Date of Award

Fall 11-2017

Document Type


Primary Advisor

Dr. Paul Harlan


The role of film music should function as part of the narrative, collaborating with all other filmic aspects such as color editing, scriptwriting, acting, and directing to convey a narrative that engages and affects the audience. Over the course of history, film music has functioned in a variety of ways, from live bands to draw in theatregoers to the contemporary discussion of diegetic and non-diegetic music in film. Composer Danny Elfman emerges from an unusual background in rock n’ roll, but, despite initial criticism and skepticism, has proven to be a seminal film composer whose scores demonstrate an intimate connection to the narrative. Through study of Elfman’s scores to Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (Burton, 1985), Batman (Burton, 1989), Edward Scissorhands (Burton, 1990), and The Nightmare Before Christmas (Selick, 1993), Elfman’s compositional tactics are evaluated in regards to their role in the narrative. A short film scored by the author is created and presented in conjunction with this thesis, demonstrating how the methodology discussed within the thesis can be applied.