“Curse of the Black Pearl” from Pirates of the Caribbean

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            Music for films, whether by a pianist improvising for silent films, or those scored for full romantic-era orchestras, has always been an essential element in the medium.   And film composers, and their individual paths to success, have varied remarkably over the years.  From so-called “classical” composers such as Aaron Copland, Virgil Thompson, and a host of others, to those who were practically self-taught, with simple roots—it doesn’t seem to matter.  All that essentially counts is musical talent, creative imagination, a capability for artistic growth, and the ability to work within the demanding, cost and deadline-driven requirements of Hollywood.   The music of  Klaus Badelt is illustrative.

            Badelt is a native German who worked in record production, as well as music for films and commercials, in Europe before coming to the US and famously just walking into the office of the distinguished composer, Hans Zimmer, and asking for a job.  His talent was obvious, and he quickly became a Hollywood regular beginning around 1998. He looks upon himself as a complete film artist; as a child he produced little films with his friends as the actors.  So his approach is one of complete immersion in the product.  He claims not to be very familiar with the work of the great film scorers of the past, other than a few things by Korngold, for example.  But, as a European, it should be expected that he is quite familiar with the “classics.”  He claims that his constant model is Gustav Mahler’s second symphony, the “Resurrection.”  His statement that “Everything you need to know about scoring is in that symphony” tells us much about his artistic bent and method.  Just a few of his successes are:  Gladiator, The Thin Red Line, Pearl Harbor, and The Time Machine.  His versatility is illustrated by his invitation from the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games to be the only Western composer to write music for the closing ceremonies.

--Wm. E. Runyan

© 2017 William E. Runyan