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Making History One Symphony at a Time

Ann Sumner Thorp

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When I say the word “composer,” most people automatically think of the greats: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Vivaldi, etc. These great musicians wrote masterpieces and inspired nations, but many people never consider modern composers in this category. These writers have slowly taken over the musical world with their modern film scores and symphonies. Let’s look at these 20th and 21st century composers and see their prospects of potentially becoming one of the greats themselves.

John Williams  

This may come as a bit of a shock to many people, but John Williams has officially announced that he is done composing for the Star Wars franchise. Williams has created scores for countless films including, Star Wars, Harry Potter, The Book Thief, War Horse, Catch Me If You Can, Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park, Indiana Jones, Home Alone, Jaws, and many more. His musical genius has appeared in some of the more famous movies and films and have been loved for generations. Born in 1932, Williams has been composing for almost fifty years. Throughout those years he has received numerous awards from Oscars to Grammys and even including the British Academy Awards. He moved to Los Angeles in 1948 where he began his journey to greatness, studying composition. He later returned to New York to go to Juilliard after serving in the Air Force. While in New York, he worked as a jazz pianist. Later, he moved back to Los Angeles to begin a long career of composing. Though he was not in the same era as Mozart or Haydn, John Williams is sure to go down in history as one of the best composers of the 20th and 21st century.

http://www.johnwilliams.org/

 

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

Some of the best musical works have originated in Russia. From Tchaikovsky to Dvorak, Russia has been home to composers who will stand the test of time. Dmitri Shostakovich is one of these composers. Though he is no longer with us, his works will live on as masterpieces. Shostakovich is different than many composers. Because of his controversial works such as the opera Lady Macbeth, he was disgraced by the Russian government under Stalin. This didn’t stop him from composing though. He moved to Moscow where he taught composition and continued to write music, mainly symphonies. One of his most famous symphonies, the Seventh “Leningrad” Symphony, was performed during WWII. During the attack on St. Petersburg (Leningrad) by Germany, Shostakovich composed this symphony as an encouragement to the inhabitants of St. Petersburg who Germany had blockaded within the city. During the first few months of the Siege of Leningrad, Shostakovich joined the “night watch” and helped put out fires caused by the German bombs. Though he was evacuated from the city in 1941, his music was performed there on August 9th, 1942 by Karl Eliasburg. Musicians that were strong enough to play joined together to practice the music before the big performance. August 9th had been the day that Germany planned to officially take the city, but the Russian citizens had other plans. To make sure the German army would not interfere with the concert, soldiers bombed the German artillery to make sure all would be silent for the performance. Once everything was in place, the concert was broadcasted all across the city so that even the German soldiers could hear it. The symphony provided some much needed encouragement to the citizens and to the world as well.

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Dmitry-Shostakovich

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0006291/bio

 

Hans Zimmer

Hans Zimmer will go down in history as not only a great composer but as one of the first composers to combine electronic and traditional music. Zimmer began his life in Frankfurt, Germany and later moved to London when he was a teenager. While in England, Zimmer wrote jingles for companies and later partnered to open a recording studio. His career in score composing officially began with his composition of the Rain Man soundtrack. After its immediate success with numerous awards, Zimmer quickly became a world-renowned composer and has written music for over 150 movies. One of his most remembered movies is The Lion King in which he partnered with Elton John to produce what is now considered one of the best soundtracks of all time. Though he seems to have the world at his fingertips now, Zimmer didn’t begin this way. He was “kicked-out” of nine schools but not for disciplinary reasons. He simply couldn’t stay focused. During the middle of a test his mind would constantly wonder to music. In one particular instance, Zimmer was in the middle of an essay when he heard drums outside of the window. Instead of waiting to finish the test, he simply stood up and walked out of the room to join the fun. Because of this tendency to daydream and put music first, Zimmer went from school to school. Though this may seem like it would have hurt his career, his tendency to daydream and imagine is what makes him such a great and creative composer today.

(Some of his most famous works include:  The Crown, Dunkirk, Madagascar, Pirates of the Caribbean, Gladiator, Blade Runner, Hidden Figures, Batman vs. Superman, Transformers, Divergent, The Lone Ranger, Sherlock Holmes, Iron Man, The Da Vinci Code, The Holiday, and Mission Impossible. )

http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/19700/1/hans-zimmer-remembers-being-piano-shy-in-front-of-elton-john

http://www.hans-zimmer.com/index.php?rub=bio

https://www.allmusic.com/artist/hans-zimmer-mn0000961427/biography

 

Rachel Portman

Though she might not be as famous as John Williams or Hans Zimmer yet, Rachel Portman deserves the title of “musical genius” for her many successes in the music industry. Not only does she excel in each piece that she composes, but she has gone down in history as the first female composer to receive an Academy Award and a Primetime Emmy Award. In addition to these two awards, she has also received a Golden Globe and in 2010, was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire. Some of her most famous works include Cider House Rules, Bessie, Chocolat, Oliver Twist, The Duchess, and Emma. However, she doesn’t stop with film scores. Portman has written symphonies and operas including The Little Prince, which has been performed all over the world. I recommend remembering the name, Rachel Portman, because she is well on her way to being known as the best contemporary, female composer.

http://rachelportman.co.uk/about

 

Alexandre Desplat

Last, but certainly not least, is the French composer, Alexandre Desplat. He began his musical journey when he was just five years old when he started to play piano. Fasting forward a few years to when he was a teenager, Despalt continued his love of music by collecting albums of soundtracks, sparking his interest in the film industry. One of his many talents is being able to compose a whole film score in as little as three weeks, making him unique in his quickness to compose masterful pieces in such little time. The most recognized of his works include The Queen, The Golden Compass, Twilight, The King’s Speech, Harry Potter (#8), Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, Rise of the Guardians, The Monuments Men, The and The Imitation Game. His most recent work, The Shape of Water, won him an Oscar for Best Original Score in the 2018 Oscars, which adds to the already long list of awards Desplat has received on behalf of his music. It’s safe to say that Desplat will ranked among the best composers in film history.

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0006035/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm

http://www.alexandredesplat.net/us/news-e.php

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