OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL
"I didn't really go in with any sense of what I wanted to do other than just to follow the film. It was
incredibly clear because the characters and what they were doing, and what their quests were, and
what needed to be done, were all laid out, so I fell into it very easily."
-- Danny Elfman, composer
Oscar-nominated composer Danny Elfman reunites with director Sam Raimi for "Oz The Great and Powerful"
after composing original scores for the filmmaker's blockbuster hits "Spider-Man," "Spider-Man 2," "Darkman"
and "A Simple Plan."
Elfman admits that it was both Sam Raimi and the subject matter that drew him to the project. He comments,
"I love working with Sam. Sam could have called about any number of projects and I would have probably been
excited about it, but the fact that it was 'Oz The Great and Powerful' just made it all the more interesting in
terms of the possibilities."
The first piece Elfman had to compose for the film was the
waltz for the music box that Oz gives to the women he is trying
to seduce. Eflman composed the waltz and then orchestrated a
version that could be danced to.
This evolved into several more pieces that eventually resonated
as a theme to the talented composer. "I get a sense early on
that certain characters, or certain elements in the movie make
it a theme," says Elfman. "You don't want too many themes, but it was obvious in this movie that Oz had a
heroic side that was trying to surface during the whole movie, and eventually would. And our Wicked Witch,
of course, got our 'wicked waltz' that starts sweet and ends up bitter, as is her lot in life in this movie."
The main challenge musically for Elfman on "Oz The Great and Powerful," which required 110 minutes of score
(over twice the time of his last score), was connecting everything together and giving a sense of continuity to
the movie as a whole. "For example, the last theme was for China Girl, and then I had an idea for Finley the
Monkey, but it's not so much the theme as kind of a feel," explains Elfman. "So, it was really about how I could
use all these elements to kind of stitch things together. I knew in a big movie of this nature that that was going
to be my most important job."
Elfman does not use any particular instruments to define a theme. He prefers to "mix it up," saying, "There are
no instruments that I choose for themes, ever. I can play anybody's themes on anybody's instruments, and I
often do mix it up, so, for example, for the Wicked Witch, I might be using dark, low strings in one moment and
in the next moment I may, in fact, be using heroic horns for her.
"For Oz's theme, which is heroic, sometimes I'm playing it with a lot of brass and trumpets and French horns
to give it a kind of great, noble quality, but sometimes I'm doing it just on base clarinets, strings and flutes. So
there aren't really any rules that I believe in playing by when it comes to instruments and characters," Elfman
When it comes to articulating the style he used for "Oz The Great and Powerful," Elfman states, "I'm just doing
what seems right for the moment and I never think about the style. I suppose if I were doing a gypsy movie, I
might be writing in a gypsy music style, but this is an orchestral score, and it's in the style of orchestral music."
Elfman employed a traditional orchestra for the film to give the music a classic feel. He relates, "Sam did want
a very strong, traditional feel to this movie. I think there has always been the feeling that we'd like to try to give
it a classic feel and a timelessness."
The composer found himself enjoying the experience of scoring "Oz The Great and Powerful" as everything
"went so effortlessly." He relates, "We just were right in sync from the very beginning and I found, before I
knew it, that I had gone and finished the score. I don't get to experience that too often. It was just one of those
things that happens every now and then where you see a movie and you get the feel for it, and you're in sync
with the director from the very beginning, and the music just kind of flows out easily."
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