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June 13, 2013

6 Things We Learned from Hans Zimmer's Reddit Ask Me Anything

HansZimmerReddit has grown so much in popularity in the past few years that their AMA (Ask Me Anything) feature, where any user can ask a question of a celebrity, has attracted numerous filmmakers -- who have given a range of interesting answers. Hans Zimmer recently participated in one, and we've culled the most interesting responses from this Hollywood mega-composer's interview. Click below to read wisdom and tips from the music man himself.

Here are some of the more interesting questions and answers from Zimmer, the German mega-composer/producer responsible for the scores of such films as The Lion King, GladiatorThe Dark Knight, and Inception (to name a very few):

1. What do you do when you're stuck on something? How do you 'clear out the cobwebs' to gain insight?

I read a book, or look at a Gerhard Richter painting. Have a heated discussion with my director. Talk to a great chef about great food. That's always inspiring.

2. If you would [have] had the chance to score for one movie which has already been released, which would it be?

Blade Runner. But I love what Vangelis did so much, so not really.

3. If there was one composer from any point in history that you could go back and meet, who would it be and why?

Beethoven, because those first 4 notes of the Fifth are so simple and how did he know that he could create such magic with them?

4. What's your studio setup like?

Here is my humble little den. If you have to spend 98% of your life in a room without windows, you might as well have some fun with a decor. It was modeled on the interior of a turn-of-the-century Viennese brothel. But don't call me a musical whore. (Note: Here's an interview about the Inception soundtrack that shows the studio.)

5. How many times would you generally watch a film during the composition process of a score?

I'm like a cat, I have 9 lives. After 9 complete viewings, I find it difficult to feel anything new, so I usually work from the first impressions and try to hang onto those for dear life.

6. Of Nolan's Batman films, which was your favorite to score?

The third, because it brought everything together - after all, it was nine years of our lives, and I think we became a very good family in that time. It was hard to say goodbye to that character.

The rest of the interview is just as fascinating, and definitely a good read.

What do you think a mainstream titan like Zimmer could teach an indie filmmaker/composer? How do you handle the music for your films? Have you had much experience working with composers, and if you are one, how do you find the experience of working on indie films?

Link: Hans Zimmer Reddit AMA

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12 Comments

I loved his quote about living your life to the fullest and pursuing your dreams.

June 13, 2013

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Very interesting insights. Many musicians I talk to criticize his music as being formulaic or too simple. Personally I think he makes powerful and memorable scores.

June 14, 2013

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That makes no sense, there is so much texture and range to his music. It's the rock and roll of classical music. I challenge anyone to find a stereo system that can handle the full dynamic range of his tracks. "Terraforming" from the Man of Steel soundtrack is mind-blowing. He puts a tremendous amount of effort into his work and always comes up with new things to do. The MOS score has instruments they invented for the score, a 5 piece pedal-steel section playing parts that were written for a string section, 10 world-class rock drummers playing full kits in a room that was designed for orchestras, and a priceless stradivarius...

The MOS score sounds like the Batman and Inception soundtracks had a baby that took steroids.

June 14, 2013

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Julian

I prefer the work of Clint Mansell because he usually displays more creativity and diversity from projects to projects but they both fit very well to their projects. Hans Zimmer is incredible when the movie requires music that takes a lot of space and depth. And what he is doing with Man Of Steel has a very distinctive flamour, when in my opinion, The music of Inception was too reminiscent of what he had done on the batman movie.
Looking forward to watch Man Of Steel for sure.

June 14, 2013

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The problem with Zimmer is, that he's one of those composers who blatantly plagiarize themselves. If I'd known about being able to ask him a question, it would have been "Don't you feel ashamed to recycle themes & notes from your past works?" Or there's the whole issue with classical music being blatantly copy pasted... although, that's more of John Williams' and James Horners forte.

June 14, 2013

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julian

For a second, I was like "I don't remember writing this..."

Hans Zimmer is more like a rock musician and while he writes music for lots of different films, he takes what he's learned on the previous ones and uses the same elements on future scores. I think all of his Batman, Inception, and MOS soundtracks have a lot in common, but it's not a bad thing. I love the blaring deep brass sections in MOS that are very similar to Inception. But if you compare that to his Rango soundtrack, there is nothing in common.

June 14, 2013

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Julian

Why would he feel ashamed? If he's revisited them its probably because he actually ENJOYS them and thinks they'll work. I guess you just piss originality?

June 15, 2013

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Kraig

I too can't imagine Blade Runner with anything other than Vangelis' meditative score, quite frankly. I'd be very disappointed if Ridley decides that the sequel should have traditional Hollywood score.

June 14, 2013

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Natt

Sequel?! Oh god...

Did he not learn from Prometheus? Yes, I know that was a prequel. Just as unnecessary though.

June 14, 2013

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Nick

I think the one thing experienced composers can do when working with novice directors is give them a primer on how to speak to a composer to get what you want. The problem between directors and composers is often one of miscommunication, especially when the director isn't experienced in speaking the language of composition.

When I was at USC I TA'ed a class called "Directing the Composer" that really helped the students speak that language. So many directors just put together a temp track with the music editor and then tell the composer "match this" - but being able to talk in detail about instrumentation or pacing or mood or whether you want atmospheric or leitmotif score is such a critically useful skill. This is especially true in the very end of the proces when the director wants to make an adjustment in the mix or something. Oftentimes novice directors get steamrolled by composers because any music sounds pretty good, even if it's not the best for the scene. An experienced composer can help directors understand when to avoid music, when to use something counterintuitive, etc.

June 16, 2013

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I would like to know if he scores everything himself... he does so many films, I wonder if he subcontracts (and quality assures) some of the work...

June 20, 2013

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Terence Kearns

How would I improve it - add drums. Percussion. Drums, just in case the gun fire and explosions are not enough ... even with Beethoven's Symphony number 5 - it was too simple - it needed more cowbell - but cowbells don't sell in theatre - so I'd add percussion. The great thing about percussion is you need less "pitching", and bombastic America will never know the difference - it is a miiitarialistic (and materialistic?) conceit.

June 21, 2013

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DamenS