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Hans Zimmer: "Filmmaking Is Collaborative, Why Does It Need To Stop When It Comes To Music?"

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by Kevin Jagernauth
April 4, 2014 11:12 AM
8 Comments
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Hans Zimmer is one of the most in demand composers at the moment, and with that busy schedule, he's called in collaborators to help bring his work to life. The forthcoming "The Amazing Spider-Man 2" score will feature Zimmer working alongside Pharrell Williams, Johnny Marr, Junkie XL, Andrew Kawczynski, Steve Mazzaro and Incubus member Mike Einzinger. That process can sometimes bring into question who is the real writer or author of the score, occasionally creating a minor controversy when it comes to credit (please see the "Inception" BRAAAM debate). But for Zimmer as long as it's his idea, he believes who helps execute that vision comes secondary.

"Filmmaking is collaborative, why does it need to stop when it comes to music? Because the director doesn't have the vocabulary? The musicians I work with speak English as well as I do, we're talking about story, character, pace, editing. We're talking about the film as a whole," he told Thompson On Hollywood.

"I am still an architect. Authorship seems to be more difficult for other people. My head runs over with ideas, I can't sleep at night, I get home and get another idea, go back to studio and do it. I am surrounded by brilliant musicians, it's a give and take, constantly. The original concept is mine," Zimmer continued. "I ask Ron [Howard] how 'Rush' should sound. He'll blame me. We work strictly in collaboration with conversations we've had. I was speaking to somebody yesterday about an idea. Beethoven had an orchestrator. He did it all himself — [sings the "dum dum dum dum" opening of the Ninth Symphony] — then the orchestra would do the rest. He would have been well pissed off if someone said the orchestra came up with [that opening]. At the end of the day the things that is remembered is the big idea, the tune, the hooks in the architecture."

Thoughts? Do think Zimmer's view on writing and composing is correct or do those who help shape an idea need credit? Let us know below.


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8 Comments

  • ASMAC | May 8, 2014 5:35 PMReply

    Hans Zimmer's trusted conductor Nick Glennie-Smith who's a great composer in his own right will be the featured guest speaker at the monthly ASMAC (American Society of Music Arrangers and Composers) Luncheon on May 10 at 12pm at Catalina Jazz Club in Hollywood. 6725 Sunset Blvd. Hosted and moderated by Peter Rotter who does most of the orchestra contracting for Hans.

  • ASMAC | May 8, 2014 5:54 PM

    Correction, the date is May 14

  • Ludwig Fan | April 14, 2014 2:58 PMReply

    The "dum dum dum dum" is Beethoven's 5th symphony, not his 9th. Please get your facts straight.

  • Elo | April 5, 2014 3:34 PMReply

    I don't think Zimmer would ever prevent those who've executed his vision from receiving credit for their involvement, however, in virtue of being a composer, those working with him have a duty to respect his vision, as he has a duty to respect what each musician brings to the table. Additionally, there really is nothing more insulting, irritating, and frustrating than an artist who believes that his/her hope for a final piece of work overrides that of the boss's. I'm just speaking from an actor's perspective, and, in may ways, an actor's duty parallels that of a musician in an orchestra. For me, I display to the director what I can do with my (and I don't mean to sound pretentious....) 'instrument,' and, from that, the director selects what he/she wants me to bring to the table from what I can do as an artist. In no way am I making 'suggestions' to the director about what should happen in regard to the overall vision, I'm just trying to give the director more colors to paint with...hopefully with colors that no one's ever seen before, and ones that the director will pull out of me that I didn't even know I had, and he didn't even know would work with his vision at the beginning. I think it's pretty similar with what Hans does as a composer and his relationship with the musicians he works with. In no way am I saying that it's okay to be a pushover when it comes to working with a director or a composer, especially when they want you to do something that just doesn't feel organic or real as an artist, but have complete respect for their vision -- it's like, directors or, in Hans' case, composers are painters with a canvas, paintbrush, and a vision, whereas the actors or orchestra musicians are the 'colors' and it's our job to bring as many hues as we can to the table, and the boss chooses what will work the best with his/her respective vision. We aim to show them a part of ourselves that will completely KILLLL that vision. (..and by kill, I mean rock like nothing else....) You do your best work when you work with the best and do what you're supposed to do. Of course, there are always the indecisive weirdo director types, but that's certainly not the case with Hans and there is no excuse for any one of his musicians to half-ass a performance, question his vision for a second, or even to claim his vision as their own. Sure, they definitely deserve credit for their involvement and inspiration during a production, but not for thinking of the overall vision, that is completely reductive, so I definitely agree with what Hans is saying here. Also, if an actor/musician has an artistic, directorial vision, nothing's stopping them from fulfilling it, just don't try*ever* to impose it on the director or composer you are working for...... You'll get fired and no one will ever.ever.ever. want to work with you again. Ever.

  • Lehane | April 4, 2014 2:52 PMReply

    Ideas are ten a penny. It's all about execution.

  • Matt | April 4, 2014 2:16 PMReply

    He's not wrong, however while films are indeed a collaboration, the collaborators are recognized for their work with credits. From what I've heard anecdotally through people who have worked with him before, it's a little bit of a sweatshop atmosphere with the underlings doing most of the groundwork and Hans coming in at the end for a polish. I've also heard similar things about big screenwriters like Akiva Goldsman hiring young writers or paying assistants to do most of the actual writing. I don't think it's outright theft but it is a tad disingenuous.

  • James | April 4, 2014 12:28 PMReply

    "But for Zimmer as long as it's his idea, he believes who helps execute that vision comes secondary."

    A little unfair, and I don't think particularly accurate. Hans Zimmer has always held his work partners in equal regard.
    Most of his best work has been collaborations, just look at Gladiator, and Batman Begins. So if it worked then, what's wrong with it now?
    I think Hans Zimmer does bring something unique to projects but it is not because of arrogance that his name usually comes before his colleagues, its just the record companies trying to promote the work for better sales; his name has become so well known anything with his name on will sell.

    By all means, show me evidence where Hans Zimmer has even suggested his helpers are 'secondary', but I think this is sweeping and inaccurate.

  • John | April 4, 2014 2:03 PM

    "The original concept is mine," Zimmer continued. "I ask Ron [Howard] how 'Rush' should sound. He'll blame me. We work strictly in collaboration with conversations we've had. I was speaking to somebody yesterday about an idea. Beethoven had an orchestrator. He did it all himself — [sings the "dum dum dum dum" opening of the Ninth Symphony] — then the orchestra would do the rest. He would have been well pissed off if someone said the orchestra came up with [that opening]. At the end of the day the things that is remembered is the big idea, the tune, the hooks in the architecture."

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