A Theory of Film Music

A Theory of Film Music


Let’s talk about film music. Editor Tony Zhou’s Every Frame a Painting — a great video series that I love– has just posted a new video about a question that a lot of people have been wondering about for a while now: Why is Marvel’s superhero film music so forgettable? And he’s right. Marvel’s film music IS forgettable Tony Zhou makes some great points Especially about directors using music from other films as temp music. — as guides for their composers. But his explanations don’t fully work for me So this video, it’s a RESPONSE, and it’s a THEORY of FILM MUSIC So in the video, Tony Zhou has people singing things from memory Starting with the Star Wars theme Bummm bummm ba-dum-ba bummm bummm [scatting the Star Wars theme] This is an interesting choice because, although everyone thinks of Star Wars as one of the most memorable themes ever written, it’s not particularly original. Star Wars was actually temp-tracked really closely And it still shows. Take a listen to the main theme from King’s Row by Erick Wolfgang Korngold. Now, if I were to take that and edit in a few percussive hits from a western theme… like How the West was Won I’d get something a lot like Star Wars This is no accident though. Star Wars–it’s a movie that self-consciously looks back to what made the films of the Golden Age of Hollywood so successful. It’s the king of what postmodern theorists, Frederic Jameson, called “The Nostalgia Film” Reworking all the traditions is how Star Wars works. The music is no different. The opening theme wants to tell us that what we’re about to see comes from a different tradition of film, that it’s a Golden-Age-Hollywood adventure romance… set in space. It’s working creatively with unoriginal pieces. [sounds of lasers blasting and engine working; no music] Temp tracks were actually used for the whole film George Lucas even had to be convinced that there was a need for original Star Wars music at all. Originally, he wanted to be like Kubrick in 2001 and use classical music. That reliance on temp tracks still comes through Particularly in the desert Tattooine scenes where we’re basically hearing a reworking of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring Note. for. note. Using temp tracks wasn’t a new practice, even in 1977 It dates back to the earliest film sound tracks Up until 1937, the head of a studio’s music department would get the Oscar for best soundtrack, and not a composer because dozens of people actually worked on a film’s music creating a patchwork of preexisting, adapted, and new music. So temp tracks aren’t actually unique to contemporary film They aren’t unique to contemporary blockbusters and they certainly aren’t unique to the Marvel’s symphonic universe. They’re as old as film music itself. So something else is going on here. Temp tracks do not explain why Marvel’s music is forgettable. So film music has actually always faced this critique That it’s unoriginal, that it rips off other people’s work In 1947, Theodore Adorno, the critic, wrote that [text above] and that, “[quote above]” Adorno’s general idea was that film music acted like a brand: recycling little ideas that work well for certain situations over and over again My favorite example of this is from a composer called James Horner Check out how he uses the same musical idea for danger in Troy in Enemy At the Gates [clip: “He always managed to lead us to victory”] in The Wrath of Khan in Avatar And here’s my favorite version of it in Rachmaninov’s First Symphony The question of originality is, in fact, one of the defining questions of film music, full stop. Film music is an embrace of rampant unoriginality and to think about how film music works, we need to think of new ways to talk about these questions, rather than just saying, “It’s a copy.” So if originality is normal for film music, maybe the problem, today, is that the pool of influences that composers draw from has grown smaller. In Star Wars, we saw that we had everyone from Korngold, and westerns, and Stravinsky, and Holst(?) pull together in this pot. But as Tony Zhou argues, today’s blockbusters tend to reference and rework themselves. Today, a temp track is more likely to be from Transformers or The Bourne Ultimatum, than the (seahawk?) or a symphony But the other important factor–for me, THE most important factor here–is techonology I wanna talk about this guy playing keyboards at the back of Buggles’ Video Killed the Radio Star. This guy changed film music, pretty much forever–it’s Hans Zimmer. He’s important because he pioneered the use of computers to make music. He did this right from the beginning This is Driving Miss Daisy–it’s pretty goofy, but it’s all digital, 1989 Here’s the thing: traditionally, film music was a problem for Hollywood. It cost a lot. Imagine paying all of those musicians the professional rate for a month of recording. It was technical. Here, John Williams is working with an editor to check the tempo of a scene, and run through it in their minds, before taking it to an orchestra and it had to be the last thing done. Editing music was difficult, and re-recording it was expensive, so when the score was done, the movie had to be done as well. No more edits, no more changes. If the director hated the music, this would be the moment where they found out. Sometimes, they would just have to live with it–too bad. Or they could fire the composer, and hope the replacement did a better job. Jerry Goldsmith famously wrote Chinatown in just ten days, after the previous composer was fired. So here’s why computerized composing was a revolution A director could hear the music as it was being written They could request changes, get more involved, and continue to edit the film at the same time. It’s also cheaper, and it’s quicker. So along comes Hans Zimmer, and a lot changed. Here he is again, talking about the Dark Knight Rises in 2012 “The writing in the computer, the way I do, is that you perform every note At one point or another, every note that is in the score, has been played by me.” Okay, so let’s hear a standard piece of today’s action music–could be in any film. Now here’s the thing: I actually made that piece of music on my computer with no actual recording or instruments involved I listen to a lot of music, and I think that sounds okay to me. It doesn’t sound fake or really pre-fabricated. And that’s just me working by myself–I’ve done a game soundtrack and a few small projects, but I don’t have the resources that someone like Hans Zimmer has. It’s just me, in my room, at home. So this is how most film soundtracks are written today. Some go on to be recorded or re-recorded or augmented and edited together with a full orchestra but some don’t. For someone like Zimmer “You perform every note” which is then massaged by all of these people– you’ve got sound designers, synth designers, people who are there just to program these digital instruments The end result is music that is created for a computer to play and the computer makes music lean in different directions Early on, the easiest sounds to get right were short and sharp sounds Things like percussion [drums sound plays], stabbing brass [stabbing brass plays] rhythmic strings [rhythmic strings play] These are much easier to simulate than the lyrical, slow flute or a solo violin. And so the end result is this: you get twenty years of percussion and heavy brass in film music, lead by Hans Zimmer The Zimmer sound is one of rhythm–it’s like a rock band playing through an orchestra And as a composer using these tools, you actually fiddle with each note and each sound more. You end up creating a landscape of sound rather than melodies and harmonies It’s time to talk about superheroes again, because Hans Zimmer is really the one responsible for their current sound He did the Batman trilogy, and the new Superman films and he gave them his digital sound. There it is. No hummable melody, but a texture full of distorted and manipulated strings to represent the Joker For Man of Steel, it’s the same No huge melody to draw you in, but the texture of a drumming ensemble and a pedal steel guitar, which are added with digital instruments later. And this is why Marvel’s music isn’t hummable. Each film has a musical landscape, but they’re different not through melody, but through texture. This is the impact of digital technology on film music. So are we in an era where composers are told to play it safe? To be invisible? To copy temp tracks? Yes. But most of that isn’t new. Remember, Hollywood film music isn’t about originality. It’s about new ways of working with proven formulas, and digital technology has changed that hugely. It’s creative unoriginality for our era of Hollywood.

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  1. Adorno was a brilliant theorist but the man was a massive classical music snob. I think this is where I find myself prefering Barthes take on popular culture over Adorno. Both are coming from a Marxist perspective, but Barthes is happier to let the working class do their thing.

  2. I do think MoS soundtrack had at least a couple memorable melodies, the world engine/zod theme and the supermen's flight theme are totally hummable

  3. I've said it over and over again, there are only TWO ways to have a memorable score for a film: 1) be John Williams, or 2) be Hans Zimmer

  4. In films there is a limit to how far you can go as you are obviously serving the needs of the film and are up against multiple barriers (director's aesthetic sense, producers, the type of screenplay, visual style, etc). You are the pop musician of the classical world looking to emote effectively at the right time. There are still melodic composers like Ennio Morricone however he isn't even close to being considered an original composer (way too emotionally soppy). I do not think the world has had one yet, but never say never.

  5. So I was on board with you until you talked about Man of Steel, because I hadn't listened enough to the rest of those sound track to debate.
    Zimmer has mastered rhythm in his scores, yes, but the majority of action music is meant to be rhythmic anyway, because the focus is on the action and not the music the majority of the time. Even then those action packed rhythms have character themes that thrive. But any time a character moment is to be had, or the action scene slows down, melody comes in and takes over.
    You bring up Man of Steel as an example of generic rhythm sounds, but then you're blatantly ignoring the melodic piano main theme Superman has moments before what you showed, or the minor perversion of it in the last minute of his fight against Zod. Yes, maybe Zimmer revolutionized film scores by putting the emphasis on the rhythm for action scenes, but Zimmer also has demonstrated in the same fell swoop that melody is incredibly important especially with character themes. The iconic, memorable songs of film are all melodic, and maybe its that modern super hero music has let melody take a back seat for some reason. But if Spider-man PS4 is any example, its that they can still blend melody and rhythm wonderfully

  6. How does The Lion King's score fit into this? It was composed by Hans Zimmer, and it isn't characterized by heavy percussion and sharp brass in the same way as a lot of the examples that you provided. Was that one done more traditionally, or was it also done via a computer?

    (You mentioned 20 years at 10:17, and The Lion King was released in 1994, 24 years ago. Does that have anything to with it?)

  7. These noobies change their fragile opinion like a chameleon. Zimmer has made some of the best modern film music ever, regardless of it being digital or classical.

    These are the same people who love Zimmer one second after watching a video essay on Dunkirk's score, & then say Zimmer is nothing special after seeing another video…… It's not his fault the industry likes to rip stuff off

  8. No, the problem with marvel music is that they are mass produced and there's little effort put on them. Like the recent movies. It's not fair to blame Hans Zimmer for other composer's lack of creativity

  9. So Jerry Goldsmith was the father of the modern score? His scores for Planet of the Apes, Tora! Tora! Tora! were percussion heavy and brassy. At the time they were very shocking and somewhat controversial in certain circles. The fact that many modern scores are so forgettable has a lot to do with the fact that the films they are produced for are even more forgettable. Which of the superhero films will still be discussed even ten from now, much less fifty or a hundred years from today? If you really wanted to create a truly original and innovative score, would you waste it on another X-Men or Transformer film? We live in a disposable culture in which "good enough" is good enough. It is a culture remarkable only for its banality and bad taste. We don't require originality which is why our art is as recycled as the paper used in the cartons that our microwaveable meals come in. It would be laughable were it not so disheartening.

  10. Appreciate the video, but feel you are a tad harsh on Zimmer – There are many Zimmer soundtracks which are very hummable. He even has arena tours which are sold out – this shows his sounds do resonate with an audience

  11. The problem is that Hans Zimmer's own music, despite being everything you say, is MASSIVELY distinctive. Bane's theme "Gotham's Reckoning", Catwoman's theme, the Da Vinci Code theme. Hans Zimmer himself disproves the argument of this video.

  12. Pop music has the same problem these days. Most of the melodies today are unmemorable and everything sounds the same! Seems like most "artists" want to sound like each other. There was a time when everyone wanted to sound completely different from everybody else.

  13. I don’t agree with this video for some of its some of its ideas.
    John Williams isn’t really a temp track user. He takes bits and pieces of other composers’ works and incorporates them into his own style, which might mean the music sounds very similar in certain parts, and all composers do this for inspiration. Just because Hans Zimmer doesn’t seem to do this, this doesn’t mean Hans Zimmer’s practices and techniques are better. In fact, Hans Zimmer and John Williams score very different types of movies. You described Hans Zimmer’s scores like a rock band, meaning it is linear and predictable, in a sense, but it lacks the memorable tune in most cases. Meanwhile, John Williams’ scores are memorable, very unpredictable, and take many forms. Let’s use a few examples to better clarify my point.
    For Hans Zimmer, take his big action titles such as Gladiator, Inception, and Interstellar. As someone who has listened to all of these soundtracks multiple times, I can only remember the main tune from Interstellar.
    Now take a few of John Williams big action titles. Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and E.T. I remember many tunes from all of these movies’ action scenes. They’re unforgettable.
    We can all agree that while you’re watching these movies, all of these soundtracks are exceptional; but listen to the music from these movies without the film side of things. Hans Zimmer’s pieces are recycled throughout multiple parts of the soundtrack, and are repetitive patterns. It’s boring to listen to without something to watch. Then, listen to the soundtracks of John Williams. There’s a huge difference between the composer’s styles because John William’s scores hold value outside of a film, whereas most of Hans Zimmer’s scores (excluding the main recycled tune) are meaningless. Not to forget, John William’s compositions are produced from real instruments, meaning you can hear a much more rich, real sound in a live performance.
    I’m not here to bash Hans Zimmer, I love his work and ideas, but there is a significant amount of hype for him compared to what other composers can accomplish in film score.

  14. The unoriginality problem is damaging many kinds of music, apart from film soundtracks. Computers make music more accessible than ever before, and every kid can take his laptop and make a Big Room House hit in just a few hours. Now, taking that to account, and the fact that we live in a era of communication, we get hundreds, thousands of people who want to imitate their idols to try and become famous just like them.

    I've been learning to produce electronic music for two years now, and for every track I make, I do my best to try new things. I've worked on Big Room House, Electro House, Ambient, Hardstyle, Progressive House, even a few piano songs, and right now I'm working on a track which mixes Electro House and Psytrance. Yes, I have an specific style and I can't help repeating certain patterns or formulas, but I always try to look for new chords, different melodies, I try to evoque a different mood on each song… And I think that's something every artist should do.

    Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying we should delete an entire song just because it sounds a bit like another one we just heard, but it's so tiring to see the same formulas, lyrics, structures and melodies… I just want artists to try making a new, different track every time they sit on their studio. I feel like we really need that

  15. What a great video. I will say though im an amateur musician 3 chord guitarist and the only reason i started looking at videos on film scoring and music theory is because of ……………………………..Hans Zimmers explanation of the Dark Knight theme on the preview to his master class.
    It amazed me that two notes could create so much tension and outline a characters psyche.

  16. As much as I enjoyed the whole video my main takeaway is that Hans Zimmer was part of the first video aired on MTV. (Further research tells me that he worked with many bands but did not actually join any of them.)

  17. I don't really care about hum-able melodies… i love the textured sounds much better, it can make you feel scared, on edge, and tense all because of some drums and sounds that to the brain just pull you in. Ya maybe having a theme would be cool for alot of stuff but most movies are very serious nowa days and a serious movie doesn't need a melody to make you hum but a pull in sound that makes the movie feel like you're apart of it in a way. Thats why Hans Zimmer is so good cuz for example 'interstellar' there shouldn't be a theme for interstellar but a feeling of "oh shit"

  18. But then there are some diamonds… Like the Lord of the Rings score, the Children of Dune mini series, Alexander, Amelie, The Piano :/

  19. Some of this is dead-on, some completely screwy. Hans is one of best the melodists I know – when it's appropriate. (You mostly have to go to his comedies.) And, although he composes at the computer, the actual process involves a great deal of give and take with live musicians – he probably hires more players annually than any other composer in the world. In fact, the irony was immediately after the coup-de-grace of the computer triumph you site – the opening of Dark Knight – the next thing you hear is a solo violin sustain followed by a rhythmic pattern. I know because it's me.

    The reason for the extreme tonal and rhythmic minimalism in Dark Knight – the Joker is basically a "D" – is because the Joker is an obsessed character to the nth degree. (In fact, at one point Hans wanted every time the Joker appeared to be the same tempo, 96. It's almost true.) In other words, he did it because it fit the character and made the story work. But you are right that Hans is a rock n' roller, which might be the best way to understand his music. As sophisticated as he is at production – and there are no better film music producers on the planet – the intent of the music in his blockbuster pieces is to give you a sense of perpetual forward motion. Maybe the best example is Journey to The Line from The Thin Red Line. A motivic descending melody and a clock-like percussion are what most people notice. Few are consciously aware that it is an 11 bar phrase that never actually resolves. This piece is so effective – and so over-temped – that Hans will no longer allow it to be temped into his own scores, earning it the sobriquet "the forbidden cue".

  20. I respect your theory and I agree that computerized orchestration might be the cause, but I respectfully disagree that Hans is to blame. I haven’t watched the lion king in 20 years and I can hum the melody from mufasa’s death. And the pirates theme is one of the catchiest themes of recent cinema. He made orchestral music cool again. Not saying you’re denying that. Just giving credit where it’s due.

  21. Nah. If you ask people who watched PoTC about the music, they'll definitely remember it. It's good and fits the moment.

  22. This is also a reason why the movies themselves are less memorable. John Williams’ use of memorable themes and distinct melodies also helps us remember more clearly the scenes and emotional journey of the same movies.

  23. its easy. Film music is supposed to highlight the emotional aspect of the movie. Not highlight the action you seen on the screen (or "Mickey Mousing around" – bug bunny cartoons ring a bell?). Film music in a nutshell.

  24. The only thing that 2012 remake version of Total Recall can't compete with the original Total Recall was the soundtracks.

  25. This video does raise some good points but for the most part this is wrong. John Williams from star wars did not use the westerns as base for his work, he used the Symphony Work by Gustav Holst, Mars; go and take a listen and you will learn that that was the inspiring work for them all. He says so himself in interviews he has done. Hans Zimmer got his start back in 1985 working on "My Beautiful Laundrette" and used the symphony for that whole work and has always used symphonies, as well as some electronic music. Hans Zimmer also never had a formal musical education that is why a majority of his compositions are very original. This theory of film music is just plain wrong, there is nothing more to it, it may have seen right back in 2016 but it has proven itself to not be a complete theory and that is does not work out.

  26. Wait, so, your arguement basically boils down to "Modern film music is dull because midi"? That doean't strike me as a particularly strong arguement.

  27. "Hollywood is about unoriginality." This is an excuse for a composer who can not compose. Hollywood is about unoriginality because Hans Zimmer is unoriginal. He might be a tech geek but he is the least talented and creative composer out there and became a monopoly. He is the one who actually ripped off Gustav Holst's planets. And no John Williams did not rip off his compositions they might seem similar but composing is like this, it might seem similar but it can still be an original composition. It might also be a very simple tune but it can totally convey the message and emotion like the Imperial march. Superman, Indiana Jones, Star Wars are great soundtracks and they are memorable, epic, passionate, mysterious, evil, wicked and everything and that's about it. You are like an actor, have to live the emotion, you have to get into it, and come up with a melody that is genuine from the depths of your soul, it originates from within you, it is original and there are people who can do it.

  28. What components do you think make good film music? I think of emotionality first but I feel like that doesn't paint the whole picture

  29. Even though I do sometimes Like Hans Zimmer, I think just because he using they same approach everytime, and so many otther composer follow his lead, makes me not wanna listen to him again. John Williams, James Horner and all those people that Still write in a more analog style is more fun to listen at, even though they are formed after other composers works. But we have to remember Close Encounters of the third kind as actually not tempt tracked.

  30. Be fair to Hanz Zimmer. He doesn’t always work with a computer exclusively. In many projects he will compose the piece in the computer and then re-record certain elements or the whole with piece with live instruments or a full orchestra later. The lion king and inception are good examples of this.

  31. Also this whole change in technology is really actually beside the marvel scoring issue. There are plenty of hummable tunes in the mcu. The avengers theme, caps theme in the first avenger, ant mans theme, the theme for guardians of the galaxy- I could go on… The real problem is that many of these themes aren’t carried across from film to film as they should be which means we see a connected universe on screen but don’t hear it or feel it…..

  32. The melody shy score predates the use of computers by a long time… decades. French Connection comes to mind (early 70's). And Marvel has shied away from saddling the entire MCU with one big omni-present score – like the Star Wars or Star Trek worlds have had to deal with. So hum-ability compared the Star Wars or Williams' Superman shouldn't even remotely to be expected. And compared to the bulk of modern film scores, I see no reason to be singling out Marvel or superhero films in general regarding any of this at all. Some of the films' scores are very theme based – Silvestri's Avenger series, Christophe Beck's wonderful Antman score, even Brian Tyler's Iron Man 3 comes to mind. As for Han – his score for Inception could be one of the most effective uses of music in film of this generation. And finally – things change. In '77, Williams was quoting music from 30 years (or less) before. So film's should now be temp'd with music that's 70's years old? Or still 30's years old – meaning music from the 80's???? Sorry, things change….

  33. Zimmer isn't even a musician. He should not be mentioned in the same breath with Williams, or Goldsmith, or Horner, or Bernstein, or Bernstein, or Previn, or Morricone, or Herrmann, or Tiomkin, or….

  34. It´s a huge overecsaduration to call the whole desert theme a copy, no part of the main melody was a copy of anything

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  36. First of all, I love you.

    Secondly, this is SO bleepin interesting!!! I am completely blown away at this video.

  37. I love the texture-based approach but that is just one part of modern film music. You didn't talk about how recent improvements in virtual instruments have allowed composers to write realistic and soaring melodies. Modern virtual instruments have a lot of personality and their capabilities are getting directors and composers to want to write hummable music instead of just relying on spiccatto strings and percussion

  38. I don't understand the supposed "controversy" over how truly original a given film's soundtrack is. I only care how it works or doesn't work with the visuals on-screen, whether it adds anything to the film at hand in either subtle or overt ways.

  39. Um…. The Avengers Theme is arguably one of the most recognizable theme songs in today's society. I agree that many of the MCU films have forgettable music, as most of it is background noise. But MCU films such as The Avengers, Spiderman, Black Panther, and even Captain America have themes that are fairly recognizable. Though, "The Avengers" theme is probably the only one that many people today could sing on the spot.

  40. Yeah, I watched Every Frame a Painting's video about a year back, and this one is a nice continuing and correcting of the few mistakes he made. I think he would approve in the long run.

  41. As much as that 'creative unoriginality', as you put it, is a staple in the industry, it's not enough for the average Joe to really relate to. Just like how Theodore Adorno (at the 4:10 mark) says that it's for 'less intelligent' movie goers, those generic tones are very dumbed down and impersonal. It's like those samey tones are telling those intent enough to actually listen that they're… stupid. Not much else I can do to describe it. It's like the director/composer is talking down to the audience. 'These artistic nuances go over your head, so here's a lollipop to keep you happy, you cutesy wootsey little moron.' That's why I don't like most movie music. The bombastic pieces with memorable melodies are far nicer. Yes, they still lead the viewer along, but they do so with solid, COMPLEX purpose. Instead of just, 'this means be sad' or 'this means be angry', theme pieces say something more like (gonna use Pirates of the Caribbean as the example here), 'Captain Jack Sparrow is HERE, and he is DOING his absolutely CRAZY pirate shenanigans!' Connecting music to more than just a single emotion and doing so in a predictable, intelligent manner is how you treat your audience right.

    Besides, let's be honest… Having a theme or two makes way for more… 'personalized (?)' tweaks to the soundtrack DURING the film. The best example I can think of right now is Ellie's Theme from Pixar's Up. When she's alive, young, and full of energy/happiness, the music is lilted and bouncy. After her death or during moments of sadness (or when Carl is thinking of her post-death), the same theme can be recognized by even young audience members despite the tired, quieter feel to the whole piece. And a good example in gaming would be Midna's Theme and Midna's Lament from Twilight Princess. The first is sly and poised. The second is urgent and somber. In both Ellie's and Midna's examples, the different 'versions' of their themes still feel like THEM, the characters, instead of some generic 'you should be SAD now' cop-out. People are more intelligent than that.

    I'm not saying that temporary substitutions are a bad thing (by all means, go right ahead, there's nothing wrong with that), but fewer and fewer will sing the composer's praises the less there is for those that aren't classically trained to latch onto. If a composer wants awards or applause or praise from the populace, they'll aim to impress even the smallest of audience members.

  42. Except for the ed Norton hulk ost with master Craig Armstrong at his best , marvel movie music is super bland. Sorry silvestri but u know aswell.

  43. nice and interesting video. i would like to note that anyone just dismissing filmmusic altogether as inferior is a bit of a moron. since the dawn of civilization composers were 1) hired and payed to make music for plays, entertainment etc 2) "copied" from others that were before. its called working and inspiration. nothing has changed..

  44. Implying that film music is meaningless or vapid is problematic because it functions in ways that highly abstract, abstruse symphonic art music does not. There's definitely an elitist, intellectual snobbery going on in art music culture and that's why it's on life support with disproportionately large tax payer funds that are increasingly difficult to justify on orchestras. The implied superiority of the western art tradition will die one day more due to it's life-killing function of "disinterested" contemplation in spectacles known as auditorium concerts where one's behavior is highly restricted. Add in the "Mozart to Mahler" repertoire stagnation along with the contempt of modern composers and classical musicians have for their audience and you have a losing formula.

  45. We forget how hard is it to write music film for productors and directors in the industry because they all want the same thing. They all want to have exactly the same music than the references they want on their films. When you're a composer, you have almost no liberty and no time to developpe someting personal, new and interesting. It's not like populare music production. You can't take 2 years to create a great album with personal new stuffs. You have 3 weeks or 2 month depending of the work and the productors and the director are going to tell you every day what they exactly want and they going to tell you every hours how much they want almost the same music like "Transformers". So yes, in that situation, it's very hard not to use what it works, not to copy a bit and not to use formula. A lot of music film composers hate working like that but If they want to eat, most of the time, they have to do a big smile and say that they will do what producers want. The public have to do something about it and let know producers they want to have a good and new music. It's existe and it's great ! but not a big films and series. Producters don't like to try something new because its possible to have a risk to loose the public.

  46. I do appreciate this thorough examination, as I find it rather neutral and very well unfolded, so to speak – despite the critiques in the comments. It makes a point, and it does it well.
    In my opinion, the fact that Hans Zimmer is ranked amidst the best composers along with John Williams is trivially because there is a strong tendency to define the success of one's output just by its remuneration, thus how much money one is able to make in their career, as it was the touchstone of a true artistical achievement.
    Well, there is no real artistical achievement here. Hans Zimmer's musical knowledge is not even close to (…not even far from…) William's, and that is brutally apparent in all his body of work; his music has nothing to do with tradition, nor with the atavistic attempt to produce something that will have a place in the history of music. This is not necessarily something bad, it's just a bold work-oriented attitude: deliver professional film music, do it before the deadline dings.

    Zimmer had an intuition, among some, and a very simple one. The basic principle "the louder the better" is exactly what makes his soundtracks hit the target, obtained through an insane amount of layers per single sound and an astonishing mixing/mastering quality (thanks especially to the excellent team of pros he has surrounded himself with) to the detriment of pure musical quality. There are of course very nice "traditional" ideas from time to time (the first that comes to mind is Stay from Interstellar), but is it his authorship? Or does that melody and orchestration come from someone in the team? …but rather, does it matter? All in all, Hans Zimmer is a brand, while John Williams can only partially be considered so.

    For what concerns the main difference between Zimmer's and William's music, as pointed out in the video, here's my observation: humming a theme could be considered a remnant from the musical tradition of the past centuries, where the concept of theme and melody, starting from the cantus firmus, was central to almost any kind of musical form. The contemporary music (in its chronological meaning) is no stranger at all to concepts like soundscapes, abstract sound objects and rational concepts, including math and its derivatives.
    I'm eager to see what will happen next. I mean, historically.

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  48. Its evolution into immersive soundscapes and themes and hz is a ruddy genius. If i want to come out of a film singing memorable songs i go to a musical.

  49. When an argument reaches an absurd conclusion, one must conclude the argument was wrong. The ending here was "creative unoriginality". I rest my case and recommend people read Adorno again. And listen to complex music for a change — not the lowest common denominator.

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