In April, nearly 100,000 people gathered in the desert in Indio, California, for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, the biggest music festival in the United States. One of the more astonishing artist entrances began with apocalyptic blasts from some terrible unseen foghorn – a sound that grew progressively louder and more intense: BBBBRRRRAMMMMMMMMMM!
“It takes a crazy kind of person to bring an orchestra into the desert,” said film composer Hans Zimmer, addressing the crowd for the first time. “But it had to be done.”
Zimmer didn’t merely hold his own at Coachella – in music festival parlance, he killed. In May, he brings his 55-person orchestra to Australia, one of his first stops on an extensive world tour. The show spans three decades of his film-composing career, with sternum-rattling sounds from Inception, The Dark Knight and Interstellar, the triumphant strains of “Circle of Life” (memorably arranged by Zimmer) and others from The Lion King, and deeper cuts from scores for Sherlock Holmes, Crimson Tide, The Thin Red Line, True Romanceand Driving Miss Daisy.
With about 150 film-score credits to his name, he has an extraordinarily diverse body of work from which to draw. In his work for director Ridley Scott alone, Zimmer has devised a fusion of soaring ’80s slide guitar and gospel (Thelma and Louise), a melange of world music flavours (Gladiator), angelic choirs and Bach-like baroque elegance (Hannibal), accordion-driven lounge music (Matchstick Men), and African and Middle Eastern vocals paired with aggressive techno (Black Hawk Down). He has received four Grammy Awards and two Golden Globes, as well as 10 Academy Award nominations for Best Original Score, winning for 1994’s The Lion King.
“Hans has been a big brother to me and a mentor to me all at once,” Pharrell Williams, who made a surprise guest appearance with Zimmer at Coachella, tells me. The pair collaborated on the scores for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and Hidden Figures; it was partly due to Williams’ encouragement that Zimmer concocted a live show in the first place. “I never tire of his way of looking at filmmaking and storytelling,” Williams says. “His way is that he always looks at the thing of a script, the poetry of a script, and he has this uncanny ability to pair it with what the score does.”
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