Sound And Image: 5 Movie Composers You Should Know

Sunday, November 20 by Jason Cuthbert


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Responsible for some of cinema's greatest combinations of sound and image, these movie composers you should know include composers of big blockbusters. These motion picture maestros contributed movie scores to at least ten films that are either critically acclaimed or box office successes. They have also repeatedly worked with several top-notch directors. Next time the background sounds woven by these movie composers alter your emotions, their names will not go unnoticed.

John Williams More times than not, if the words "Directed by Steven Spielberg" appear, so will "Music composed by John Williams." As of 2011, Williams and Spielberg have collaborated on 25 motion pictures, including the memorable themes for "Jaws", "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" and the complete "Indiana Jones" series. This mega movie composer also created the musical compositions for the entire "Star Wars" series. Any other motion picture composer could probably retire with credentials like these, but John Williams has also earned over 40 Academy Award nominations (five wins), 21 Grammy Awards and four Golden Globe trophies.

Howard Shore This magnificent movie composer from Toronto, Ontario, began as the music director for fellow Canadian and friend Lorne Michaels on the NBC television series "Saturday Night Live." The Toronto connection expanded from Lorne Michaels into feature film with David Cronenberg, starting with "The Brood" in 1979 and continuing on with "A Dangerous Method" in 2011. But American directors have benefited from Howard Shore's superior scores—namely the great Martin Scorsese. Their multiple collaborations include "Gangs of New York," "The Aviator" and "The Departed." Shore's cinematic passport also has a New Zealand stamp thanks to his Academy Award- and Grammy Award-winning work as the music composer for the entire series of "The Lord of the Rings."

Danny Elfman Any fan of the playfully gothic sensibilities of Tim Burton films should also be part of the Danny Elfman fan club. This ex-member of the New Wave ensemble Oingo Boingo has, up until this date, scored every Tim Burton-directed film except "Ed Wood" and " Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street." Elfman has also established fruitful relationships with directors such as Sam Raimi, Gus Van Sant and Barry Sonnenfeld that have lead to film scores for "Spiderman," "Spiderman 2," "Good Will Hunting," "Milk" and the "Men in Black" series.

Hans Zimmer The remarkable music made by this movie composer has been utilized time and again by directors such as Ron Howard, Christopher Nolan, Michael Bay, Ridley Scott and Tony Scott. Zimmer's Academy Award-nominated score for "Rain Man" was followed by "Driving Miss Daisy," "Thelma & Louise," "Gladiator," "The Dark Knight," "Inception" and the entire "Pirates of the Caribbean" series. Not many movie composers can also tackle the whimsical sounds of animated movie scoring, but Hans Zimmer has also caught children's ears with "The Lion King," "The Prince of Egypt," "Madagascar" and "Kung-Fu Panda."

Bernard Herrmann It is often not what is seen on screen, but what is anticipated that scares the scene out of people. Bernard Herrmann has provided a multitude of classic nail-biting musical scores for Alfred Hitchcock's most memorable motion pictures. These sizzling sonic achievements include "Vertigo," "North by Northwest" and those horrifying staccato shrieks from "Psycho." Herrmann's incredible musical composing was also solidified in a film widely recognized by film historians as one of the greatest movies ever made: "Citizen Kane." Bernard Herrmann capped off his captivating composing career in 1976 with the "New York Gritty" Martin Scorsese/Robert De Niro tale: "Taxi Driver."