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December 2005 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Corpse Bride  
Music composed by Danny Elfman
  Available on Warner Records (9362-49473-2)
Running Time: 59:38
Amazon UK   Amazon US

As with his other ‘spectral’ collaborations with, director, Tim Burton, eg. Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Sleepy Hollow, Danny Elfman has been inspired to create another highly imaginative, atmospheric and colourful score for Corpse Bride. Indeed the opening Main Title’s repeated piano chords, sustained high string figures and women’s wordless chorus are strongly reminiscent of the Edward Scissorhands music – almost linking the two fantasies in the minds of the audience?  One can spot references to so many of Elfman’s previous scores in this opening track but it also has much that is fresh and new to hold the attention and interest the ear. Elfman’s harmonies and orchestrations grow more and more assured. One is charmed by the swaying, soothing lullaby-like material in this opening track but aware of its ghostly quality too; enchanted by its spins and chimes and, for instance, the imaginative combination of spinet, ‘street’ organ and celesta.

The music for Corpse Bride can be broadly classified as being in three styles.  First the creepy atmospheric. This is typified by ‘Into the Forest’ a highly evocative creation. Away from the on-screen images one can so easily imagine creepy, creaking boughs, quivering spectral tendrils, rattling skeletons and shrieking owls; it’s a rising crescendo of shrieking dissonances (not so far from Sleepy Hollow or even the Batman scores). There is even a reference to Herrmann’s Psycho in those stabbing staccato strings. ‘Casting a Spell’ another spooky creation again references Herrmann (subtly, Vertigo) and, again, subtly, to my ears, Waxman in Frankenstein mode. ‘The Party Arrives’ is as witty as it is weird and mixes all the styles of the score but it has poignancy too (a poignancy heightened in another standout track, ‘Victoria’s Wedding’.  Indeed, there is an enchantment and a charm behind all these tracks.

Then there are the songs, the irony and wit of which will appeal to the adults in the audience. ‘According to Plan’ is a wickedly funny ditty performed by Albert Finney, Joanna Lumley, Tracey Ullman and Paul Whitehouse all looking forward to ‘a terrible day for a wedding’ to ‘marry off our daughter to the nouveau riche.’ ‘Tears to Shed’ is performed by Helen Bonham Carter, Jane Horrocks and Enn Reitel - here the Corpse Bride longs for romance and delivery from pain while Horrocks and Reitel champion her over flesh and blood Victoria. The presto choral ‘The Wedding Song’  is a merry, lively anticipation of a great event, ghostly as it might be – ‘The Corpse Bride is getting married today’ - with a downward wail under the last word.  The other song, ‘Remains of The Day’ features the third score style - the use of jazz.  This is an amusing spooky, sardonic feast of hot jazz the singers telling of how the Corpse Bride was robbed and abandoned. Funky jazz also features in ‘New Arrival’.

Some of the best music is heard for  the End Credits beginning enchantingly with piano and celesta and bells, then solo cello and violin joined by the women’s chorus and a statement of the main theme, then something of the celebrated 007 theme on harpsichord leading into hot jazz and a mix of all the score’s elements. Then four bonus jazz tracks from’Bonejangles and his Bone Boys’ round off a most enjoyable disc.

Elfman enchants again.

Ian Lace


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