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The Newest Movie Music Man
by Jon Schuller

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I can imagine that many, if not all, the great composers in history had moments of doubt as their new works were performed publicly for the first time. What if the king hates it? What happens to me if the king says, "No more money for your compositions"? Will I be replaced by someone else or worse? But what happened to Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky or any of their famous contemporaries when their pieces were performed and well-received? Did they have brief moments of triumph and fame, possibly traveling to other places (Felix Mendelsohn went to Scotland and wrote two famous pieces; Rachmaninoff came to the United States) as their fame spread and their works were in demand? Like many others in the arts these men had their intense moments of doubt before their pieces were presented and then, more of the same; how to repeat their triumphs with the very next work. Expectations became greater as fame spread. Today, anyone in the arts can become an instant success (or failure) because of our totally interconnected electronic world. Movies are seen around the world and the music written for them becomes known just as quickly. I wrote a column about how movies and music have been together from the movies' inception (Movies and Music: Made for Each Other, February 2011). One of today's most prolific movie composers is Hans Zimmer.

Hans Zimmer was born in Frankfurt am
Main, Germany in September 1955. He was surrounded by music at an early age and began experimenting with the piano. He moved to London as a teenager and quickly became involved with the London music scene in the 1970s, writing for several bands and playing on music videos. By the early 1980s he was starting to become involved with television, writing advertising jingles and game show themes. He scored several independent films and in 1987 was the score producer for The Last Emperor which won an Academy Award for Best Original Score.

Barry Levinson chose Zimmer in 1988 to write the score for Rain Man. This was a turning point in Zimmer's career because the film won four Academy Awards and his score was nominated for Best Musical Score. He was by then an established and in-demand movie composer. 1989 saw him score the music for Driving Miss Daisy which won the Best Picture Academy Award. In 1991 Zimmer composed the score for the highly successful Thelma & Louise. In 1992 he traveled to Africa for the film The Power of One, utilizing authentic African drums and choirs. This work helped him get the chance to work on Disney's animated The Lion King in 1994. The film took an Academy Award for Best Original Score, a Golden Globe, and two Grammys. That score was adapted in 1997 as The Lion King became a Broadway musical winning a Tony in 1998. By 2012 it had become the highest
grossing Broadway show ever. Mr. Zimmer was firmly established as a reknowned movie music man.

His scoring triumphs followed almost yearly after that.
1995Crimson Tide
1998The Thin Red Line The Prince of Egypt
2001Black Hawk Down Hannibal
2003 The Last Samurai
2005 Madagascar
Batman Begins
2006The Da Vinci Code
Pirates of the Caribbean; Dead Man's Chest
2007The Simpsons Movie
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
2008The Dark Knight
The Burning Plain (Spain)
2009Angels & Demons
Sherlock Holmes
2011Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows
2012The Dark Knight Rises

Along with winning countless awards, like Academy, Golden Globe, Grammy and Satellite, he is constantly asked for help and collaboration with many other music composers, in and out of movies.
He received a star on the Hollywood walk of Fame in 2010. He has written many things for television, including the 2012 Academy Award Show and the new ABC Nightly News theme.

Hans Zimmer has written for 100 films. His contemporaries are no less prolific of course. Dimitri Tiomkin wrote some of the most famous scores for 75 movies. Danny Elfman has written scores for 80 films. John Williams has 130 films to his credit (please see my column, The Movie Music Man, February, 2012). But the winner, so far, is Elmer Bernstein with
over 200 movie and television scores.

I enjoy Zimmer's works and there are several films, like Gladiator and the Dark Knight Trilogy, that are personal favorites because the music is so memorable and powerful. Like other famous movie music Mr. Zimmer's themes and scores have become a solid part of our musical libraries and many, like the ones in Thelma & Louise and Driving Miss Daisy, have been used for other vehicles on television. Otherwise boring films over the decades may have become relegated to lesser spots in cinema history but were saved by great musical scores. I have noticed a trend on several television dramas where the serious scenes appear to need music throughout, even when not necessary or, worse, overdone. If a scene is truly dramatic the actors should carry it. Much music these days is not played under the dialogue, as it should be, but along with the lines, even drowning out some words. It's hard to hear, let alone come back the following week for more of the same.

I am glad that the movies are alive and well in 2013 thanks in no small way to composers like Hans Zimmer who consistently come up with original music making their films rich with energy and emotion we can all react to. His uncanny abilities to match his own original scores to the movies they support are simply amazing. Listening to film music cd's is as enjoyable and exciting as symphonic scores.

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Mike Thomas
Jul 25, 2013 12:01 PM
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I knew you'd get around to a Zimmer tribute!
Good column!
Jul 26, 2013 8:35 AM
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Thanks, Mike. I have a double-cd set of his movie scores. Been a fan for a long time.

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Cinema Savant
Every other Thursday

My views on an eclectic mix of films and personalties, past and present; emotional interpretations; some laughs, some cries.

Other Columns
Other columns by Jon Schuller:

Have You Been Spying On Me Lately? For How Long?

But Can She Act? That's What I Want to Know

They're Not the Same People They Used To Be

Time Does Fly When We Watch Movies

Before Minimum or Maximum, There Was Only Prison

All Columns

Jon Schuller
I am a former New Jersey native, living in Charlotte, N.C. for almost 30 years. I am a lifelong movie lover with lots of movie trivia knowledge and soundtracks in my CD collection. I enjoy sharing my love of films with everyone and have so many fond memories growing up in darkened movie theaters. I have been married 50 years (as of December 22, 2018) and we both share a passion for film (and each other of course).

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Jon Schuller by clicking here.

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