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.

100 Replies to “A Theory of Film Music”

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. "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.

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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…..

  11. 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….

  12. 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….

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

  14. Hi Danke für dein Beitrag 😉
    Hast du schon den Film Wunder der Lebenskraft oder Heal gesehen?
    passt irgendwie hierzu 💫

  15. First of all, I love you.

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

  16. 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

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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..

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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.

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. To be fair I think a lot of film and game music is plagued by low budget, time and producers that grows to like the temp track and doesnt want anything new. Ive written some music for a few gameprojects (very very small and not for money) and its almost always that I only have time to copy some music that i find fit the setting and never have the time to make anythitng original or special. Once i made more of an original piece but I worked overtime and didnt sleep well that period to get it out. Note that im also a programmer on thoes projects but I believe thoes problems are quite common in the industry.

  29. To say wether a writer is a “composer” or not, or if a computer is an “instrument” or not is Laughable. To me that is musical evolution.
    You don’t see a lot of new pieces for Hurdy Gurdy. I mean its a real instrument right? : )
    Yet for film music I feel that the composer/producer if you wish, conveys an emotional response to what is on the screen.
    To say, modern film composers are not “real” , whelp I don’t see the public knocking down the Symph Hall doors to listen to Le Sacre du Printemps. Or going to Spotify to listen to John Cage hits.
    It’s evolution. Pure and simple.

  30. I agree that not every movie has a recognizable main theme that people remember, but that is also a result of films moving away stylistically from bombastic matinés. It simply suits some modern films better.

    I don't agree that Marvel films have scores without melody though. The most important theme in the MCU is the Avengers theme, which is used as a hero theme in the movies. Transformers have Arriving Earth, which is very hummable. Its good that scores are evolving and each creator is free to mix melodic movements with more rhytmic movements focused on creating atmosphere.

  31. Nice insight. But I gotta say it’s nearly impossible to have a film music without any melody, at least that’s why there are themes. Even Hans Zimmer composes famous ones that everyone knows about, or at least, keep it from the original theme music into his own scores. Sophisticated & complicated compositions might have been changed into more modern way, but the essential parts will be still there.

  32. If you can't hear harmonies or melodies in zimmer's scores, well you should listen more carefully. What zimmer is doing is finding the theme first. Not just a theme. But THE THEME. As he already said in an interview, he spends weeks just to find the 2 – 3 or 10 notes that will create the theme. Then comes experimentation with sounds. That's why Zimmer's music is memorable but not only zimmer's. Howard Shore, James Horner, James Newton Howard, Alan Silvestri, John Debney, Bruno Coulais and of course John Williams and Ennio Morricone, are firstly, great theme builders.

  33. The exception that proves the rule is the music of John Williams. It is said that mediocre composers plagiarize, while great composers steal (think Rachmaninoff's "Variations on a Theme of Paganini"). In terms of creativity, Williams' coloration and development of his simple (modestly stolen) themes marks him as one of the great composers of our era.

  34. I worked with Maurice Jarre on the John Huston film 'The Man who would be King'. He had a theme running through it as he did on other famous movie soundtracks he had composed for such as Dr. Zhivago & Lawrence of Arabia. In the 'Man who would be King' he also involved Indian instrumentation such as Sitar, Tabla, Shennai, Sarod and Sarangi and asked me to try to get any local Indian musicians in London. That was 1975. We worked around a theme he had written and he asked me to try to see what Raga we could incorporate using his theme. I found the notes of the Raga Bhairavi and a simple pentatonic Bhairagi Bhairav were nearest.

    It was a clever bit of orchestration.

  35. Hi!! Can I make you a question? You know, I think I understood what you said, and the difference between melody and texture in a film soundtrack. But, if you had explain a little bit more, I think would be easier for peoples like me understand. For example, Marvel Studios have the most forgetable themes – okay. And the technology and Hans Zimmer are2 the point. But, Hans Zimmer himselve gotta the most memorable themes of – I would say – the last two decades. Not just Batman and Superman, but Pirates, Lion King(!), WonderWoman, Dunkirk, Kung fu Panda… Him music is memorable, even been made in computer.

  36. Quick disambiguation: Hans Zimmer was talking about sampling and how effectively he had performed every note in the score, he was saying at that point that he hadn't actually played it, the computer did, but it was his performance of each note sampled.

  37. excellent stuff…it better explains why I don't like Zimmer's music quite as much… I guess every composer copies to different degrees, sometimes Williams does it more, sometimes less, but it appears that composers in general have done it a bit more in film and there was a great explanation here to back that up.

  38. Hans Zimmer is a legend. I just want to see him once in my life (difiicult, none comes is Greece now 🙁 ). His music IS AWESOME. AND NOT ONE TIME. The WHOLE soundtrack of Inception, Interstellar, Gladiator, Last Samurai, Rush, Pirates of the Carribean, Lion King, Kung fu panda, Batman Trilogy, Batman v Superman, Man of Steel, Da Vince Code Trilogy, Dunkirk, Sherlock Holmes (and anythinh alse that i forgot) IS AMAZING MUSICS! ALL OF THEM! THANK YOU!!!! I also like VERY MUCH from TRANSFORMERS Musics Steve Jablonsky.He has done amazing job in all 5 movies. Howard Shore is also amazing is LOTR AND HOBBIT. Also Jihn Williams has some VERY GOOD musics. J.N. Howard, L. Balfe, V. Papathanasiou, Alan Silvestri (in all VERY good marvel Films) and Brian Tyler are Very good. THANK YOU ALL. YOU MAKE US CRY! YOU MAKE OUR LIFES BETTER1!!!!

  39. It is possible to make soundscapes and still make the track. The biggest example would be Kung Fu Panda.
    It is just that not having a melody is easier (in my opinion), because you don't need to show different moods through the same melody, again Kung Fu Panda is a huge exception.
    I do agree on whatever you said, just that there's more to it. Marvel's music is forgettable cause there literally is no theme holding it all together because of multiple composers. Again, just my opinion.
    Typically speaking, wouldn't it be great to have ONE composer for the whole series? But is that possible for a huge series like Marvel's interconnected world? No? There's your answer.
    Again, there will be a lot of "but if"s on my comment too, but life gets real is all i'm saying for a series that huge. I still loved the video, had a lot of insights i hadn't even considered. Thanks for the video man! <3

  40. Hans Zimmer isn't a compositional God, but he's good at what he does, and that's writing "Pop Orchestra" pieces for dramatic movies. That's what the haters need to understand. It's easy to write simple music. It's not easy to make people pay attention.

  41. It's the case with all music today, not only film music. Today generation prefers texture, sound, sketched harmony or no harmony at all, instead of melody and classical, coherent harmony.

  42. They shouldn't be memorable other then the intro and outro/ during events (exceptions like montages and hitting you in the feels).

    This is because it needs to set the mood, and shouldn't be something you are actively thinking about, it should creep in so you still feel what the audio is trying to portray, but if it's noticable you will be taken away from the action and away from the feel. (Or something along those lines)

  43. You're blaming digital technology for the move away from strong melodies and originality? I respectfully disagree. It's not about the tools composers use, it's about their style and their ability. Hans Zimmer is a dark man with dark tastes (and he's a poor composer IMHO). Men like him wouldn't have been employed decades ago, but modern Hollywood (as well as modern society) has shifted away from wholesomeness, and towards darkness, so there is naturally going to be less melody and more gritty cacophony in film music.

    I predict this will get worse as the decades go on, and society continues to become increasingly evil. People will look back at the Hans Zimmer days of their childhood and ask "Why don't films have nice, gentle music like that any more?"

  44. Yes, I agree with you and I have something to add to what you said. This is an obvious way to say that no new music is really original in terms of rhythm, style or the seven pitches. Because the lack of originality comes from the lack of idea. Since many classical to modern composers have exploited in numerous ways. The mind will always compare with the known or heard music. One of the legendary composers in India (Illaiyaraja) has explained this very idea of what you said three decades back. However, If you wanted a piece of music that will be heard by many and be remembered. You at least need an original idea by any musical terms. But still for a common man its a way of cheating.

  45. Step 1: Turn on your TV
    Step 2: Watch the lion king
    Step 3: Cry and beg for forgiveness for you have used the lords name in vain

  46. How come the only zimmer movies u are using as examples are action movies? No action movie soundtrack has an amazingly original and traditional melody. Go listen to some of the NON action movie Zimmer stuff like lion king, gladiator, or kung fu panda.

  47. Kind of broad brush statements here… So many film composers created very original music, just listen to film music from the 60’s and 70’s.

  48. Huge fan of Hans Zimmer but vangelis was doing soundtracks by himself just using synthesizers. He did the blade runner soundtrack for context.
    While synths and computers aren’t necessarily the same thing, they share the same sonic characteristics for a lot of things. So while I don’t disagree with your view on it, I just kinda think it discredits a lot of the pioneers that came before him.
    The thing about him being responsible for most of today’s sound is absolutely true though.

  49. ONE PROBLEM: I literally peeked at this video as the top suggestion after watching: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaWGWQJVVBI

    Which proves you CAN capture a string section for a movie in less than 3 hours. So if "months" or even a single month are somehow involved it would only need to be the intervening time between recording sessions.

    Lastly, as a hobby studio owner myself, the clear trend is toward ever better and better software to where even Legato played instruments get ever more realistic. Having also been in personal computers and technology from '76, I can assure you that we are clearly headed to a day when no conductor on the planet would be able to tell that it wasn't a live recording. A similar path will be followed in cinematography, to where deep fakes are becoming indiscernible. I fully predict that the future of A.I. blended in with all this means that someday, you will ask your computer to create new episodes of, just as en example topic, Star Trek Deep Space Nine, and it will be capable of rendering an entire new season of shows, with new plots, new threats, and entirely believable digital replications of all the historical actors, their character attributes, and the settings that either existed, or new settings that would be fitting.

    So while you could consider Hans Zimmer "opportunistic" in using his techniques, it was inevitable that someone would. However, we will look back one day and consider these the Middle Ages, as we approach perfection through new technology.

  50. In short, all professional musicians can play for live orchestral shows for their satisfaction or paid to play A a B b C c … G g for a sample library or stop playing at all.

  51. For what it's worth, I would like to point out that Hans Zimmer was also responsible for the "Rain Man" soundtrack in the late 80s, and that one is particularly melodic. Granted, only two tracks of many melodic songs are actually composed by him but the main theme is certainly extremely memorable and includes a clear, hummable motif.

  52. Sorry Dan, don't agree with you. The Hans Zimmer Superhero soundtracks, especially the Batman, Man of Steel, Spiderman Soundtracks, are dominated by themes and melodies. They might be simple, but even in classical music, most good melodies are very simple. Everybody knows the Gladiator theme, the pirates theme, the inception theme, the interstellar theme. These are all highly digital and created by Zimmer. They might be simple, but their motive and structure are clear. Remembering music is not about the structure of the music itself, it's about the emotion evoked with that music. Here is where most Marvel Soundtracks fall short. The emotions the music evokes, it's nothing daring. A sad scene is accompanied by sad music and a scene where iron man flies is full of brass and drums, etc. Compare that to Zimmer's Batman theme which, even when he flies around in gotham is very sad and melancholic. The music adds another dimension, another layer of context and therefore becomes a character.

    So far 1 marvel film managed that: the avengers. How? The theme that is repeated constantly, is used in many different situations, highlighting hidden aspects of the movie, therefore, becoming a character.

    The most apparent example about my theory of music becoming a character is Game of Thrones. I'm surprised no one brings that up in their video. All the music was digitally created with quantum leap, yet still it is full of recognisable themes. Hell the opening theme itself has become iconic. Is all of it hummable? The beginning yeah, the rest? Not really. But it is used throughout the show to highlight different emotions of the viewers, therefore again, becoming a character.

  53. Fascinating analysis. Dan, i think i have discovered an important aspect of film music to add to your theory. I am a music theorist and composer, and i believe i have literally figured out what musical KEY works for a given psychological response. For example, the actions scenes presented in your given video-essay are in a certain key for a very specific reason. And i think i know why they particular key is being used and how the composer comes up to that conclusion. Something that i don't think most composers understand fully. You out there? — Frank Montoya, Musicolored Studios

  54. Fascinating analysis. Dan, i think i have discovered an important aspect of film music to add to your theory. I am a music theorist and composer, and i believe i have literally figured out what musical KEY works for a given psychological response. For example, the actions scenes presented in your given video-essay are in a certain key for a very specific reason. And i think i know why they particular key is being used and how the composer comes up to that conclusion. Something that i don't think most composers understand fully. You out there? — Frank Montoya, Musicolored Studios

  55. Very nice essay, Mr Golding. Although I don't fully agree about Zimmer giving nothing to hum along. Take "Gladiator". The melody is simple but with a clever and efficient twist in the (original) unexpected octave jump… Anyway, not here to argue. Keep the good work

  56. I don't think anyone's ability to remember film score music has changed much in the past 50-75 years. Popular music's memorability is static in society.

  57. I think Marvel's soundtracks' simply lack characteristics and we human don't remember chords but melodies. But in Doctor Strange, they truly made something with individuality and quite Zimmer-like. Love that music a lot.

  58. I think it's pretty simple really. Melody is passé so most scores these days are heavily chord driven with alot of production on top. "Inside The Score" made a great essay on this very problem in relation to pop music and I think film music has had this "problem" for well over a decade now.
    I find myself with this very same problem whenever I'm trying to compose a contemporary style cue and whenever I add melodies I find them taking way to much attention to justify them being there. Most of the time they just feel awkward.
    Which is a damn shame since I am a sucker for 60's-90's film music, but there just isnt much room for intricate self sustaining melodies in scores these days.

  59. Zimmer's scores 'work', but like with so many recent movies they are plastic – they aren't composed music but constructed sound canvasses so Zimmer can not be regarded as a 'composer' in the true concept of the word. In an era where so many things are disposable, the majority of the output of Hollywood is 'disposable' – use once and discard, and the scores are also disposable except it's 'use once and recycle'. I find I'm not alone in using YouTube etc to discover the pleasures to be found in older movies (not necessarily going back as far as the so-called 'golden age'). Sure, in say the 30's-40's, Hollywood was like a sausage machine, churning out watch-once-only movies I understand almost weekly! But there was also room for movies to be made that would survive, and the same goes for scores. You reference Korngold's ' "King's Row" (that theme, I've found out, was composed before Korngold even saw the film), and just like many movies from the past are not only being referenced but being discovered and watched. The same applies to the better scores of the past. I doubt that any of Zimmer's scores will be remembered in 80 years, nor any of the movies. You could argue the scores aren't being created for posterity but for the present needs of the particular movie. But movie-making is in essence an art form, and I'm finding a growing number of people are getting disgruntled with today's Hollywood and looking back to earlier movies that, while few were 'high art' were none-the-less 'popular art' as it were. There's little being created today in Hollywood that could be described as 'art' on any level or will survive the test of time, be it movies or the scores.

  60. I have found over the years that a lot of "Theory heavy" pzeopledon't prefer Zimmer's music because he favors the simplest solutions to complex problems in films. You've got to be very cynical insecure about your own musical ability to generally make a statement that Hollywood film music isn't original. I think it's merely a canvas. I think art mimics art and eventually everything is simply rediscovered again. Nothing men create is truly "born" from "Nothing".

  61. Its like saying: Using a human voice is unoriginal. Take the Star Wars theme and
    ‚h – e – a – r‘ how its arranged. The sonic design of choosing the palettes of different tonguing combined with multiple rhythm pulse brings us goosebumps in the theatre. Combine that with the original version.

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