18 September 2009

MAESTRO: Hans Zimmer

Wow it's been awhile since I last update the Maestro series blog post here! Anyway this week I've found inspiration from one of the greatest soundtrack composers of all time, and would like to share it here. :D

Hans Zimmer (born September 12, 1957), is a German composer and producer. He is best known for his Academy Award, Grammy and Golden Globe–winning film scores. He has composed music for over 100 films, including Hollywood blockbusters such as the Pirates of the Caribbean series, Gladiator, The Da Vinci Code and The Dark Knight.

It's quite common that people did not heard of Hans Zimmer this name, but I guess one should've at least heard some of his compositions before, in the cinema. He's been composing many scores for movies and most of them are big hits among the screenings. Notable ones including The Lion King, Gladiator, Pirates of The Caribbean, Batman The Dark Knight and many more.

Zimmer's composition is said to play a large role in the movie. Aside from the usual actions, the music scores are used to express the emotion and build up the atmosphere of the situation, such as tense scene or in the battlefield. Zimmer's music makes the movie much lively as such that it can left a deep impression with the audience.

(since I'll be mainly focusing the music only, the Youtube videos will be placed at a smaller resolution.)

Here's an example from a recent film, Angels and Demons, the first track from the album, "160 BPM".
I didn't watch the movie but I find this song interesting to start things with. Tune up your volume a little higher at the intro part, which you may find noticed some fine details in the music. I noticed there's an unusual approach in the selection of the instruments used, not your ordinary chamber orchestra. I don't really like excessive vocals but this one had done perfectly. Combining orchestral and choral vocals, effectively creating the such powerful intro.

P/S: 160 BPM means "160 beats per minute", a rather fast-paced song compared to the normal ones around 100-120 BPM.

Hans Zimmer's involvement in Batman The Dark Knight is a highly successful one, composing together with another fellow James Newton Howard in this case, creating an unforgettable experience especially when it comes to the motive of the main characters of the movie, Batman & the Joker.
The overall atmosphere in The Dark Knight's soundtrack is rather dark, mysterious, and perhaps uncomfortable.

One of Hans Zimmer's best attribute in composing is the ability to absorb and assimilate the musical elements of a foreign culture, fuse it together with the Western music. There're a few works from Zimmer which prominently featuring Oriental instruments, such as this example from The Last Samurai.

"Spectres In The Fog" start things off with traditional Japanese instrument called koto. The first half plays the main theme of the movie, while the second half expresses the scene from the movie, the appearance of the warriors from the thick fog as shown in the video's image. Along with it is the, then again, uncomfortable yet effective arousing effect built up for the battle scene in the movie. Anyway, I like how the Japanese element is being added into the track though just appears briefly.

I wonder whether you've noticed any similarity of the tracks mentioned so far? It's so called Zimmer style, heavy percussion and strings to create the sort of dark & tragic tone for the movie.

Now here's a rather earlier work of Zimmer in the mid-90s, from the movie "Beyond Rangoon". Story is about the political instability and conflict happening in Burma/Myanmar, which unfortunately still exist until today.

This song, "Waters of Irrawaddy" prominently features the instruments of South-East Asia, which some may find it familiar as compared to the usual orchestral soundtracks. I am amazed by the composer from the West able to utilize these instruments so well to bring out the emotion of the track, especially through the flute and the percussion.

Here comes my favourite song by Hans Zimmer, from Pirates Of The Caribbean 3: At World's End, "Drink Me Me Hearties".

This video is a combination of 2 songs, "Drink Up Me Hearties" & "Up Is Down". Both songs shared similar traits which you may noticed it.
Somehow listening to this song I felt excited, due to the upbeat rhythm and great orchestral arrangement to bring out the best in the Pirates Of The Caribbean theme.
This is the song, that influenced me to get into Hans Zimmer's song, one of the best ever!

Hans Zimmer's musical composition is not your ordinary soundtrack, it's a masterpiece of hardwork and researches. Research, as in that Zimmer would spend time to collect information of the musical background of certain culture to understand it better, before start composing for the particular soundtrack for the movie. That's why the his music is tastefully done.

Looking forward for his future works, as there're a lot of upcoming nice movies coming up, so do great movie soundtrack compositions as well, by Hans Zimmer. :D


  1. da vinci code ost is very much inspiring! I heard it twice only when i am in the cinema watching the movie and it is still in my mind till now!