Stories from Northwestern (Part 4)

Did you know that our School of Communiation has a great RTVF (Ratio, TV, and Film) department? Did you know that our students write, direct, and produce many productions each quarter?

I’m proud and excited to announce that I’ll be composing for a student film being produced this spring quarter called Shambles! More to come on this later, but it’s going to be a fun project, especially as I’m excited to see what I can do to expand my horizons in the film composing area.

A Quote from Hans Zimmer

For “This Land” – the whole Lion King soundtrack is really me dealing with my father’s death, which up to that point I had never really done, because children suppress things, and I was rather surprised that, in a cartoon with fuzzy animals, I was suddenly confronted with my past. The other thing is, because I wrote it for my daughter, it connected the generations over time through music.

My favorite composition that I wrote…I find fault with all of it, nothing is ever finished, that’s why I carry on writing, and part of what I like is influenced by the people I am working with. So some of my favorites have more to do with process than the actual end result. So a Zack Snyder or a Chris Nolan seem to bring out some pretty good things in me.

For Man of Steel you can expect hope. Hope and no cynicism. The opposite of The Dark Knight. Trying to celebrate hard-working, simple, blue-collar people in the Midwest who never get celebrated.

– Hans Zimmer, from his AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit.
Who knew that the music of Lion King was Hans dealing with his father’s death? It adds a much deeper layer to appreciating the music.

Good Ol’ Pirates

A few days ago in band we sightread a Pirates of the Caribbean medley. Generally loved by the public, the music was fun to sightread. The arrangement could have been better, but this is one tune from that day that stuck with me. I had of course heard the theme previously, but I gained a renewed appreciation for it after playing the syncopated accompaniment part on the bassoon.

WISE – Learning from the Best

There’s no doubt you’ve heard this theme somewhere at some point in your life. I don’t remember the very first time I heard it, but I do know that Zimmer’s music from Pirates was one of my biggest early inspirations in starting to compose music.

Years later, I still come back to the piece because it’s such a great research material. It’s short and sweet, making it the perfect length for me to quickly analyze the structure of the piece. The two themes presented in the piece flow seamlessly together thanks to a masterful transition, and the upbeat tempo, along with the masterful orchestration, makes the piece sound epic all the way throughout.

Most importantly, this is the kind of feel that I’m hoping to emulate with my orchestral piece. I’m no Zimmer, but we’ll see what I can do.

Les Miserables (2012)

When people ask me if Les Miserables is a musical, I tell them no. Instead, I call it an experience. It’s an experience to be loved, to be lived, and to be sung. And sing I did, as I walked out of the theaters after watching the new movie by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech).

Top-notch ensemble cast, legendary producer, innovative director, unparalleled music. What more could you ask for? It was every bit worth the wait and more. The favorite tunes were all there, and they even added some new bits and pieces here and there. Including, if I might spoil it, a brand new piece written just for the movie (Suddenly).

I’m no film critic, so I won’t do such a thing as to give a score or a rating. But the movie truly moved me. Although there were moments that I wish the singing was done better or differently, those moments paled in comparison to the grandeur of the experience as a whole.

Please, go see it this holiday season. Do yourself this favor: you won’t regret it.

Old Wine in New Bottles

Here it is, in full glory. I went to watch the movie at its midnight release with friends, and while the fun factor and the good movie factor pulled me to go, it was really the music that made me forego my sleep to watch this. As with the previous films, Howard Shore did not disappoint. If you had been able to see my face when the movie started off with the Hobbits’ theme, you would’ve thought I was a five year old.

Knowing and understanding the symbolism hidden within the musical themes, it mad the movie just that much more rich. For example, the fact that the clarinet, not the flute, now held the Hobbits’ theme, said much about the change of character between Frodo and Bilbo. However, despite the abundance of original music, there was only one new theme that stood out: the Dwarves’ theme. Even if you know nothing about music, you’ll notice it during the film. Trust me. The other recognizable themes, however, such as the beloved Hobbits’ theme and the Ring’s theme, were reused.

Another interesting thing of note: the first few measures of the soundtrack are akin to Beethoven’s works in that the theme switches back and forth from major to minor and back again (pun intended). It’s fitting for the movie, and I bet Howard Shore’s inspiration included Beethoven.

I plan to go watch it again in theaters before the movie stops showing, and maybe that time I’ll simply sit down, close my eyes, and fully enjoy the magical creation of Howard Shore.

Floppy Drive Music

As kind of a follow-up to my previous post, here’s a classic song recreated by using the sounds of eight floppy drives. Seems like floppy discs are actually quite useful in creating music, as this isn’t the first time I’ve seen them make songs. For Battlefield players, here’s some more floppy music:

And some Pirates:

And some Star Wars…
And Peer Gynt.

The Dark Knight Rises

Deshi deshi basara basara!

That is the chant that you will hear at the full height of Bane’s glory in the newest Christopher Nolan Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises. Having loved the previous two films, especially The Dark Knight, I was thrilled to go see the Dark Knight Rises with my friends at the midnight showing.

Hans Zimmer, having scored the previous two films, scored The Dark Knight Rises as well. For The Dark Knight, he used the shrill sound of the high notes on an electric cello, slowly escalating in pitch, to convey the tension created by the Joker (the villain):

So I knew that he would do something just as iconic for this new film, and he certainly did. The Dark Knight Rises starred the antagonist Bane. This massive figure of solid muscle exuded strength and power, not only physically but mentally as well. Hans embodied this character in the chant:

This chant, meaning “He rises,” was actually created using the voices of the fans who recorded themselves doing the chant. A quote from Wikipedia:

When asked about the chant for clarification, Zimmer said, “The chant became a very complicated thing because I wanted hundreds of thousands of voices, and it’s not so easy to get hundreds of thousands of voices. So, we Twittered and we posted on the internet, for people who wanted to be part of it. It seemed like an interesting thing. We’ve created this world, over these last two movies, and somehow I think the audience and the fans have been part of this world. We do keep them in mind.”

Throughout the film, Hans uses the easily recognizable rhythmic motif to signal the listeners: Bane is coming. As soon as I heard that motif, whether it would be low and slow or furious and loud, Bane would appear. The repeated use may seem overdone if you consider the fact that the film is over two and a half hours long, but somehow Hans managed to find a different way to present the motif each time.

Of course, Bane’s chant was not the entire score. There were numerous other cues throughout the film for Batman and some even for the new Catwoman. The soundtrack did not disappoint, and nor did the movie. It truly was an epic conclusion to a grand trilogy.

The Amazing Spider-Man

A friend of mine convinced me to go with him to the midnight showing of The Amazing Spider-Man yesterday, and I’m glad I went. There were numerous aspects of the film that were done very well, including the fact that they didn’t stray far from the comic books. The film was much better than the previous Spider-Man films.

I noted the well-written score during the showing, and I came home and immediately looked up the composer. To my delight, it was none but the mighty James Horner. Here’s what Marc Webb, the director of the film, seemed to like Horner and his music very much:

When hearing Horner’s first musical cue, Webb described it as being “spectacular”. Webb said he wanted to find a composer to understand both grandeur and intimacy and he felt that James was a genius at that. “I wanted to to create a score that felt massive and huge but also intimate and small.”

I would have to agree, he is good at that.