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Who are your top 10 living film composers?

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How would you rank your top 10 living film composers?

 

1. Thomas Newman
2. Elliot Goldenthal
3. Ennio Morricone
4. John Williams
5. Howard Shore
6. Vangelis
7. Joe Hisaishi
8. Ryuichi Sakamoto
9. Hans Zimmer
10. Cliff Martinez 

 

Newman is my favourite living film composer - he is the rare original, unmistakable voice, and for sheer inventiveness, he is hard to beat. Goldenthal is the most exciting living film composer. Morricone is more idiosyncratic and progressive than Williams. To me Williams is close to Morricone, but I prefer Goldenthal's and Newman's music over Williams/Morricone.

 

Shore has written more good scores than Vangelis, so he wins. I like Vangelis's Blade Runner more than anything Hisaishi and Sakamoto have done, and I also like a few of his other scores a lot. Sakamoto's music is generally more to my taste than Hisaishi's, but Hisaishi's overall body of film work is maybe stronger.

 

Martinez and Zimmer are close to each other for me. In general, I prefer Martinez's music, and I only really like two Zimmer scores and they are The Thin Red Line and Inception. Martinez has Solaris and Drive that I like a lot. I will give the edge to Zimmer for now, mainly because of The Thin Red Line though.

 

What do you say?

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My top 10 living composers are 63,7 years old on average while my estimate of an average lifespan of a film composer is 70,5. I am a bit worried about near future. No names. 

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Mine at the moment (except for no. 1, others change place now and then):

1. John Williams
2. Hans Zimmer
3. Danny Elfman
4. Elliot Goldenthal
5. Max Richter
6. George Fenton
7. Cliff Martinez
8. Rob Simonsen
9. Benjamin Wallfisch
10. A.R. Rahman

Honourable mentions to Alan Silvestri, James Newton Howard, Angelo Badalamenti, Giorgio Moroder, Tom Holkenborg, Mark Isham, Zbigniew Preisner, Thomas Newman, Vangelis.

My evaluation is a mix of things. Whether the composer has been active lately (Vangelis would have been a clear top candidate, for example, if it hadn't been for the fact that he hasn't done much scoring lately), whether they're not as good as they used to (Silvestri, JNH etc.), or whether they're sort of 'cemented' alltime favourites that are in despite certain issues (Goldenthal, Elfman -- despite being disappointed in the latter's "big" scores in recent years), whether they are newish discoveries that have wowed me (Simonsen, Richter etc.). And so on and so forth. Many parameters to consider.

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I thought about this and came up with a prerequisite: if an album came out by the composer in question, would I be willing to buy it note unheard?

 

Only three living composers came to mind.

 

There are solid composers with impressive resumes with individual titles that I really enjoy, but as JoeinAR wrote, "hit and miss."

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2 minutes ago, bruckhorn said:

I thought about this and came up with a prerequisite: if an album came out by the composer in question, would I be willing to buy it note unheard?

 

Only three living composers came to mind.

 

There are solid composers with impressive resumes with individual titles that I really enjoy, but as JoeinAR wrote, "hit and miss."

 

I like that criterion. In my case, my top three would clear the bar amply, while JNH and JP are oh-so-close.

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John Williams and Ennio Morricone always get a confident listen from me and unlimited get-out-of-jail-free cards for their stumbles.

 

Jonny Greenwood and John Powell are on a roll lately and make me most eager to see how their careers develop. 

 

Generally optimistic that new music by Thomas Newman, James Newton Howard, Howard Shore, and Alexandre Desplat will be good and never count out the possibility of something great. 

 

Then a handful of other favorites or working composers I admire like Giacchino, Silvestri, Elfman, Zimmer are hit and miss with me, my interest depending more on project type, director etc but I keep track of what they’re doing and hope it’ll be good. 

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1. John Williams

2. Alan Silvestri

3. John Powell

4. Hans Zimmer

5. Michael Giacchino

6. Steve Jablonsky

7. Howard Shore

8. Justin Hurwitz

9. Murray Gold

10. David Arnold

 

James Horner was (is if we count non living composers) my number one. Rest in peace.

 

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  1. John Williams
  2. Michael Giachinno
  3. James Newton Howard
  4. Howard Shore
  5. Danny Elfman
  6. David Arnold
  7. John Powell
  8. Alexandre Desplat
  9. Alan Silvestri
  10. Hans Zimmer

Composers like Shore, Arnold and Powell are curious. Unlike the rest, they are only on my top 10 due to a small number of their scores relative to their whole career rather than having widespread appeal across their career. Arnold has the trio of Stargate, Tomorrow Never Dies and ID4 but I'd also add Casino Royale. Shore has the 6 Tolkien scores and Powell has Bourne and How To Train Your Dragon. They've all done a lot of great work elsewhere but those small samples of their full career is enough to get them a place in my top 10.

 

BTW, I admit referring to Shore's Tolkien work as a "small sample" sounds odd but you know what I mean - he's had a prolific career before and after it.

 

There are also composers like Chrisopher Young who did fantastic work on Drag Me To Hell, Spidey 3 and Priest. Had Hollywood took notice and maybe given him the same opportunities that Gia has had on some franchises, he'd probably be in my top 10 too. He certainly has the talent for it.

 

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5 minutes ago, Damien F said:

Arnold has the trio of Stargate, Tomorrow Never Dies and ID4

 

I'd add The World Is Not Enough to that list, but otherwise I completely agree - those Arnold scores are all fantastic and are pretty much the reason why he's also in my top ten.

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1 minute ago, Zanobard said:

 

I'd add The World Is Not Enough to that list, but otherwise I completely agree - those Arnold scores are all fantastic and are pretty much the reason why he's also in my top ten.

 

The World Is Not Enough is also great and I'm super looking forward to getting the expanded LLL album.

 

Shame he leaned so heavily on the electronic manipulation for Die Another Day. In a way though, it suited the OTT bat shit crazy nature of that film.

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1 minute ago, Damien F said:

 

The World Is Not Enough is also great and I'm super looking forward to getting the expanded LLL album.

 

Shame he leaned so heavily on the electronic manipulation for Die Another Day. In a way though, it suited the OTT bat shit crazy nature of that film.

 

Yeah, Die Another Day was definitely his weakest Bond score. It's not awful, just not as great as the others and you're right I do feel he was too heavy handed with the electronic side of things.

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16 minutes ago, Zanobard said:

 

Yeah, Die Another Day was definitely his weakest Bond score. It's not awful, just not as great as the others and you're right I do feel he was too heavy handed with the electronic side of things.

 

The cue Hovercraft Chase is a good example of how I think the electronics ruin that score. The themes and structure of that cue is great. It heavily uses the various components of the Bond theme while including some new material written for the movie. But all the electronic manipulation in that cue is rather obnoxious especially when compared to the good balance of orchestra and electronics in his previous Bond scores. When the Bond theme is played on guitar, it sounds like 96 kbps recorded over a 70s rotary phone. Compare that to its fantastic appearance in Backseat Driver from TNG.

 

I'd love to hear a good fully orchestral re-recording of that cue.

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27 minutes ago, Damien F said:

 

The cue Hovercraft Chase is a good example of how I think the electronics ruin that score. The themes and structure of that cue is great. It heavily uses the various components of the Bond theme while including some new material written for the movie. But all the electronic manipulation in that cue is rather obnoxious especially when compared to the good balance of orchestra and electronics in his previous Bond scores. When the Bond theme is played on guitar, it sounds like 96 kbps recorded over a 70s rotary phone. Compare that to its fantastic appearance in Backseat Driver from TNG.

 

I'd love to hear a good fully orchestral re-recording of that cue.

 

Just re-listened to Hovercraft Chase (haven't touched Die Another Day in a while) - the electronics definitely spoil the action, particularly when it gets to the latter half of the Bond Theme. They're just too much and at points actively unpleasant to listen to, unlike say Come In 007, Your Time Is Up and indeed Backseat Driver which have pretty perfect blends of electronics and orchestra.

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