The collaborations between director Tim Burton and composer Danny Elfman
have always resulted in entertaining, well made films and equally entertaining and well made scores. Sleepy Hollow
, their seventh collaboration, is no exception. One of Elfman's best scores in many, many years, Sleepy Hollow
is also one of the composers' most powerful and exciting achievments in a long time. With a large orchestra, organ, as well as generous use of adult and boy's choirs, Elfman gives life to the legend of the headless horseman, with music that is incredibly dark and menacing, but also enchanting, mystical and eerie.
Many will probably argue that there is no thematic material to talk about in this score. And I admit that the music does not rely on themes, but there are in fact several re-occuring themes and motifs, such as the theme, heard for the first time in the "Introduction", performed by boy's choir and later by brass, over dramatic strings. The first four notes of this theme are later on used, performed by low brass, as a recurrent motif for the headless horseman.
But yes, Sleepy Hollow
is a score that relies more on sound and mood, than on theme and melody. And that Sleepy Hollow
is a horror film, becomes perfectly clear when listening to Elfman's music. A lot of it is downright scary and frightening. There is the loud, dramatic music, which uses pure volume and dissonant chords to scare you. And then there are - which I prefer - the more quiet and soft moments, which are a lot more eerie, spookie and mystical, as they use the haunting sound of the boy's choir, such as in "Young Ichabod". One of the most frightening, or uneasy, parts can be found in the beginning of "Into the Woods/The Witch". This slow part, with excellent use of boy's choir and female solo voice, really scares the hell out of me every time I hear it. At least when I am in the right kind of mood. I do not know why, but there is something in the music I find unpleasant. In a good way, though.
But most of all it is the action that dominates the score. It is loud, powerful, exciting, stirring and quite entertaining. Sleepy Hollow
is dark Elfman music as its best, with low trombones and horns and blaring trumpet parts reminiscing of Elfman's score for Batman. And when the adult choir kicks in, in all its glory and power, the music, simply put, rocks. Ah, the choir. It is almost always present, in one way or another. Either in the foreground, as the most important "character", carrying the melody, or floating in and out of the background. And the soft boy's choir really gives the music an eerie, shimmering, sound - evil and danger are always around the corner.
Many have hoped that with Sleepy Hollow
, Elfman will return to his old formula, i.e. strong, memorable themes, and that sort of writing that made his scores for Edward Scissorhands
and Batman so good. And yes, Sleepy Hollow
has more in common with the old Elfman, than the new - the composer of scores for A Simple Plan
and A Civil Action
- but I think that we all will have to realise that Elfman has changed and matured as a composer. Many will probably be disappointed. I find it interesting, and promising, that there are composers out there who do not hesitate to seek out new ways and try new ideas. It makes the world of film music far more interesting.
Read other recent reviews by Andreas Lindahl: The Rock
, The Phantom of the Opera
, Peter Pan