1. Introduction (4:15)
2. Main Titles (3:10)
3. Young Ichabod (1:20)
4. The Story... (4:28)
5. Masbath's Terrible Death (1:36)
6. Sweet Dreams (1:11)
7. A Gift (2:27)
8. Into The Woods/The Witch (3:32)
9. More Dreams (1:43)
10. The Tree Of Death (9:36)
11. Bad Dream/Tender Moment (3:33)
12. Evil Eye (3:43)
13. The Church Battle (3:34)
14. Love Lost (5:17)
15. The Windmill (6:18)
16. The Chase (3:13)
17. The Final Confrontations (4:17)
18. A New Day! (1:29)
19. End Credits (3:18)
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.
Like a Herrmann and Hitchcock or Williams and Speilberg, an Elfman and Burton collaboration is usally an event worth waiting for. While Hitch and Herrmann never settled their differences after Torn Curtain, Burton and Elfman fortunately reformed their stylish partnership and as such Sleepy Hollow gives us one of their most imposing creations. In fact, not since the likes of Batman has Elfman gone quite so over the top with his orchestration and gothic horror. The opening track is certainly a pretty forboding few minutes of music that uses everything in a feisty symphony orchestra, along with a large choir, not to mention the church organ. All that going at once is the kind of thing that will drive your neighbours nuts, but really is hugely impressive.
More typical of his recent output, Elfman has opted for a slightly less thematic approach to his writing. There is a main theme which functions as a somewhat brief, yet flexible motif that is put through plenty of different permutations, although is still fairly recognisable. The film is almost, but not quite, a horror film. There are horrific elements, but it is not scary per se but the music does reflect the more gruesome and frightening aspects of the story. Tracks such as the Introduction, Masabeth's Terrible Death and The Tree of Death all feature fearsome and dynamic writing, which perhaps verges on overkill once too often, but it is usually tuneful and with enough orchestral invention to always keep it just about pallatable.
The moments of respite are especially welcome in a score which so frequently has so much going on. Sweet Dreams is an especially charming interlude which manages to stay away from being macabre for almost all its running time. It is perhaps the most whimsical cue Elfman has written since Edward Scissorhands. More Dreams adds a solo choirboy and then soprano choir into an a more haunting, but equally wonderful cue that is another high point of the score. Of course the main ingredient of a score like this will be the thundering moments and the final third of the album or so is an almost non-stop barrage which the listener will certainly find thrilling to start with, but I suspect a little grating after a while.
I suspect that any Elfmaniac will lap up every minute of this score and it is certainly the kind of score that everyone hopes Elfman will write, but does far less often these days. I must admit that while I enjoyed it immensely, it did get just a bit overwhelming just that bit too often. The very bold orchestration does occasionally smack of really overdoing it somewhat and that can become wearing. The art of making music loud and exciting, is the art of making the loud moments striking by calming interludes. Loudness alone does not engratiate the music on the listener. However, I must admit that Elfman is still capable of writing music that is far more interesting than so many composers these days, indeed, combined with Burton's visuals, the score took on the role of a thundering tone poem to accompany Burton's strange imagery. On disc, a highly recommended score that only loses a star because I think just a little more restraint might have been nice from time to time.