Once upon a time, I did interviews for the Bolthole. It was a little site primarily dedicated to Warhammer and 40k stories from the Black Library, and we interviewed many of the authors who did work in those franchises. Early on, one of the questions I tended to ask was simply, “Is there any music you prefer to listen to while writing?”
And unfortunately, the answer was rarely more creative than Hans Zimmer.
Zimmer is a terrific composer, no one can easily deny that. But his name is simply too easy to spurt out because it’s what other people say. And in doing so, authors looking for some great tunes might easily pass up the chance to find composers who produce music that better fits their genres and style.
But of course, not if they’re reading my blog…
“Why does that name sound a little familiar?” you maybe asking yourself. It’s understandable. I mean, once the credits are on the screen, we usually zone out. So you might have missed his name in the opening titles of HBO’s Game of Thrones or Pacific Rim. Ramin Djawadi is just one of those up and coming types who might someday replace Zimmer as the name most associated with great musical scores. His style is best described as bombastic with a hint of the kind of powerful overtures that sweep us into some grander, often national conflict.
Funny fact. Just because Hans Zimmer did all the music in a movie doesn’t mean he did all the music for said movie. Enter the amazing work of Thomas Bergersen, who did this tune for one of Interstellar’s trailers. The co-founder of the famous production company Two Steps from Hell, Bergersen has composed some of the most emotionally dramatic pieces you’ll probably ever listen to. For amazing tunes, check out his albums SkyWorld and Sun.
Unlike Djawadi, there’s an excellent chance you haven’t heard of Swiss composer, Adrian von Ziegler. In fact, he’s unlike almost everyone else on this list. He hasn’t really been involved on any major movie, game or television scores. Instead, he has achieved famed through sheer, raw talent and use of Youtube which you can check out freely.
One glance as Graves’ prominent works list on Wikipedia makes it clear that the man has basically been everywhere in the gaming world, with more than a couple of dozens titles under his belt. However, his most significant works are likely for EA’s Dead Space series and the recently rebooted Tomb Raider series. Horror lovers may find a kinship with his work.
But not every composer worth checking out has to be current. Basil Poledouris is a name associated with several unforgettable films in the 80s, including the first two Conan the Barbarian films and the Robocop series. The 90s were not without mentions either, expressing a diverse range of genre matching with Starship Troopers, Hot Shots: Part Deux and Free Willy.
If you know what spaghetti westerns are, then you know who Ennio Morricone is. Made famous alongside movie western star Clint Eastwood, Morricone’s most unforgettable work can be found in The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, in the piece “The Ecstasy of Gold.” His work is so powerful, it has been reused very often in other great films, including five by Quentin Tarantino.
Chances are that only anime lovers would know the unusual and mysterious work of Kenji Kawai. But there’s a haunting, unforgettable element to his style that transcends any cultural barriers or genres. His best works may be in the form of the first two Patlabor movies as well as the Ghost in the Shell titles.
Now while Kenji Kawai maybe known only to anime lovers, there’s a better chance that more people have heard the fantastic pieces of Yoko Kanno. This woman has no limits, and is capable of blending blues, jazz and pop into an unbelievable and infectious fusion. Notable works include Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, Macross Plus. But best of all the soundtrack to Cowboy Bebop, which is so critical acclaimed, even people who normally turn up their noses to anime may own it.