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Give Hans the Oscar!

Discussion in 'Soundtracks Discussion' started by Dave Connor, Mar 3, 2018.

  1. Dr Belasco

    Dr Belasco Senior Member

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    Now Bach was a genuine genius. Every single day. That takes some doing.
     
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  2. Ashermusic

    Ashermusic Senior Member

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    And yet a some music historians say stuff like "Bach wasn't an innovator, he just codified all that came before in the Well Tempered Clavier" etc.

    I doubt he would care and his music endures to speak for itself.
     
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  3. Dr Belasco

    Dr Belasco Senior Member

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    Yes indeed to those historians. One of Bach's faults was he spent far too long in front of the computer and messing around on his iPhone. Even geniuses can get distracted.
     
  4. OP
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    Dave Connor

    Dave Connor Senior Member

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    A pure coincidence: I recorded a violin player yesterday (who's played on some string arrangements of mine) to play a fiddle track on a re-record. Turns out he was one of the solo string players HZ used on Dunkirk for countless sampling/recording sessions (something like 12 hours daily for over a month.) Well, he went on an on about his sessions, the processing of his samples (of every kind and length) their stretching, shrinking, use in constructing the Shepard tone and on and on. A non-stop gush for at least fifteen minutes. He is just in awe of the process over there and HZ's incredible focus and prodigious methodology in pursuit of his creative goals. A wide-eyed enthusiasm that makes you feel like you've taken the same drug, such is the effect of exposure to the HZ world of sound. When he finally paused, I told him about my observation of a bit in the film that, sounds exactly as if you're listening to a Bach fugue only done with sounds. Do you think this fellow even batted an eyelash at that? He just grinned a little wider than he had been while telling his story. He is a composer himself so he knew exactly what I was saying and the ramifications. Of course there was no agenda to tear down, or be dismissive. It was in celebration of greatness in music.

    As I've said so many times, the people in HZ's orbit know the level of achievement going on around them. They know they're a part of something unique that is singular in music of any kind (and can be compared any which way to other music and composers.) The fact that such a heady world of method and technology brings out young people in droves to concert venues just shows you that this guy HZ is truly from Bach to Rock. On too many levels to count.
     
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2018
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  5. South Thames

    South Thames Senior Member

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    Since I take this to be something of a reference to my comments, I will say this: whilst I regret having used the word ‘sycophantic’ earlier (since that goes to motive, which I could not know), it is not improper to disagree with you about the Dunkirk score and and the particular claims that were being made for it (which I think we’ve now established were at least somewhat embellished beyond what was verifiably the case). This isn't a fan club - honest enthusiasm for something doesn’t mean your opinions can't be disagreed with honestly and legitimately.

    Was the score effectively done in my opinion? Sure, as you’d expect with the massive technical/personnel arsenal at Zimmer’s disposal. But the fact is all it really had to do was pulse away making the audience feel uneasy/tense for the best part of the film (and yes, Zimmer of course found interesting ways to do that, but still...), a limitation born of Nolan’s limited approach to the material. I would argue the bar to succeed in doing that was fairly low (and the film wouldn't have played that much differently with various similar music tracked in from any number of other films). And, for that reason, among others, I don’t think this it will go down as one of his more accomplished and memorable scores.
     
  6. jamesavery

    jamesavery Senior Member

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    Ah here, let's give credit to where credit is due. The greatness of that score has everything to do with the songwriting of Elton John and Tim Rice, and little to do with Zimmer. I can't for the life of me remember the air of anything Zimmer composed for that movie, but ask any random stranger on the street if they can sing the hooks of 'Circle Of Life', 'Can You Feel The Love Tonight?', 'Hakuna Matatta', or 'I Just Can't Wait To Be King' and they won't hesitate for a moment!
     
  7. JohnG

    JohnG Senior Member

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    Man -- I don't know you but if you think that score is just "pulse away" you are ignoring a lot. Dunkirk is pretty different, and your scornful, dismissive tone really makes me wonder.

    I thought trailer music was easy until I tried my hand at it.
     
  8. Parsifal666

    Parsifal666 I don't even own a DAW, I'm just a troll.

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    You're not alone, John! And now I'm thinking I should stop being a pighead and give the Dunkirk score another try. I did give it two listens, one during the movie and one with the music alone. Time for me to slam on the headphones and try again. HZ is worth it.
     
  9. South Thames

    South Thames Senior Member

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    I said Zimmer found interesting ways to do it, which I think is what's being remarked upon here (I don't under-estimate the technical skill to achieve this, nor claim I could do it better myself) but I think just the basic function of music in that film is (by design) very limited, and that limits the score.

    Let me actually stick up for Zimmer here:). He was brought onto The Lion King because of a film he'd done set in South Africa, where he'd used African vocals etc., and he was basically recruited by Disney to help add some flavour to the film score and songs -- it was Zimmer and his polyglot musical tendencies that got LeboM involved and arranged the songs into a more distinctive form (though I know that wasn't what the Oscar was for). Without Zimmer, the Lion King songs may have sounded much more like generic Elton John pop numbers (and for me, anyway, that would not be a good thing).
     
  10. Kyle Preston

    Kyle Preston I accidentally do things on purpose

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    Absolutely! On top of HZ's score, I really, really loved Wallfisch's Elgar variation too.
     
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  11. JohnG

    JohnG Senior Member

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    Then perhaps if you indeed don't want to sound dismissive, consider avoiding expressions like: "all it really had to do was pulse away making the audience feel uneasy/tense for the best part of the film"

    and: "I would argue the bar to succeed in doing that was fairly low"

    and: "the film wouldn't have played that much differently with various similar music tracked in from any number of other films"

    I agree with your point that v.i. control is not and should not be a worshipful fan club. That said, even my own forays into scoring to picture has humbled me. It is unutterably hard to come up with a new approach to action / adventure. It's been done for over 100 years by some astonishingly skilled composers from Tiompkin to Herrmann to Williams / JNH and yes, HZ.

    Resisting the pressure to do exactly what you did before takes courage and guts. Even if I don't care for everything, I admire and respect audacity and I think there is plenty of audacity in Dunkirk.

    Novelty

    You apparently find little novelty in the score, which surprises me, as I find the score very unusual, especially for one of the most memorable (to the British) events in their history. I enjoy the way some of the cues evolve / seem almost to crossfade, something I have not heard 10,000 times. And I like the weird out of tune wavy synths, the growls and sort-of-sirens. To me, the music is unusual for a war movie because it does not comment on the events of the movie or even try to tell you what emotion is taking place; I don't feel someone's musical elbow digging into my ribs saying "hey! this is SAD" "hey! this is scary!" Quite the reverse -- instead of a composer "talking about" the movie, I feel the music inhabits what's taking place and uses a modern vocabulary to do it.

    That I find a relief and a novelty. And about 10 miles away from the score in other movies, including others with scores by HZ.

    Sometimes listening to what's NOT there is as important as what IS there -- check out "Supermarine" or any number of the pieces. What's missing? What's not there, that you would normally expect in music for a World War II movie about a famous sort-of-not-defeat/victory by the British and French (and Polish -- many others) soldiers' escape?

    Missing in Action:

    Here is a brief list off the top of my head of what's NOT in the score. With mind-numbing predictability this is what we usually hear in war movie scores and what are not in this one.

    1. Timpani -- boom-boom-boom! It's a war movie! Like "Patton!"

    2. Big French Horn Line that sort-of-sounds-like-a-hymn-tune

    3. Snare drums -- hey, it's the Army! Where are the snares? In fact, while there are some drums here and there, they are incredibly sparse for an action pic.

    4. "Inspiring Melody" thank goodness we are spared yet another Heartfelt Tune. Elgar gets to be Elgar, and who's better at that than -- Elgar?

    5. Functional harmony -- no Big Cadences telling you how to feel about this or that event. Alleluia !

    Look, I don't expect you or anyone to love this or that score. That's why we are composers -- we have opinions about music and those opinions are what make us do this in the first place. Otherwise we're merely musical color-wheel guys who do whatever the director thinks.

    I don't think HZ does that, and whether I like everything he does or not, I appreciate the innovations. Action music by its nature has a certain "blam blam" generic quality, and I find "Dunkirk" to be different.
     
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  12. JohnG

    JohnG Senior Member

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    PS -- I am a fan of Mr. Desplat am happy to see him win prizes. I was just listening to his wonderful score to "The Painted Veil."
     
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    Dave Connor

    Dave Connor Senior Member

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    Let me assist you in making the inferences I hoped you would have made by now, including in my last post: that expert practitioners of music who have worked with or just listened to this composer are so accustomed to a high level of innovation and flat out world-class musical invention, that they are far more inclined to believe a report of some rare or previously unheard occurrence in one of his scores than not. Engineers will marvel at the latest sonics; trailer composers the latest {new} musical devices and sound-constructions, orchestrators the latest re-imagining of the traditional orchestra sound and young people the latest immersion into a fantastic world of sound (and whatever other categories there are, including composers with their observations.)

    In my case you have someone who had been studying, listening to, reading old books and buying new books on the subject of fugues: Bach's keyboard fugues, great organ fugues and their orchestrated versions. Suddenly I'm hearing what puts me in the exact frame mind as when listening to them in a Hans Zimmer score??? Hearing all the objective properties of the form with one element (tonality) simply altered? My point is that none of the other groups I mentioned are going to be surprised that some marvelous invention in their area of expertise has shown itself in his latest work. Such are the protean gifts of this composer. I am qualified to make such an observation is my point. I can't worry about who accepts that. [Embellishment? No. It was just far easier to hear in the surround mix. I gave the time stamp.]
    Now you have the primary motivation for most of my posts about HZ. People don't seem to pay attention to or hear what he's really doing. (They miss his composing chops most of all: what he would come up with at a piano in a cabin in the mountains with no electricity.) In my first post in September I addressed the criticisms of typical, synth score which the Dunkirk score objectively is not.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2018
  14. South Thames

    South Thames Senior Member

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    Interesting. I personally don't see the need to applaud the score for not operating to the most inappropriate banal genre cliches. That would be grading on a curve.... We know Nolan's a superior director, and his rarefied aesthetics are applied to all aspects of his productions including music (of course Zimmer's quite capable of genre bombast given the wrong director -- Pearl Harbour etc). But really, Dunkirk is not the first serious war movie to consciously eschew certain musical cliches -- serious movies have done that going back decades; it's one of the hallmarks of sophisticated direction.

    It's also not the first movie to eschew an approach where the music actively responds to the narrative in favour of a more ambient-based approach -- I think of something like The Hurt Locker. In fact, I'd say at this point such an approach is pretty much the expected one for a serious film in certain genres.

    I suppose one area where Dunkirk is 'innovative' if you like is the amount of music. Most high-end war movies equate 'seriousness' with the relative absence of music -- no music during action scenes in Saving Private Ryan etc.

    Dunkirk is perhaps unusual in having music that seems virtually omnipresent, but whose function never seems to change much -- just adds a constant sense of escalating danger and dread. I can't think of many other movies like this, but I don't know how much of an achievement it is or really how difficult it is to do this (regardless of how skilfully it may be done in this case) -- and I know I wasn't alone in feeling oppressed by the music by the end of the movie and wishing there was less of it. I felt the music was, in its own way, hammering home the point just as relentlessly as the cliches you mentioned in the movies where they were employed.

    Agreed -- I'm obviously in a minority here and so it's interesting to me to discuss and understand why our opinions differ.
     
  15. NoamL

    NoamL Senior Member

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    And wouldn't both perspectives be equally right? :) JSB was definitely consciously borrowing techniques of "German music" and "Italian music." He also combined them to create something new and great.

    And! Bach stayed up late at night transcribing Vivaldi but he didn't turn into Vivaldi 2. He only stole some of Vivaldi's ideas.

    Jumping off that point - there is nothing "sycophantic" about being an admirer of someone else's art. On the other hand... when admiring someone who is massively successful (meaning both JW and HZ, here), isn't it a mistake to buy the narrative that everything about their approach is a necessary and inseparable ingredient of their success?

    Thinking that way will only leave us a choice between writing "the new way" and "the old way." I feel that's a big trap. @JohnG your post is greatly insightful except for one thing, I feel suspicion at being asked to consider Dunkirk in opposition to a fictional score full of horribly inappropriate Big Tunes and snare drums. It seems that the point of this score that wasn't written (and let's be clear, that nobody would have dared to write in 2018) is that we cannot "go back" - and shouldn't want to... Seems like a false dilemma? There are composers out there working on other films and combining some very Remote Control things with some very old school things in the way they score.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2018
  16. givemenoughrope

    givemenoughrope Senior Member

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    Very cool!!!

    But Dave, please!...if you are planning on watching it again can you make a note of this ‘a-ha!’ moment...bc id like to have it too. I think I’ll probably watch it this weekend if there’s time for a couple hours of pure terror.
     
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    Dave Connor

    Dave Connor Senior Member

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    56:24 is either the exact bit or an iteration of it. My home system is not up to presenting it. There may be a better version later in the film. In IMAX surround it was the size of Texas and crystal clear requiring no effort to hear.
     
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  18. Kyle Preston

    Kyle Preston I accidentally do things on purpose

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    That is nicely put.
     
  19. givemenoughrope

    givemenoughrope Senior Member

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    Thanks!
     
  20. JohnG

    JohnG Senior Member

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    @South Thames

    You make some fair points, ST but your tepid appreciation of rejecting cliché makes me wonder wonder if you've ever faced the array of pressures of a big / fairly big movie. Not sure there was anything bigger at the time.

    Even in my own scoring situations, legions of opinions appear, and the bigger the budget, the greater the caution. I realise that Mr. Nolan can get what he wants within reason, but it's not his money making the movie and one of the easiest "gives" is to change the score to mollify objections.

    Besides, I feel you are talking past what I wrote, rather than making specific musical points to support your "not much to see here" position. Yes, he did avoid the typical, but I think the score does far more and goes a long way away from "the typical." It doesn't sound like War Movie Music, and it doesn't sound anything at all like "Superman" or anything else I've heard lately, again as much by what it doesn't do as by what it does.

    So I stand by what I wrote, even if you diluted it down to avoiding "inappropriate banal genre clichés." It's surprising the extent to which people insist on those genre clichés in large-budget movies, given that 80% of world wide box office now comes from non-English-speaking audiences (though perhaps less for that particular movie).
     

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