Hans Zimmer - leader of the pack!
Born in Germany, Zimmer started his composing career in Europe where he was known for work with electronic instruments. For a period he played keyboards with the pop group "The Camera Club", two of whose members went on to form the group called "The Buggles" which brought "Video Killed the Radio Star" to the UK charts. In composing terms Zimmer's career has been a traditional one of working his way up through the ranks, writing jingles for commercials, frequent work on electronic scores (e.g. "The Last Emperor"), and collaborating with established composer Stanley Myers on films such as "Moonlighting" and "My Beautiful Laundrette", and then onto TV work in the US on programmes such as "Miami Vice".
Following earlier success with the incidental music for "The Lion King", "Rain Man" and "Thelma and Louise", Zimmer has now firmly arrived on the Hollywood movie scene with a string of first class film scores over the past decade. Having worked on a variety of different types of movie, he has been able to demonstrate a wide variety of styles. He is particularly adept at blending diverse styles into a musical fusion of classical, pop and world music. His style is very much to create simple thematic material, and then give them the Zimmer treatment to craft them into highly effective pieces of film music embodying the mood of a film, such that music and movie complement perfectly. Given his recent success with "Gladiator", Zimmer is definitely one to watch and Hollywood has chosen him to score Hannibal, the "Mission Impossible" sequel and the blockbuster "Pearl Harbour".
Given Zimmer's adaptability and his penchant for collaboration, it is difficult to characterise his style with a single example. The soundtrack to "True Romance" features only a modest amount of original music. Here Zimmer creates a lilting carefree tune with xylophone and pizzicato string sounds. It might suggest Afro-Caribbean steel bands, but it definitely has a feel of parties and celebtrations. The theme itself and sometimes just the gentle percussive sound recur as suggestions rather than a prominent motif throughout the movie. There is also some atmospheric electronic music for some very violent scenes. The combination of synthesisers and simple repetitive theme suggests Vangelis more than any other influence. However it now transpires that the theme is not original. On youtube here is the theme from True Romance (1993) and here is the theme from Badlands (1973) scored by George Tipton though this and other tracks by Carl Orff.
As another example, his Hannibal is superficially a standard horror soundtrack with various sampled effects and shocks. But at the same time, as well as replaying Bach's Aria from the Goldberg Variations (as previously "aired" in the original "Silence of the Lambs" by Howard Shore, and also incidentally appearing among Gabriel Yared's excellent music for "The English Patient"), Zimmer blends a wide variety of classical styles from plainsong, baroque and classical to the great moving adagios of Wagner and Mahler and even the otherworldly Ligeti. Having mentioned Ligeti (perhaps this is a strange association with the music for 2001), there is a delicious track called "Gourmet Valse Tartare" which is a witty rendition of a Blue Danube type waltz which goes off the rails. Though not composed by Zimmer is a great treat and included on the soundtrack album.
One of Zimmer's more recent file scores is "Black Hawk Down" and the soundtrack is very memorable indeed. The story is set in Somalia and based on a real incident. The soundtrack features a lot of atmospheric ethnic music representing the local region, and this is blended with some hard rock music representing the American soldiers. In places a helicopter sound effect also features in the mix. The credits include many contributions from instrumentalists, singers and other musicians including again the vocal talents of Lisa Gerard. Although some of Zimmer's scores have lacked the sparkle of originality, others stand out firmly from the crowd including "The Last Samurai" which in addition to its combat scenes has a spiritual side. In recent years Zimmer has been well-represented among the summer blockbusters with composer credits for both "King Arthur" and the "Thunderbirds" live action movie. The Pirates of the Caribbean films now number three, with the third CD installment "At World's End" including a substantial booklet - see these links for more information: Amazon.co.uk in the UK, or Amazon.com in the US.
Zimmer scored the romantic comedy called The Holiday where Jack Black plays the part of a film composer. This allowed the movie to include a number of film score references, and we can't help wondering if these reflect some of the films and composers who have influenced Hans Zimmer. There are a few references to the themes of John Williams for example, but Ennio Morricone's music for "Cinema Paradiso" seems especially well-represented and Zimmer seems to hint at this in the score itself. We also highly recommend Zimmer's fun score for Sherlock Holmes, and his atypical but ground-breaking score for the film Inception.
For the 4th "Pirates of the Caribbean" film "On Stranger Tides" Zimmer worked closely with Guitar Duo Rodrigo Y Gabriela. While the familiar Pirates themes are still included, they don't dominate the film to the same extent and the guitar playing gives an exciting extra dimension to the music. The film has now been on general release and the soundtrack CD (with some interesting dance-style "remixes") can be found via these links at Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com. To give you a flavour of the score here is a link where you can hear preview snippets of All the Tracks. Previews of Zimmer's latest score, for "The Dark Knight Rises" have been posted and are sounding very good - try this link at Empire Magazine for example. Also in comic-book hero mode, Zimmer has also scored "Man of Steel" and now "Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice" with Junkie XL.
Films by Hans Zimmer:
- Moonlighting - electronic effects with Stanley Myers
- The Last Emperor - co-production of soundtrack album
- My Beautiful Laundrette - musical performance
- Rain Man - mixing classical and pop styles getting an oscar nomination
- Diamond Skulls
- Black Rain - including a song
- Driving Miss Daisy - delightful syncopations
- Bird on a Wire - mostly an action score with bits of suspense and comedy, and added pop songs
- Chicago Joe and the Showgirl
- Days of Thunder
- The Neverending story II
- White Fang - additional music on this Basil Poledouris score
- Thelma and Louise - electric guitar solos expressing the freedom of the open road
- Drop Zone
- The Power of One - an incredible African choral score dating before Zimmer's work on the Lion King, with a small contribution by Beethoven
- Pacific Heights - this great score is centred on suspense motifs but encomposses a side range of influences, and brief classical interludes include a small clip from Mozart's Piano Concerto No.19 in F
- Backdraft - this firefighting movie has Zimmer's trademark mix of classical sounds plus contemporary popular music beats
- Regarding Henry
- A League of Their Own - a wonderful score, with easy transitions between hollywood score, lyrical melodies and a big band sound
- True Romance - a catchy theme tune based on music from the movie "Badlands" which inspired Tarantino's film, the original music is called "Gassenhauer" from "Schulwerk" by composer Carl Orff
- The Lion King - not the Elton John songs but lots of oscar-winning African mood, check out the Special Edition CD which has 4 of Zimmer's instrumental score tracks
- Crimson Tide
- Calendar Girl
- Green Card - delicate cues and jungle drums, amid Mozart wind concertos, tracks by Enya, and Theodorakis' "Zorba the Greek"
- Nine Months - some light classical music, perhaps a little like a Mozart slow movement
- The Thin Red Line - powerfully moving
- As Good as it Gets - a delicate underscore, and arrangements of Eric Idle's "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life"
- The Rock - includes some "rock music" appropriately enough among the steely determination and heroics
- Muppet Treasure Island - Zimmer didn't write the songs, but there is quite a lot of orchestral underscore in full pirate mode
- The Prince of Egypt
- The Peacemaker - Russian-sounding action music with some nocturnes by Chopin
- The Preacher's Wife
- The Road to Eldorado - animated feature with John Powell
- Gladiator - Mars from the Planets! and Eastern Mediterranean sounds with help from Lisa Gerrard
- Hannibal - Electronics, Bach, Classical, even Klaus Badelt
- Mission Impossible 2 - with Zimmer's familiar world fusion, includes some Spanish sounding acoustic guitar work, more vocals by Lisa Gerrard and lots of timpani for the climactic fight scene
- Pearl Harbour
- Black Hawk Down - an effective use of ethnic influences
- Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron - Zimmer contributed to the Bryan Adams soundtrack for this animated feature
- Johnny English - co-writing a song with Robbie Williams for this Spy Spoof
- Pirates of the Caribbean - although the main composer credit goes to Klaus Badelt of Zimmer's Media Ventures company, the music bears a striking resemblance to that of "Gladiator" and Zimmer is credited as "Score Producer" and "Music Editor" plus "Additional Music" credits go to Zimmer and many others from the team
- King Arthur
- The Last Samurai - a highly effective soundtrack, restrained when necessary and incorporating some traditional Japanese instrumentation
- The Ring - the soundtrack is a group effort led by Zimmer
- The Ring Two - another group effort using Zimmer's effective themes
- Thunderbirds - co-composed with Ramin Djawadi and incorporating Barry Gray's wonderful TV theme
- Batman Begins - with co-composer James Newton Howard
- Madagascar - the animated feature
- The Da Vinci Code - the long-awaited and to some people disappointing film adaptation of Dan Brown's novel
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest - eagerly anticipated sequel to the fun original scored by Klaus Badelt
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End - last in this fun Trilogy with the music introducing a lot more new material
- The Holiday - Jack Black plays a film composer in this movie, and the soundtrack has a lot of film score references especially "Cinema Paradiso" by Ennio Morricone
- The Simpsons Movie - Hans Zimmer demonstrates his versatility with a score very much in the tradition of The Simpsons series
- Kung Fu Panda - another animated movie with John Powell
- The Dark Knight - following on from "Batman Begins" this film partnered Zimmer with James Newton Howard
- Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa
- Angels & Demons - sequel to "The Da Vinci Code"
- It's Complicated - romantic comedy with a guitar-led theme, co-written with Heitor Pereira
- Sherlock Holmes - the soundtrack matches the film in being quite homorous and qirky and features a solo violin, since Holmes played the violin
- Henri 4 - with Zimmer's latest protege Henry Jackman
- Inception - another movie for director Christopher Nolan, this time with Zimmer as the sole composer who has crafted an unusual but highly-effective score
- Megamind - animation with co-composer Lorne Balfe, who has contributed additional music to many of Zimmer's recent films
- Rango - this score is a lot of fun with lots of Mexican and Western influences, and a main theme as quirky as the character looks
- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - the exciting guitar playing by the duo Rodrigo Y Gabriela adds an extra dimension to the score
- Kung Fu Panda 2 - again co-composer with John Powell
- Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows - extending and embellishing the gypsy music introduced in the first film, adding new darker material and incorporating Morricone's Two Mules for Sister Sara, some opera and an electronically altered version of Schubert's Die Forelle (plus additional music by Lorne Balfe)
- Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
- The Dark Knight Rises - this time Zimmer is doing the score without James Newton Howard and the previews sound great
- Rise of the Undead
- Man of Steel - reimaging the Superman tale
- The Lone Ranger - with additional music and arrangements by Geoff Zanelli - and in an homage to the TV series, there is a stirring arrangement of the march section from Rossini's William Tell Overture in the finale
- Mr. Morgan's Last Love
- 12 Years a Slave - getting some great reviews for film and score
- Rush - Formula One biopic about the rivalry between James Hunt and Niki Lauda
- The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - by Hans Zimmer and "The Magnificent Six" with memorable whispering vocals for the character of Electro
- Interstellar - powerful music featuring organ and orchestra
- Woman in Gold
- The Little Prince - with Richard Harvey
- Kung Fu Panda 3
- Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice - with Junkie XL
- Hidden Figures
- The Last Face
- The Baby Boss - with Steve Mazzaro
- Dunkirk - latest collaboration with Christopher Nolan, music with help from Lorne Balfe, Benjamin Wallfisch and Edward Elgar particularly Nimrod from his Enigma Variations
- Blade Runner 2049 - again with Benjamin Wallfisch, and musically some nods to the Vangelis original
TV and Game Music by Hans Zimmer:
- Miami Vice - not the well-known themes by Jan Hammer
- The Pacific - this miniseries is composed by Zimmer, Geoff Zanelli and Blake Neely
- Planet Earth II - narrated by David Attenborough, the theme is by Zimmer and the incidental music by Jacob Shea and Jasha Klebe for Bleeding Fingers Music includes many references to motifs from the main theme
- Blue Planet II - narrated by David Attenborough, music by Zimmer with Jacob Shea and David Fleming
Zimmer has also contributed to the world of Video Game Music by composing the themes for "Crysis 2". Other than the themes, the soundtrack credits say music by Borislav Slavov, Tilman Sillescu, Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe. The original game score for "Crysis" was composed by Inon Zur.
Hans Zimmer music recommendations:
Check out the soundtrack to "The Thin Red Line" or "Gladiator" as good introductions to Zimmer's work. We also highly recommend the recording of a live concert of Zimmer's music given at the Flanders International Film Festival known as Wings of a Film. Hans Zimmer's former film music company "Mediaventures" which gave training and experience to many of today's film composers no longer exists under this name, though a new film music venture called "Remote Control Productions" is involved in similar activities. There is an official web-site which currently says "coming soon" at HansZimmer.com.
Hans Zimmer sheet music:
There is quite a variety of Hans Zimmer sheet music available. We concentrate here on piano sheet music, but you will find sheet music for other instruments and bands available. We have also seen the theme from "Driving Miss Daisy" in a collection.
Hans Zimmer - Memorabilia:
Here are two CD covers, one signed by Hans Zimmer and one signed by Klaus Badelt. Our thanks to Petr Kocanda for permission to use his collection of autographed CDs. Click any thumbnail below to see the image full size in a separate window.