Welcome to day E of my August Alphabet Challenge! Today is a particularly special day for classicalexburns as it was exactly a year ago today that I set this blog up! I shall be writing about something a little different today, and even if you haven’t seen this particular film, that’s perfectly okay (you should go and watch it though as its amazing!), the music is just as strong as a stand-alone piece. If you haven’t guessed from the title, I am looking into a piece from Tim Burton’s film, Edward Scissorhands. Therefore, composer E stands for none other than…Danny Elfman!
Elfman was born in LA, 1953, and has had an incredibly successful career in the music industry. Elfman is perhaps best-known for his collabratory work with direction, Tim Burton. He has produced film scores for Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, Corpse Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Planet of the Apes. Elfman is also famous for creating the theme tune for The Simpsons. Elfman claims his style is based on composers such as Bartók, Orff and Satie. His score for Edward Scissorhands received a Grammy nomination for “Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture” as well as a nomination for a Saturn award for “Best Music.” The soundtrack to this film is one of my all-time favourites, but to understand it a bit better the next couple of paragraphs will summarise the film. If you don’t want any spoilers, move right on through to the music section!
Edward Scissorhands came out in 1990, and is one of Tim Burton’s most loved films. It’s a fantasy film about a young man named Edward who has scissors for hands. Edward is essentially a human-like creation that was built by an old inventor. Sadly, just before he had his hands built onto his arms, the old inventor suffered a heart attack and died (bear in mind this story is told by an old woman as a bedtime story to her grandaughter). Back into the present day, an Avon representative named Peg visits the gothic mansion where Edward Scissorhands lives. She finds Edward alone, with scars all over his face where his scissorhands have cut him, but she soon realises he is completely harmless. She takes him back to her family home, where he meets Peg’s husband Bill, her son Kevin, and her daughter Kim (to whom Edward falls in love with). Edward finds his feet within the neighbourhood by cutting up hedges into grand sculptures (my favourite is the T-Rex). The film is set in an American suburb, with the housewives all gathering often to carry out activities (or gossip!). The housewives around the area are interested in Edward, and one in particular (Joyce) gets Edward to start a hair salon with her. Whilst trying to find a place to start this business up, Joyce tries to seduce Edward, which panics him and he leaves. Joyce then spreads a rumour that Edward tried to rape her.
Edward then meets Kim’s boyfriend Jim. Jim tries to take advantage of Edward so he can steal money from his parents for a new van. He forces Edward to pick a lock with his scissorhands and the alarm is triggered, to which Edward is arrested. He is let go from the police after a psychiatrist claims that due to Edward’s lack of social interaction for many years, he lives without a sense of reality. However, word spreads and everyone keeps their distance from Edward, bar Peg and her family. Edward tells Kim that Jim asked him to pick the locks, which causes Kim to break up with Jim. It’s now Christmas and Edward carves a massive angel ice sculpture which is based on Kim. The shavings from the sculpture create an effect of falling snow, which Kim dances under. Jim then arrives and startles Edward by shouting at him, to which he accidentally cuts Kim’s hand. Jim then attacks Edward, which makes Edward flee in a confused rage. He goes through the neighbourhood and destroys some hedge sculptures and also cuts a hedge into the devils face. Whilst Peg, Bill and Kevin search the streets for Edward, Kim stays at home, which is where Edward returns to. Feeling an emotional connection towards him, Kim asks him to hold her. Jim witnesses this, and, in a drunken rage, goes to his van and drives under the influence of alcohol. He very nearly runs over Kevin, Kim’s brother, but Edward runs in front and pushes him out of harms way, though in the process cuts Kevin’s face. The neighbours think that Edward is attacking him, so he flees back to the gothic mansion on the hill.
Kim follows him to the mansion and reunites with Edward. Jim pulls a handgun out on the pair, and starts beating Edward senseless, to which he refuses to fight back until Jim strikes Kim across the face for trying to save Edward. Edward gets up and stabs Jim in the stomach with his scissorhand and he falls out of the window to his death. Kim confesses her love to Edward, but then she leaves and tells the neighbours that both men fought each other to the death. She lies that the roof caved in on Edward, and after taking a fake scissorhand from the lab, she shows the “remains” of Edward. The story goes back to the old woman telling her granddaughter the tale of Edward Scissorhands, to which she reveals that she is Kim and that she never saw Edward again. She claims that she wants Edward to remember her from her youth. She believes that he is still alive because of the winter ‘snow’ that Edward creates by carving ice sculptures, to which she says “sometimes, you can still catch me dancing in it.”
So that’s a brief-ish breakdown of the film from what I know, which will hopefully give you an insight into the kind of film this is. I’ve decided to look into one of my favourite pieces from the film soundtrack, entitles Poor Edward: The Grand Finale. This comes at the point in the film where the old woman is revealing her identity in coherence with the story, and how she feels about Edward. The orchestral score behind the motion picture is incredibly captivating and I think it’s just as good on its own!
The Grand Finale starts with an ominous harp pluck, which is then joined by upper strings. A celeste then starts playing a twee music-box-like melody (which does represent a music box within the film). A female choir enter with hums and ‘oo’s’ which is doubled with the flute. The bare string accompaniment underneath makes this piece incredibly haunting. There is a lot of dissonance at times within the voices, which again creates that fantastical atmosphere. The main melody comes in with the voices and then the whole ensemble. The melody is passed around different instruments such as the oboe, flute and violin. The climax then begins and the melody has grown into full fruition. The violins play fast cells in their upper register, with the female voices singing above like angels (to represent the angel that Edward carves out of ice for Kim). The whirling and swirling of the orchestra depicts the way that Kim twirls in the ‘snow’ and it also represents how she feels. The ensemble come down and the voices finish the piece off with haunting ‘oo’s’ until a delicate end. The Grand Finale is an incredibly nostalgic piece of orchestral writing, that I believe is incredibly inspired. The music itself isn’t all that complex, which is where I believe the real beauty lies. The Grand Finale is indeed the climax of love. I still cannot believe that Elfman didn’t win anything for this score – its blooming sensational! If you haven’t seen this film, what are you waiting for? The whole movie is on YouTube – go and watch it!
I do hope you’ve enjoyed this blog, I for one have very much enjoyed looking into some film music, especially that of one of my favourite films ever! This blog is dedicated to my favourite person, my mum, Paula, who has been my biggest fan since day 1. She also loves this film as much as I do (I still want a water-bed by the way mum) and I know she will love reconciling her love for this soundtrack as much as I have!
I’m very happy classicalexburns has made it a year so far, and what a year it has been! I’ve had nearly 4000 views from a wealth of different countries across the world – so thank you all for your continued support!
Happy reading and one last thing…Avon calling! (If you’ve seen the film this will make sense…if not…watch the film and find out!)
Here is the full scene where you can hear The Grand Finale underneath the motion picture.
The track from the album Edward Scissorhands.
This scene is from the first Ice Dance track, which The Grand Finale is based on. It shows the ‘snow’ and how Kim dances in it, which she remembers in The Grand Finale scene.