The Guardian: Have we reached peak Hans Zimmer?

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Paul MacLean
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The Guardian: Have we reached peak Hans Zimmer?

#1 Post by Paul MacLean » Thu Sep 21, 2017 11:27 am

Interesting article on the Guardian website which astutely discusses the over-dominance of the "Zimmer sound" in movies today, and the way it has homogenized film scoring...

https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmbl ... m-composer


Have we reached peak Hans Zimmer?

The #stopHansZimmer hashtag was created after the composer was brought in to provide the music for Blade Runner 2049, with critics claiming he’s too dominant

Jordan Hoffman

Monday 18 September 2017 10.08 EDT
Last modified on Monday 18 September 2017 12.13 EDT

Rare is it that composers of instrumental music can get the time of day from the general public, but Hans Zimmer is a bona fide rockstar. His summer tour played to zealous fans throughout Europe and North America at venues such as Wembley Arena, Radio City Music Hall in New York, and a rousing set at Coachella. The Supermarine cue from his Dunkirk score has a ready spot on my iPhone’s playlist and, although the 60-year-old Frankfurt native is a phenomenon deserving our respect, but maybe it’s time to reel it in a little.

The latest news is that Icelandic composer Jóhann Jóhannson has been axed from Blade Runner 2049 and Zimmer and It composer Benjamin Wallfisch brought in to finish the project. (Originally he was set to be providing additional material.) After a summer of tense, throbbing Zimmermusik, I’m not the only one beginning to get irked at the man who has altered what every blockbuster is supposed to sound like these days.

To be fair, Zimmermusik (which is fun to say, especially since you can listen to it in your Musikzimmer), doesn’t all sound the same. Compare the wall of pounding, resonant percussion heard in Man of Steel to the peppy melodic line from Driving Miss Daisy. (Yes, that catchy, synthesized clarinet ditty was early Zimmermusik.) But in recent years the propulsive, repetitive themes that seem to already be playing before you notice them, which then bleed into the next scenes, are everywhere at the movies.

There’s a reason for this, and some of it is just human nature. When editors are putting a scene together they often use what is called a temp track: temporary music to help the picture flow until the new, original music is ready. Sometimes the temp tracks stick. (Ask Alex North, who was commissioned to write something for 2001: A Space Odyssey only to have Stanley Kubrick say: “You know, Richard Strauss, Aram Khachaturian and Johann Strauss actually work quite well, thanks.”) One of the most common temp tracks is Journey to the Line from Zimmer’s score to Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line.

Film industry people sometimes call this The Forbidden Cue because once it is in, producers will want it recreated. (Even Zimmer has had to tell his staff not to put it in as a stopgap.) With its ticking sound, emergence from quiet to loud and rising pitch that never quite reaches resolution, it’s something that just works with almost anything dramatic.

So many films try to ape this (perhaps from the inertia of its use in temps) that it is increasingly difficult to tell the acolytes from the original. Mad Max: Fury Road’s score was composed by Junkie XL and Wonder Woman’s score was composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams, but listen to the cues Escape and We Are All To Blame from each one respectively and tell me they don’t sound yanked directly from one of the Dark Knight soundtracks.

Zimmer is fond of incorporating something called a Shepard tone in his scores. It is like an aural version of an MC Escher illustration. At first you think a theme is rising in pitch, but because of multiple lines varying in volume, it just keeps repeating itself. Hollywood producers, never known to shy from flogging a dead horse, are currently so taken with Hans Zimmer that the contracts keep flying in with the regularity of an endless loop.

What’s particularly galling in the Blade Runner 2049 case is that this sort of bombast has nothing to do with Ridley Scott’s 1982 film, save for the closing credits. Even worse, that film’s composer, Vangelis, is still alive and kicking. His 2016 album Rosetta has all of the electro-noir that created the perfect mood 35 years ago. It’s not that Zimmer can’t still be brilliant (take a second look/listen at Interstellar; I doubt any of his copycats could come close) it’s just that maybe it’s OK to let someone else have a turn from time to time?

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Re: The Guardian: Have we reached peak Hans Zimmer?

#2 Post by Eric W. » Thu Sep 21, 2017 7:44 pm

Nice find!

No Vangelis on the new Blade Runner is flat out criminal.

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Paul MacLean
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Re: The Guardian: Have we reached peak Hans Zimmer?

#3 Post by Paul MacLean » Thu Sep 21, 2017 7:56 pm

Eric W. wrote:
Thu Sep 21, 2017 7:44 pm
Nice find!

No Vangelis on the new Blade Runner is flat out criminal.
Credit to my friend John Ross who posted the link on Facebook.

I'd love to have heard a Vangelis score for the new film (even if it was a lousy movie). But it sounds very much as though the studio is micromanaging the production, and I honestly wonder, even if Vangelis had scored it, if the studio would have deemed Vangelis himself not "commercial" or "accessible" enough for mainstream audiences, and tossed his score too.

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Re: The Guardian: Have we reached peak Hans Zimmer?

#4 Post by AndyDursin » Thu Sep 21, 2017 10:25 pm

Not that I especially care, but I am guessing this movie probably isn't all it's cracked up to be. No reviews, no real buzz either, which is surprising.

Good article though. It's always interesting how Zimmer "grooms" his minions. This Wallfisch fellow seems to be his new "orchestral guy" for example.

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Re: The Guardian: Have we reached peak Hans Zimmer?

#5 Post by Monterey Jack » Thu Sep 21, 2017 10:32 pm

I just wonder if there are kids these days avidly collecting and listening to Zimmer scores outside of the films. I can't picture some ten-year-old jamming to the Wonder Woman rock guitar riff from Batman V Superman. :lol:

Seriously...you EVER meet someone under the age of twenty who owns a movie score? Even the "good old stuff"?

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Re: The Guardian: Have we reached peak Hans Zimmer?

#6 Post by Paul MacLean » Sat Sep 23, 2017 1:27 am

I stared noticing something odd way back in the 80s, when when Zimmer's name started replacing those of various directors' usual composers. Georges Delerue was mysteriously absent from Bruce Beresford’s Driving Miss Daisy -- which Zimmer scored in his place. A few years later, Delerue's music was thrown out of his longtime collaborator Mike Nichols' film Regarding Henry -- and replaced with a score by Zimmer. Zimmer also scored The Power of One for John G. Avildson -- who had never made a movie with anyone but Bill Conti prior to that. Ron Howard seemed to have a very good relationship going with James Horner -- but Zimmer did Backdraft.

And it continues to this day. James Horner wrote a wonderful score for The Amazing Spiderman, but who did they call on for the sequel? Zimmer. George Fenton did a superb score for the BBC's acclaimed series Planet Earth, but who scored Planet Earth II? Zimmer.

I get a strong sense Zimmer is a real "yes-man". Unlike Bernard Herrmann, whose attitude was "Shut-up and let me do what's right for the film!" Zimmer gives filmmakers exactly what they ask for -- which on the surface seems “conscientious” (but which of these two composers’ scores are more effective, and memorable?)

John Boorman offered a telling anecdote of what it was like to work with Hans Zimmer, and how he perceived Zimmer's contribution vs. that of an outside observer:

"Hans Zimmer [wrote] on the sleeve of the Beyond Rangoon soundtrack recording ‘Each piece of music owes as much to the director as it does the the composer. John is very knowledgeable in the respect of music’. Giles Jacob, director of the Cannes Film Festival, told me the score vulgarized the film, however.”

And I think it is absolutely true -- Zimmer vulgarizes a lot of the films he scores. His music is frequently loud and over-emphatic, and invests a movie — and a director’s perception of his own work — with a bloated self-importance.

I personally find Zimmer scores to be like fast food -- slickly promoted, safely familiar, predictable, easily digestible -- and thrown together by the team of people (of dubious culinary inclination). And the way there is now a McDonald's (or competing clone) in every town, so there is too a Zimmer (or Zimmer-esque) score in most movies. It seems really delicious and "cool" on first bite (at least to the undiscriminating), but after a while one starts to crave something more substantial (and just plain different). He scores a movie as if he was scoring a trailer -- selling the film like a product, so the audience will think they are watching the greatest thing ever, instead of enhancing what the movie actually is.

If the score isn't by Hans Zimmer, it's by one of his staff. And if it's not by one of them, it's by someone who could probably write better music, but filmmakers are so brainwashed by the slickness of the Zimmer sound, it seems to be unescapable.

And you know things are bad when even John Williams is forced to do the "Zimmer shtick"...


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Re: The Guardian: Have we reached peak Hans Zimmer?

#7 Post by AndyDursin » Sat Sep 23, 2017 8:50 am

He is the Michael Bay of film scoring if you think about it. Same level of overstatement and generic overimportance, etc.

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Re: The Guardian: Have we reached peak Hans Zimmer?

#8 Post by Eric W. » Mon Sep 25, 2017 3:07 pm

Depressing

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Re: The Guardian: Have we reached peak Hans Zimmer?

#9 Post by Paul MacLean » Tue Sep 26, 2017 11:29 am

What bugs me is that, if you take the scores from Superman: The Movie, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and the 1989 Batman, all three scores sound very different from each other (heck, Jarre's Thunderdome is completely different from May's Road Warrior!).

But the scores for Man of Steel, Mad Max Fury Road and the Nolan Batman scores are all very similar.

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Re: The Guardian: Have we reached peak Hans Zimmer?

#10 Post by Monterey Jack » Tue Sep 26, 2017 12:41 pm

Has there ever been another time in the history of film where the "sound" of one particular composer has so heavily influenced EVERY film score to the degree that Zimmer has over the last fifteen years? It's like that joke from an episode of The Simpsons, "Lisa's Wedding" (which flash-forwarded to Lisa falling in love during her college years), where Homer and Marge are in bed, watching TV, and Marge is like, "You know, Fox transitioned into a hardcore pornography channel so gradually, I didn't even notice!" :lol:

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