Quick question- can you name a single composer who has worked in film besides Hans Zimmer? No? Yeah, until literally two days ago I couldn’t either. That, my friends, is a travesty. It’s hardly a secret that music can make or break a moment. It’s a powerful influencer, and its presence or absence adds an important dimension to film. Sometimes the music becomes as iconic as the film. Everyone recognizes the “Imperial March” from Star Wars, and nearly any millennial can identify the Harry Potter theme. Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” immediately calls Titanic to mind, and this song has also had the pleasure of being edited over hundreds of other movie scenes (the results are hilarious, you should definitely do a google search for “celine a scene”).
To remedy what I perceive to be a complete lack of knowledge, I’m going to give you a quick rundown on two different composers whose names you should definitely know. Remember the “Imperial March” I mentioned earlier? Well that little gem is the creation of a man named John Williams (whose photo accompanies this blog post). Ready for a double whammy? So is the Harry Potter theme. Williams also did the Score for E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, Indiana Jones, Jaws, and Jurassic Park. He also did Schindler’s List and Close Encounters with the Third Kind. The man’s been going strong since the late 1950s/early 1960s with no signs of slowing down. He’s still contributing to the Star Wars franchise, with Rogue One, The Force Awakens, and The Last Jedi all in the bag, and it’s expected he’ll be back for Episode IX (title pending).
The next name that requires some mentioning is Danny Elfman’s. I had a small geek-out when I realized he was responsible for the score in Batman: The Animated Series. That show was basically my childhood, and to this day if I hear that theme song I’m instantly seven years old again. Elfman’s also made many contributions to The Simpsons over the years. Perhaps his best-known work has come from director Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride. Elfman’s also done the scores for Silver Linings Playbook, Good Will Hunting, and Spider-Man 3.
There are so many other composers I could name who have done cool stuff. Wendy Carlos’s work in The Shining and A Clockwork Orange, Rachel Portman’s work in Emma and Chocolat, Howard Shore’s work in The Lord of The Rings trilogy and The Hobbit Trilogy. The list goes on and on, but by now I think you get the idea. Film is such a collaborative effort. Sometimes it’s downright overwhelming just how many pieces and people come together to take an idea and make it happen.
I’ve always enjoyed music, and I’m just pretentious enough to listen to the XM Classics station once in a while. Still, music is really more my older brother’s area of expertise. As an audio engineer, he has a fundamental understanding of music that I just…don’t. It’s kind of his fault that I’m even talking about this subject in the first place. Whether you’re a casual listener or an aficionado, we can pretty much all agree that music is an important component of film, and the composers deserve more love.