Audio: Danny Elfman
ON THE SCORE is sponsored by La-La Land Records
Ever since his early days in the Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo, a madcap percussion akin to circus music has been an Elfman trademark, continuing through numerous Boingo songs to the nightmarish clowns of Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice’s demonic carousel, and the Penguin’s twisted fairway minions in Batman Returns. Even when there’s no cackling clown on hand, the very nature of calliope music seems part of Elfman’s DNA, his hellzapoppin rhythms jumping through soundwaves like a trapeze act.
Now, Danny Elfman has at last come home to the place he was always meant to be for Cirque De Soleil’s live carnival of movie love called “Iris,” which has a likely infinite run at the Kodak Theater at the Hollywood and Highland complex. It’s more than fitting that the town’s most popular ringmaster has gotten his chance to inspire absurd clowning and death-defying feats right next to the Chinese Theater, the heart of people’s imagination for all the romance and adventure that movies represent at their purest dream state. And it’s this iconography that “Iris” beautifully taps into. Without ever specifically naming a classic movie titles, the Cirque’s always-stunning staging has dancers evoking the rites to summon King Kong, acrobats trampolining about a film noir cityscape straight out of Rear Window, then recreating the De Mille-ian bustle of a backlot soundstage.
As his dynamic music provides the impossible synch points for these performers, Elfman’s tribal beats, haunting violins, hard-broiled jazz, haunting choruses and gossamer bell magic also evokes the sum total of his prolific scoring career, bringing to mind images of Edward Scissorhands, Dick Tracy, Nightbreed, Black Beauty and Standard Operating Procedure among his many soundtracks. Yet the astonishing range of the whimsical, savage, and modernistic styles on display are utterly unique to themselves, inspiring breathtaking leaps and dances from the Cirque performers, all with the same fervor that Elfman’s music has taken listeners on their own flights of fantasy.
Now on a new episode of “On the Score,” Danny Elfman talks about one his greatest, and most unique challenges that’s a film soundtrack come to life well beyond the boundaries of the movie frame.
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