendously sad, giving the movie much of its emotional impact while the music from Dead Presidents is dark and unrelenting, dominated by ethnic percussion, synthesizer, and an eerie, hollow-sounding wind instrument. My personal favorite on this collection is the suite from Edward Scissorhands where Elfman creates a haunting, magical mood, capturing perfectly the nostalgic, sad-warm memories of a love lost. For the Elfman completist, this collection contains close to an hour of music that can not be found anywhere else. For the rest of the world, it is an excellent sampling into music of one of today's most dynamic film composers.
This article first appeared in WhatzUp, December 1998.