Zimmer’s Sherlock Holmes

Last week, in reviewing Horner’s Avatar, I made a comment that the atmosphere he was creating wasn’t very dark. I can honestly say that Zimmer makes up for this in spades. Whether or not you prefer the lighter side of musical world building is your opinion, but my tastes definitely lean the other way.

In listening, I couldn’t really find a theme that carries through the soundtrack, unless musical wackiness is the theme. Or perhaps the similarity of the sonic palette. I mean sure, he repeats a thought many times over, but it isn’t varied or developed. The first thing I noticed is that Zimmer begins with the same timbre’s he used in Pirates (At World’s End) to represent Jack’s insanity in the cue “Multiple Jacks.” And with this sound recurring throughout the score (and Zimmer’s penchant for recycling his music) I get the feeling that Holmes’ London is the London within Davy Jones’ locker.

I’m also reminded of Tom Waits’ ‘Singapore’ through the sonic world that Zimmer builds for Sherlock Holmes (I said it was wacky). I think this is partly achieved through the use of gypsy-like instrumentation/orchestration. The fiddle is played really gritty and accompanied with dulcimer and some ethnic percussion, it makes for a very gypsy feel.

Overall, the orchestration for this score is very sparse. There isn’t a full orchestra (no woodwinds except for flute on the cue “Data, Data, Data”), which is how Zimmer seems to like it. Even the brass section isn’t used much; a couple stabs here and there, but nothing note-worthy (pun intended) until the 18+ minute cue where they provide a foundation at times, and also play one of my favorite parts. Of course the bombastic percussion has it’s place here too… gotta love those Taiko drums.

Speaking of this epic cue, “Psychological Recovery…..6 Months”, it seems that Zimmer is ready to pull out all the stops. The rest of the scores’ go-to instruments (dulcimer, strings, solo gypsy strings) are part of the mix, but he also throws in snippets of banjo, bagpipes, and electronics.Most striking is the use of untuned (perhaps more appropriately detuned) piano. The film hasn’t been release yet, but I can imagine that the piano is signifying something off in the world; maybe my earlier assessment of this taking place within Davy Jones’ locker was accurate.

Ironically, one of the cues that has a semblance of very straightforward pretty string section writing is called “Ah, Putrefaction.”

What I really miss in this score is development. Yeah, he uses the sparseness of his orchestra to a fault and seems to cling desperately to his timbre creating material that creates a world, but not really the characters in it. At about 9:15 there is a theme in the brass that I assume characterizes the villain… almost fanfare like. I regret that Zimmer didn’t choose to include any of this theme (or development if it exists) on the soundtrack, because it is one of the more beautiful moments in the score. I know that if he tried hard enough he could have characters in his score… even using the instruments as they are.

All in all, I think that this score will work with what I presume Guy Ritchie will do with the film. I have a sense for what Ritchie likes to do with his films, including the soundtracks, so when my mind imagines what he would do in the world of Sherlock Holmes, this score works.

Purchased from Amazon.com Mp3 downloads for $7.99. $2 less than iTunes.

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