Hans Zimmer Extracts the Secrets of the ‘Inception’ Score – NYTimes.com

Posted: March 3, 2011 in Scifi
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Hans Zimmer Extracts the Secrets of the ‘Inception’ Score


Having systematically picked apart the critical arguments for and against Christopher Nolan’s film “Inception” and the many possible meanings of that dream-within-a-dream-within-a-dream caper, the Web this week went another level into the movie by focusing on its music.

In recent days Internet denizens have gotten very excited about a viral video posted above that compares the Édith Piaf song “Non, je ne Regrette Rien” to Hans Zimmer’s score for the movie. When the video’s pseudonymous author, camiam321, plays the key musical cue from that score, two ominous blares from a brass section, followed by a slowed-down version of the Piaf song which the “Inception” characters play at regular speed as a warning to wake up from a dream state, they sound nearly identical.

via Hans Zimmer Extracts the Secrets of the ‘Inception’ Score – NYTimes.com.


I am thoroughly pissed off about Hans not winning an Oscar for Best Score for Inception. As I mentioned on an upcoming podcast (coming soon) I had only listened to the Inception score and never saw the movie. Based on how powerful this score was, when I got a Blu Ray player, one of the first movies I bought on Blu Ray was Inception. Hans music was the icing on the cake. The visuals mixed with Hans’ score was absolutely brilliant. I was more than pleased when Hans was nominated this time around since the Academy left him out in the cold for his work on Batman: The Dark Knight.

Mr. Zimmer, who in 2008 was briefly excluded from an Oscar nomination for the score to “The Dark Knight,” which was deemed to have had too many composers (the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences eventually reversed itself and allowed him and a co-composer, James Newton Howard, to compete for the award), said he had no idea how awards bodies would react to his “Inception” score’s incorporation of the Piaf track.

via Hans Zimmer Extracts the Secrets of the ‘Inception’ Score – NYTimes.com.

I am always fascinated when a composer talks about their work. I remembered Michael Giacchino who composed the score for the Lost tv series whereby he included parts of the plane as seen in much of the first season as a musical instrument. I found this piece in which Hans talked about how he worked on the score of Inception:

YM: How did you come up with that iconic blast that’s part of the score?

HZ: Let’s talk about this. Chris had the Edith Piaf song in the script. Right in the intro of it, there are these two little brass nubs. Just in the accompaniment. They’re not even the tune. They’re just lying in the corner of your vision, as it were. And it seemed like a good idea to take the rhythm of that and play it at something like 800th of its speed. Play it really slowly.

I put a piano in the middle of the room and put a brick on the sustain pedal. So when the brass section was blasting away, the strings on the piano would vibrate. That’s what I recorded. Then I slowed it down and did all of the stuff to it. But it’s the same rhythm as the notes in the beginning of Piaf’s song.

I actually had a conversation with Chris [about] if just slowing it down makes it too obvious. Everyone will know straightaway. Shouldn’t we make it a greater riddle? It did actually take people about four weeks to work it out. Well, actually, that’s untrue. People probably did work it out faster. It took someone four weeks to make a YouTube video.


Now giving credit to the winner of Best Score goes to Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross for The Social Network. I did love this movie for it’s writing (kudos to Aaron Sorkin), actors, and subject matter. The music for the most part was atmospheric in my opinion which is fine when you doing tv. I’m not knocking it but rather I was not blown away but it either. Bear McCreary of BSG, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and The Walking Dead are perfect examples of incredible workmanship on tv today. Even Wendy and Lisa who scored the canceled Heroes series made a huge impression on me. Much like I pointed out on Hans’ methodology, here is something about Reznor and Ross:

Q. You said David Fincher gave you specific direction or really knew what you wanted; was there kind of an overwhelming or over arching theme he had for you guys?

A. [Reznor] Well, we had read the script and David called us in and said, the only immediate direction was, “I don’t want to use an orchestra. I would like it to feel kind of electronic.” He referenced a couple films. BLADE RUNNER was one of them. Not to sound like BLADE RUNNER, but to inhabit the to have a score that felt like the same iconic quality that the music BLADE RUNNER had in its time. Not something that sounds like that or sounds dated like, but might today. And the thing with David though, and I think this is where we we hit the mark right from the start, is David is never making things up on the fly. And it was difficult at first for us to see a film or read a film and read a script that was a bunch of people talking in rooms. It was no great sweeping landscapes or battle scenes or anything like that and it wasn’t obvious to us what flavor or kind of shape the music was going to have.

Okay, so I give some props to Fincher using Blade Runner as an example of the music he was looking for The Social Network. I’m still bummed that Hans did not win this time around. I’m hoping he will not be the next Spielberg of composers whereby he get nominated tons of times and never take home the big prize. Well, he already did win for The Lion King but Inception is leaps and bounds from his early work.
FYI – If you haven’t heard this by now, give a listen to the theme from Jurassic Park where the music was slowed down to 1000%. Click here to hear it.

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