Creative Choices of a Master Composer, Hans Zimmer

A vast level of contribution to the world of film score composition and sound design over decades born and carried by Hans Zimmer’s refusal to grow up. Exploring his childlike curiosity and braisen creative ambitions reveal perspective all creators can find value in.

Process Series By Dylan Korver


There comes a time in every person’s life when the power of the question “why?” becomes clear, demonstrated by our parents’ frustration as suddenly the light-hearted chitter-chatter vanishes, and an ongoing negotiation takes it’s place with none other than a three-year-old.

This question, as powerful as it is, then quickly rises to be somewhat taboo through education where most being taught – just is – and questioning things can begin to seem rather pointless. For Hans Zimmer, this question certainly never seemed pointless if anything he never stopped asking, and in relation to his work in an interview with MusicTech he noted:

“A composer has to always ask that question: ‘Why are we having music here?’” musictech

He went on to say that his approach to sound choice or sound design also considers this simple yet crucial question, “Why?” for example, why would I place strings here and not a synthesized sound.

“Creating the impossible has always been my interest,”  musictech

To consult the master of the question, your three year old past self, gives great insight into the nature behind those that are creating the impossible, pushing things forward.

This drive to question everything is something we are born with but often leaves as a result of becoming redundant through social conventions. To reinvestigate this question and apply it to everything you do  (or at least everything you do creatively) can open many doors [click to tweet] – be it for something tactical like workflow improvements or a major change in artistic direction through questioning your core values and outlook as an artist.

The importance of why is covered by many, most recently of note by Simon Sinek who is a master on the subject, you can check out his widely viewed TEDx talk or see the summarised presentation below

Less is more

A result of questioning the existence of ideas or practices within a creative pursuit will, in many cases, result in eliminating the concept or action in question entirely; eventuating with superior output through increasingly meaningful input.

“I think over the years my compositions have become leaner. I try to dot less ‘i’s’ and cross fewer ‘t’s’. I tend to leave more space for the audience to fill in.” musictech

It is clear from this insight that questioning creative choices and why there are made, at all times, over many years, enables Hans Zimmer to know when he has selected only the essential elements within a composition so that the audience may understand the message.

The concept of leaving space for the audience to interpret a creative work seems indeed to be something harder to achieve than understand [click to tweet] – but through questioning why each creative decision is made with reference to the intention of the work, something which should develop naturally.

Consider this quote, mentioned by Hans in this article from the talks

Duke Ellington said something very cool in the ’30s. He said there are only two types of music: good music and bad music.

It could be safe to say that everyone feels the same, the more you work to ‘paint an exact picture’, the more danger your creation becomes polarizing, a little boring or cliche. In other words, because as everyone has their own interpretation of what “good music” is,  with each additional element you introduce so comes the risk you have introduced a concept some consider to be a part of “bad music”

Nothing that can’t be helped by our frustrating friend, WHY? 😉

 The only enemy we have is time

“I don’t think any of my scores are ever really finished. …. “I just hope the end result is interesting. The thing is, I’m not a perfectionist really, it’s just ideas breed ideas, and the only enemy we have is time. There’s just not enough time in the day and the night to do everything that you want to achieve. So, that’s my life.” musictech

If you’ve been following the blog for a while you may know why that outtake which really hits home with what we follow at Rast Sound, finished is better than perfect because when you think about it as Hans puts it “ideas breed ideas” so perfection relative to our own views just isn’t possible. No need to take our word now you have it from one of the greats, your only enemy is time, so if you aren’t completing enough projects, remember, time will work against you unless you employ it.

Work to a schedule, if nobody is giving you deadlines, make them for yourself.

Produce quantity until quality exists.

Focus on your workflow.

Ask yourself why you are creating and why you create this way.

Surely the answers to being an outstanding original artist lie within.