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The Most Innovative Film Composer

The Most Innovative Film Composer

  • Bernard Herrmann

    Votes: 35 24.1%
  • Jerry Goldsmith

    Votes: 23 15.9%
  • Max Steiner

    Votes: 2 1.4%
  • Ennio Morricone

    Votes: 26 17.9%
  • John Williams

    Votes: 8 5.5%
  • Hans Zimmer

    Votes: 41 28.3%
  • John Barry

    Votes: 2 1.4%
  • Miklos Rozsa

    Votes: 1 0.7%
  • Toru Takemitsu

    Votes: 5 3.4%
  • Sergei Prokofiev

    Votes: 5 3.4%
  • other (please specify)

    Votes: 10 6.9%
  • Elliot Goldenthal

    Votes: 7 4.8%

  • Total voters
    145

dcoscina

Senior Member
I'm curious who our forum members could classify as the most innovative composer in film music history. only 1 choice available. It's a tough one to be sure.
 
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dcoscina

dcoscina

Senior Member
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  • #2
For the record, Goldsmith was a very close second. Herrmann did something that rocked film music- he broke free of the symphonic format paradigm that was omnipresent for decades. With the recorded medium, he realized he could score for unusual instrument combinations that would not work in a concert hall setting. He also employed motivic/cellular/minimalist ideas to serve the dramatic narrative effectively. A colossal, brilliant composer. He also had his own "sound" and harmonic vocabulary that is still copied today.
 

GNP

Active Member
You mean when they're hot, or when you're sick of them? Lol

Once you strip away all the rhetoric of "innovation", "innovation" ultimately boils down to the essentials and necessities. It's the kind of stuff where by we can get sick of them, but their nails and bolts are still holding the "new" bridge.

Time gives birth to innovation, therefore, innovation rots with time. Happens for every "up-and-comer".
 

lux

Senior Member
well I was asking as basically it changes everything wether for innovation you mean orchestration (how typical ensembles are used), harmony (unexplored or just less common harmonies), the ability to blend different ethnic flavours musically, using uncommon instruments, using common instruments in an uncommon way, blending pop culture with classical background, blending electronics...

On a very personal standpoint I find hard to define innovative a composer without knowing my starting point. Most choices are very innovative on some aspects and very typical on others.
 

Aenae

New Member
Either Toru Takemitsu or Alex North - nobody else comes close in my assessment. Bernard Herrmann comes in at #3 for me. As you say, Herrmann was one of those rare film composers used unique instrumentations and things like that. But so did North and Takemitsu. All three of them also invented their own unique musical language obviously.

Some of Takemitsu's scores from around the middle century were genuinely groundbreaking and expanded our sense of what film music could be. I haven't gotten around to familarize myself with all of his film music innovations, but I think he was for example maybe even the first composer who integrated his own field recordings into his film scores. That's not to mention a landmark score like Kwaidan which was groundbreaking.

North's A Streetcar Named Desire was one of those genuinely groundbreaking scores - perhaps even the first jazz-based score ever even.

Some of the film composers you list don't even belong in the conversation in my opinion.

John Williams for example is largely no innovator, it has never been one of his strong suits.

One important innovator in film music which I expected to be included is Leonard Rosenman. He was one of the first film composers to break the romantic mold with his serial/Americana music. I believe his score for The Cobweb was the first mostly 12-tone score and there are other scores of his that are innovative also.
 
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Mike T

Senior Member
I think it has to be Hans for bringing the "studio" process into film music in a more major way than before, which I think is a bigger deal than any of the new ideas others brought to what was essentially still a purely acoustic, traditionally recorded approach.

I was going to cite Thomas Newman for this but it seems like Zimmer maybe got there just a few years earlier. Although maybe Ennio was there even earlier....
 
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dcoscina

dcoscina

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Either Toru Takemitsu or Alex North - nobody else comes close in my assessment. Bernard Herrmann comes in at #3 for me. As you say, Herrmann was one of those rare film composers used unique instrumentations and things like that. But so did North and Takemitsu. All three of them also invented their own unique musical language obviously.

Some of Takemitsu's scores from around the middle century were genuinely groundbreaking and expanded our sense of what film music could be. I haven't gotten around to familarize myself with all of his film music innovations, but I think he was for example maybe even the first composer who integrated his own field recordings into his film scores. That's not to mention a landmark score like Kwaidan which was groundbreaking.

North's A Streetcar Named Desire was one of those genuinely groundbreaking scores - perhaps even the first jazz-based score ever even.

Some of the film composers you list don't even belong in the conversation in my opinion.

John Williams for example is largely no innovator, it has never been one of his strong suits.

One important innovator in film music which I expected to be included is Leonard Rosenman. He was one of the first film composers to break the romantic mold with his serial/Americana music. I believe his score for The Cobweb was the first mostly 12-tone score and there are other scores of his that are innovative also.
Alex North, yes! But to the younger generation, I doubt his prowess would be digestible. It was heavily complex and at times, had an almost disregard for the action on screen. the music of course, was incredible.

I love his score to Dragonslayer. Everyone goes on about Goldenthal using tone clusters in film music but North, Goldsmith, Rosenman, even Humphrey Searle (the Haunting) were using them decades before...
 

Dave Connor

Senior Member
Goldsmith in his time and Zimmer in his.

Both crossed into a sound design or music concrete area that has nothing to do with the orchestra or any traditional instruments. Both incorporated synthesizers as the fundamental basis of the score as opposed to addition to the orchestra (although both have done that considerably as well.)

I see a score such as The Last Samurai in the direct lineage of Tora Tora Tora as both used ethnic instruments traditionally as well as inventively: i.e. both were innovative in a similar fashion in these and other scores.
 

Niah2

Active Member
That's a tough list indeed.

I voted for Elliot Goldenthal, not sure if he is the most innovative but he is definitely one of my favourites. Also would like to mention Herrmann, Goldsmith and Morricone which I find definitely innovative.
I agree that Williams may not be in that category but he is great of course.
Think Zimmer in pretty daring in terms of production and sound design. Toru's work is also very exquisite.
 

Wally Garten

Senior Member
I voted Herrmann (and considered voting Morricone), but I think we should also tip the hat to Scott Bradley and Carl Stalling, both of whom did a lot of groundbreaking work in what might be called "collage" composing -- a constant shifting of musical styles and ideas. Here's some of Bradley's work being performed by an orchestra:


I would also mention Wendy Carlos' synth work and Lalo Schifrin's jazz-fusion-inflected scores as innovative.
 
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