The now 40-year career of the exceptional German composer Hans Zimmer was honoured with a new BBC documentary. It is the story of the Oscar-winning composer, who set completely new standards in film music and thus became a Hollywood star. In addition, the dates for the “Europe Tour 2023” and the release of a new live double album have also been announced. The documentary aired on BBC Two on October 16, 2022.
Impressive look behind the scenes
Francis Hanly, director of the BBC documentary, raves beyond measure. In fact, he describes the work as a “dream job”. He says the sheer number of outstanding films that Hans Zimmer has scored over the past 40 years is incredible. Full of admiration, he was able to film the master at the keyboard, giving exclusive demonstrations of the techniques and sounds he created, while also explaining the ideas behind his film scores. Hans Zimmer himself was looking forward to sharing deep insights into his life with the world and enabling people to find a deeper understanding of his compositions and especially his music.
New double album to be released in 2023
Zimmer has also announced the release of a new double album for March 2023. It will feature revised live versions of his most famous film themes such as “Dune”, “The Lion King” or “The Dark Knight”. The epic pieces were recorded during his spring tour. It was recorded with the workflow of a studio production within ten nights; then Hans spent weeks mixing the album with his friend and producer Stephen Lipson. In addition to his 20-piece Disruptive Collective Band, Zimmer has also worked with the Odessa Opera Orchestra and Choir. The first single, a new version of the suite from “The Last Samurai” from 2003, was released on October 7th.
The dream factory’s busiest film composer
Zimmer has left so many film music footprints that they hardly fit into a simple reference list. The long and legendary strips that he has staged with his music productions are, for example, the “Batman Trilogy”, films such as “Pirates of the Caribbean”, “Rain Man”, “Gladiator”, “Inception”, “Da Vinci Code” and numerous others. The list of his awards from the Grammy to the Golden Globe Award and various other prizes is simply endless. He was awarded an Oscar for his soundtrack for “The Lion King” and “Dune”.
Between worlds: Electronic, orchestral and experimental
His basic musical education was “impressively extensive”. Born in Frankfurt am Main, Hans Zimmer learned the piano and took lessons for exactly one week. According to Hans himself, everything he learned about music was in England. This is also the reason why he “(…) prefers to talk about it in English.” Not least because of his extraordinary creativity, his technical understanding and scenic empathy for musical visualization, he left the beaten track early on. Ultimately, through the synergy of electronic, orchestral and experimental music, he created nothing less than a new style of Hollywood music.
Excerpts from the musical wizard’s equipment
Hans Zimmer has studios in London and Los Angeles. Some of the equipment is mirrored, such as the Moog Modular and the machine room that houses the custom samplers, as well as the Waldorf Iridium, which Hans says everyone on the team is a big fan of. Then again, there are devices that don’t exist in LA, like the Analog Solutions Colossus. He also used a Fairlight sampler for a while, which didn’t have MIDI at the time. That was around 40 years ago. Such sounds are now available via the plugin bundle Arturia Collection 9. In general, Hans likes software synthesizers with an independent interface, especially since he feels that it takes him the same amount of time to program replicas of originals as it does on hardware.
He thought he was crazy – but it worked
Hans’ favorite synthesizer is the software synth U-He Zebr, which is available in a special version for him and is also known as “Dark Zebra”. Films like “Inception” or “Batman Begins” – even the flapping of Batman’s wings comes from Zebra – would certainly sound completely different without this synth. Urs Heckmann has repeatedly implemented special samples and plugins in the software synthesizer for Hans Zimmermann. This also applies to the clearly electro-heavy Dune score. And so Zimmer also believed that he would drive Urs Heckmann crazy if he told him: “We now need four resonators in Zebra because we have this idea of rotating the sound of a Tibetan horn and putting the spectrum on Tina Guo’s cello. Urs thought he was crazy, but it worked.
A man who went his own way undeterred
Hans Zimmer, he reaped admiration for his genius everywhere, not only in the genre of film composition. He himself says: “I hope that this documentary inspires people to pursue their passions”.
Hans Zimmer: Interview
Our friends from Amazona met Hans Zimmer at his London studio last year. Here you can find the video interview (in German only, unfortunately).
What are your film music passions and what equipment do you use to realize them? We would be happy to read your comments.