July 12, 2008 / 12:02 AM / 10 years ago

Composers turn up the darkness for "Knight" score

LOS ANGELES (Billboard) - It’s quite simple, actually. Composers Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard want to drive moviegoers insane.

Producer Charles Roven (2nd L), director Christopher Nolan (3rd L), actor Christian Bale (3rd R), actor Morgan Freeman (2nd R) and executive producer Kevin De La Novy (R) attend a news conference for their upcoming film "Batman: The Dark Knight" in Hong Kong, November 9, 2007. REUTERS/Herbert Tsang

For their score for Warner Bros.’ “The Dark Knight,” which opens July 18, the composers used as their inspiration the oppressive gloom of fictional Gotham and the unhinged character of the Joker, nemesis of Batman. The result is an intense orchestral bombast, replete with crashing percussive outbursts and cellos teetering at the far reaches of human hearing.

“I just wanted to come up with things that nobody had ever heard before ... in a very psychological way,” Zimmer says. “How can you go from ‘This is slightly worrying’ to ‘terrifying’ to ‘sh—ting bricks?’ “

“It was about getting the basses to play something way just at the top of the highest place the instruments were capable of,” Newton adds. “To the point where they would come in the control room and say, ‘You don’t want us to play that; you want us actually to play this down lower, don’t you?’ I was like, ‘No, not really.’ You feel their struggle in the performance because it was a struggle.”

It’s the second time Zimmer and Howard have teamed with director Christopher Nolan on a score; the first was for 2005’s “Batman Begins.”

“Chris has what we call a ‘phonographic’ memory,” Zimmer says. “I have put him through unbelievable torture, like when he was flying to Hong Kong to finish the movie, I gave him my first draft of ‘The Joker Suite.’ We filled the iPod with something like 8,000 bars ... and he can say things to you like, ‘There was a thing at bar 7,654 that was really cool.”‘

The soundtrack to “Batman Begins” sold 79,000 copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, but this time out, the release of the “Dark Knight” score is getting a much bigger push than most soundtrack releases receive.

Zimmer and Howard will perform live together for the first time prior to the movie’s New York premiere July 14; they will then sign copies of the soundtrack at Virgin Megastores in New York and Los Angeles.

The soundtrack itself is getting a fancy rollout starting July 15, three days before the film’s release. It will be available in a standard jewel-case CD, a two-LP set made out of 180-gram vinyl, a special-edition Digipak and a collector’s edition with bonus artwork. Snippets of three of the score’s tracks can be heard at thedarkknightscore.com.

For Zimmer and Howard, however, the rollout of the score is just a continuation of the obsessive passion for the movie by its contributors.

“There’s been an intensity from day one about this project — and we’re not even going to go into (the January death of actor Heath Ledger, who plays the Joker),” Zimmer says. “The surprising thing is, everybody is very gentle and very kind and very respectful — but the movie itself has an intensity that we all live in. We live in this world and it’s very hard to shake that off when you go home.”

“You carry around the whole thing inside of you for months,” Howard says.


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