Sleepy Hollow

Danny Elfman

" Thunderous listen in film can get overbearing at times on disc "

Written by Thomas Glorieux - Review of the regular release

Tim Burton's pet project for the year '99 is what people call a perfect fit. If one man is capable in delivering the dark, intriguing fable of a headless horseman, then by all means let it be Tim Burton. And just as good as he delivers that mood, so good is Danny Elfman in delivering the potion to make it succeed. The movie is immensely successive in telling the tale in its horrific mood, and Elfman delivers everything moody about it. But the first time when I heard it, I was so disappointed by the score that I didn't listen to it for years. But now after having seen the movie and having listened to it again (three times), I know now what the score does, and what it needs to do to make it work.

First of all, dark Elfman fans will love it but that doesn't make it easy. Secondly, as perfect as it may sound (with choral sounds from start to finish), it is still the thing about liking it and third, you have to know what it has to back up. And then you can go so far as to appreciate it. I disliked the score for a very long time, simply because it is Elfman doing difficult. But this is not fair, you still have to see what on earth it does during the movie. And by doing so, I see it as simply another score that combines complexity with effectiveness. It works stunningly during the movie, has the moments on disc but I can't simply see it as easy listening. However who said it had to be easy listening?

As good as I find it during the movie, it needs too much my personal attention. That was the fowl I made the first time. For instance the track "The Tree of Death" is not one thing I like to listen to, even though it has these terrific shorts bursts of energy. Perfect for the scene, but simply hard stuff to hear abandoned from the visuals. The track "The Chase" is the same thing, though the first minute is still accessible.

Every once and a while, the score takes on a lighter side, but it always remains low. The string love theme moments in tracks 11, 12 and 14 bring much to love. The use of the themes keep you however on edge, as the main theme (which I consider is the headless horseman theme) is used almost in each track. I love it when it gets full orchestral power (with especially the choral mass backing it up) but still, it is perhaps used a bit too much. It receives a fantastic menacing choral version during "The Story..." though. The other theme which is the main love theme reminds me sometimes a bit of Edward Scissorhands, and it gets its finest moment during track 2 "Main Titles", amongst several others.

The better moments of pure gothic music are for instance the first "Introduction", with Batman heroism briefly in "Masbath's Terrible Death" and the energetic main theme moments during "The Church Battle" and "The Windmill" (even though the end is pushing it). I like these moments, I love the female vocal and the dreamy use of the main theme. But the music still demands your very personal attention. Plus, the long album is overkilling it as well (for me at least).

Overall, Sleepy Hollow is Elfman doing his thing. I have no doubt that many will see this as the next best thing, but I also know that others will have a hard time during several moments. This is no tragedy since the score is no easy one to begin with. However you have to admire the sheer energy, the pure gothic stamp and the amazing dark mood that makes Sleepy Hollow what it is today, namely an Elfman classic for dark lovers of the era. Chop off 15 minutes and it could have given us a more coherent listen, because quite frankly Sleepy Hollow remains a score that needs (for a non too grand Elfman fan) a lot of repeated tries and patience. Just don't lose your head over its overbearing ruckus.


1. Introduction (4.15)
2. Main Titles (3.09)
3. Young Ichabod (1.19)
4. The Story... (4.28)
5. Masbath's Terrible Death (1.35)
6. Sweet Dreams (1.11)
7. A Gift (2.26)
8. Into the Woods / The Witch (3.32)
9. More Dreams (1.42)
10. The Tree of Death (9.36)
11. Bad Dream / Tender Moment (3.33)
12. Evil Eye (3.42)
13. The Church Battle (3.33)
14. Love Lost (5.16)
15. The Windmill (6.18)
16. The Chase (3.11)
17. The Final Confrontation (4.16)
18. A New Day! (1.29)
19. End Credits (3.17)

Total Length: 68.02
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 28 votes - average 3.39/5)

Released by

Hollywood Records HR-62262-2 (regular release 1999)

Conducted by

Allan Wilson

Orchestrations by

Conrad Pope, David Slonaker & Albert Olson

Performed by

The Metro Voices & The London Oratory School Schola