Q: For over four decades, you’ve composed music for so many beloved films including Batman, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Good Will Hunting, and Edward Scissorhands. What was different or more challenging when composing this work in comparison to scoring for film?
Danny Elfman: It’s a night and day difference. I’ve been conditioned to working my ideas against moving images, so when I like a particular musical idea I may want to run off with it and see where I can take it but of course I don’t have that option. Writing free from images is for me like a dog being let off-leash. But more importantly, I need fresh challenges to keep myself sharp, perhaps even sane. And I need to push myself outside of my so-called “wheel-house”. This concerto was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted to do in my life. And perhaps because of that it’s probably the most rewarding.
Q: Colorado Symphony concertgoers are big fans of The Nightmare Before Christmas, having packed Boettcher Concert Hall for two years with a third coming in 2019. What will fans of that film, or other films you’ve scored, find enjoyable about this composition?
DE: To prepare for this composition I studied very hard. Of course I listened intently to many violin concertos but also to what other film composers turned “classical” composers have done. I became aware of the fact that a known composer can lose their known identity very easily and have their personality disappear. I kept conscious of that while I was writing to make sure, as different as this composition was, to keep “ME” in there. It was my goal to create a bridge between film music listeners and classical listeners so I knew it was important to make sure that to a listener of my film scores, this would have many moments they could go… “yes… there he is” and hopefully have a lot of fun with it.
Q: What makes “Eleven Eleven” unique or special to you compared to your other works?
DE: It’s unique for me in so many ways I could go on and on…. But the main difference between this and other concert works I’ve done is that I believe it’s much more disciplined. I set out with specific goals and wrote for a specific instrument configuration that would be playable by any symphony orchestra without any frills or specialized ethnic or electronic supplements which might make it hard to recreate.
Q: Why should our die-hard Classical audience be excited for this performance?
DE: Because I’m approaching it from a different place then many contemporary “classical” composers, which is to use melody and variations of melodies in each movement. I think it’s modern but at the same time I love the use of melody and how they can be intertwined in the way that the great Russian composers who inspired me to love classical music were so brilliant at.
Q: What would you recommend audiences listen to in preparation to hear work?
DE: I think the audience would be best to come in with no preparation, to just keep their ears fresh and give the work a good un-prejudiced listen the way they would for any new work.
We invite you to join your Colorado Symphony and violinist Sandy Cameron for the Colorado premiere of “Eleven Eleven” May 17-19 in downtown Denver. Danny Elfman will be in attendance during the May 17 performance only and will conduct a Prelude & Talkback, informal audience Q&As, before and after the concert.