Thursday, 16 January 2014

12 Years a Slave by Hans Zimmer

Yesterday I saw the film 12 Years a Slave. I have to say it wasn't, in my view, a complete success. But in one area it was immediately clear to me that it was an unqualified masterpiece — the use of music.

The picture has a brooding, terrifying avant-garde score. It was completely effective in supporting the mood of the movie while also being an impressive piece of work in its own right. There were no credits at the beginning of the film, so I didn't know who was responsible for the music. I assumed that it was an unknown, experimental young composer. I made a note to watch for the name at the end.

To my astonishment it was the work of Hans Zimmer, one of the most prolific of mainstream Hollywood composers. This revelation compounded a process that has been going on for a few years now. For the longest time I'd dismissed Zimmer's work. I was turned off by some early synthesiser scores like Point of No Return and my attitude had subsequently hardened to what I thought was my own personal point of no return.

But then I heard his delightful music for Sherlock Holmes. It was such a quirky, engaging score that I was forced to approach Zimmer with a newly open mind. And I was rewarded with the pleasure of such soundtracks as Inception (kind of a post modern John Barry 007 soundtrack).

Anyway, 12 Years a Slave is great, and this morning I sat down at the computer to order the CD. Which is where we come to the tragic part of our tale. There is a soundtrack CD available. Yippee. And it's available at a bargain price. Double yippee. But it's one of those dread "Music From and Inspired By the Film" confections. These loathsome, bastardised compilations are aimed at cashing in and usually have none of the film's actual score. This one is no different, featuring two meagre tracks by Zimmer (out of a total of 16).

There is an unofficial promotional release of Zimmer's music (a total of almost 39 minutes) but it isn't generally available. I can only hope someone in the music division of Columbia has a burst of sanity and issues the entire score on a legitimate CD.

(Image credits: The front and back cover of the "From and Inspired By" CD are from Amazon where you can buy the CD, though I can't imagine why you'd want to. The cover for the much more appealing promotional release is from Hans Zimmer Dot Com, a very informative "almost official" site.)

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