One of the most epic movies of 2014, and of our generation, has to be Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar (2014). This monumental movie about space travel has outstanding visual effects and production and sound. But what is truly epic about the film is Hans Zimmer’s impeccable and other worldly score.
His score was nominated for an Academy Award, but lost out to Alexandre Desplat’s The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014). Now, don’t get me wrong, I was delighted for Desplat. He’s one of my favourite composers and I was hoping he’d win for his work on TGBH. His score was extremely intrinsic and geographically specific. That being said, I think a lot of people felt more moved by the Interstellar score as it was more emotional, humanistic and triumphant. But TGBH was definitely more specific, technical and geographically grounded. I think they’re both momentous scores. Personally I believe that Gravity‘s success in 2013 had a lot to do with why Interstellar didn’t win more than it should have. But I don’t want to go into that.
Emotionally, Interstellar did move me a lot. It was such an excellent score. Really powerful, and literally otherworldly in nature. It was just… hauntingly beautiful. It really did carry the movie. There was a real humanist feel to the score. The triumph and endurance of the soul, it was just brilliant. Interstellar does definitely stand out from a lot of scores. The blend of electronic with the traditional orchestra was outstanding. I think Hans Zimmer should be winning more awards, and this score undoubtedly deserves recognition.
Zimmer creates these expansive soundscapes that extend far and beyond his main melodies, thereby reflecting the vastness of time and space. We get these throughout the score. His main theme is introduced in “Cornfield Chase.” This involves two delicate intermittent notes playing in succession. It comes in stronger in the second half of the track with the introduction of the orchestra and electronic elements. We hear it again in “Day One,” “S.T.A.Y.,” “Where We’re Going” & “First Step”
His string compositions are impressive. He uses it against a solitary background, denoting the aircraft’s position in the endlessness of space. It also provides great movement through the tracks such as “Dust,” “Stay,” “I’m Going Home,” “Detach” & “The Wormhole.”
He also uses these gongs against deep silence which really reverberate throughout the soundscape. You can hear this in “Stay,” which is probably one of the more well known pieces. The orchestra towards the end of this piece is truly ground-breaking. It’s gone into full throttle and the sound blasts as the strings escalate and the brass creates a giant wave of sound. This track also makes use of the organ which creates a massive resounding, heavenly sound. It’s almost overwhelming how much power the organ brings to the score. Zimmer uses it quite efficiently throughout the score.
“A Message From Home” is one of the more delicate pieces. It is hauntingly beautiful with just the piano. It reflects the depth and emptiness of space while providing a representation of the space craft, or a human being, in the vastness of space. The piano is also used quite effectively in the second half of “Coward,” this time against the orchestra. It’s fast paced and adds great urgency to the movie. It then movies into a more electronic feel, intensifying the mood. Zimmer adds pounding notes that really pack a punch. He also includes short, intense notes towards the end which create a climax and culmination of sound.
One of the most epic tracks is “Mountains” which makes use of the organ and also electronic elements. It is cacophonous towards the second half when there are these massive organ sounds playing against the continuous percussion, reflecting the ticking of a clock. It really doesn’t hold back.
“No Time For Caution” includes a ticking percussion which acts like a clock. As the track moves on, the piece becomes more serious with the introduction of more instruments. The orchestra increases the intensity while the strings and brass later repeat the motif of the film again in an epic fashion, indicating a moment of climax and dramatic intensity. The organ flourishes at the end in a gargantuan style.