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Introduction to Famous Composers
I introduce to you the ultimate guide to composers. With music, awards, funny hair dos, and an assortment of goodies... you would be sore if you didn't indulge in this treat. I have compiled the top 40 composers you should know. Some of them are classical some of them write music for video games. All of them deserve a special place in your ears. So indulge in this mighty hub...
40. Z Randall Stroope
Z. Randall Stroope, no it is not a disease, and no it is not a fancy name for a spaceship in Star Wars. Let me introduce you to the American choral composer who's score actually, finally, got me through All Region back in High School. Thank you, Amor de mi alma, you taught me that I do have excellent control over my voice.
The man is the Director of Choral and Vocal Studies at Oklahoma State University. Before that, he was teaching in New Jersey and Nebraska. He regularly appears nationally and internationally as a conductor, such as at Carnegie Hall, Chicago Orchestra Hall, Sopra Minerva, and the Kennedy Center.
Stroope says he has kept certain advice from his mentor, Normand Lockwood, saying "You must always write with the essence in mind. It is easy to write with a lot of notes. But it takes a master to say the same with only a few notes, where every notes counts."
He has published more than 140 works, some of his most famous are: Lamentaciones de Jeremias, Amor de mi alma, and Hodie! (This Day). He has also published many instrumental works, including Fanfare (a brass / percussion / organ piece) and a wind ensemble of Amor de mi alma.
He has a number of awards and honors that could stretch across the ocean from the United States to China. He has conducted music at festivals in 45 different states. He has directed at 38 all-state choir conventions.
He was a student of Nadia Boulanger, one of the greatest French composers of the twentieth century. Stroope credits her for helping fostering his creativity. He says, "Efficiency of writing would be the main thing I took from my studies with Effinger. Boulanger didn't try to replicate herself through her students; she let them be successful in their own way. As a result, Lockwood and Effiger were very open to different styles of music in my writing. It wasn't a cookie cutter approach to composition."
39. Daft Punk
When I say Daft Punk, you're probably like -- oh honey, that's a band. And you would be right. But to add some color, I'm adding them because they did, after all, compose for Tron: Legacy. The duo held its Daft Arts production office at the Jim Henson Studios complex in Hollywood. The Grammy Award winners composed 24 tracks for the film Tron: Legacy. Daft Punk's score was arranged and orchestrated by Joseph Trapanese. The band collaborated with him for two years on the score. The score features an 85-piece orchestra.
The soundtrack album of the film was released on December 6, 2010. A deluxe 2-disc edition of the album was also released that includes a poster of the duo from the film. The music is a mix of orchestra and electronic elements.
They did draw inspiration from the original Tron film composer Wendy Carlos, as well as Max Steiner, Bernard Herrmann, John Carpenter, Vangelis, Philip Glass, and Maurice Jarre.
The French band has been around since the 1990s. The pair generally are dressed up as robots when they go in public. They love to use visuals and story components along with their music. Their album Discovery was used for the anime film Interstella 5555.
38. Kenji Yamamoto
As much as I love film composers and classical composers, I do have a heart for video game composers who I believe have made some of the greatest music in the 20th and 21st centuries. Composing for a video game entails having to experiment with a number of settings and characters. A video game can be made or broken by the score.
Kenji's most well known work is for composing music to the Metroid series. His music helps create the far off in another galaxy experience of Samus. Super Metroid is considered by many to be the greatest Super Nintendo game of all time. Yamamoto likes to use heavy drums, piano, voiced chants, clangs of pipes, and electric guitar. He likes to work with dark themes and to create a scary atmosphere. When moving to different gaming systems, with more complex graphics and capability for sound, Yamamoto says he went for a more realistic sounds.
The music is intended to create an immersive experience rather than be used to tell the story explicitly.
He says, "We, Nintendo game sound creators, are not musicians whose main objective is to release albums. We create in-game music and sound effects to enhance the players' gameplay experience. It's sort of like we are playing roles of behind-the-scenes architects in game development. Unlike other musicians, our main goal is not about releasing albums. So we didn't release many soundtrack albums in the past simply because the timing wasn't right."
Kenji has also worked on Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!, Mario Kart: Super Circuit, Donkey Kong Returns, Radar Mission, and Excite Truck. He says he intends to keep working with the Metroid series in the future. So know that Samus and the wonderful places she explores may continue into the future for some time to come.
37. Rachel Portman
Rachel Portman (not Natalie Portman's mother) was the first female composer to win an Academy Award for Best Musical or Comedy Score with Emma in 1996. Portman's scores for The Cider House Rules and Chocolat were also nom nom'd for best original scores. She has also composed for The Lake House, The Manchurian Candidate, and A Little Princess. She began her career by writing music for dramas in BBC and Channel 4 films. She also has made a musical based on The Little house on the Prairie.
She is an English composer, growing up in Haslemere, England. She went to the Charterhouse School and became interested in music at an early age. She then went to Worcester College, she had the chance there to write music for student films and theatre productions.
She was the first woman to receive the Richard Kirk Award which is a significant honor in the realm of film and television. She's a kind woman with a bounty of compositions born from her fingertips. She has worked on a number of witty and time period films... and of course romantic ones, considering Chocolat.
She says of romantic music, that you want to be careful not to add too much to an already moving or sentimental scene. It's important not to add another layer of the same things that's already on the screen, lest you want to become parody.
She amazingly only had three and a half weeks to write Chocolat. And so she poured herself into it and was able to make what she wanted. She says she has always wanted to write music that tell stories.
She is a Sagittarius composer! She is ranked #33 as a composer from England, according to famousbirthdays.com. And she is ranked #40,016 of the most popular people ever. Quite tremendous, if you think about for long enough.
36. Erich Wolfgang Korngold
Don't be too disturbed, but when I hear the name Korngold, I think of children's cereal. I mean, wouldn't Korngold flakes be fantastic? Anyway, Mr. Erich Wolfgang Korngold (a name that is likely to produce a music composer) was an American composer of Austro-Hungarian birth. He is considered one of the founders of film music. In 1938, he was the first composer to be awarded an Oscar for his score rather than the head of the studio music department. This was for his work on The Adventures of Robin Hood. He did not just write for the silver screen. Some of his operas are the most beautiful works of music in all of history.
During his early years, he made live-recording player piano music rolls for the Hupfeld DEA and Phonola system. Many of these have survived and can be heard today.
Korngold was Jewish and could not stay in Austria so stayed in America. He says The Adventures of Robin Saved his life. He became a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1943.
He stopped writing original film scores after 1946. With World War II, the death of his father, and the disillusionment of Los Angeles, Korngold didn't exactly have the easiest life and while living many gave him considerable critical disdain... because they were idiots.
His music is absolutely beautiful and exquisite. It has a wonderful classical charm to it. He uses a lot of traditional orchestra instruments, particularly strings, woodwinds, and the piano. The music is reflective of a world torn into pieces by modern civilization. He and his family suffered during one of the most racist and xenophobic periods in history. His music does not only mark the early creation of the film industry, but also that strange dark corner of the 1930s and 40s. People were able to think beautiful thoughts. People were able to make music, and that music, somehow under appreciated, is a testimony to human spirit in a time of struggle, in a time when the greatest film industry in the world at its very birth is full of contortion, extortion, and disillusion. Thank you, Korngold, for letting us hear the beautiful music inside your head, even if the world you lived in was blind at times.
35. Victor Young
Holy, hot buttons. This man is the composer of the greatest love ballad, "When I Fall in Love." Victor Young while living in the short 56 years he was given, made music for radio, film, television, and Broadway.
He was nom nom'd for an Oscar several times, and finally won posthumously for Around the World in Eighty Days. He was nominated twice four times in a single year for an award. As for musicals, he was the composer for Seventh Heaven and Pardon Our French. He helped on several other musicals.
Before playing before Russian generals and nobles, while in Warsaw, he was later introduced to Czar Nicholas in St. Petersburg. His playing impressed the Czar ,and so he was given many gifts, but the revolution cut short his success in Russia.
He then went to Paris and then the United States.
By the mid-1930s he moved to Hollywood where he concentrated on films, recordings of light music and providing backing for popular singers, including Bing Crosby. Some of his most well known songs are: "Moonlight Serenade," "Sweet Sue, Just You," and "Love Letters." He conducted the first album of songs from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz. The album featured Judy Garland and the Ken Darby Singers singing songs from the film in Young's own arrangements.
His last scores were for the films Omar Khayyam and China Gate. The latter was unfinished at the time of his death; his long-time friend, Max Steiner, filled in for him.
This is quite random, but in listening to his score, just now, for Around the World, I have come to realize the tune of a music box I had as a child. Finally, after all those years, I now know where that song comes from.
34. Yoko Shimomura
Yoko is the most famous female video game composer.
Yoko is known for her scores on Final Fight and Street Fighter II, both with Capcom. She worked with Square from 1993 to 2002. While with Square, she was best known for her soundtrack for Kingdom Hearts. Capcom invited her in for audition and an interview and was so impressed they offered a job on the spot. Her family was dismayed with her change from classical music to video game music, which wasn't respected at the time. They paid her tuition for an expensive music school and couldn't understand why she would accept such a job.
She has had the chance to work on such big name games as Kingdom Hearts, Breath of Fire, Parasite Eve, Legend of Mana, and Final Fantasy. Her most favored composition is "Dearly Beloved" from Kingdom Hearts. She says that she moved away from Capcom to Square because she was interested in using her "classical-style" music writing skills for fantasy role playing games. While at Capcom, she was in the arcade department and was unable to use some of her skills, she only had the chance to contribute to one song for the RPG Breath of Fire. (A favored game of mine.)
She considers the soundtrack to Legend of Mana the one that best expresses herself and the soundtrack remains her personal favorite. Kingdom of Hearts also has a special place in her heart. Many of her soundtracks have been arranged into piano compilations for pianists. She says Beethoven, Chopin, and Ravel are some of her biggest influences.
She comes up with most of her songs when she is doing something that is not part of her routine, like traveling. She says that her style has changed dramatically over the years, though the passion for music stays the same. She believes that music is best when subtle rather than obvert.
33. Danny Elfman
Think Batman.... Think Tim Burton... and think of the opening to the Simpsons.
He is the longtime friend of the Edward Scissorhands director. He founded the American new wave band called The Mystic Knights of the Oingo Boingo. They played throughout the 70s until Elfman left to become a filmmaker. His first film to compose was... Pee-wee's Big Adventure. Kids, if you're reading this, make it big with whatever project gets on your hands. Make it your own. It doesn't matter if it's Pee-wee or Michaelanglo... you can find your golden truth just by working hard. Elfman was the singing voice for Jack Skellington in Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas.
And later he used that voice for Bonejangles, the skeleton in Corpse Bride.
Let's jump all over the place here... Danny Elfman says that his political views are to be critical of what's around you. He at one time thought of himself as a right-wing patriot, and has now been somewhere in the middle. He describes Sarah Palin as his worst nightmare... I mean, what would be better to pop up in the Nightmare Before Christmas than a tyrannical Alaskan vice presidential candidate from the Republican party who wants to stamp herself as the embodiment of women? Why... that's terrifying!
He says he will never return to playing a band on stage for fear that he will worsen his hearing. He has had hearing damage that is irreversible as a result of continuous exposure to high noise levels from performing with a rock band.
He has been nominated four times for an academy award, including Good Will Hunting, Men in Black, Big Fish, and Milk. He of course has a number of great scores in his portfolio. He has had the opportunity to composer for a variety of films from blockbusters, like Spiderman to television shows like Desperate Housewives.
32. Giuseppe Verdi
Verdi is primarily known for his operas. Verdi dominated the Italian opera scene in the 19th century afte rthe eras of Bellini, Donizetti, and Rossini.
One of the composers significant biographers, Mary Jane Philips-Matz notes, "Verdi's gift for music was apparent by then, even by 1820 or 1821" Meaning, when he was all of six... yes, six. He began to learn to play the organ. He became an altar boy in a choir while taking organ lessons at a local church. He was the official organist by age eight. There's a great deal that can be said about this man... let's see... his first opera was in 1839, Oberto.
From here, I would just like to say... this man's life overwhelms me. His merits, his operas, his choices... the list is so long that I can't compile it cohesively. So I suggest... take a peek at his Wikipedia page.
31. Thomas Newman
Yes, another film composer with the last name Newman. You know, like for Shawshank Redemption... that one movie that is considered by many to be the best ever made. The man has been nom nom'd many times for an Oscar, but has yet to take home one of the gold statutes... to do whatever he wants with it or whatever winners do with those.
Here are just some of the scores that have been nominated by Thomas: American Beauty, Finding Nemo, WALL-E, Skyfall, and Little Women.
He is a member of a film-scoring dynasty in Hollywood with the Newman family. This includes his father Alfred Newman, (who won nine Oscars for Best Film Score), his brother David Newman, sister Maria Newman, uncles Lionel Newman, Emil Newman, nephew Joey Newman, and cousin Randy Newman. I'm sure their family gatherings often drift toward the conversation of music.
During his upbringing, he and his siblings were pushed into violin lessons. He studied at USC before going to Yale to get his Bachelor of Arts in '77 and Master of Music in '78. Newman and his wife, Ann Marie, have three children.
At first, he was more interested in musical theater than film composition. He worked with his friend Stephen Sondheim on Broadway Plays. Newman ended up hanging out with family friend John Williams and was invited to work on Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. (Having family friends is great.)
Many composers are nominated several times and do not receive the coveted award, but honestly the public doesn't care. If you write great scores, that's all we'll need. Newman is known for varying instrumentations in his scores. He will use full orchestra to percussion-only music. He likes to incorporate unusual instruments such as the zither, hurdy-gurdy, psaltery, and hammered dulcimer, or unexpected sounds, like Aboriginal chants and the chirping of cicadas. The composer says he has "an interest in mundane experimentation."
This composer is the kind to make you laugh to yourself while working in an office, and you don't want to share with everyone the majesty you have just come across. Moondog is practically unknown. He was blind from the age of 16. He was widely recognized as "The Viking of 6th Avenue" and many people who passed him by in the Big Apple had no clue that the seemingly homeless person dressed as a viking, was a respected composer and musician. His staying power was with avant-garde jazz and minimalism. One of my favorite songs of his is "Bird's Lament."
During his time on our planet, he invented several bizarre instruments -- kind of like Leonardo Da Vinci... but not. He made up a triangular-shaped harp known as the "oo" or the "oo-ya-tsu." Philip Glass has said that he appreciated Moondog's compositions more than what he was exposed to at Juilliard.
His real name was Louis Thomas Hardin. He grew up to an Episcopalian family in Marysville, Kansas, but after moving to New York City he became highly interested in Nordic mythology. He maintained an altar to Thor in his country home in Candor.
He was inspired from street sounds, from bustling streets in New York City to foghorns. He liked to play with rhythm, he said once, "I'm not gonna die in 4/4 time." He worked hard on perfecting his counterpoint. And of course, he criticized Bach for his many "mistakes."
A documentary about his life, "The Viking of 6th Avenue" is scheduled for release in 2015.
Part of his poem Milleniad
"I find the greatest freedom in the stricture of a form
that paradoxes abnormality within a norm.
The Sword of Damocles hanging over all of us.
In view of that what subject can we sensibly discuss.
My credo may be this, that ere my dirth of days is passed,
I´ll strive to live each one as if it were my first and last.
You pity me in exile? Well, then pity if you must,
but live - before your dear identity is lost in dust.
Carnivores who lived on Herbivores who lived on plants,
were all consumed by Omnivores who walked around in pants."
29. Andrew Lloyd Webber
The mind behind one of the longest running Broadway musicals in history, The Phantom of the Opera. He also wrote Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, and Cats. British boy started off playing the violin and piano. He studied history for a term, before abandoning it and then going to the Royal College of Music to pursue his interest in musical theatre. He is known for remarkably bridging the gap between broadway and opera.
He has married 3 times and has 5 children. Okay, now back to music. He has won countless Tonys for his musicals. And he was knighted by the Queen, you know, who isn't?
Honestly, the reason he has captured my attention is the Phantom of the Opera musical. Les Miserables is my favorite musical of all time, but Phantom has many songs that have stuck with me, especially for their remorseful tone. I am in love with his version of Pie Jesu. Under this type of musical arrangement, I think Webber is at his best, even though he does clearly have a wide range for emotion -- considering the more comedic flights he has taken.
Some have condemned Webber for what they believe as plagiarism. Dutch composer Louis Andriessen says Webber has never created a note of his own. Another composer says Webber clearly took from Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto in E minor. And Pink Floyd... says that Webber copied a short chromatic rift from his 1971 song "Echoes" for sections of the Phantom. But he didn't want to file a lawsiut.
The court so far has ruled in favor of Webber.
He is considered the 87th wealthiest man in Britain with somewhere around 700 million pounds. Webber is an art collector. He has a special place in his heart for Victorian art. He is also a fan of football (soccer, for you Americans.)
28. Yann Tiersen
You most likely know Yann Tiersen from his work on the French film Amélie. The soundtrack was mostly taken from his first four studio albums. He plays a number of instruments from guitar, violin, xylophone, piano, harpsichord, accordion, and a typewriter.
He wrote background music for a number of plays and short films before getting his name out for major film scores. He says that he stayed in his apartment recording music alone with his instruments while guided by a vision of a musical anarchy. His first album La Valse des monstres was limited to only a thousand copies and was released in June 1995.
French film director Jean-Pierre Jeunet had something else in mind for the film score he was wanting, and one day one of his production assistants put on a CD of Tiersen, and the director found it absolutely superb. Jeunet bought all of Tiersen's albums, and then contacted him to see if the Breton composer was interested in writing the film score for Amélie. In two weeks, Tiersen composed nineteen pieces for the film and also allowed the production to take anything they wanted from his other records.
According to Tiersen, "[There is] no frontier between classical music and popular music, you are free to work with whatever you want. For me, it’s natural to use lots of different instruments and textures and sounds and noises because life is like that."
Tiersen has always composed his music alone and in solitude, starting from simple melodies to which he added subsequent layers. His first album, La Valse des monstres, is almost entirely performed by him alone playing all the instruments, with the exception of "Quimper 94" and "Le Banquet" with drums and charleston provided by Laurent Heudes.
27. Philip Glass
Philip Glass is one of the most influential composers of the late 20th century. His music is considered minimalist. Three of his film scores have been nominated for Academy Awards. He won a Golden Globe for his The Truman Show score. Kundun, The Hours, and Notes on a Scandal were nominated for Oscars. Glass was influenced by Beethoven, Schoenberg, and Shostakovich. He studied math and philosophy, he went to the University of Chicago at 15.
Glass then went to the Julliard School of Music. He has written operas and symphonies. He made a musical adaptation of Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis. He finds his inspiration from a number of sources, such as: classical music, ambient, rock, electronic, and world music, David Bowie...
He describes himself as a "Jewish-Taoist-Hindu-Toltec-Buddhist." He is a supporter of Tibetan Independence. He is a vegetarian. There are several documentaries about the man including:
Music With Roots in the Aether: Opera for Television
Philip Glass. From Four American Composers
A Composer's Notes: Philip Glass and the Making of an Opera
Einstein on the Beach: The Changing Image of Opera
He has written ten symphonies, eleven concertos, various film scores, operas, string quartets, and sonatas. He studied Bach and Mozart. You can fan over his biography for a century, and still not know everything about the man. His music is often emotional, romantic, and dark.
He would like for you to know that you can get official Philip Glass ringtones off iTunes.
The new musical style that Glass was evolving was eventually dubbed “minimalism.” Glass himself never liked the term and preferred to speak of himself as a composer of “music with repetitive structures.” Much of his early work was based on the extended reiteration of brief, elegant melodic fragments that wove in and out of an aural tapestry. Or, to put it another way, it immersed a listener in a sort of sonic weather that twists, turns, surrounds, develops.
26. Johannes Brahms
Would you like to get some ice cream? Because we are about to Hungarian dance our way to Johannes Brahms. He is considered one of the "Three Bs" along with Ludwig Beethoven and Johann Sebastian Bach. He was a German composer who lived in the 19th century. He mainly did compositions for the piano, chamber ensembles, symphony orchestra, and for voice and chorus.
He was a master of counterpoint (but not in a Tennis kind of way).
Many jerks thought his music was "too academic," give a critic a microphone and they'll say anything, even if it is complete asshole nonsense. His highly constructed nature was an inspiration for the following generations. He was proficient in a number of instruments, he rather liked playing the horn and double bass. To help his family's income he went and played piano in dance halls.
Brahms destroyed many of his early compositions. (Don't feel too bad, go look up a picture of his young self... he was one good looking man.)
Brahms got into an awkward love triangle with Robert Schumann's wife, Clara. After Robert attempted suicide, Clara was in despair and needed help, as she had eight children. Clara kept many of Brahms letters, which later were published and showed that the composer was deeply in love with her. Brahms was confused by this triangle and contemplated suicide... since he did respect Schumann.
The composer frequently travelled... both for his love of exploring and for business. Perhaps his most famous work of all is Brahms's Lullaby, a song to surprise the sleeping audience.
Brahms considered giving up composition when it seemed other composers' innovations resulted in the rule of tonality being broken completely. Brahms's point of view looked both backward and forward; his output was often bold in its exploration of harmony and rhythm. As a result, he was an influence on composers of both conservative and modernist tendencies.
25. Eric Whitacre
Now, let me introduce to you the most handsome choral composer in all of freakin' history. He is more than GQ worthy.
No, Eric isn't a popular composer for television, film, or video games. This may be why many of you (shame on you) have never heard of him. He is famous in his own right, of course, he has a grammy.
He is well known for his "Virtual Choir" where thousands of people send in videos singing and it's brought together, a global choir.
He was unable to read music for a long time. Mozart's Requiem changed his life. He studied composition with Ukrainian composer Virko Baley and choral conducting with David Weiller. Whitacre went to Juilliard for his Master's degree in composition. At the age of 23 he completed his first piece for Wind Orchestra, Ghost Train, which has now been recorded over 40 times.
Light & Gold won him a Grammy in 2012, it was the number 1 classical album in the US and UK charts within a week of a release.
Whitacre is probably best known for his choral works; however, both his choral and instrumental styles use pan-diatonic clusters usually arranged in successive increasing or decreasing density. Whitacre achieves this growth and decay by splitting voices divisi—in one case up to 18 parts. These sonorities can often be read as seventh or ninth chords, with or without added seconds and fourths. Perhaps his most famous chord is a root-position major triad with an added major second and/or perfect fourth. Whitacre makes frequent use of quartal, quintal and secundal harmonies, and is also known for his use of unconventional chord progressions. His use of rhythm often involves mixed, complex, and/or compound meters. His pieces sometimes include frequent meter changes and unusual rhythmic patterns.
He is inspired by several poets: Octavio Paz, Emily Dickinson, E.E. Cummings, Charles Anthony Silvestri, Robert Frost, Rumi, and Federico Garcia Lorca.
24. Alexandre Desplat
The French composer has received eight Academy Award nom-noms. As well as six Grammy nom-noms. He has been nominated for The Queen, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The King's Speech, Argo, Philomena, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and The Imitation Game. He also did music for The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and 2, and the Golden Compass. His big Hollywood break came in 2003 with the soundtrack for the film Girl with a Pearl Earring.
He has made music for over 100 films so far.
At the age of five, he began playing piano. He also became proficient on trumpet and flute. Desplat's musical interests are wide: he listens to a mix of French symphonists like Ravel and Debussy, jazz, South American artists, African artists. He set his sights on becoming a film composer at an early age and took actions to start aligning himself toward that career to make his dream a reality. He worked first on Le souffleur in 1986.
When recording the music for his first film, he met violinist Dominique Lemonnier who became his favorite soloist, artistic director, and his wife.
Perhaps he is the ingredient that caused me to fall in love with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows -- Part 1 more so than all the other films. I wasn't expecting to love the film so much, the last two are phenomenal. In reading the books, my favorite was the third, The Prisoner of Azkaban. But somehow I feel like Hallows translated the best to film, and it was also incredible to have seen the children grow up. It's also fun to see Alexandre and the music he makes mature and create the enchantment that few composers can find. He is like a modern Debussy, and I imagine the Fibonacci sequence.
23. Jerry Goldsmith
Recently, when sick with the flu, I turned to the Disney classic Mulan. Not only is it one of the most pro-women films in the entire Disney canon, but it is a musical banquet. Jerry Goldsmith is an American composer who wrote for a number of scores for television and film including The Secret of NIMH, Gremlins, Rambo, Star Trek, Poltergeist, Alien, Chinatown, The Omen, and Planet of the Apes. He worked with a number of prolific film directors from Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott, and Roman Polanski.
One of his greatest contributions was a score for an amusement park ride. Back in the early 2000s, Disney contacted Goldsmith to compose for the simulator attraction Soarin'. It was said that when Goldsmith first rode the ride, he left in tears and said, "I'd do anything to be part of this project. I'd even score the film for free." Soarin' continues to be one of the most popular rides at Disney World.
He was nom nom'd several times for an Academy Award. He won in 1976 for The Omen. other scores nominated by Goldsmith for the Oscar are: Mulan, The Wind and the Lion, Planet of the Apes, and L.A. Confidential.
The composer was influenced by a number of musical movements. He cited that Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland, and Alban Berg were some of his biggest influences. The composer is known for mixing a variety of styles and ethnic instruments together while also having a traditional orchestra, often times mixed in one big beautifully knit together musical kingdom.
Goldsmith was inspired by Miklós Rózsa. He ended up going to University of Southern California where he took classes from the film composer.
The composer died at the age of 75 in July of 2004. He battled colon cancer. He was survived by his wife Carol and his six children Aaron, Joel (who died in 2012), Carrie, Ellen, Edson, and Jennifer.
22. Ennio Morricone
I just heard someone in my office say the phrase, "Half dead." I feel like that fits the description of many of these composers. Once you reach a certain level of awesomeness in composing music you actually become immortal. Which is kind of like being half dead. This isn't to poke fun at Ennio who is in his eighties.
The Morricone made the anthem you are so familiar with from "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly" famous. He has composed for a number of films, many of them westerns. Many of the people reading this article are probably not well versed in westerns and their appeal in the 20th century. But the genre is one of the most pure forms in the American film cinema, for they capture the western spirit, both in its horror and entrepreneurial hope. Other parts of the world trying to do an American western is absolutely fascinating, but inherently disembodied (but that doesn't mean the art would be superficial, just that it isn't quite coming from the same heart or soul where American westerns take place. Some of the greatest westerns are from other countries, for example, Cowboy Bebop.)
Ennio Morricone's music has had a recent revival in film due to Quentin Tarantino who takes great pride in the music selected for his films. The tracks are used from older films, but Tarantino has his music played in both Kill Bills, Death Proof, Inglourious Basterds, and Django Unchained. He received his first Academy Award nomination in 1979 for the score to Days of Heaven. He has been nominated several times, and eventually was awarded an Honorary Academy Award in 2007. He was presented with the award with most appropriately, Clint Eastwood who said at the ceremony, "for his magnificent and multifaceted contributions to the art of film music." With the statuette came a standing ovation.
Four scores by Ennio Morricone were nominated by the American Film Institute for an honored place in the AFI's Top 25 Best American Film Scores of All Time. His score for the Mission was ranked 23rd in the Top 25 list. Also nominated, Once Upon a Time in the West, Once Upon a Time in America, and The Untouchables.
21. Howard Shore
The Lord of the Rings, Silence of the Lambs, Twilight, Gangs of New York, and Ed Wood... all composed by Howard Shore. What really is his biggest claim to fame is composing for The Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit franchise. As memorable as the visuals, story, actors, Mordor, and the like are... the music helped create a big part of the storyworld. Can you really imagine The Lord of the Rings without it's music? Doesn't some of the melodies wake something up inside of you for adventure... or sadness at the coming of age. He won three academy awards, all for Lord of the Rings. The best original song "Into the West" is an award he shared with Eurthmics lead vocalist Annie Lennox (you know, the Sweet Dreams singer).
Since 2004, he has toured the world conducting local orchestras in the performance of his symphonic arrangement of his Lord of the Rings scores.
Shore studied at the acclaimed Berklee College of Music in Boston. He first started his career in a jazz fusion band. Shore eventually ended up as the musical director for Saturday Night Live, and appeared in many musical sketches including Howard Shore and His All-Nurse Band. He dressed as a beekeeper for a John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd performance of the Slim Harpo classic "I'm a King Bee."
His first film score was for David Cronenberg's The Brood. Shore is married to Elizabeth Cotnoir, a writer, producer and documentary filmmaker. He has a daughter, Mae.
*Uncle of composer Ryan Shore.
*In 2004, a new rule for the Academy Awards that disallowed film scores, which contained work from previous films resulted in the score to The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) being ineligible for submission to the Academy. The new rule proved very unpopular with both Academy members and the general public - and had it been present in years past, would have invalidated many other nominated scores, such as the "Star Wars" and "Indiana Jones" sequels. Because of the debacle, the Academy returned to its original position for future years' films.
*Only composer besides Danny Elfman to work with Tim Burton.
*Helped Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi create the Blues Brothers Band.
20. Nino Rota
There's good reason The Godfather (in both its first two parts) is, perhaps, the greatest American film of all time. It captures so much of the American spirit, the crime world we live parallel to, the incredible plot, and the root that goes all the way, center stage to... being family. Nino Rota had the task of writing a score to this already flawless cast, director, script, perfect pink-himalaya-salted-piece-of-chocolate.
He got the Academy Award for the best original score for The Godfather Part II in 1974. His first film score debut was in 1933 for Italian film Treno popolare. (This was the time of King Kong.) He did the scores for two different Shakespeare films in the '60s, Taming of the Shrew and Romeo and Juliet, both directed by Franco Zeffirelli. I recommend listening to the score of Romeo and Juliet. Unfortunately, Nino only lived a shy 67 years. He died in 1979, only a handful of years after The Godfather duo.
Nino was an Italian composer and most of his career was spent with Italian film directors. His birth name was Giovanni Rota Rinaldi. He was a child prodigy composing music as early as 11 years of age. He also had a heart for literature, receiving a degree from the University of Milan in 1937. He spent sometime in the U.S. before working at Curtis Institute of Philadelphia. He also wrote a thesis on Renaissance composer Gioseffo Zarlino.
Federico Fellini had this to say about his long time friend and workmate, "He had a geometric imagination, a musical approach worthy of celestial spheres. He thus had no need to see images from my movies. When I asked him about the melodies he had in mind to comment one sequence or another, I clearly realized he was not concerned with images at all. His world was inner, inside himself, and reality had no way to enter it."
19. Hiroki Kikuta
One of the most beautiful compositions made in my lifetime is the theme to classic video game Secret of Mana. Hiroki Kituka earned a degree in religious studies, philosophy, and cultural anthropology. In 1991, Hiroki was hired by Square as a composer. At the interview, Nobuo Uematsu was fond of the composer because the two both shared a love of progressive rock. Hiroki started off debugging Final Fantasy 4 and creating sound effects for Romancing Saga. While at Squaresoft, he only composed for three games: Secret of Mana, Seiken Densetsu 3, and Soukaigi. He spent nearly 24 hours a day in his office working on the Secret of Mana soundtrack, alternating between composing and editing.
The move to the PlayStation for Soukaigi allowed Kikuta to focus on creating live music for the soundtrack, rather than tweaking the synthesizer instruments to make the music files fit in the game cartridge as he had to for the Super Nintendo.
Kikuta says he is inspired while traveling. He credits much of the musical imagery in the Mana series to when he traveled several islands in Fiji. Kikuta says his primary goal in composing is to entertain the listeners. He says Pink Floyd is his single greatest influence. He sees making music like breathing air.
After Square, he went and found his own video game development company, Sacnoth.
Two compilation books of piano sheet music from the Mana series have been published as Seiken Densetsu Best Collection Piano Solo Sheet Music first and second editions; songs from Secret of Mana and Seiken Densetsu 3 are featured in both. All songs in each book have been rewritten by Asako Niwa as beginning to intermediate level piano solos, though they are meant to sound as much like the originals as possible.
18. Lisa Gerrad
Australian composer Lisa Gerrard is famous for her collaboration with Hans Zimmer for "Now We Are Free" the ending song to Gladiator. Lisa often sings in tongues for her music. Around the age of twelve she invented a language that she says "I believed that I was speaking to God when I sang in that language." She possesses the vocal range of a contralto.
Her voice has been described as rich, dark, deep, mournful, and unique. She has the ability to extend upwards into the mezzo-soprano range. "Serenity", "The Valley of the Moon", "Tempest", "Pilgrimage of Lost Children", and "Coming Home" are all sung in idioglossia.
She has worked on the following films scores, "Whale Rider", "Fateless", "Baraka", "Black Hawk Down", and "Balibo." Her list of albums, accomplishments, collabs, is never ending. Lisa Gerrard was born on April 12, 1961 in Melbourne and grew up in the suburb of Prahran with her Irish immigrant parents. Speaking about her upbringing she has said that she grew up with "Mediterranean music blaring out of the houses" and that this influenced her music, particularly on later Dead Can Dance albums and in her solo and collaborative works.
Her compositions are ethereal. They touch on a fine layer of spooky emotion that few dare to venture toward. In songs where she sings, there is a certain human sadness that gives her music a certain realness. She is able to paint past landscapes in her music quite well, which may come from her knowledge in Mediterranean and European music alike. Her music is abstract, full of life and force, mystical, and perhaps one of the best snapshots in art in trying to capture spirituality. To her, speaking in tongues makes the language more pure, able for her to have any options when singing, and prevents her from lying in the music.
17. E.S. Posthumus
This list is difficult to create. The number 8 slot goes to a music duo where one half of the party has in fact met with posthumus (but not post-hummus, hardy-har-har.)
Brothers Helmut and Franz Vonlichten created the group in 2000. Helmut started Les Friction in 2011, after Franz's death in 2010. This group has created the most music that should be a soundtrack for a movie that you'll ever hear. They may have the greatest version of the Moonlight Sonata in history.
E.S. stands for "Experimental Sounds" and "Posthumus" is latin for "after" or "end." They have three albums, and we're going to work on a Christmas album. The group was inspired by the past, rather, the great past for many of their songs. For instance, "Pompeii" is the city known for being covered in volcano ash in 79 AD. "Ebla" is one of the earliest kingdoms in Syria. And "Harappa" is a site in Pakistan.
With their second album, Cartographer, they included this note on their website.
"In 1929, the ancient map "Piri Res" was discovered in Istanbul. The map is extraordinary because it depicts bays and islands on the Antarctic coast which have been concealed under ice for at least 6,000 years. What civilization was capable of such exploration that long ago?
On "Cartographer", we imagine that these explorers were from the tiny island of Numa in the Southern Indian Ocean. As advanced seafarers, they navigated every corner of the Earth. We have created a language unique to them and tell stories through song that describe their creation, discoveries and ultimate demise."
Their third album named most of it's tracks after Hindu gods; but they also included Moonlight Sonata on their list, because let's face it -- when you want to end any album the right way, just tack the Moonlight Sonata on it.
16. Alan Menken
The Renaissance period of Disney has a lot to thank to Alan Menken. For the Oscars, he has won three best original score awards with The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Pocahontas. He also received Oscars for best original songs Under the Sea, Beauty and the Beast, A Whole New World, and Colors of the Wind. Alan Menken worked with Howard Ashman on The Little mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. He is the second most prolific Oscar winner in a music category after Alfred Newman.
He also composed for The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Home on the Range, Tangled, Newsies, and Enchanted.
Alan received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on November 10, 2010.
But let's be real honest... The Little Mermaid is the love of my life. I continue to adore this movie with each passing year of my life. I fondly remember going to my grandma's house and being excited to watch her VHS copy of the movie. The songs in the movie inspired me in my childhood, and as a teenager who joined choir and got the chance to sing at some of the coolest locations on the planet. Alan Menken is incredible because he is inspiring the younger generations to be themselves, to be creative, and to have a love of music. A number of the Disney movies in the 90s made a huge impression on me as a person. I know it's weird to say, but it made me want to be a strong person, to have a lovely voice, and to see the world with bigger eyes than I knew I even had.
Many of his scores have been adapted for the stage. The Little Mermaid made it to Broadway in 2008. Aladdin is currently on Broadway.
15. Max Steiner
My dear friends, we are going to take a trip into an ancient time in cinema, that many of you have no knowledge base or care to have a knowledge base on. Let me introduce you to a man named Max Steiner, and you should know him, and actually he is part of many of the greatest surviving films from your grandparents and great-grandparents generation.
Max Steiner's Gone with the Wind (1939) is considered the second greatest film score by the American Film Institute. His King Kong score comes in at number 13 on that list. Other film scores by Steiner that were nominated for the AFI Top 25 score list include: Casablanca, Adventures of Don Juan, Dark Victory, The Informer, Jezebel, Johnny Belinda, A Summer Place, and The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.
He won academy awards for: The Informer, *Now, Voyager*, and Since You Went Away.
He worked in England, then Broadway, and moved to Hollywood in 1929 where he became one of the first composers to write music scores for films. Gasp, before that was the silent film era and the days of just throwing music into a film and the pianos that played before the silver screen, my, oh, my!
He composed over 300 film scores with RKO and Warner Brothers. And... he was nominated 24 times at the Academy Awards, because... he pretty much was the father of film score music.
During his years in England, Steiner wrote and conducted both theater productions and symphonies. But in 1914 World War I started and he was interned as an enemy alien. Fortunately, he was befriended by the Duke of Westminster who was a fan of his, and was given exit papers to go to America, although his money was impounded. He arrived in New York City in December, 1914, with only $32 to his name.
14. Alfred Newman
Good afternoon ladies and gents, and welcome to the father of a musical dynasty.
American composer Alfred Newman along with Max Steiner, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, and Franz Waxman were some of the first composers to write original music for motion pictures. Newman, unlike the rest of the pack, only wrote music for film. His most famous scores include Wuthering Heights, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Mark of Zorro, Anastasia, and The Diary of Anne Frank. He has won the third highest number of Oscars ever won by an individual with a whooping freakish nine.
The American Film Institute ranked his score for How the West Was Won as number 25 on their list of 25 greatest film scores. I'm listening to this score right now... and it is epic. In one epic Academy Awards, he was nominated for four different films, but lost to Herbert Stothart's score to The Wizard of Oz, because seriously, he had Judy Garland. That year Max Steiner also lost the award with his Gone with the Wind score. Victor Young is the only other composer to achieve the feat of receiving four nommy nom noms in one year, and the ONLY to do so on two occasions.
The man himself married Martha Louise Montgomery, they had five children, many of who followed his footsteps for generations to come, actually. It's like the Godfather family.
Seriously though, you should take a listen to his "How the West Was Won" because Debbie Reynolds is divine...
The last score made by Newman was in 1970 for the film Airport, produced by Universal Pictures. He died on February 17, 1970, one month before his 70th birthday. He died from complications of emphysema.
In his lifetime, he wrote for over 200 films. He jumped around in different film genres. In his early days, he got to work with Charlie Chaplin in 1931. His first Academy Award nomination came in 1937 for The Prisoner of Zenda.
13. Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy, as in, hello --? Would you like to be the father of my children? Don't worry, we'll figure out how to make you a living and healthy person once again.
Debussy is a grandmaster French composer. The word "grandmaster" means nothing.
Debussy was one of the most influential composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He got our great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents in knots in their socks.
His contribution to musical society is that he played heavily off atonality. The French literary style of his period was known as Symbolism, and this movement directly inspired him as a composer and as an active cultural participant.
Clare De Lune is his most famous piece. Disney once attempted to make the song into a Fantasia piece... but Disney ended up deciding not to place it in his musical montage masterpiece.
People have claimed that Debussy structured his music around mathematics. Roy Howat says that Debussy's works are apparent in how they approach math. He suggests that some of Debussy's pieces can be divided into sections that reflect the "golden ratio" and that he frequently uses the numbers of the standard "Fibonacci sequence."
The Fibonacci sequence is essentially the gateway drug to understanding parallel dimensions... not really... maybe? Essentially, it is the reason I want him to be the father of my children.
Debussy was a lothario. He had many tempestuous relationships. He ended up marrying one woman after she threatened to commit suicide if she refused him. Although she was affectionate, practical, straightforward, and well liked by Debussy's friends and associates, he became increasingly irritated by her intellectual limitations and lack of musical sensitivity. Moreover, her looks had prematurely aged, and she was unable to bear children. He eventually left her for Emma Bardac. Texier attempted suicide; she survived. Debussy and the now pregnant Bardac fled to England.
12. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
And in the other corner, we have the most pompous composer of all time... Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. How can you not be a badass with the name Wolfgang?
Mozart was considered a badass at a pretty juvenille age. He composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty. He only lived for a short spell, 35 golden years. He left behind his wife, Constanze, and two sons.
I really want dinner party invitations that say, "Come to the house of Wolfgang and Constanze." Match made in heaven.
He composed over 600 bloody works. Joseph Haydn wrote that "posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years."
However still, I don't find him as amazing as others, who may not have had such a large, prodigious amount of work. At times, I find him basic. Too basic.
But he was brilliant, because you should never poke gest at a great dead person lest you want to be cursed.
The tragedy of Mozart is not that he died so young, but that he didn't live in a more advanced time. His music would have done well with some modern innovation. More variety in instruments... and more variety in styles. I feel like a lot of Mozart songs are all the same lullaby. (Sarcasm, yes.)
Here's a quote to help you understand the level of pish-posh applesauce that Mozart was commended for:
"Progressively, and in large part at the hands of Mozart himself, the contrapuntal complexities of the late Baroque emerged once more, moderated and disciplined by new forms, and adapted to a new aesthetic and social milieu. Mozart was a versatile composer, and wrote in every major genre, including symphony, opera, the solo concerto, chamber music including string quartet and string quintet, and the piano sonata. These forms were not new, but Mozart advanced their technical sophistication and emotional reach. He almost single-handedly developed and popularized the Classical piano concerto. He wrote a great deal of religious music, including large-scale masses, as well as dances, divertimenti, serenades, and other forms of light entertainment."
11. Yasunori Mitsuda
Mitsuda should be a household name, especially for video game players. I do have a thing for video game composers, as you will soon tell. Mitsuda has a special place in my heart because he composed for one of the greatest franchises in history: Chrono Trigger and it's sequel Chrono Cross. Mitsuda worked with Square right after graduation. He was a sound engineer from 1992-1994. He was given the role of composing Chrono Trigger.
He then composed several other games for Square, including Xenogears.
In 1998, Mitsuda left Square to work as a freelance composer.
He attributes his success with fans for his use of folk and jazz, rather than orchestral sounds that were popular for game music at the time.
Mitsuda claims to compose by "just fooling around on my keyboard" and letting the melodies come to him. He cites Minimalism as one of his major influences. He is inspired by jazz music, Celtic music, and traditional Asian music. His favorite composers are: Maurice Javel, all hail, all hail Bach, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Schumann, and Holst.
His favorite pieces he has composed are "The Girl Who Closed Her Heart" and "Pain."
When he starts to compose a soundtrack, he first takes one month to gather information and artwork about the game world and scenario, so that his music will fit in with the game.
Mitsuda likes to work on a variety of projects. The Chrono series and Xenogears series are his favorites. He has also worked on animes, such as Pugyuru, Inazuma Eleven, and Kuroshitsuji.
During Chrono Trigger, Mitsuda slept in his studio several nights, and attributed certain songs, such as "To Far Away Times", to inspiring dreams. Mitsuda did have a hard drive crash on him while working on the game... and he lost 40 tracks that were in progress. After Mitsuda contracted stomach ulcers, regular Final Fantasy series composer Nobuo Uematsu joined the project to compose ten songs and finish the score. At the time of the game's release, the number of tracks and sound effects was unprecedented, causing the soundtrack to span three discs in its 1995 commercial pressing
Sorry, Mozart, Beethoven is all my bass. As in, Beethoven, all your base are belong to us.
The Ludwig is someone I would want to spend a great deal of time more with than with Mozart. I apologize for the insanity of my writing on Beethoven here, but it can't be helped.
Beethoven's music to me is the height of the Romantic era. He will be forever adored by me for having such a great love of music, that deafness did not stop him. That's how insanely he understood music. He has written some of the greatest compositions of all time, if not the greatest, the Moonlight Sonata.
He only lived a shy 56 years. The German composed nine symphonies. He wrote one opera, Fidelio. He was a music making machine. His music was played at palaces. He had an appreciation of older music, like from all hail, all hail Bach... and Handel too.
He intended to study with Mozart and befriend Haydn. Beethoven moved to Vienna in 1792 and began studying. HIs reputation was for the piano. He lived in Vienna until his death. Many of his best works come from when his hearing failed him. There is a movie about Beethoven, released in 2006, called Copying Beethoven. This film is a fictionalized account of Beethoven's creation of the Ninth Symphony.
In 1825, his nine symphonies were performed in a cycle for the first time, by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra under Johann Philipp Christian Schulz. This was repeated in 1826.
Make it a goal of yours to listen to all of Beethoven's nine symphonies.
It is uncertain why Beethoven died. An autopsy revealed he had significant liver damage. This may have been caused by heavy alcohol drinking. There is dispute that he may have died from the following: alcoholic cirrhosis, syphilis, hepatitis, lead poisoning, sarcoidosis, and Whipple's disease. Friends and visitors after the composer's death, clipped locks of his luxurious hair. Some of these have been preserved and subjected to additional analysis. Some believe Beethoven was accidentally poisoned to death by excessive doses of lead-based treatments administered by his doctor.
9. Koji Kondo
Soaring on the majesty of the triforce, hopscotching on mushrooms, and the legend of the DO A BARREL ROLL, is Koji Kondo who has scored a number of Nintendo classics. Here's a small list just to give yourself a happy brain jolt:
The scores behind:
At first, he wrote the scores entirely for all the games he worked on, he did this until Legend of the Ocarina in 1998. Now, many of these games are in collaboration, which understandably music has become far more complex to compile in the video game world just as graphics have become more complex. So the iconic songs you know from Mario, like swimming in the ocean in the original Mario and having to dodge fish, all those beautiful Zelda songs from the first one in '85 to at least the '98 one... you know the one's worth playing before you die.
Can you honestly imagine, for those of you who play games, can you honestly imagine these compositions not existing? Why even, non-gamer idiots could hum the theme to Mario. Do it right now.
These are some of the most fantastical worlds to compose to, and with the seemingly magical way of marrying sound to picture, this composer has helped make some of the most iconic, in your face, celebrated, beloved video games... just that. And more.
Why, if we could get all the composers together from video games, I honestly think they could cast a spell of holy on the world and everything would suddenly be wrapped in a nice happy bow. This is truly resplendent, and not entirely the truth by your author, but I daresay, some of the greatest composers right now are definitely working on video games, which is awesome and thank you, thank you, thank you
for the brilliant idea of having video games scored.
8. Howard Ashman
Some people might get their panties in a wad that I have this guy so high up, over, you know, Mozart and Beethoven. But let me put it to you this way, the two biggest people in all time at Disney are: Walt Disney himself (duh) and Howard Ashman, who saved Disney (yes, he did) with his musical prowess in The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast. This ended up causing a chain reaction to set the stage for later Disney films such as The Lion King, Mulan, Hercules, and yes, Frozen (because Frozen reached back to the Renaissance of Disney to get it's grip.)
The Little Mermaid saved Disney. If Star Wars makes a comeback in its third trilogy installment, you have Howard Ashman to thank, because the company may have collapsed in the 80s and 90s if it wasn't for his return to the musical and the fairy tale. And Disney hadn't done a fairy tale animated film in 30 years.
Even though The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and The Lion King are considered the golden age of Disney, let's consider Ariel, Belle, and Aladdin's films as the holy trifecta where suddenly music made a big comeback, and sure perhaps in a Broadway style, but had they're really been an Arabian style music scene in animated history to the level of Aladdin? If so, I'm unaware. What script in this world could have given Robin Williams a greater chance to show of his versatility? What animated musical role could have been better for the comedic genius? Beauty and the Beast is the ONLY, yes I said, ONLY animated film to EVER be nominated for a Best Picture award. That means it was hot bananas.
Those at Disney had been looking for someone to helm their company, to give them the virtuoso energy Walt had, and Ashman with his diverse understanding of characters and their emotion's into scores -- was the hero.
He unfortunately died too young at the ripe age of 40 from AIDS and so, who knows what potential never came to the silver screen or our ears.
7. Johann Sebastian Bach
Hands down the greatest classical composer of all time. Honestly, he may be greater than the next few modern composers, but there's a sense of versatility that could not be created quite in Bach's time, so who knows what jazz, blues, or a number of genres would have sounded like in Bach's mind. I assure you, he would have done just fine with other modes, but there wasn't exactly a tapestry for the 1700s man.
He was a German composer of the Baroque period, which I know for most of you means absolutely nothing. What you do need to know about this man is his love for a variety of instruments, including what I believe he mastered better than any, the organ. The Toccata and Fugue in D minor is simply one of the greatest dark tracks in all of history. Since we'll be talking about Final Fantasy at some point, what you need to know about this song is it was used as a template for Nobuo Uematsu for the nihilist, narcissist villain Kefka. As well as, the darkest poetry of Dante's Inferno. The German composer didn't always create such dark masterpieces, he also had a more gentle side, such as the Air in G, a more wedding like song. But here's the thing my friends, isn't it great to know the kind of thinking that was behind all those powdered wig folks of our past? To know that a human before us could create such a dark classic as the Toccata?
Maybe it doesn't impress you as much as it does me, but I find it sensational. This guy is essentially like John Williams of the past. Or maybe it is John Williams?
Beethoven calls Bach "the original father of harmony." Don't ask what harmony was like before Bach, or what crack they were smoking before they found harmony... but to be able to figure it out and master it, it must have been tedious. I assume, I mean it may have been easy for a guy like Bach.
6. Karl Jenkins
Not a household name, but should be. Karl Jenkins hails from Wales. He is one of the best composers on the planet, and is not tied to film, video games, or television. He started with jazz music, went into advertising... he once used a Diamond commercial song he wrote to inspire a larger piece, Palladio. His breakthrough came with the project Adimeus. This is where his genius goes in leaps and bounds. Many of the songs he writes are not in an established language. The choir will sing as though they are instruments or percussion.
But many songs have phrases in Latin, or markedly found in church.
I'm not sure what he does, but his choirs have a distinct sound to them. I'm not sure how he gets them to use their voices, but his music is greatly favored by me. I have yet to find a composer like him. The music is rich and often comes off religious to me (in a good way.) It's rare for music to have that kind of depth. His music is dedicated often times to making peace, to having a greater understanding of what's around us. Some of his titles are: "The Peacemakers," Requiem," "Gloria," "Pie Jesu," "In Paradisum."
If you have qualms with the idea of God, I invite you to turn away from everything. To go into a room where you can not be disturbed, and lay on the floor, with earphones attached your ears for an hour of this man's music. You might not end up believing in God or religion... but I think you'll have an appreciation for someone who clearly is inspired. And maybe this would be good for us to do, to explore that creativity, rather than try to set creativity into a babbling brook of an argument.
If there was any music I think would be kind to you in that experience, it would be this man's. And I am an advocate of people exploring themselves in a safe place. Karl Jenkins has made some of the most beautiful music in our lifetime, so I think you owe it to him to listen to him. Just like if Michaelanglo made art in his time, you would be encouraged to go see it.
5. Hans Zimmer
Can you imagine Lion King without music? What about Inception? Gladiator?
Hans Zimmer is a music God in Hollywood helping make our favorite films our favorites. He won an academy award for Lion King, I mean, what could have been greater than Lion King that year? For those of you too young to understand, the opening to Lion King, well the whole movie, is like your Frozen. Hans is a German, and if the following quote doesn't scream German to you, than I don't know what does:
"My mother was very musical, basically a musician, and my father was an engineer and an inventor. So, I grew up modifying the piano, shall we say, which made my mother gasp in horror, and my father would think it was fantastic when I would attach chainsaws and stuff like that to the piano because he thought it was an evolution in technology."
Hans is a team player; he would rather collaborate with others to create and bounce ideas off than receive Academy Awards. My personal favorite score of his is for the Dark Knight Rises, not necessarily my favorite film in the trilogy, but the music is epic all the way through. I found myself on the edge of my seat in terror and honestly more caught up in Batman from the music than the visuals, although the new Robin did catch my attention.
You are in good hands if you have Hans Zimmer working for your film. He wants to create and create and create. He wants to get it right, and he wants to work well with others. Gladiator is amazing because of his collaboration with Lisa Gerrard. The song they create makes for one of the best cinematic endings in history. The score can make or break a film.
4. Joe Hisaishi
You've heard of Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki, right? If you haven't, you have some homework right now that you must attend to doing. You see, some of the greatest animated films that have ever been made our by Hayao Miyazaki, and who so brilliantly composed to such artistic heights? Mr. Joe Hisaishi. His music is always richly layered. I love his music for some of the lighter films, like My Neighbor Totoro, but what kills me over and over is Princess Mononoke. I want songs from Howl's Moving Castle at my wedding.
Hisaishi is as versatile as the composers here, but what really captures the beauty of his music is that matched with the beautiful, outstanding, out of the world visuals of Studio Ghibli -- his music and the visuals almost always get tears out of me. There's an emotional understanding that he has that is unparalleled. Many of these films are of made up locations, but they are felt due to the incredible sound that gives an insight into the fictional world. He can jump from electronic to Japanese traditional. There's something beautiful in the way a lot of Asian composers write music, as if they see and understand the Western principles behind music theory -- and then are at liberty to step away and create something between the cracks that only a genius could create. The top of this list really is like the finest wine you could find in the entire planet, except of course in music form.
His career has spanned several decades, and I hope he'll keep writing music for all of eternity. It's nice when someone can write music for children and not make it hokey and also turn around and make music for older audiences. This is the kind of music that makes you believe there's more to life than this puny universe.
3. Nobuo Uematsu
All hail, all hail. Or something like that.
Nobuo Uematsu is a famous video game composer. He is known for composing several Final Fantasy titles. He was the first composer on Final fantasy, and did his job by himself for several of the titles. My childhood has much to thank for him, because his compositions have made a lasting impression on me. He took a great deal from classical music, but also bands like Queen. He made some of the greatest love ballads of our time, along with complicated dark songs to bring in such memorable villains as Kefka and Sephiroth. Some of my favorite songs and moments include:
The Final Fantasy 6 opera
Final Fantasy 9 the court jesters
The main theme to Final Fantasy
Eyes On Me (From FF8)
And a number of more unforgettable songs, of course, exist... he was able to compose to mythical monsters created by the video game team. The chocobo comes to life with his theme song. Final Fantasy 7 is likely my favorite video game of all time, and part of it is the strange synthesizers that tell the story. He's also worked on Chrono Trigger, Romancing Saga, and The Phoenix Project.
Some of his influences include: Tchaikovsky, Elton John, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix... but importantly he says he gets inspiration from:
"Rather than getting inspiration from listening to other music, I get inspiration while I'm walking my dog.
He has been credited as the John Williams of the video game world.
The composer was discovered at a music rental shop when an employee from Squaresoft asked him if he would write music for some of their titles. Nobuo thought it was only going to be a part-time gig... and didn't expect it would turn into a full time career. He has said that his favorite score of all time goes to Final Fantasy 9.
2. Yoko Kanno
If you don't know who this great woman is, shame on you. If you think this person has to do with the Beatles... double shame on you!
There's a number of Japanese composers that I love. It is difficult to say that one could be more dear to me than my adored Final Fantasy composer, but Yoko, (oh, Yoko), composed for Cowboy Bebop... still what I claim to be the greatest anime in all of history. She helps create a world of space travel accompanied with her jazz ... it is some of the greatest compositions ever to hit television. Not only that, she composed for Escaflowne, which has some of the most crystal clear songs I have ever heard. This woman I praise for her versatility, she can do anything with music. It doesn't matter whether it's the dark, subtle crawling villain... she can capture it with sound. If you need a lonely solo proclaiming love to a stranger, Yoko's the woman to call. She can do opera, jazz, orchestra, blues, African, Spanish, choral, romantic, upbeat, and everything in between. There's no doubt she's the greatest anime composer of all time. I'm not sure why someone would doubt her.
Yoko Kanno doesn't sit down and think of genre when she writes. She thinks more closely to theme. The following is a quote from the genius herself:
"Ah ... I hear everyone talk about how many genres [I work in] like classical, jazz and others, but personally, I don't divide music by genre when creating. I don't create by saying, 'I must create a classical piece here,' or 'I must create a jazz piece here.' When I create music, I don't consider at all which genre I like best, but what the scene or the anime calls for, like a love [theme] or a mood. There isn't one genre I like more than the others. I find all of them satisfying and all inspire me in different ways."
1. John Williams
I cannot deny it, nor would I try to do so. The greatest composer of all time is John Williams. If you have no idea who this is, you have been living underground for a century. John Williams has been nominated 49 times at the Academy Awards. In fact, I'm sure as the hub lives on the internet, that number will rise. He has won 5 whooping Oscars for his adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof; Jaws, that shark movie; Star Wars, I mean, what would Star Wars be without it's music; E.T., the only alien movie from the 80s worth watching; and Schindler's List. They probably stopped giving him awards because it was getting insane. But they just can't stop nominating him. He composed for Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, Saving Private Ryan, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Home Alone. Most movies that are worth watching, have the Williams as its composer. (The only other person to receive more nominations than John Williams, is Walt Disney... I mean, John Williams World the amusement park might be more glorious than you could imagine, but hey... we'll take what we can get, right?)
He studied at Juliard. He is a fan of Tchaikovsky and Richard Wagner. The first movie he composed for was Daddy-O, at the ripe ole age of 26. AFI selected John Williams' 1977 score to Star Wars as the greatest American film score of all time. And rightly so, because even though he has an entire collection of iconic songs.... can you really imagine Star Wars without its music? He wrote that score at the age of 45. T
Dear John, thank you for your contributions to music. You made Hollywood music into a world of delights for 6 decades and going with your life. I hope no matter where you go after this life... you'll be making music scores for angels.
Andrea Lawrence (author) from Chicago on November 16, 2017:
Glad to know you enjoyed the read! Keep listening to the greats!
Alexis on November 06, 2017:
Great diversity in your list! Some personal favorites are missing (classical), but I agree with a lot of choices on your list.
Andrea Lawrence (author) from Chicago on March 10, 2016:
Ah, thank you! Glad I've included some names you didn't know.
Ann Carr from SW England on March 10, 2016:
Interesting selection here! I know of quite a few but the majority includes names I don't recognise.
My personal favourites are Rachmaninov, Chopin, Greig & Gershwin - bit of a mix!
This is an entertaining read.
Andrea Lawrence (author) from Chicago on October 29, 2015:
John Williams is untouchable. He has graced us with many of the greatest compositions ever, and they fortunately fell on the ears of Star Wars and Jurassic Park.
Miran Shuleta on February 16, 2015:
Mozart was a genius, John Williams however is untouchable, he had made hundreds of scores that literally take your breath away, an absolute legend.