Serenada Schizophrana, composed by Danny Elfman; conducted by John Mauceri
Film music - funny, that. You take something like Jim Steinman's work for Streets Of Fire
or John Cafferty and Beaver Brown's Eddie & The Cruisers
and you get lauded for the brilliance, when, what you've done is write and play some damn good tunes that you might have done anyway and gotten them into a movie. Now, you go and write some great symphonic music that supports a story line and - unless you did it years ago and called it a symphonic poem - you get blasted as a hack.
It's a pet peeve of mine, I suppose.
Danny Elfman is one of my favorite film composers - whether its his tunes for Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas
or themes for Batman
or Planet of the Apes
. While the first has entertaining lyrics and melodies, the latter two examples are symphonic works - and they hold their own when spun alongside symphonic works that weren't written for film.
This piece was the first symphonic work Elfman wrote that was intended to stand on its own, and, rather ironically, it was later used as part (or whole? -- "Featured" is the word they use) of the soundtrack of the film Deep Sea (IMAX)
. Go figure.
The track A Brass Thing
clearly shows lineage in some of the Batman
bits, as well as some portions of the Edward Scissorhands
score. While some hack critics speak of tracing paper when they speak of film composers, what they fail to recognize is something that amounts to style - and how musics can seem similar not only to other works in a composers own oeuvre but to works of other composers as well.
Although he's used wordless choral pieces and vocal parts in his soundtracks, his use of choral vocals - and solo soprano - definitely stretches beyond his prior works. As the dedicated reader of my reviews might know me as one who tends to favor choral and operatic warblings of any sort be in any language other than English, it shall come as no surprise that I am exceedingly happy that Elfman chose Spanish for the language the lyrics are performed in.
There's some interesting instrumentation here - perhaps one thing that, unfortunately, might separate him from being considered "classical" (in the sense of the overall genre, certainly there'd be no chance of expecting a living breathing person of today to have been alive and composing during the true classical period! =) You see, many of the movements of the serenade feature certain instruments and are named thusly: Pianos
, Blue Strings
, the aforementioned A Brass Thing
. While "I Forget"
is the choral and soprano solo piece, The Quadraped Patrol
, Bells and Whistles
, and End Tag
seem to break from this tradition - even the second to last piece does, as it doesn't truly feature bells and whistles, although it does pull out the stops and gives solos all around. The bonus track jumps right back on message, though, with Improv for Alto Sax
, which is what it says, although it's not strictly a solo piece.
While the concerto form - often a strict three movement structure - is the chosen vehicle for showing off virtuoso solo performances (or, in some cases dual, or even a handful more of instruments), this serenade gives out the spotlight liberally, and to varied instruments of completely differing musical families. As such, it's a treat for those who appreciate a multitude of instruments, and a boon to those who find long extended solos of a single performer annoying.
I highly recommend this work for fans of film music, of Danny Elfman's other works in particular (although if you're one of his fans, you're likely on top of this already), or of contemporary symphonic composers.