Elliot Goldenthal

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Elliot Goldenthal
Elliott Goldenthal crop 2006.jpg
Elliott Goldenthal in 2006
Born (1954-05-02) May 2, 1954 (age 60)
Brooklyn, New York
Years active 1984-present

Elliot Goldenthal (born May 2, 1954) is an American composer of contemporary classical music. He was a student of Aaron Copland and John Corigliano, and is best known for his distinctive style and ability to blend various musical styles and techniques in original and inventive ways. He is also a film-music composer, and won the Academy Award for Best Original Score in 2002 for his score to the motion picture Frida, directed by his long-time partner Julie Taymor.

Life and career[edit]

Goldenthal was born on May 2, 1954, as the youngest son of a Jewish housepainter father and a Catholic seamstress mother in Brooklyn, New York City, where he was influenced from an early age by music from all cultures and genres. Both pairs of Goldenthal's grandparents emigrated to the United States from Bucharest and Iași, Romania.[1] Goldenthal lived in a multi-cultural part of town, and this is reflected in his works.[2] He attended John Dewey High School in Brooklyn where, at the age of 14, he had his very first ballet Variations on Early Glimpses performed; he continued to display his eclectic musical range, performing with rock bands in the seventies.[citation needed] He then studied music full-time at the prestigious Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with composer John Corigliano (whom he greatly admired), to earn his Bachelor of Music degree (1977) and Master of Music (1979) in musical composition.[3][4][not in citation given]

He lives in New York City "happily unmarried", as he once put it,[5] with his partner Julie Taymor, whom he met in 1980 through a mutual acquaintance, who told him, "I know a person whose work is just as grotesque as yours"; they have an office/apartment where they both live and work.[6]

Goldenthal has written works for concert hall, theater, dance and film. His work includes music for films such as Alien 3, Michael Collins, Batman Forever, Heat and the Academy Award-winning score for Julie Taymor's "Frida", a movie in which Goldenthal had a small acting part as a "Newsreel Reporter". Incidentally he also had a small part in the stage show "Juan Darièn" as a "Circus Barker / Streetsinger".[7] See below for links to individual score pages; some with audio samples.

The Tony-Award winning carnival mass Juan Darièn (1988/'96) and The Green Bird (1999), based on a story by Carlo Gozzi, are a few of the composer's theater works.

In 2006, Goldenthal completed his original three-act opera with Taymor entitled Grendel an adaptation of the John Gardner novel which told the story of Beowulf from the monster's point of view. It had its world premiere in early June 2006 at the Los Angeles Opera, the role of Grendel performed by Eric Owens, with an audience containing the likes of John Williams and Emmy Rossum; the opus was added to the Los Angeles Opera's permanent repertoire and earned Goldenthal a nomination in April 2007 for the Pulitzer Prize for Music.[8][9]

In 2008 Goldenthal reunited with Michael Mann to score 1930s gangster movie Public Enemies and in 2009 he scored another Julie Taymor Shakespeare adaptation, The Tempest.[10]

He cites acclaimed Japanese composer Tōru Takemitsu as an influence and someone he styles his own career on; Goldenthal has said that the lines between traditional concert music and orchestral film score have become more blurred which is the way he thinks it should be.[11] He has also collaborated four times with Irish director Neil Jordan, scoring movies like Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles and In Dreams.


Elliot Goldenthal has been called by film-music collectors the "thinking man's composer" and a generally more cerebral choice for film makers and fans of film music alike.[12][13] He is known for his often intense experimentation, intelligent nuances and willingness to try new and unconventional techniques and processes (For two good examples of this, see Alien 3 (soundtrack) and Titus (soundtrack)). This experimental approach has led him to score movies in almost every genre from horror to action to Shakespeare adaptations;[14] the only type of film he has not yet scored is comedy, but at the same time he has composed comedic motifs for several films such as Demolition Man and the more colorful Batman sequels, which are considered tongue-in-cheek types of movies in the first place. It is this openness to try his hand at anything which has gained him a lot of respect in the music and film communities and with fans. He is not as well known, or popular, as other film composers such as the "household names" John Williams, Danny Elfman, or Hans Zimmer but he is widely appreciated among film score fans for his sheer musical abilities and distinctive style; a style, which though artistically appreciated among film music enthusiasts, some have said can be too experimental or inaccessible to the mainstream listener because of Goldenthals passion for defying the norms of contemporary classical music.[15][16][17][18]

Atonal and brutal in his action music, sometimes in underscore and tends to use very fast French horn bending tones/whining; although Goldenthal himself has said that he doesn't "hear" atonal and tonal, rather "I either hear melody or I hear sonority".[11]

Goldenthal often works with a team he assembled after the soundtrack for Drugstore Cowboy: Teese Gohl as supervising producer, Robert Elhai as orchestrator, Joel Iwataki as sound engineer and Richard Martinez as electronic music producer.[19] According to Martinez, "a lot of composers want to focus on writing their music, and that's what [his] team allows Elliot to do."[19]

At the website filmscoremonthly.com, a former classmate of Goldenthal's replied to a piece on the Sphere score from 1998 saying that when he and Elliot were both studying at the Manhattan School of Music in the '70s Elliot was already experimenting with unusual techniques and when studying trumpet once, Elliot asked him to "buzz into the wrong end of the mouthpiece and sing into it as well", he thought he was crazy but looking back after a decade or so of Goldenthals film and concert music he said that he "was just way ahead of the rest of us."[20]

Lists of works[edit]

Film works[edit]

Concert music works[edit]

  • 1974 - Three Pieces for Piano
  • 1977 - Requiem Mass
  • 1979 - Sonata for Double Bass and Piano
  • 1980 - Brass Quintet No. 1, Brass Quintet No. 2 (No. 2 has been recorded recently by Extension Ensemble, New York)
  • 1980 - Jabberwocky for Woodwind Quartet (set to the poem by Lewis Caroll)
  • 1988 - Pastime Variations
  • 1990 - Shadow Play Scherzo
  • 1996 - Fire Water Paper: A Vietnam Oratorio (recorded in 1995, featuring Yo Yo Ma)
  • 1999 - Los Heraldos Negros
  • 2013 - String Quartet No. 1 "The Stone Cutters"
  • 2013 - Adagietto Doloroso
  • 2014 - Symphony in G# Minor (premiered on May 8, 2014 at Pacific Symphony Orchestra)
  • 2014 - Grand Gothic Suite (inspired by Goldenthal's Batman scores, premiered at Fimucite 2014 in Tenerife July 12, 2014)

Theatre works[edit]

  • 1984 - Play, "The King Stag" (production of Carlo Gozzi's play by Andrei Serban)
  • 1985 - Musical, "Liberty's Taken" (an original musical co-created with David Suehsdorf and Julie Taymor)
  • 1986 - Musical, "The Transposed Heads" (adapted by Sidney Goldfarb and Julie Taymor from the novel by Thomas Mann)
  • 1988 - Play (Commedia), "The Serpent Woman" (production of Carlo Gozzi's Commedia)
  • 1988 - Musical, "Juan Darien: A Carnival Mass" (off-Broadway, reworked and recorded for Broadway in 1996; Co-bookwriter, lyricist, arranger of the Latin text.)
  • 1997 - Ballet, "Othello" (a ballet with choreography by Lar Lubovitch)
  • 1999 - Musical "The Green Bird" (on Broadway production of Carlo Gozzi's work)
    Stage director: Julie Taymor
  • 2006 - Opera, "Grendel" (opened June at Los Angeles Opera; not released on CD yet as of October 2012)
    Libretto: Julie Taymor and J D. McClatchy, after the novel Grendel by John Gardner, and the poem Beowulf
    Stage director: Julie Taymor
  • 2013 -Play, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (directed by Julie Taymor, written for the Theatre for a new audience production of the Shakespeare play which opened the new Polansky Theater in Brooklyn)

Awards and nominations[edit]

  • (2007) Pulitzer Prize for Music in Music Nomination for his acclaimed "Grendel" opera
  • (2004) Emmy Awards Nomination, "Great Performances: Dance in America" - Outstanding Music Composition for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special (Dramatic Underscore)
  • (2004) ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards Win, "S.W.A.T." - Top Box Office Film Score
  • (2003) World Soundtrack Awards 2003 Win, "Frida" - Best Original Soundtrack of the Year
  • (2003) World Soundtrack Awards 2003 Win, "Frida" - Soundtrack Composer of the Year
  • (2003) World Soundtrack Awards 2003 Nomination', "Burn It Blue" from "Frida" - Best Original Song Written for a Film
  • (2002) Academy Awards Win, "Frida" - Best Original Score
  • (2002) Academy Awards Nomination, "Frida", "Burn It Blue" - Best Original Song
  • (2002) Golden Globes Win, "Frida" - Best Original Score
  • (2002) World Soundtrack Awards 2002 Nomination, "The Dream Within" from "Final Fantasy: The Sprits Within" - Best Original Song Written for a Film
  • (1999) CFCA awards Nomination, "The Butcher Boy" - Best Original Score
  • (1998) ASCAP awards Win, "Batman & Robin" - Top Box Office Film Score
  • (1998) Chicago Film Critics Awards Nomination, "The Butcher Boy" - Best Original Score
  • (1998) Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards 1998 Win, "The Butcher Boy" - Best Original Score
  • (1997) Tony Awards Nomination, "Juan Darien: A Carnival Mass" (Broadway Production) - Best Original Musical Score
  • (1997) ASCAP awards Win, "A Time to Kill" - Top Box Office Film Score
  • (1997) Grammy Nomination, "Defile and Lament" from "A Time to Kill"
  • (1996) Academy Awards Nomination, "Michael Collins" - Best Original Score
  • (1996) Golden Globe Nomination, "Michael Collins" - Best Original Score
  • (1996) ASCAP awards Win, "Batman Forever" - Top Box Office Film Score
  • (1995) Grammy Nomination, "Batman Forever" - Best Instrumental Composition
  • (1995) ASCAP awards Win, "Interview with the Vampire" - Top Box Office Film Score
  • (1995) Golden Globe Nomination, "Interview with the Vampire" - Best Original Score
  • (1994) Academy Awards Nomination, "Interview with the Vampire" - Best Original Score
  • (1994) ASCAP awards Win, "Demolition Man" - Top Box Office Film Score
  • (1990) Edinburgh Festival Critics Choice Award Win, "Juan Darien: A Carnival Mass" - Best Music
  • (1990) American Academy of Arts and Letters Richard Rodgers Award Win, "Juan Darien: A Carnival Mass" - Best Music
  • (1988) Obie Award Win, "Juan Darien: A Carnival Mass" (Original Production) - Best Music

Among others including the Arturo Toscanini Award, the New Music for Young Ensembles composition prize, the Stephen Sondheim Award in Music Theater and a New York Foundation for the Arts fellowship.[21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Interviu în exclusivitate cu Elliot Goldenthal" (in Romanian). TVR.ro. 2011-10-08. Retrieved 2011-11-24. 
  2. ^ Elliot Goldenthal - Family and Companions - Yahoo! Singapore Movies
  3. ^ Elliot Goldenthal at Hollywood.com
  4. ^ Dan Goldwasser "The Sweet Revenge of Elliot Goldenthal". SoundtrackNet Interview (January 21, 2000).
  5. ^ Filmtracks: Elliot Goldenthal
  6. ^ "Julie Taymor and Elliot Goldenthal: United in Their Love of the Outsider," by Don Shewey
  7. ^ Elliot Goldenthal Concert & Stage: Juan Darien - A Carnival Mass (1996)
  8. ^ 2007 Pulitzer Prize Winners - PRIZE IN MUSIC, Citation
  9. ^ Page Title
  10. ^ Upcoming Film Scores: Elliot Goldenthal: Public Enemies
  11. ^ a b Elliot Goldenthal
  12. ^ "Goldenthal: Demolition Man". Movie-wave.net. Retrieved 2012-02-18. 
  13. ^ "Demolition Man (Elliot Goldenthal)". Filmtracks. 1993-11-23. Retrieved 2010-08-31. 
  14. ^ "Elliot Goldenthal". Filmtracks. Retrieved 2010-08-31. 
  15. ^ "Elliot Goldenthal". Soundonsound.com. Retrieved 2010-08-31. 
  16. ^ "In Dreams (Elliot Goldenthal)". Filmtracks. 1999-10-12. Retrieved 2010-08-31. 
  17. ^ "Batman Forever". Moviemusicuk.us. Retrieved 2010-08-31. 
  18. ^ "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (Elliot Goldenthal)". Filmtracks. 2001-07-03. Retrieved 2010-08-31. 
  19. ^ a b c Thomas Staudter (March 23, 2003). "...and the Music for 'Frida,' Produced in a Scarsdale Basement". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-01-30. Bigger film projects then were offered to Mr. Goldenthal, and to meet the demands he assembled a four-person team that included Teese Gohl as supervising producer, Robert Ehlai as orchestrator, Joel Iwataki as sound engineer and Mr." Martinez, who is known as Rick, as electronic music producer. 
  20. ^ "3/3/98: Sphere of Influence (Goldenthal)". Filmscoremonthly.com. Retrieved 2010-08-31. 
  21. ^ Michael Collins - The Filmmakers

External links[edit]