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  • What is Hans Zimmer's greatest score?

     I am asking this question sincerely of the fans of Hans Zimmer.  I am not comprehending why he is getting the biggest gigs these days.  Perhaps I have not heard his greatest work.  Only his lesser works.  Yes, that must be it.  Though I'm puzzled because there must be a lot of the lesser ones.  So I wonder - what is his best score? 

    I understand why John Williams gets the big gigs, or Danny Elfman, or in the past Jerry Goldsmith, Miklos Rosza, Erich Korngold, Max Steiner, David Raksin, Dmitri Tiomkin or Bernard Herrmann. 

    But I don't understand why Hans Zimmer now...

  • William, I think this is your second recent post that has attempted to draw some Zimmer comment (dare I say hatred) from this community, not sure why. My answer to your question would be "whichever one the general public think fitted the movie the best".

  • Probably a function of his relationship with a number of key Directors.  Seems like Ron Howard, Ridley Scott, Nancy Myers, and Gore Verbinski in particular like his work and/or like working with him.

  • "Greatest score" is a hard question to answer (assuming you mean film score). Many might argue that John Williams' score to "Jaws" is his greatest film score in terms of the way it enhanced the film, but that wouldn't be my choice as his finest score in terms of composition skill and greatness. I enjoy a lot of Hans Zimmer's music (e.g. Gladiator, Thin Red Line) but I listen to it in context, not in any academic way as a measure of "greatness". In this modern age I find the blurred lines between traditional composition and sound design challenging to reconcile in terms of any absolute judgements. Since we are now firmly in times where the recorded sonic qualities are arguably as relevant as compositional sophistication, it gives us a dilemma. It's no longer just about what can be written on paper and performed, the ability to touch an audience is now just as much about "how it sounds". No?

  • Maybe because he can delivery really fast. As in history of film music often happens, that job was given not to the best but to the fastest composer. If you listen to Lone ranger soundtrack, you'll find a lot of Pirates of the carribean recycled stuff. Zimmer is known for not to be very original composer but very fast working with a lot of recyclation.On the other side, listen to Williams Jurassic park and Schindler's list soundtracks. You never ever notice, that this soundtracks was written at same year by one person, not one cue! And this is FWIK only one case when Williams need work of another orchestrators to catch deadlines. I think Zimmer doesnt orchestrate his stuff...

    If you are interested more in this, read superb book from Mervin Cooke - A history of film music.

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    Thanks for commenting. Honestly,  I'm not trying to create hatred at all, just interested in why people like it. 


    @Arbee said:

    Since we are now firmly in times where the recorded sonic qualities are arguably as relevant as compositional sophistication

    That is true that the sonic qualities are being used, but it is because of laziness.  It is possible to do music that has almost no musical qualities and is in fact just a sound effect.  ACtually,  SOUND EFFECTS ALONE can be used as an accompaniment to a film.  So does that mean you  should do that? 

    What the great film composers of the past (and a few today) do is going farther than the minimum possible effort to create an artistic work that did more.  And this with Zimmer is a big change in my view.  Because he is the biggest first film score writer to do basically non-musical scores that ignore almost all elements of composition. 

    If you want to find the absolute OPPOSITE of Zimmer, listen to the scores of Erich Korngold.  He called them his "operas without words."  (He wrote one of the great operas of the 2oth century, Die Tote Stadt.) They were so fantastically complex in harmony, counterpoint, total mastery of orchestration (which he did), melodic invention and form (using the Wagnerian leitmotif approach) that  they are great music on their own.  And yet they work perfectly with the films they scored.  He did not HAVE to do all that. You can elect to do the minimum, especially now with all the digital shortcuts, but because he did more he created great art. 

  • Sh!!T a fucking brick....or words to that effect. Hahahaha.

    What anyone has to understand today for the millionth time is most of the films that were scored by the great writers like Herrmann et all WOULD NOT BE MADE TODAY FOR  TODAYS AUDIENCE. THE FILMS! NOT THE MUSIC. THE FILMS.

    Have you ever stopped to to listen to a 17 year old female talk? Have you?  Most of it is basic fucking nonsense. It's a fucking drivel machine.

    How on earth is todays audience going to be expected to cope with the type of scores written 50 years ago? This is the texting community of the facebook era for  Christ sake. You might as well get them to try and read Aldous Huxley's Brave New World. They would be reading about themselves and wouldn't even realise it.

    The reason why there are now so many """""composers"""" out there today is simple. Answers on the back of a postcard if you please.

    Forget it.

  • This thread will be closed immediately if it derails (as it usually does as soon as these topics and our forum's Usual Suspects converge [^o)] ).

    /Dietz - Vienna Symphonic Library
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    @PaulR said:

    What anyone has to understand today for the millionth time is most of the films that were scored by the great writers like Herrmann et all WOULD NOT BE MADE TODAY FOR  TODAYS AUDIENCE. THE FILMS! NOT THE MUSIC. THE FILMS.

    But dont forget that audience is only as sophisticated as quality of music/film delivered. Time is money and great art cannot be delivered in some deadline margins - of course if the art is not created by genious. Zimmer is not genious... [;)]

  • I accept that sound design, as opposed to composition, is a different skill set but to call it simply laziness I believe is very unfair to those who do in fact put immense time and effort into creating exceptional sounds. Those sounds (and rhythms) often take up a lot a sonic space and in that context often leave little room for the textural and harmonic density of traditional orchestration. But, yes there are plenty of lazy "composers" out there who get by, but I'm careful not to over generalise.

    Yes, the modern texting and fb society has a very short attention span, but isn't that the challenge of every generation of composers and artists in general - to find a way to connect with them and touch their emotions using the full range of tools and techniques available at the time?

  • The whole point is - the directors do connect with them. If you think it's a challenge to connect with 18 to 30 year olds - then you should take up golf. That's much more of a challenge than a 2 hour film in today's money. 

    Whatever the best film was that Hans scored - then that was Hans best score. Sound design is normally what is best for today's films. A full score on an orchestra is going to be almost impossible to incorporate  in to most films today. They need repetitive minimal sound most of the time that gets faster and slower because most directors today have no fucking clue on how to pace a film and thus rely on Hans to chug at different tempos at the appropriate place. There's good money in chugging at appropriate places in films. I may try it one day.

  • What on earth has Hollywood got to do with art?

  • I would buy the so-called Sound Design paradigm as an "alternative" to a traditional orchestral film-score, IF:

    a) There was some actual and sophisticated sound design involved. There isn't, and hasn't been in this case at least. Hans' sound design skills and output are absolutely commensurate with his symphonic skills and output (i.e. puerile and unworthy of mention). People who think Hans and his team are doing anything special regarding synthesis should spend a month with Eric Persing, and then another month at IRCAM, read a little Curtis Roads and David Cope, to get the first glimpse of what adult Sound Design is about. DJ sound design is for pre-school. So, with that out the window, we come to

    b) If somebody is ACTUALLY good in synthesis and it's not easy - the otherwise great composer Maurice Jarre's embarassing Witness being an example - then that is what they should do, and leave the symphonic forces out of the equation completely. A score doesn't have to be "Romantic" to be poignant and effective. But the turd directors and producers that do demand the sound of an orchestra (thank Heavens they still do), cannot differentiate between an adequate score, and a mephitic one...

    I came back tonight having survived another "gem" of a score in the movies by a guy I have not heard of before (and hopefully won't again either), that elevates Giacchino's Star Treks and Hans' total oeuvre to the level of the Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. The movie was Elysium.

    To answer the thread's question. Without knowing more than say 10-12 of Hans' scores, I would say that the music to The Last Samurai was at least satisfying. Incidentally, Gladiator was a shameful job, as one of the two main themes was completely pilfered from Vangelis, and the other utterly inappropriate for the subject matter. But I suppose who pays any attention to the subject matter these days?...

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    @Dietz said:

    This thread will be closed immediately if it derails (as it usually does as soon as these topics and our forum's Usual Suspects converge ).


    Please go easy on Paul, Dietz.  He usually makes some of the most profound and thought provoking points in these forum "discussions" we have it's just that his presentation is a little crude sometimes that's all.  Instead of seeing the forum as a place for friendly conversation where we are all sitting around sipping tea, Paul sees it as a bar room brawl where we are all half in the bag drunk.   

    And on that note, I think Paul hits the nail on the head here once again.  Thanks to the proliferation of technology today, people are craving instant gratification.  They don't want to think anymore.  It's too much work.  Just spoon feed the emotions to me.  Let the music tell me how I'm supposed to feel and hurry up about it because there are three responses to my response on Facebook that I need to respond to.

    Talk about lazy composing?  Let's talk about lazy writing.  Look at the endless parade of "reality" TV shows now.  Instead of finding bright, talented and gifted artists to work together on something memorable and groundbreaking it's easier to take a camera and document the trials and tribulations of a bunch of dysfunctional losers who are left to their own devices.  Many movies now are just organized reality TV shows with multi-million $$$$$ budgets.

    I actually liked some of Zimmer's earlier works.  One film in particular was his soundtrack to Rainman. It was a very simple and minimal score where you have this bright flute-like sound that soars above the mostly synthetic accompaniment.  The flute sound was a simple gesture in the middle of this synthetic complexity and rhythm.  Although simple, it drove the narrative and commanded the ensemble.  It kind of represented Dustin Hoffman's character Raymon; a simple mind in it's own little world but commanding the other characters in the film around him and, in the end, changing Tom Cruise's character forever.  Nice work but that was back in 1987.

    Somebody else already touched on this earlier but I think Zimmer's biggest problem is he takes too much on and doesn't have enough time.  even with his army of sub-composers under him.  But then again, and back to Paul's point, when you consider the quality of the films he's scoring for, why bother spending much time at all.  

  • Paul R states that films today are shit so the music is shit. 

    that is not true in the case of Dark Knight, and Dark Knight Rises which are powerful, maybe truly great films. And this is what disturbs me.  The music is so trite and cliched that I am repelled from the film. 

    I then think of the nice elfman score for the older Batman, and how that approach  - real musical scoring - would have resulted in this particular case - right now - in a truly great combination of music and film.  But that is not possible now since everything is "sound design."

    Guess what - MUSIC IS SOUND DESIGN.

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    @PaulR said:

    What on earth has Hollywood got to do with art?

    It should!!!

  • Yes agreed - music is sound design, but traditional european composition and orchestration technique does not equal all of music.

    Interesting debate that I see in book publishing all the time - does a highly popular mass market fiction title have more value than a sophisticated fine art literary work that sells few copies but wins literary awards? Answer: it depends who you ask. If you ask the public, they couldn't care less, they just "like what they like". if you ask a skilled literary writer they'll say mass market fiction is crap. If you ask a publisher, they'll say without mass market fiction sales they wouldn't be able to support their more artistic fine literature titles. Perhaps if flim makers had the same moral sense (and perhaps some do) to use the profits from box-office cash cows to fund some high quality projects, we could be a little more at peace with it.

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    @William said:

    that is not true in the case of Dark Knight, and Dark Knight Rises which are powerful, maybe truly great films. And this is what disturbs me.  The music is so trite and cliched that I am repelled from the film.

    Here the problem is not Hans Zimmer - the problem is you. The Dark Knight made $1 billion and was highly acclaimed by audiences and critics alike. If you really break it down, there are only 2 purposes for a film like that:  to make money and to satisfy the consumers of popular entertainment so that they'll spend money on associated products and future installments of the franchise. By these two measures alone, it was a total success. Obviously the music did not hold it back.

    Now, I'm not saying that you should like the music, or that the music is particularly great. What I'm saying is this: why should anyone expect Zimmer's music (or the modern soundtrack in general) to sound any different? Time and time again, Hans Zimmer has come in and done his thing, and the movies have made billions of dollars. If you're in the business of film, and you share the two goals outlined above (making money, satisfying consumers) you look at that and you say "Get me Hans Zimmer..." or more likely "Get me someone who sounds like Hans Zimmer." That's where we are now, with regard to mainstream commercial cinema.

    There are filmmakers who actually want to have good/interesting music in their films, and there are composers who can give it to them, but that music doesn't necessarily appeal to you. That's because FILM has changed, and so has MUSIC. The creative and market forces that would dictate using a Korngoldian score do not exist right now. That style was most prominent at a time when that type of music was a popular type of music. Since then, film composers have learned that recorded music, as a medium, is not just for capturing musicians in a room, but in fact allows you to put a magnifying glass over particular sounds. When music was only transmitted via musical notation, composers had little control over timbre other than by choosing the instrumentation and hoping for the best. But once composers wrapped their heads around the ability to set a single specific sound in stone, timbre began to take over from tune as the dominant paradigm. Synthetic instruments have increased the timbral palette exponentially. A film soundtrack today could be created by banging on empty paint cans with microphones inside them. Is it music? I'm not sure. Is it great Sunday afternoon listening? Definitely not. Could it be the best approach to scoring a particular film? Absolutely. The music you like is of a time, and that time is past. The default approach to scoring is no longer "get 50 musicians and write 20 great tunes." There are infinite ways of exploring the merger of sound and image. I do think that it's a shame composers don't try out a few more of those ways, but don't forget who's calling the shots most of the time: businessmen.

    And I'll say this to anyone who loves great music: why the hell would you go looking for great music in film scores? Sure, there are a few good ones, but there are literally centuries worth of great pieces that have nothing to do with movies - why look for musical satisfaction in some hokey studio picture starring some hokey thespian?

    PS, I work in the film industry in a creative (non-musical) capacity

    PPS, the Dark Knight Rises is irredeemably bad and no score could change that.

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    @clamnectar said:

    And I'll say this to anyone who loves great music: why the hell would you go looking for great music in film scores?

    Because it should be like that. Because Prokofiev (film music originator and one of the most emulated composer in film industry!), Rozsa, Herrmann composed like that. Because of Williams.

  • I do not have a facebook account. I do not have a twitter account. I don't even like coming onto forums and making statements of any kind. I have been in the cinema when the film was so utterly boring that sporadic fighting broke out in the stalls and spread to the circle just to relieve the whole thing.

    Hans did the music to a film I enjoyed but can't rember the name of hitherto. It was about a bloke and his girlfriend. True Romance. Funny film.

    Some of the low budget films put on in the 60's (a lot of them were black & white) usually British, were so bad, audiences just put up with it. What I can't stand about a lot of films over time is the fucking bollocks political points the writer/director is trying to get across. Usually left wing. What film scoring has to do with any of that I really can't say.