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 Posted:   Oct 12, 2021 - 7:14 PM   
 By:   Jurassic T. Park   (Member)

It is clear from any earnest and clear-minded appraisal of his musical career, that many of his scores contain musical cues that barely sound like him. That often aren't even consistent within the scope of the score. That often sound like the voice of another composer. That sound like music that he either wouldn't (or couldn't) write. Granted I've not listened to everything. And the effect is more pronounced on some scores than others. But I just don't get that feeling listening to, say, John Powell - even when there is significant involvement from other arrangers.

FrameSoil, I think you’re onto something here. I’ve likened the lack of consistency in his works to poor compositional skills. While that might be the case, especially in some earlier works, the idea you’re describing of all the different co-writing projects he has do lend themselves to resulting in really disjointed works and in certain cases completely disjointed cues. And he’s still doing that today, and some of his scores today still sound inconsistent, so I think that’s a very relevant point you make.

You also make a good point about not needing a classical background. While it may help, I think you’re right if a composer has a very deep background in a different aspect of music. This is why I was looking at Zimmer as an “experimental” composer and wondering why he doesn’t have his own experimental works outside of film scores, as I think any composer/musician would benefit from a strong foundational knowledge and ongoing, lifelong learning.

Good points you made and they helped me connect some dots!

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 12, 2021 - 10:07 PM   
 By:   Mephariel   (Member)

But it is just odd to me you are criticizing the guy who wrote WW84 and Hillbilly Elegy just last year. Who wrote Boss Baby 2 (Clemmensen actually criticized Zimmer for writing TOO much themes) and Bond this year .

Steve Mazzaro LOL.


Yeah. He did some of it. Doesn't change my point.


No. Not necessarily, it was a bit glib.

In the spirit of making a more productive contribution to this thread, I'll elaborate and try to articulate an argument here. I think the reliance on secondary composers and arrangers does factor into the appraisal of his music's artistic value, and the consequences of this methodology does contribute to why the output music doesn't always work for some people. And note, before I proceed, I didn't say "ghost writers". I've long thought one of the more commendable elements of Zimmer is he does seem to genuinely push for his collaborators to have recognition and I don't recognise that criticism as particularly fair.

But.

It is clear from any earnest and clear-minded appraisal of his musical career, that many of his scores contain musical cues that barely sound like him. That often aren't even consistent within the scope of the score. That often sound like the voice of another composer. That sound like music that he either wouldn't (or couldn't) write. Granted I've not listened to everything. And the effect is more pronounced on some scores than others. But I just don't get that feeling listening to, say, John Powell - even when there is significant involvement from other arrangers.


I don't understand what exactly you are talking about. Almost all of Zimmer's scores contains everything that makes a Zimmer score Zimmer's. In Inception, you hear the brass of Days of Thunder. In Dune you hear Mission Impossible II. In WW84 you hear Angels and Demons. The progression of "Themyscira" at the beginning is totally Zimmer. Just like the crescendo progression at the beginning of Chevaliers De Sangreal is totally Crimson Tide. In Dune, he referenced the panic choir of Dark Phoenix, the vocals of Gladiator, and the villain theme of Mission Impossible II. And in Bond, you can hear Inception and a bit of his other scores. When it comes to his love themes are all uniquely him as well. You can hear the same progressive style in Pirates, Pearl Harbor, and WW84. The action sequences in Pirates mimics that of Drop Zone.

Here is a real question since you said the music often sound like another composer. Why do you think Zimmer only has one voice? Do you think Danny Elfman only has one sound? Do you think Beetlejuice sounds like The Girl on a Train? James Horner has produced orchestral masterpieces like Braveheart and Titanic and yet he also done a score like Southpaw. All great composers have multiple sounds and electronic adaptations in the modern era. Why would Zimmer only have one define sound or style? How much of that is your perception? I bet you if I told you Monk was written by Clint Mansell, you would believe me. You probably wouldn't guess it was done by Ross and Reznor.

We know from Zimmer's own words that his method is often to compose a "suite" of ideas for the film and then let the music editors and arrangers have at the bulk of the cue-by-cue scoring. Sometimes the resulting scores work well for the film, sometimes they're a bit disjointed. But simply assessing the suites - which as far as we know are the purest distillation of his core musical sensibilities and voice -, they are usually compositionally fairly basic, utilise a limited pallet of constructs and chord progressions, and the more orchestral stuff sometimes sounds forced and strained.

That is not true. RCP insiders have confirmed that Zimmer score to picture (he scored Rush's opening scene with Howard in front of him), and also score cues. The way he works is that he and his assistance have different shifts. When Zimmer get off his shift, his assistants takes over. And then he comes back to score the cue. And also, it hard to judge someone's abilities just by listening to suites because they are not always complete. The suites in WW84 are demos, and the suites in Dune sounds more complex than the music in the film. I am not sure how you come to expect a series of musical suite is representative of what a person can do from a talent perspective. Suites to me is a representation of what a person is thinking about doing for a score.

When you listen to the cues themselves, sometimes you'll hear a composer struggling to extend his musical concept to adapt to what the picture demands. With clumsy, clumping, repetitive arrangements. And then you'll hear an interesting, well-developed cue, and your ears perk up... and inevitably find someone else's name attached to it. John Powell. Henry Jackson. Lorne Balfe. Steve Mazzaro. Even in the tracks linked in the opening post, taking "Fools of Fortune"... the progressions are all the usual familiar stuff, but the arrangement and orchestration sounds completely different to anything I've heard from Zimmer. To the point it sounds like someone else's voice. Which of course, it is, when you see who was involved.

Again, how much of that is just your perception? Can you give an example of something that sounds completely “different” than Zimmer that makes you think he is not capable of writing it and why you think it is not his voice? Almost all composers today can write in multiple styles. I been a life long fan of Zimmer and Zimmer has a very distinctive orchestral voice. You can hear the layering, the chords, the melody progression. I have yet to hear something that I go, oh, that must be Mazzaro. BTW, since you are so sure something is Mazzaro, can you explain what you think Mazzaro’s voice is? And how do you know what his technical ability is since he only written one score on his own? I also found it curious that you think Balfe is responsible for writing the interesting cues of Zimmer’s scores but he hasn’t wrote anything interesting for 10 years on own until maybe the last 2 years. Where are the complex orchestrations when Balfe was scoring on his “own?” Not to mention he uses assistants too. Everything you said basically sounds like you formed an opinion of Zimmer’s capabilities and limitations from the get go and that perception dominates your viewpoint.

Another curious part is that you mention John Powell. Powell in the 90s was writing scores like Face/Off. Did you think at the time he would start writing scores like How to Train Your Dragon and Solo? Powell also uses various assistants. How much of it is his “voice?” We don’t know. Powell was able to adapt to films like The Borne Identify and various animated features. Why couldn’t Zimmer? Zimmer has been scoring a variety genre since the 90s. From The Lion King to Black Rain to the Thin Red Line. Why would you think he only has one voice?

Taking WW84 that you mentioned... and to my "Steve Mazzaro LOL" comment. We know what Zimmer wrote here because he released the album with his demo suites. Some of them are okay. But the lively, punchy versions of them ... we know it's Mazzaro. In particular the more adventurous 1984 track with (albeit basic) contrapuntal writing, and multiple lines of woodwinds and brass, of which there's none to be found in the comparatively stale suites... it's someone else's writing.

Actually you don’t know anything. For example, do you think the lively track “Themyscira” was written by Mazzaro? Not only did Mazzaro not worked on that cue, Zimmer confirmed that he wrote it. David Fleming actually worked with him on it. The demo suites were demos for a reason. They don’t have the choir, the orchestra, etc. That is why they sounded different. Maybe Mazzaro wrote 1984, but can you explain why you think Zimmer is not capable of writing it? He wrote much more complex orchestral scores in that era and in the 90s, Gladiator, Pirates, etc. You have yet to explain how you know Mazzaro can write “adventurous” music since hasn’t even shown these capabilities on his own.

The more frantic and demanding orchestral animated scores like "Boss Baby" or "Megamind" always have a co-credit. Why? On "Kung Fu Panda" we know the cues with orchestral density and vigour were Powell. And we know Balfe bailed him out on the third one. Again this isn't a "ghost writer" criticism... this is a question of whether collaborator overload dilutes the musical voice of the product, and whether the reason for the collaboration isn't always the purity of musical exchange, but the practicality of being unable to arrange large quantities of varied orchestral music quickly due to a lack of capability.

Except Zimmer already wrote the same kind of orchestral animation score years ago in Spirit. Have you listened to his arrangements on The World of Hans Zimmer tour? That is as complex as anything in Kung Fu Panda. Zimmer also wrote the end of “Jaded” in Kung Fu Panda 3, which has fast, agile music. Zimmer wrote that kind of style in the 90s. Why wouldn’t he be capable of doing this? I would also argue that Pirates have just as much complex writing and I none of them are co-credit scores. Once again, it is more that you have a perception of his abilities and you let that run than actually you have any evidence of what he can or cannot write.

I think there's something to the comment Jurassic T.Park made about a pre-Gladiator and post-Gladiator Zimmer. Zimmer probably did "get lucky" (good for him!) and found himself on assignments a bit beyond where his capabilities were and gave them his best shot, sometimes with enjoyable results. There's an earnestness and freshness to his 90's work even when the composition itself is sloppy or repetitive. And I don't personally believe a formal classical training is necessarily required to become original or excellent. But something broke. Maybe getting sued by the Holst foundation. Maybe the burden of carrying the tag of being a musical "genius". Maybe boredom with the action genre. But Gladiator feels like one of the few post-2000 works where he truly went beyond his comfort zone, without a reliance on secondary composers to work through the more demanding orchestral ideas. And even that isn't perfect, with some sloppy cues ("Patricide"), and sometimes unsatisfying orchestrations. For me Prince of Egypt probably represents his pinnacle... it's not perfect, but his ideas are well-expressed, suit the material, there is a strong voice, clear themes, clear direction, and an attempt to take on most of the more demanding material himself.

Honestly that is fine if that is your opinion. My favorite Zimmer scores are in the 2000s: Gladiator, Pirates 3, The Last Samurai, Interstellar. That is the decade that Zimmer made huge orchestral scores. The only score that is in my top ten Zimmer scores in the 90s is The Lion King. I don’t think any thing “broke.” I think the only problem people have with his 2000s scores is not that they have probably with them, I think they have a problem with him being successful. You hinted that when you make comments like the “burden of carrying the tag of being a musical genius.” Zimmer is the Yankees of films scoring. The Lakers. The Patriots. Barcelona. Once the 2000s hit, people started hating him because he become the icon of film scoring and film music traditionists start making all sorts of hypocritical fallacies that I see all over your post. It is amusing that people think all the best Zimmer writings in the 2000s are from his assistants when in reality, they nearly all had mediocre careers and could never writing anything like they do like when they are with Zimmer. Zimmer wrote The Lion King. Balfe wrote Hurricane Heist. But Balfe is responsible for Zimmer's success in writing. Sure thing.

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 12, 2021 - 10:14 PM   
 By:   Octoberman   (Member)

Good Lord.

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 12, 2021 - 10:32 PM   
 By:   Tango Urilla   (Member)

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 13, 2021 - 5:56 AM   
 By:   TerraEpon   (Member)



Not sure what that's supposed to prove, since that isn't by Zimmer, at all, it's an an arrangement of something from the 1920s which itself was an arrangement of something from 1536.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gassenhauer

 
 
 Posted:   Oct 13, 2021 - 6:17 AM   
 By:   jkannry   (Member)



Not sure what that's supposed to prove, since that isn't by Zimmer, at all, it's an an arrangement of something from the 1920s which itself was an arrangement of something from 1536.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gassenhauer


Huh?

 
 Posted:   Oct 13, 2021 - 6:36 AM   
 By:   King Solium   (Member)

John Williams sometimes could be more accurately called "sappy" or "saccharine" instead of "cheesy"

Choose your adjectives I guess. As many youngling's will say Williams "sappy" music elicits a negative response. Complain its to on the nose and obvious. Results are the same.

 
 Posted:   Oct 13, 2021 - 6:39 AM   
 By:   King Solium   (Member)

Good Lord.

This is the internet's. I'm not reading anything longer than 280 characters.

 
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