Hans Zimmer:
Speaking Through Music

By Stephanie Jorgl

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Hans Zimmer
German-born composer Hans Zimmer has been nominated for seven Academy Awards, including his music for “Gladiator,” “As Good As It Gets,” “Crimson Tide” and “The Preacher’s Wife.” In 1998, he was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Dramatic Score for “The Thin Red Line” and Best Musical/Comedy Score for “The Prince of Egypt.”

After working on “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron” last year, Zimmer decided to take on a darker adventure by scoring “The Ring,” a remake of the Japanese horror movie.

“After I did this kids’ film, I needed an antidote to the sweetness — I had to go over to my dark side,” he says with a wicked grin. “I usually spend more time on my dark side.”

Zimmer is also working on director Ridley Scott’s latest film, “Matchstick Men,” as well as “The Last Samurai,” an epic that takes place in the 1870s. “It’s like ‘Gladiator’ in Japan,” he says.

Working With Lisa Gerrard
Zimmer pauses to reflect on the “Gladiator” experience. He and Ridley Scott lured eclectic music goddess Lisa Gerrard — known for her work with Dead Can Dance and as a solo artist — into helping with the score. “Lisa didn’t really want to do it when we first phoned her,” he says. “So Ridley did what every good director does — he sent her the film and said, ‘Let’s wait and see what she says after she watches the movie.’

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“Well, she phoned up straight away and said ‘I’m on the next plane from Australia,’” he recalls. Gerrard was originally supposed to come over for three days. But she ended up staying for three months.

“Things started loosening up in the studio,” he says. “Lisa wasn’t just singing my things, she was really contributing and writing her own stuff. It was so great.

Collaborative Composing
“I like working in a collaborative way,” says Zimmer. “I’m not very ego-driven about being ‘The Composer.’ Whoever brings in great ideas should be welcomed. I think it was really good for Lisa — tough, but sort of fun, too. And Ridley is great to work with.”

“After I did this kids’ film, I needed an antidote to the sweetness — I had to go over to my dark side,” says Zimmer, with a wicked grin.

“‘Gladiator’ is actually two things,” says Zimmer. “It’s a very structured, thorough score with a very German intellect at work. And then it needed those moments of feminine looseness, which Lisa contributed. Those moments worked like little experiments, little tunes we would develop instinctively.

“The great thing about Lisa is that sometimes she’d be in my room and I’d be writing differently because her presence and influence were there,” he reflects. “So that was great. Lisa’s got all these computers, but I think in a secret way she fights the technology all the time.”

Next page: Learning The Craft of Sound

Hans Zimmer

1. Speaking Through Music
2. Learning the Craft of Sound
3. The Language of Film

A Composer’s Toolkit
(Part 1 of 3)

Throughout countless scores, Macs have long been a staple in Zimmer’s arsenal of tools. “We have loads of Macs and we have loads of PCs,” he says. But he keeps four Power Mac G4s close at hand in his home studio. “I think the Mac is really intuitive,” he adds. “It feels solid.”

Cubase and Pro Tools
Zimmer does his MIDI arrangements and editing in Cubase, and his audio work in Pro Tools. “The new Cubase will only run in Mac OS X, which is great because I want my system to run really stable,” says Zimmer. “I need that.

“If you think about it, we’re working on some hundred million dollar movie and we’re relying on a $1,500 computer to finish it. So, at the end of the day, the whole responsibility rests on a $1,000 piece of software,” he adds.

Continued on next page

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