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Comments about the soundtrack for King Arthur (Hans Zimmer)

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Variety's Spice and the Road Ahead
• Posted by: Amondar Narundithar   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Thursday, July 29, 2004, at 3:19 p.m.
• IP Address:
• In Response to: The Zimmer Effect (Fraley)

First of all I wouuld like to thank Fraley for his excellent commentary of Hans Zimmers unique style; he put very well into words a piece of what I have desired to say for some time now. I am an avid fan of Hans Zimmer myself, as well as a collector of Williams, Horner amd the like. The variety itself seems a contradiction in the rapidly-splitting gap between the orchestral and the electronic, but despite such passionnate argumants of late over either the superiority or inferiority of Media Ventures scores, the overall effect tends to work quite well.

The reason for that is hinged, as Fraley so eloquently put it, neither on the fact that the electronic albums are better or worse, but on the fact that they're different. Orchestral scores are better suited for some occassions, electronic scores to others, and the 'music as heard on film' quality of each seems to vary more with a particular score than with a particular style. A few examples:

    John Williams has long been one of my favorite composers; my first soundtrack that I owed was Jurassic Psrk, and since then nearly a quarter of my collected scores have been his compositions. I agree that he is one of the best quality composers out there, not so much because of any particular score as his ability to consistently write excellent and original scores to his films. His themes are brilliant, and no two are quite alike; a uality that lends an elegance and uniqueness to each of his scores. However, Williams style tends to impact most often superficially, driving the emotional wheel well on the surface but often failing to impact quite as deeply as other scores. This quality is a strength to his albums when the listener desires a more relaxing listen where the music takes precedence and carries the emotional banner along with it, but it fails to capture the feeling that some composers provide.

    James Horner is undoubtedly one of the most controversial composers alive today, primarily (though not completely) because of his persistend 'self rip-offs' in which he will take themes or parts of themes from his previous works and recycle them in new films. However, his origionality handicap besides, James Horners music is some of the most beautiful on the market. His scores would best be described as 'sweet,' and generally provide quite a refreshing texture at there conclusion. His music is typically fairly passive (with the possible exception of some battle scenes) in that it quite easily lends the listener a passive feel themselves. This, coupled with the beauty and tenderness of muany of his scores, is often the key strength of his albums, but can be the very reason notto listen to his music if the listener is in the mood for something a bit more active and involving.

    Hans Zimmer's scores, on the other hand, tend to have a completely different set of strengths than the other scores. Strangely enough, the simplicity of the scores tend to make my usual first choice for a focused listen. As has been previously remarked, Zimmer's scores typically have only three or four types ofinstruments playing at any given moment, but the orchestration nonetheless fits together wonderfully, with everything flowing as a single sound rather than all the instruments seeming to wander their own seperate ways. His themes are simple and uninteresting on a basic level, as many have before complained, but they triumph themselves in their varied beauty, power, and feeling. Put quite simply, Hans Zimmers works for films such as Gladiator and The Last Samurai are some of the the most emotionally powerful scores I have ever heard, and tracks such as 'Am I Not Merciful', 'Now We Are Free', 'Red Warrior' and 'The Way of the Sword' are among my favorites on any album. However, there are some pieces of Zimmer's that, though providing very well on film, are downright harrowing on CD (The last 20 seconds of 'Red Warrior' and much of the music in Drop Zone come to mind).

I have not had as much experience with soundtracks as many of the visitors to this site (a fact due more to time available than enthusiasm; I'm still a student at High School, and many of you here have undoubtedly been collecting soundtracks for longer than I've been alive), but I pay enough attention casually to pick up a bit here and there. I usually take enough time on the second viewing of any film to do an assessment of the music, and I've noticed that Zimmer's compositions tend to compliment their respective films so well that they are all but inseperable from the films they support. Zimmer's music lends a sort of a soul to the film that few other composers can accomplish. For example, the next time you watch The Last Samurai, try to imagine viewing the final battle scene with music instead by John Williams or James Newton Howard. On the other side of the spectrum, try to imagine Star Wars with a score by Zimmer rather than Williams. Doesn't work either, does it? Which composer a director chooses for his or her film is, as with so many other things during production, less a choice of better or worse than it is one of how the director wants the film to be expessed. The choice of composer directly affects the feel of the final film, and whether that is classic Williams bombast, passionnate Horner melodies, or heavyset Zimmer intensity is entirely the choice of the film crew.

So, to wrap it up (I never meant this to grow so long), Zimmer is certainly different, but then again, who isn't? The technique of film scoring has changed a great deal over the years, but I still hold to the belief that it's improving as time goes on, and while there will always be the flukes that just don't work, overall the technique of film scoring is continually getting better. Part of that is seeing what workes and what doesn't, and you can be guarenteed that if one new technique crashes it's not going to be used very often again. The concept of electronic scores is still rather new, and I have faith that the explorers of the technique will continue to improve as their experience increases. There was a time when even the idea of the basic theme was new and untested. We've come a long way since Richard Wagner introduced the idea of leitmotif in the 19th century. Who knows what the future may hold if we maintain an open mind? Only time will tell.

Comments in this Thread:     Expand >>
  • The Zimmer Effect  (3355 views)
       Fraley - Wednesday, July 28, 2004, at 4:44 p.m.
    •    Re: The Zimmer Effect  (2628 views)
         jonathan - Sunday, August 1, 2004, at 11:56 a.m.
    •    Re: The Zimmer Effect  (3307 views)
         Jojo - Friday, July 30, 2004, at 6:54 a.m.
    •      Variety's Spice and the Road Ahead  (2920 views)    We're Here
         Amondar Narundithar - Thursday, July 29, 2004, at 3:19 p.m.
    •    Re: The Zimmer Effect  (3099 views)
         Some Guy - Thursday, July 29, 2004, at 2:11 p.m.
    •    Re: The Zimmer Effect  (2868 views)
         Amuro - Wednesday, July 28, 2004, at 8:30 p.m.
    •    Re: The Zimmer Effect  (3186 views)
         Zimmer_Fan(returned) - Wednesday, July 28, 2004, at 6:44 p.m.

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