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11/25/2014 11:07 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Interstellar Composer Hans Zimmer On Music and His Own Process For Scoring Films

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Answers by Hans Zimmer, Composer, Interstellar, 12 Years a Slave, Inception

How [do you] compose a soundtrack?

Fear, panic, invention, procrastination, conversation, more conversation with the director, more conversation with the DP (because I want to know what the color palette is), reading an enormous amount of books, more procrastination, more fear, and more deadlines until somebody yanks the score away from me.

The first thing I think about is music, and the last thing I think about is music. I'm like some Monk. I don't see a lot of daylight. I hang out with musicians, I hang out with directors and I just try to spend as much of my life as possible playing music.

Are there advantages to not having formal music training?

On one hand, I regret not having formal training, but on the other hand, I think it makes me slightly less didactic about music. I can go from punk guitars to Bach in one swoop. Duke Ellington said it really well: "There are only 2 types of music: good music and bad music." I don't have the weapons of formal musical training, so the advantage for me as a film composer that I can really hang on to is that I have the focus and am able stay in-line with the story.

Why do people love music so much?

The operative word of music is play. You get to play music with other people, and you get to play music by yourself. It's a great refuge from the world sometimes and it's a great way of putting a smile on someone else's face. You play something and you give joy to somebody else. It's great.

Growing up, music is all I had, in a way. We didn't have television at home. We had music and we had the piano. I don't think there was ever a point growing up where I said to myself "I love music," but when I was 4 or 5 years old, I thought, "Hey if I just bang on those keys it makes an interesting noise." It was a game and music is a game of sound. To me, it's still a game of sound. If you play the wrong note but you listen in the right way, you go, "Hang on that's really interesting. I never thought that could work." You forever get to discover things. You forever get to feel something. You get to communicate on a profound level with the musician in your orchestra, you get to communicate and make the audience feel something. That's to me a life well lived. Everyday you have the opportunity to just spend a few moments feeling something.

Hans Zimmer is one of the film industry's most influential composers, whose career spans three decades and encompasses over 150 films. Zimmer's most recent film is Christopher Nolan's Interstellar, which is will be released in November of 2014. He has been honored with an Academy Award®, two Golden Globes®, three Grammys®, an American Music Award, and a Tony® Award. Some of his most recent works include Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave, Ron Howard's Rush, Zack Snyder's Man of Steel, History Channel's miniseries The Bible; the Christopher Nolan-directed films Inception, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises; and Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

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