With 57 award nominations and more than 30 years in Hollywood, Hans Zimmer has scored more than 500 projects across all mediums. Films like Gladiator, Inception, Thelma and Louise, and even The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run are all thanks to Zimmer and his incredible musical talent. Musical talent that developed despite a dislike of formal piano lessons.
“My formal training was two weeks of piano lessons,” Zimmer told a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) in 2013. “I was thrown out of eight schools. But I joined a band. I am self-taught. But I’ve always heard music in my head. And I’m a child of the 20th century; computers came in very handy.”
For Zimmer though, it was the score behind Once Upon a Time in the West that was his ultimate inspiration.
According to conductor Nicholas Buc, Zimmer is behind so many film scores that you’ve probably heard his music without realising.
Buc will be conducting both the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in “The Music of Hans Zimmer”, paying tribute to, as many people describe him, one of the most influential film composers of all time.
“He has managed to find this great balance between the emotional-filled scoring that combines pop music sensibilities. And I think what is so alluring for people is the fact that his harmonic language – the harmonies he uses – are very accessible and they’re very direct. Non-musicians especially can grasp [them] at first listen,” Buc told The AJN ahead of the sold-out concerts. “Then he layers them with his trademark stylings. Those are things that make him unique.”
Buc describes Zimmer’s scores as a great entry point for listeners because he layers orchestra synthesises on a massive and epic scale, that immediately draws audiences with the emotional hook.
“There’s no real barrier to entry. It speaks directly to them; there’s a simplicity about it. And then there’s this layering of orchestral power, which he pioneered in his own unique way.”
Throughout The Music of Hans Zimmer, Buc – together with his fellow Art of the Score podcast presenters Andrew Pogson and Dan Golding – will deep dive into how Zimmer’s music is so alluring, dissecting how Zimmer makes his musical magic.
Zimmer, whose mother grew up in postwar Germany before escaping to England in 1939, attributed his love of music and technology to his parents. “My mother was very musical, basically a musician, and my father was an engineer and an inventor,” he told Mashable. “So, I grew up modifying the piano, shall we say, which made my mother gasp in horror, and my father would think it was fantastic when I would attach chainsaws and stuff like that to the piano because he thought it was an evolution in technology.”
Explaining that his father died when he was a child, it was music that became his escape from the realities of life, and his “best friend”.
Buc describes Zimmer’s scores as “brooding minor-key music which is very memorable in its emotional quality”, which he believes is the mark of a successful film composer.
“Put aside any melodies on top, he really has a way of finding the soul of a film, which isn’t always easy,” Buc said. “The mark of a great film composer is that they take it to that next level where it really hits something inside you. As cliche as it sounds, it’s the power of music, and that’s why it is so important to film. It can get into the recesses of one’s heart and mind and soul that a simple story or a bit of acting perhaps can’t.”
The orchestras will perform a wide range of Zimmer’s scores from Driving Miss Daisy to Gladiator and The Lion King and Kung Fu Panda. Buc describes it as a mix of hits and some scores that the audience may not be so familiar with. And for Buc, hopefully audience members will be able to trace a bit of Zimmer’s stylistic changes along the way.
“We hope the audience will come away with an appreciation of the creativity behind the composer.”
And, Buc adds, the influence Zimmer has wielded over others in the broad-ranging entertainment industry. As Buc explained, even the intense orchestral background music that is often played during reality television can be attributed to Zimmer’s influence.
“He’s highly imitated. But obviously, there’s no one like the original,” Buc said.
“He really has become the rock star of the modern generation as far as film music is concerned, very cleverly tapping into what makes contemporary music popular for young people, as well as providing a deeper complexity for traditional musicians who love a bit of orchestra.
The Melbourne and Sydney performances are sold out but you can listen to the Art of the Score podcast, an in-depth podcast series on the world of film scores. Visit artofthescore.com.au
“He really has become the rock star of the modern generation as far as film music is concerned” Nicolas Buc