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Top Six: Film Composers

Posted on the 15 April 2011 by Kittyfairy @KittyFairy
For me, music plays an immense role in a film, and it can be one of the most important defining pieces that a film can possibly have, amongst good casting, good scripting etc. And when it comes to film soundtracks, I have to say that by rule of thumb (noting that this is not always the case), but soundtracks driven predominantly by bands and contemporary artists grow dull. I love the old-fashioned, full Orchestra instruments with great passion. They speak volumes, create awesome amounts of emotion, and are just important.
But, like most things in life, I have my favorite film composers, and then I have the ones that I'm not too keen on. Here is my Top Six Film Composers. I'm sure your list will be totally different, so feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.
6. Danny Elfman
Top Six: Film ComposersDanny Elfman is potentially one of these most well-known film composers of the past couple of decades. Completely quirky, Elfman's name usually coincides with similar works, but most often anything by the just-as-quirky Tim Burton. If there was one composer I had to say creates personality through his music, Danny Elfman would be that composer. His music is often bright, often quirky, but similarly can be twistedly dark, yet oddly humourous.
Best Compositions: The Simpsons theme tune, Desperate House, Nightmare Before Christmas and practically everything by Tim Burton. It's quite easy to guess which film scores were composed by Elfman.
Not-so-Great Compositions: Nothing Elfman has done has ever been bad, as such, I just get bored with the fact that most of his pieces are very similar. In a sense, this isn't necessarily a bad thing, because at least he's a composer whose sound you can genuinely recognize.
Elfman has done so much when it comes to film scores, so here is a selection of his best!

5. Randy Newman
Top Six: Film ComposersLike with Danny Elfman, when you hear a Randy Newman song, you know that it is a Randy Newman, but not entirely for the same reason as with Elfman. The recognisable aspect of Newman "compositions" is the presence of vocals provided by Newman himself. Personally, I haven't come across any other composer who provides vocals to their scores, and Newman's voice has become a sort of gimmick, that you recognize instantly. 
The nice thing is that Newman pieces are generally quite sweet and jolly, that you can't help smile about when you hear them.
You'll Know Newman from: Toy Story, Monk, A Bug's Life.
This song, from the classic Pixar "Toy Story", is probably Newman's most well-known piece.

4. John Murphy
Top Six: Film ComposersJohn Murphy is a composer that I can imagine you have probably never heard of. I certainly hadn't until recently, that's for sure. But, I bet if you heard one of his most infamous pieces, you'd slap yourself and think "I know that one". 
The nice thing about Murphy, is that he is a true British composer, and has worked predominantly on British films, or films with British connections. But, interestingly, despite not realising who he is, Murphy has actually composed the score for 49 different films!
You'll recognize his work from: Sunshine, 28 Days Later, 28 Weeks Later, Kick Ass, Snatch, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. See, I told you you'd know his work. And yes, Murphy did compose that infamous piece of music from 28 Days Later, that also featured in Sky One's Hex and was changed, by Murphy for Kick Ass.
Final Thoughts: For a composer I was unaware of, I really have a huge amount of respect for Murphy. His music is so hauntingly beautifully, and conjures up so much emotion. This piece from the Danny Boyle film "Sunshine" is definitely my favorite Murphy score, because it represents the sheer awe and magnificence that the sun creates.

3. Ennio Morricone
Top Six: Film ComposersI know that a lot of people are probably screaming at me, for not putting Morricone at number one, because he is an absolute legend, but personally, he honestly isn't my favorite film composer. 
With 499 (wow, how amazing will it be when he hits 500?) film scores very firmly under his belt, all spanning a total of fifty years (Holy Cow!), Morricone has worked with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, including Hitchcock, Brian DePalma etc. 
What you'll know him from: Morricone is probably most famous for his Spaghetti Western compositions, of which are often incredibly epic and often quite moving. His most moving pieces are of course from the classic 1986 film "The Mission".
My favorite Morricone piece has got to be Chi Mai, which is an amazingly beautiful piece of music and never, ever fails to make me cry (I am not ashamed to confess that!). And here it is, so that you can all enjoy it too :)

2. John Williams
Top Six: Film ComposersYet another, that could have been number one, but still not entirely my favorite composer (obviously), John Williams has composed some of the movie industries most well-known scores, and his career of 135 film scores spans fifty five years, which I have to say, is incredibly impressive. 
Unlike some composers mentioned, Williams' work tends to be quite diverse, but he has to be the King of big Orchestral film scores.
You will definitely have heard his work in: Star Wars, Schindlers List, Jurassic Park, Saving Private Ryan, Harry Potter and so much more.
It's really hard to choose just one piece of Williams' to share, but I definitely feel that I have picked the right one, in The Schindler's List theme tune, partially because it is a far stretch away from his typical work, in the sense that it is a very dark score, but it is such a beautifully moving piece that perfectly depicts and summarises the tone of the film.
1. Hans Zimmer
Top Six: Film Composers
Putting Hans Zimmer at number one of my list of film composers felt like a complete no-brainer. Similar to Williams, Zimmer's work spans a wide range of genres and overall sounds that always fit perfectly into the world of the visuals being created, whether that is an epic adventure, or even the quirkyness of a Decective story.
Like all of my favorite composers (excluding perhaps Elfman, but only because his "sound" doesn't really fit this description!), Zimmer's scores are always so haunting and moving, that I always feel deeply touched by them, and they always help you to become connected with what is going on.
You'll know him from: Inception, Sherlock Holmes, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Dark Knight, Black Hawk Down, Gladiator, Rain Man.
With a career spanning the equivalent of my whole life (twenty seven years, if you must know!!), Zimmer hasn't been around as long as legends such as Morricone and Williams, but he has arguably done so many classic scores in that period of time. 
To show how excellent a composer Zimmer is: Whenever I listen to the Inception soundtrack, I can always pinpoint exactly what was going on during the scene that the piece was used, with so much detail it's kind of weird. 
But then, whenever I listen to the Sherlock Holmes soundtrack, I always feel like I'm half smiling, purely because the theme tune has this quirky little "edge" to it, that sums up Robert Downey Jnr's Sherlock absolutely perfectly. He's a character with so many quirks, and faults with such a quite mind, and Zimmer has mimicked this so well in his soundtrack. For me, this is exactly what a good composer does. They can look at something going on on screen, whether it is the actual events, or the character and they can create a piece of music that represents a feeling, an emotion, an image in a way that is breathtaking and often beautiful.
I honestly couldn't pick just one score of Zimmer's to share with you guys, so since I made him my number one, I thought he deserved two. Both of my choices are recent scores, however, they are both compeltely different from each other. The first is from the quirky Sherlock Holmes, which I summed up before, but this piece really captures the period, and never fails to make me smile from ear to ear.

My second score choice is from Inception, a completely different film and of course a completely different type of score. It's big band drama, is utterly sinister but an absolutely incredible piece of music that supports the mind-bending, confusing film.


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