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ScoreKeeper turns his ear to Hans Zimmer's THE DA VINCI CODE

Hey folks, Harry here... Hopefully we'll have lots of reports from ScoreKeeper. He's a top secret film composer, that also loves and is an aficionado of film scores of other composers. Here he is with his first AICN score review, this time of Hans Zimmer's The Da Vinci Code score and from the sound of it, at least the score is very very solid. Here ya go...

Greetings! ScoreKeeper here with a review of the score for Ron Howard’s latest film, The Da Vinci Code composed by Hans Zimmer. Now before I begin I’d like to clarify that I’m not the biggest fan of Hans Zimmer’s work and have repeatedly been disappointed with his efforts throughout the years. To me his work seems largely manufactured rather than crafted, predictable with textbook delivery, repetitively mundane, and at times borderline lazy. I’ve always thought of him as a talent capable of writing great film music but for one reason or another rarely does.

One of the scores that I do admire by Zimmer is Backdraft which was also directed by Ron Howard. Having the two unite for a second time on The Da Vinci Code has me feeling optimistic about a possible satisfactory score.

Here is a track listing of the score as it appears on the CD (Decca Records B0006479-02) which is due out May 9th:

1. DIES MERCURII I MARTIUS

2. L’ESPRIT DES GABRIEL

3. THE PASCHAL SPIRAL

4. FRUCTUS GRAVIS

5. AD ARCANA

6. MALLEUS MALEFICARUM

7. SALVETE VIRGINES

8. DANIEL’S 9TH CIPHER

9. POISONED CHALICE

10. THE CITRINE CROSS

11. ROSE OF ARIMATHEA

12. BENEATH ALRISCHA

13. CHEVALIERS DE SANGREAL

14. KYRIE FOR THE MAGDALENE

Maybe it’s love for the material or the collaboration with one of Hollywood’s most gifted directors, but whatever the reason, Hans Zimmer might have penned one of the year’s film music gems. I don’t like to solidify any opinion of a score without seeing the film so this is more of a review of the material on the CD out of context of the movie (for what it’s worth I haven’t read the book either).

The opening track “Dies Mercurii I Martius” quickly begins with that definitive Media Ventures sound cocktail of high strings and elongated solo phrases in the cello and bass sections. The first real glimpse of excitement hits around a minute in when the choir enters. The choir is expected. I doubt you could score such a film without a strong vocal presence. Personally I love the use of choir in film music especially when it ventures beyond the archetypal pad usage. This is a great cinematic opportunity to deliver a rich choral score and Hans Zimmer doesn’t disappoint. The opening piece tends to meander a bit but considering it’s the opening of the film it has the license to do that.

“L’esprit des Gabriel” begins the first meaty musical moment in the film before yielding to the first climax of the score with “The Pascal Spiral”. Zimmer begins to expand the musical language of the score in “Fructus Gravis” with a gorgeous violin solo that concludes with a dark Wagnerian harmonic progression. So far the music is already more complex and organic that most Hans Zimmer scores are as a whole. The first use of solo voice enters as an interplay between light and shadow. I absolutely love the use of the string quartet which he introduces in this piece and will develop later in the score.

The first real display of ambition appears in the following piece, “Quodis Arcana”. The use of solo strings, especially the viola, is particularly affective. Keeping true to his style, Hans Zimmer paces the score with long, drawn-out phrases and uses a large amount of material to develop. This is more of the opposite approach that Bernard Herrmann had, as he created a large amount of material from much smaller individual ideas.

“Salvete Virgines” continues to develop the harmonic themes from the first half of the score and really expands the sonic spectrum with percussion and voices. The chant-like choir immediately springs visions of the occult or some ancient religious mystique.

Probably my favorite cue in the film is “Daniel’s 9th Cipher” which contains a passion that I have not heard from Zimmer since Gladiator. This is probably the single piece on the CD that makes me want to see the film even more than I had before. Clocking in at just under ten minutes, this singular piece of music breaks most of the mold Hans Zimmer has carved out for himself in the last 20 years. If I had not been told, I doubt I would suspect Hans Zimmer had written this. Simply gorgeous.

The score once again takes another turn with “The Citrine Cross”. There isn’t much bombastic music in this score but this is one of the few places it is found. When Hans Zimmer gets large his music tends to sound a little repetitive and this one is no exception. He relies a little too hard on the ostinato but overall it’s a solid piece. I’m sure in the film it’ll do its job.

“Rose of Arimathea” is another eight minute behemoth that recaps some similar textures and phrases as heard earlier. The most surprising and original piece is “Beneath Alrischa” which begins with a phrenetic phrase played by a string quartet quickly swelling to a larger string ensemble then contracting back to the quartet again. While most of the score sounds “old” this is the first piece that gets away from that. It sounds largely like a 20th century composition, but the limitation to strings keeps it in context with the rest of the scoring fabric.

The penultimate track on the disc, “Chevaliers de Sangreal” is a rewarding coda. Closing out films has always been one of Hans Zimmer’s strengths. The piece starts off peaceful and subtle and over an ambitious span of time he carefully crafts his way toward a passionate and rousing zenith . The seamless way of composing music from nothing and carefully creeping it toward climax is very difficult to do well and I applaud Mr. Zimmer for doing it effectively in this piece.

The final track, “Kyrie for the Magdalene” is a concert choir piece that was composed by Richard Harvey. A great inclusion to the soundtrack, it fits right in with the rest of the score as a great epilogue.

When I hear the music, it reeks of everything that I’d expect from Hans Zimmer scoring a movie filled to the brim with ancient religious symbolism and mystique. I was hoping for something as great as Alex North’s score for The Agony and the Ecstasy. Although it doesn’t quite clear the bar it comes inspiringly close.

Being a film music freak you might think it paradoxical that I actually think that films today are grossly overscored. The track listings of each cue on The Da Vinci Code are considerably longer than usual (3:00-9:30) which makes me wonder if these are assembled from shorter cues throughout the film or do we hear these incredibly long sequences intact. James Horner has a knack for going on and on with his music and I’m hoping that Hans Zimmer hasn’t followed suit.

With Ron Howard collaborating regularly with several composers including James Horner (A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, Willow), Thomas Newman (Cinderella Man, Gung Ho), and Randy Newman (The Paper, Parenthood) maybe Hans Zimmer would benefit from a regular outing with the man. With two genuinely well crafted scores under his belt I certainly wouldn’t object if he replaced James Horner as Ron’s go-to guy.

The score definitely makes me want to watch the film even more. I wasn’t expecting my reception to Hans Zimmer’s score to be so favorable but I have to say that as it is presented on CD, it’s a gem. I just hope the music stands even better within the context of the film. If it does it could be the first really great score of 2006.

Readers Talkback
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  • May 6, 2006, 3:04 p.m. CST

    It's snappy and I can dance to it

    by pilgrim57

    I'd give it a 8.6...hehehe.

  • May 6, 2006, 3:05 p.m. CST

    Oh My Gosh

    by pilgrim57

    I was first -- and didn't even realize it.... ((Happy Dance!!))

  • May 6, 2006, 3:07 p.m. CST

    Third!

    by Bodhizattwa

    and I do realize it.

  • May 6, 2006, 3:18 p.m. CST

    where is it on the internet??

    by mr chicken

    bagtatta?

  • May 6, 2006, 3:26 p.m. CST

    What about the other two?

    by mr chicken

    Are those already available to buy yet?

  • May 6, 2006, 3:28 p.m. CST

    I'll definately be buying them any way...

    by mr chicken

    Scores are the one thing I 'll always buy an actual hard copy of.

  • May 6, 2006, 3:33 p.m. CST

    Thanks

    by mr chicken

    I saw MI3 last night and that score was fantastic, Giacchino's the man!

  • May 6, 2006, 3:43 p.m. CST

    Backdraft soundtrack ,,,

    by chrth

    Or as most of it know it, the music to Iron Chef :)

  • May 6, 2006, 3:44 p.m. CST

    Er, that should've been ... not ,,,

    by chrth

    And most of "us" know it, not "it" know it.

  • May 6, 2006, 3:56 p.m. CST

    Since Hans Zimmer started to copy...

    by CuervoJones

    ...LoDuca

  • May 6, 2006, 4:15 p.m. CST

    one of Hollywood

    by Gilkuliehe

  • May 6, 2006, 4:17 p.m. CST

    (My cat just walked on my keyboard)

    by Gilkuliehe

    So what I meant to say was: "One of Hollywood

  • May 6, 2006, 5:21 p.m. CST

    I'm sure the score will be great but...

    by stvnhthr

    I'm still confused how so much talent is connected to one of the silliest stories ever written. The quality of research on THE DA VINCI CODE makes L Ron Hubbard look sincere by comparison.

  • May 6, 2006, 5:48 p.m. CST

    A welcome change

    by giger167

    Amazingly few modern film fans appreciate the benefit of a good score so any discussion is always welcome. Think of Jaws without the John Williams music, Star wars without its perfect score, or the whole of the lord of the rings trilogy without the wonderous cues from Howard Shore. I'm loving the vibe i'm getting off this film, like a big 70's serious adult thriller with a huge old school orchestral score, cant get enough of that stuff.

  • May 6, 2006, 6:02 p.m. CST

    excelsior

    by damagedinc

    this seems kinda schlocky. the da vinci code novel sermonized more than anything i've ever heard on a sunday and i think it's kind of weird that the book's oxford historian reads trashy occult books that you can buy at walmart and seriously considers them in his research. i'm super cereal.

  • May 6, 2006, 6:32 p.m. CST

    This movie needs an awesome score, so

    by Novaman5000

    This is a good thing.

  • May 6, 2006, 6:39 p.m. CST

    This movie DOES need an awesome score...

    by halcyonseven

    to help it not suck so bad. I can't wait 'till the week this comes out and all my "super-cereal" co-workers are gonna be all like, "I just learned all this CRAZY stuff about da' Bible!" and try to tell me all the "facts" they learned from "Da' Davinci Code". Seriously people. It's a movie... there are NO facts in it. In fact there are some blatent out and out lies in it. So... get a clue. You want a fact? Dan Brown once wrote a book on "relationships for women" under the name... ready?... "Danielle Brown". It was on NPR. So its gotta be true. Unlike this schlock.

  • May 6, 2006, 6:48 p.m. CST

    There are torrents for the score on net.

    by Thumper2k1

    Listening to the first track now. Nothing to special. I more into the John Williams style fanfare. But I can see how other people might like this.

  • May 6, 2006, 6:56 p.m. CST

    On second thought..

    by Thumper2k1

    I've been skipping through the album, and except for a few tracks, the all sound pretty much the same.

  • May 6, 2006, 7:52 p.m. CST

    Nicely written review ScoreKeeper, sounds good.

    by brokentusk

    Get it? Sounds... good... I apoligise.

  • May 6, 2006, 7:56 p.m. CST

    Wow, a modern day movie with a memorable score?

    by Orionsangels

    I sure hope so. I miss movie scores that envelope a film and you can't get out of your head after watching. Hasn't happened in the longest time. The 70s & 80's where the glory days of movie scores.

  • May 6, 2006, 7:58 p.m. CST

    Plant!!!!!!

    by SIR-SLEDGE450

    Well, Nobody Else Said It.....

  • May 6, 2006, 8 p.m. CST

    Am I the only one that can take or leave this movie?

    by Cotton McKnight

    I never read the book because it didn't sound all that interesting, and neither does the movie. Am I strange?

  • May 6, 2006, 8:11 p.m. CST

    Agree with Orionsangels

    by bmsatter

    It's been killing me watching the slow decline of movie scores since the 70's and 80's. Every now and then a really great score (The Incredibles) pops up but back in those days it was difficult to find a bad score.

  • May 6, 2006, 8:25 p.m. CST

    a whole post devoted to the lamest "composer" ever

    by watashiwadare

    dont forget to mention the 40 other ppl working on it. drones.

  • May 6, 2006, 8:29 p.m. CST

    Length of cues used in films

    by Discosis

    I don't mind long sequences of music in films, as long as the music doesn't get in the way of what's going on on-screen. I usually find that the long cues work well. With that said, it's nice to see AICN will be covering scores more in the future! Thanks ScoreKeeper! :)

  • May 6, 2006, 8:54 p.m. CST

    Best scores of all time!

    by paralyser-pro

    Hermann - Vertigo, Psycho, It's Alive (made a bad movie great!); Williams - Jaws, Raiders, E.T., Star Wars, Jurassic Park; Horner - Willow, Braveheart; Karas's Third Man; Rota's Godfather; Conti's Rocky; Morricone's The Mission. Somehow I doubt this one is on par.

  • May 6, 2006, 10:21 p.m. CST

    Zimmer sucks.

    by Osmosis Jones

    There's the occasional gem like The Ring, but name a single Zimmer score that DOESN'T list a dozen "additional music" composers in the CD credits. Zimmer's a hack.

  • May 6, 2006, 10:41 p.m. CST

    Re: 'Zimmer sucks.'

    by Darkman

    PACIFIC HEIGHTS. Released in 1990 and orchestrated/conducted by Shirley Walker, this gets my vote for Zimmer's best score.

  • May 6, 2006, 11:31 p.m. CST

    I don't care that the book is full of shit

    by Monkey Butler

    Because, hey, it's fiction. What bothers me is that so many people like a book that is so terribly, terribly written. Honestly, ask someone their opinion of th book, if they call it well-written, odds on that they're a moron.

  • May 6, 2006, 11:39 p.m. CST

    it's true monkey butler

    by McLuvin

    da vinci code is, without a doubt, a very ENTERTAINING read. however, it is one of the worst written books i've ever had to sit through. as i recall, there was ever cliffhangers from chapter to chapter (like, "then a shadow came up from behind him!"). i'm sorry, but as fun as da vinci code is, it has the formulaic pacing of a R.L. Stine goosebumps book.

  • May 6, 2006, 11:41 p.m. CST

    sorry

    by McLuvin

    that was supposed to be "...EVEN had cliffhangers..."

  • May 7, 2006, 12:15 a.m. CST

    Somebody is trying to sell a record.

    by superninja

  • May 7, 2006, 1:46 a.m. CST

    The Peacemaker is my favourite Zimmer score

    by moviemaniac-7

    Too bad I lost the cd somewhere while moving... The Rock also has its fantastic moments. I'm not too keen on seeing The DaVinci Code. Having read the book, I'm not that big an enthusiast. Book is mediocre at best, but I might catch the movie because of the actors.

  • May 7, 2006, 1:58 a.m. CST

    True Romance

    by damagedinc

    Didn't Hans Zimmer do the score to True Romance? I'll still hear it every so often in the backdrop of telecommunications commercials or other odd places. That score is way awesome. That movie is way way awesome.

  • May 7, 2006, 3:24 a.m. CST

    Scorekeeper

    by Cold Winter Wind

    While I do enjoy the "Joe Sixpack" tone of most of the reviews I read here, I find your erudite-but-not-highbrow tone to be a refreshing change of pace. This was truly a mini music appreciation seminar, AND it was thoroughly spell-checked and punctuated! Keep 'em coming, bro!

  • May 7, 2006, 4:18 a.m. CST

    When ever I see Zimmer as composer...I shutter a little

    by BendersShinyAss

  • May 7, 2006, 4:39 a.m. CST

    ScoreKeeper from #MovieMusic?

    by SalvatoreGravano

    Isn't this a small cyberworld.

  • May 7, 2006, 5:22 a.m. CST

    nice piece

    by drjones

    I'm also looking forward to more stuff by scorekeeper. nice job. Everytime I see the trailer for Da Vinci Code in a theater it disappoints me more. This is such a lame piece of montage... they probably didn't care about the trailer and neither about any other pr stuff because there's literally an ad in every newspaper that comments on the trials and new charges against the book or movie. all i wanted from this film is a good trailer. maybe now the film will not be too bad.

  • May 7, 2006, 6:59 a.m. CST

    Zimmer's score to True Romance...

    by Osmosis Jones

    ...is swiped from Terence Malick's Badlands (intentionally so), so calling that a "favorite" Zimmer score is funny.

  • May 7, 2006, 7:09 a.m. CST

    Zimmer, THE THIN RED LINE, CRIMSON TIDE

    by Dickie Greenleaf

    Zimmer composed one of the all-time great scores with Malick's THE THIN RED LINE. One of the most lyrical, evocative and soulful works of film composing in recent memory. Also, his main theme for CRIMSON TIDE would have to rank as one of the most stirring pieces of music in an action movie during the 90s. His GLADIATOR score is also a masterpiece. I can understand why some people don't much care for Zimmer, but I think that's actually due to spreading himself as thinly as he has over the last decade. I simply think he agreed to score too many films (and average ones at that) and the sheer volume of his work has tended to detract from the genuinely great music he is, and has been, capable of.

  • May 7, 2006, 9:25 a.m. CST

    BBC censors

    by Admiral Nelson

    The BBC wants to increase the rating for

  • May 7, 2006, 9:54 a.m. CST

    Nice

    by blackwood

    change of pace from fanboy acrimony. More score reviews, please. And someone slap Sony for not putting out the soundtrack to Silent Hill.

  • May 7, 2006, 10:07 a.m. CST

    Maybe this is a dumb question, but . . .

    by Barry Egan

    what the hell is the point to reviewing a film score without the context of seeing it in the film for which it was written?

  • May 7, 2006, 10:59 a.m. CST

    Because

    by blackwood

    a good score can stand on its own? My favourite score is Danny Elfman's Edward Scissorhands - listening to it out of the context of the film, it is no less moving or beautiful.

  • May 7, 2006, 1 p.m. CST

    well, throw a Beatles song in a movie then.

    by HypeEndsHere

    a score compliments the action on the screen. is it nice if it sounds good on its own? sure. but job number one is to heighten the emotions of a film. of course that's just the opinion of someone who wrote an oscar-winning score.

  • May 7, 2006, 4:10 p.m. CST

    I just tried again to pick up THE DAVINCI CODE novel.

    by Orbots Commander

    I couldn't get past the first 2 chapters. It reads like it was written by a 12 year old. An illiterate 12 year old. It is just that badly written and I'm not a literature snob. Dan Brown makes John Grisham (who is steadily improving, by the way) seem like Hemingway.

  • May 7, 2006, 7:17 p.m. CST

    I think people just associate him with Bruckheimer

    by scrumdiddly

    And that's never good... His stuff does tend to vary wildly - much more than any other film composer - which suggests, as someone mentioned, that his music is "manufactured".

  • May 7, 2006, 7:22 p.m. CST

    The book of the movie is already on Amazon...

    by Barney Hood

    So don't read if you hate spoilers.

  • May 7, 2006, 7:45 p.m. CST

    The Cousin Vinny Code

    by Orionsangels

  • May 7, 2006, 9:29 p.m. CST

    HypeEndsHere

    by Avenger534

    What score did you write?

  • May 8, 2006, 8:21 a.m. CST

    Zimmer's best score... True Romance!!

    by Borgnine JR

  • May 8, 2006, 11:51 a.m. CST

    Hey... there's some rumor going around that...

    by Johnno

    Zimmer will be replacing Harry Gregson WIlliams as composer for Metal Gear Solid 4... anyone know anything about that?

  • Oct. 15, 2006, 2:56 p.m. CST

    Nice to see Hans on a big-budget, non-Bruckheimer movie

    by DonliQ

    I think Zimmerman made this movie much more watchable with an elegant score.

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