"Even Hell has its heroes, Señor!"
When I skim through my collection looking for music to use in my mixes, or just to listen to, I sometimes think about what my 'pantheon' might be. Every fandom has a pantheon, and film music is no different, but the fact that it is an evolving art form also means that the pantheon itself within the fandom is constantly changing.
For me, composers fall into several categories. There are those whose work I absolutely love, those whose music I like very much, those whose work I am lukewarm on and there are those whose music is fine but I just don't like (Alfred Newman and Leonard Rosenman fall into this latter category; there's nothing wrong with their scores, I respect them, I just don't like them). There are some composers whose work I find very blah, but I don't really outright hate anybody's work, really. Except for Hans Zimmer and James Horner, of course. Them I loathe.
The reason for my vitriol is twofold: both of these composers had very significant and provocative beginnings, but both of them have developed a very generic approach to their projects since.
Horner leapt from several widely distributed Roger Corman films into the big leagues with Wolfen and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and once there he wrote several very vivid scores, such as Brainstorm and Krull. I loved these scores. He was young, enthusiastic... and then something happened. He kept doing the same things in similar situations in different films. He also started getting really sloppy with his... er... "borrowings." The main theme from Aliens is the Adagio from Aram Khachaturian's Gayaneh ballet suite (this music was used in 2001 for the early Discovery sequences).
Zimmer was apprenticed to Stanley Myers (The Deer Hunter), and one of the first projects he was the primary composer on was the splendid Paperhouse, which I fell in love with when I first heard it. He then came to Hollywood and did some interesting pop-oriented comedy work. He then started scoring serious works with Driving Miss Daisy (which I think is overrated) and redefining what the action film score sounded like with his slick and effective Black Rain. Unfortunately, he fell into a groove with Backdraft and, like Horner, began to write the same score for every film.
Horner bothers me, don't get me wrong, but he has also gotten much more boring over the years. His scores are moderately effective in the context of their films because they are now very ambient, which makes for some real iffy listening. Zimmer, on the other hand, continues to produce drek after drek score, and with his stable of Media Ventures or Remote Control or whatever slaves who all compose in exactly his style have made film music in general much more generic.
There are plenty of working film composers out there right now whose work is as fine examples of film music. Howard Shore, Elliot Goldenthal, James Newton Howard, Christopher Young, John Williams and many others are composing interesting scores with specific identities, so I'm not lamenting the death of film music as an art form that many people in the various internet communities are. But Zimmer and his cronies are cheapening the art form, and I feel that I am justified in being angry at them for that.
I feel that it is the promise that they both showed so early in their respective careers that makes their eventual descent into artistic mediocrity so annoying to me. If either one of them came onto the scene with the kind of "so what" scores like those that Harold Kloser has been churning out recently, then it would have just been a case of some dull composers. However, both of them were such shining stars when they first broke out. I suppose that I feel... well... either betrayed by them or hoodwinked by them. Either point of view doesn't make me feel very well disposed towards them.
I'm going to have to come up with a title for the first compilation in the projected three disc (possibly four) set of Fear! that I had discussed earlier. I am going to post the track listing as soon as I think of it, as I'm not sure when I'll be getting around to the other two/three. I may work on some other projects first.
I've noticed that I've been a lot more productive on the mix front lately than ever before. Usually there are a couple of weeks between projects, but I've just done three discs in three weeks. I'm pretty proud of myself, actually. In a very navel-gazing way, true, but still...