I can close my eyes and hear Ice Dance by Danny Elfman. Every time I think of this song, warm tears roll down my face as though it was the first time I heard it. All it takes is those few opening strings to bring back the nostalgia of every moment spent watching Tim Burton films.
There’s a special relationship between Elfman and Burton. It dates back to 1985 when the duo first joined forces to make Pee-wee’s Big Adventure, a bizarre and beloved cinematic piece. Now, the two have built a relationship so iconic and recognizable, an enchanting music box was made to cherish their other-worldly collaborations like Beetlejuice , Edward Scissorhands , and Mars! Attacks .
Like Burton’s films, many directors have established a beautiful and recognizable sound. Directors and their cherished composers create this invisible musical thread that somehow binds their films together. Not every director has a sound, but there are a handful that have co-created styles that will be forever attached to their films.
David Lynch and Angelo Badalamenti
David Lynch, director of Blue Velvet and Mulholland Dr. , and composer Angelo Badalementi are a wonderfully creepy pairing. Badalementi is impossibly perfect for Lynch’s untouchable take on surrealism. Lynch’s line of work has an eerie, unapproachable sound to it that mixes soap opera with horror story. The two teamed up to make Twin Peaks , a television series about a town that is shaken by the death of high school student Laura Palmer. The series sums up Badalementi’s style perfectly — a casual jazzy sound that almost lazily, creepily flows through Lynch’s films. The pairing is striking and will forever be associated with the image of a mysterious lounge singer, or a lost teenage girl dancing by herself in a cafe.
Darren Aronofsky and Clint Mansell
Darren Aronofsky’s films, paired with Clint Mansell’s music, is the kind of magic that gives you goosebumps. Mansell made his mark in cinema with “Lux Aeterna” which was the heart and soul of Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream . The epic composition set the tone for many of Aronofsky’s films, which are rampant with morbid themes. Aronofsky’s films have a sound that are always a nod at something in the past, and a dark twist of what it’s looking at. When Mansell composed the soundtrack for Black Swan , he deliberately took inspiration from Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake . Adding his own dark take on the piece, Mansell mirrors exactly what Aronofsky creates with his vision — an experience that leaves you breathless and in shock both visually and audibly.
Wes Anderson and Mark Mothersbaugh/Alexandre Desplat
The classic shot of Margot Tenenbaum walking in slow-motion from the Green Line bus is the heart of all Wes Anderson’s films. This was made possible by Randall Poster, Wes Anderson’s music supervisor for The Royal Tenenbaums and other films. When Poster chose These Days by Nico for this scene, he created a pivotal, dreamy moment for every Anderson fan. Anderson’s style has a special relationship with sound, which ranges from French love songs, the crackling of old records, and David Bowie anthems. Alongside composers like Mark Mothersbaugh and Alexandre Desplat, the Anderson films have created an archive of something special. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou’ s soundtrack captures Anderson’s style perfectly with its soft magical strings and xylophone chimes. Anderson’s films definitely have that sound. It’s a sound that captures a comical twist to heartbreak and desire gone awry.
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