Many film composers have a style that is easy to recognize: Jonny Greenwood is known for dissident strings, erratic percussion, and unsettling rhythms, while Trent Reznor is known for being minimal, cold, and distant. Hans Zimmer, by contrast, maybe one of the most well-known and prolific composers in the world (he even performed at the 2017 Coachella Music Festival), but his style can be rather difficult to pinpoint.
Sure, he has his fair share of trademarks— for example, the sound of ticking serves as an aural motif in films like The Thin Red Line, Interstellar, and Dunkirk. And his big, driving percussion shows up in everything from Christopher Nolan’s Inception and The Dark Knight to Michael Bay’s The Rock. But what really earns Zimmer the crown of “auteur” is his approach to composing. A more traditional composer might approach a film with the simple intent of enhancing its emotional impact. A happy scene would get happy music to make us feel happy. A sad scene would feature sad music to make us feel sad. But Zimmer doesn’t do this. He isn’t really interested in making us feel something, rather, he’s more concerned with opening a new world and allowing us to enter it through his music. Instead of offering emotional cues, Zimmer’s music conveys subtext, things that a filmmaker can’t communicate visually. This allows us to establish our own emotional experience of the movie. With a body of work that spans from Boss Baby to 12 Years a Slave (and everything in between), Zimmer’s sound can be tricky to define. But given his unparalleled passion and attention to detail, Hans Zimmer surely puts his own unique mark on every film he touches.
Keep the listening party going, with our videos on the sounds of directors Park Chan-wook, the Coen Brothers, Paul Verhoeven, Andrei Tarkovsky, Agnès Varda, Wes Anderson, and Clint Eastwood, and our in-depth look at the cinematic mythology of Led Zeppelin. Ahhhhhhh-ah!