Hello readers! It’s the last day of my August Alphabet Challenge *sobs* – I’ve done it! 26 brand-spanking new blogs written daily throughout August coinciding with the alphabet! That’s 26 NEW composers spanning from 1713 all the way to 2015 – what a journey it has been! I do hope you have enjoyed this challenge – watch this space as come September 1st I’ve got a new challenge for the blog. Until September 1st I will try to write blogs daily based on requests and works that didn’t quite make it into my AAC list. So to end this highly successful challenge (which I’m making an annual event now), I knew I needed to pick something triumphant and spectacular for Day Z. Of course, Z is a tricky letter, but I’m going to be writing about one of the most famous film composers of our time – Hans Zimmer! To end this challenge I will be looking into his orchestra score ‘The Battle’ from the fantastic film, Gladiator. So get ready for this adventurous journey – thanks for reading!
Hans Zimmer was born in Frankfurt, 1957, however in his early teens he moved to London. His mother was a musician, so he received piano lessons from a young age. Zimmer began his career in music by playing keyboard and synthesizer with the band Krakatoa. He is also known for working with, The Buggles. Zimmer, is most certainly best-known for his film scores however. From the 1980s onwards he began to collaborate with film directors and other film composers, most notably Stanley Myers. Whilst in the UK he also composed the theme song for the TV gameshow, Going for Gold. In 1988, Zimmer collaborated with director Barry Levinson, and he subsequently composed the music for the film, Rain Man. From the success of Rain Man, Zimmer was approached by a wealth of other directors to start writing film scores for their films. Perhaps most famously, Walt Disney Animation Studios approached Zimmer in 1993 to compose the score for the classic Disney movie, The Lion King. Zimmer won a plethora of awards for this score, including an Academy Award for Best Original Score.
From the mid-1990s Zimmer has composed scores for an incredibly long list of Hollywood blockbuster films, to name but a few:
Crimson Tide (1995)
The Last Samurai (2003)
The Da Vinci Code (2006)
Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
Whilst composing these scores, Zimmer has worked with a handful of brilliant film composers such as Harry Gregson-Williams (perhaps best-known for his score for The Chronicles of Narnia), Steve Jablonsky (composer for the Transformers saga) and John Powell (composer of the score for How To Train Your Dragon). Most recently, Zimmer has composed the scores for the films, The Dark Knight Rises, 12 Years a Slave, Interstellar and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Zimmer has won an outstanding amount of awards for his film scores including two Golden Globe Awards, four Grammy’s, four Satellite Awards and three Saturn Awards. Zimmer’s music is well-known and he has become a household name, especially when it comes to motion pictures.
Zimmer composed the music for Ridley Scott’s 2000 film, Gladiator, and it has become one of the staple scores within Zimmer’s career. The film stars Russell Crowe, Derek Jacobi and Connie Nielsen. The film centres around the character Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe) and follows his journey through being a slave and seeking revenge on the corrupted Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix). The film received mostly positive reviews. If you haven’t seen this film you absolutely must, it’s fantastic and a staple in my family home!
The track that I will be looking into is entitled ‘The Battle’ and as the title suggests, it is the background score for the first battle scene in the film. Like with a lot of Zimmer’s work, the music for Gladiator is very bold, strong and powerful. The score perfectly accompanies what is happening on-screen, and I feel that ‘The Battle’ is the best part of the score in the film. It is triumphant and tenacious and that is why it’s such a fantastic piece of music. If you’ve never seen Gladiator before, or you’ve not taken much notice of the score, I am sure you’ll love how dramatic the music really is!
The score begins with the horns playing the initial triumphant theme. The percussion section utilise the bass drums here to create a war-esque atmosphere. The strings are playing in their upper registers here also. The spanish guitar then plays a small interlude, which leads to a male voice, who sings an atonal line (with no lyrics). The guitar returns with the next breakdown theme. The orchestra play an aggressive stab, and the music begins to build up in texture. Interestingly, this piece has been compared to Holst’s Mars from the suite The Planets. The music starts building to a climax, which leads us into a variation of the breakdown theme. The trumpets lead this section, with a triumphant variation. The lower strings are particularly strong in this section and they build an unbreakable foundation for the horns above. The trumpets and horns then play an interlude section, which shadows previous themes. The texture here has dispersed dramatically, which adds tension. The general buzz and atmosphere then explodes into a lower brass theme. The very stable theme is emphasised here. The strings begin to play a march-like theme, which reflects the idea of war and the battle.
The use of extreme dynamics and textures is what makes this piece so very exciting! The march theme returns underneath the initial theme played by the horns and strings. The next section bursts out and we hear the next theme. Again, Zimmer has written for the horns to lead here, which gives such a pronounced character to the music. The stabs on various beats give the idea of people fighting. Soon after the texture and orchestration fluctuates somewhat, however the tenacious nature of the orchestra return in full power. The orchestra take a complete shift in feeling. We are left with just a string ensemble, which accompany a female soprano voice (in this case it is Lisa Gerrard). She sings a solemn melody, which give us a sense of the devastation left behind by the battle. It is a very poignant way to end such an exciting, yet vigorous piece of music.
Zimmer’s music is triumphant in so many ways, not least his ability to interweave music and film. I thought ‘The Battle’ was the perfect piece to end on for my August Alphabet Challenge as it is symbolises triumph, unity and excitement – all of which I’d to associate with this challenge. I would like to thank every single person who has read either 1, 6 or all 26 blogs within the challenge – without your constant support this site wouldn’t be half as successful as it is. Due to the success of the AAC, I am going to make it an annual event – every August the Alphabet Challenge shall return! In the meantime I shall be taking requests and writing blogs daily until September 1st, which is when I will start my BRAND SPANKING NEW CHALLENGE! That’s right you’ve read that correctly – I shall be undergoing a new challenge! It is not quite on the scale of this one, but it will run for the first two weeks of September and it is going to be called:
That’s right, a whole two weeks dedicated to female composers, with blogs written daily to celebrate the female contribution to classical music! Exciting, right? Remember if you want me to write about a certain piece, let me know – you can contact me via the comments section on this blog, on my facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/classicalexburns/ OR on twitter @classicalexb OR even on my instagram page @classicalexburns 🙂
I’d like to dedicate my final Alphabet Challenge blog to my mum who is by far my biggest fan – I think she’s even kept up with these blogs daily! I hope you have enjoyed this challenge as much as me – thank you for always reading my blogs!
This is the recording on the soundtrack.
This is the track used within the film.