By Charlie Brigden
Articulating myself isn’t usually one of my weak points, but I’ve come to a moment where I’m really unsure how to review Hans Zimmer’s Interstellar. First and foremost, this is the standard album that I’m looking at – there are three different releases with varying disc counts and running times, this is seventy-two minutes long. Secondly, as usual it’s the soundtrack album on its own. I haven’t seen the film yet, and I’m not exactly sure when I’ll be able to, so it’ll be judged on its merits as a standalone listening experience.
That said, wow. How I normally write reviews is that I usually listen to the score on its own, preferably in a dark room with no interruptions (yeah, I know how pretentious that sounds), and then go through it again writing notes so I can talk about specific moments and tracks. I don’t really want to do that with Interstellar. I mean, there are absolutely certain tracks I can wax lyrical about, but to do so almost feels like a disservice to the listening experience as a whole. I’d rather talk about Mr. Hans Florian Zimmer.
Most people who know me or at least follow my Twitter feed know I have a rather tempestuous relationship with Mr. Zimmer, both his practices through both MediaVentures and Remote Control Productions as well as his music. And goddamnit, I was the first person to come up with the “Braaaahms” joke. But I’ve always felt much of his music was not helped by the lack of personality and individuality that his role as a guru has helped extend. “The Zimmer sound”, which earlier referred to something more appropriate to him, now stands for Hollywood’s sonic wallpaper that infests films such as Transformers and The Equalizer, and that has arguably harmed the mainstream scoring landscape. Usually in the booklets for Zimmer’s albums you can find a list of “additional music” composers, with some recently taking a higher profile such as Johnny Marr of Inception and the gimmicky “Magnificent Six” of The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
Interstellar‘s booklet has none of these credits. The music is Hans Zimmer’s alone. And it is all the better for it.
When I first listened to Interstellar, I was taken aback. I was sent to a state of astonishment, witness to a soundscape of awe and beauty and majesty. I felt the music question myself. I cried several times. Interstellar both feels incredibly intimate and galactically vast. Delicate and touching. Intense and terrifying. Probing. Searching for answers. Answers from myself as a listener, and from Zimmer as a composer. There are comparisons that have been made, some that I’ve even thought of due to the choice of instruments, namely the church organ. Ignore them.
The choice of the organ, and indeed the location of much of the recording (Temple Church, London), is no accident. The score has a reverential feel to it, the sound pseudo-religious, worshipping not a magic idol but the human spirit and the wish for mankind to reach further, metaphorically and metaphysically. [Jesus, if it’s like this now, what’ll happen when I see the film?]
I don’t want to say anymore other than go. Watch. Listen. Interstellar is brilliant as a piece of standalone music and potentially represents an important turning point for Hans Zimmer. Should you wait to see the film? I don’t know. Usually, I’d say listening to the music attached to what it was written for is ultimately the way you should experience a score first, assuming you have that luxury. But for Interstellar? I don’t know.
I don’t know.
Interstellar is released on November 17th by Sony Classical (UK) and Watertower Music (US)