J. Norppa

Hans Zimmer on Tour

Legendary Composer Brings Film Scores to the Bowl

The Santa Barbara Bowl is no stranger to orchestral performances, but it may never have welcomed a show quite like Hans Zimmer’s upcoming live performance. One of Hollywood’s most-loved film composers, Zimmer is on a world tour, bringing some of his best-known celluloid compositions live to Santa Barbara on August 13.

Zimmer, who has scored more than 150 films, first gained fame when he was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on 1989’s Rain Man. Since then, the German-born musician/conductor has been responsible for the musical accompaniment to some of the best-known films of the past several decades, including The Lion King (for which he won an Oscar), Gladiator, The Dark Knight, and Interstellar.

When asked during a recent phone interview with the Santa Barbara Independent what the tour means to him, Zimmer replied, “[Friends] say it’s a chance for me to stop hiding behind the screen.” Playing live also affords him the opportunity to tweak bits of the recorded music that he was obligated to leave in when a film was finished. “The great difference between doing a movie score and what I’m doing now is you finish [the piece], the movie comes out, [and] that’s it,” he said. “You can’t ever go and change it. They tear it out of my hands and put it in the movie and I can’t go and improve it. [But now] every night I keep writing new counter lines, you know, I keep playing around with the thing.”

And while Zimmer’s set list is ever evolving from earlier legs of the tour, it always features pieces from some of his most well-known film scores. When asked if these were chosen because they were his favorites or because he knew the crowd would appreciate them, Zimmer laughed and replied, “Actually, it was neither. When I sat down and tried to put a set list together, in my typical neuroses paranoia, I hated everything. And so my set list was 90 seconds long. So I just got the band together and said to them, ‘Okay, what is it you guys want to play?’”

While Zimmer isn’t the first composer to take featured pieces from film and TV on the road — John Williams and Ramin Djawadi have also done orchestral tours — his format is a bit different. “What I wanted to do was sort of exactly the opposite from what Ramin [Djawadi] ended up doing; [he] shows images from Game of Thrones, [for example]. The one thing I wanted to do was show no images from the movies and basically have my friend Marc Brickman, one of the great lighting designers … reinterpret these movies in lights.”

But that isn’t the only change-up Zimmer offers. He forgoes conducting the orchestra; instead, the multi-instrumentalist joins the musicians. “The first thing that we should do is get rid of the wall between the orchestra and the audience, which the conductor represents by having the[ir] back to the audience,” he said. “What I want [is] for the musicians to have an autonomous relationship with the audience. I think that sort of thinking comes from my days in a rock ’n’ roll band; you don’t have a conductor. Everyone faces the audience and it seems to work just fine.”

4·1·1 Hans Zimmer performs Sunday, August 13, at 7 p.m. at the Santa Barbara Bowl (1122 N. Milpas St.). Call (805) 962-7411 or visit

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