Arts & Entertainment, Music

Character Theme: The Joker

Hans Zimmer

Lesson time 09:06 min

Hans fell in love with the Joker, and created a haunting tune from just one vibrating note. Watch as he discusses how the story and character's impact on the story helps create the theme.

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Topics include: Creating Joker Theme


Working on Dark Knight, I knew I had nothing if I didn't have the Joker's motif. I wasn't thinking about a bad guy. I was just completely intrigued by the character. And I kept thinking, oh hang on a second, he's the only one who always tells the truth in this movie. Everybody else is sort of bullshitting or they're lying or they're not being straightforward or they're being secretive. You know, the Joker comes up to you and he tells you exactly what he thinks, and he tells you the truth. I thought that was admirable in a way. And his sense of anarchy, tossing thing up into the air, is maybe something that I quite like. I never did the big [STRINGS PLAYING] evil chords thing. I did quite the opposite. It was much more of sort of a punk attitude, which I can sort of get into and just anarchy in Gotham City. It was fun. I need to know what the spine of that character is. Sometimes, I need to know what his heart is. But really, what makes the thing tick? What gives tension to it? It took a while to get to something so incredibly simple. And one of the first things I realized was that the most compelling thing I could do rather than, you know, he's this bad guy. It's anarchy. He blows stuff up. Let's be loud and ballsy. And I did exactly the opposite. I was very, very quiet. So you sort of had to lean in. I think there's something much more to be had out of an audience having to lean in. [TRUCK HONKING] Hey, you wait like everybody else, pal. And that starts off it. It just whispers at you. It just whispers, gets a little unstable, starts arising. What the hell is that. Obstruction ahead. Obstruction ahead. Damn it. All units divert down on to lower fifth. I repeat. Exit down. Exit down. Lower fifth? We'll be like turkeys on Thanksgiving down there. One of the problems with music is you always know when something is finishing, or when it comes to a resolution, or when the tension is going to be released. I was just playing with the ideas that-- what happens if you never release tension? Is there such a thing as infinite tension? It's the idea of a bow or steel, a steel cable being pulled and figuring out when will it snap. And I'm not going to tell you when it will snap. And I never let it snap. So you're just holding your breath constantly, because you know, sooner or later, it's going to snap and just tear your face. It's like a guitar string which is too tight. So the sound itself has a built in recklessness and a built in danger to it. And it's really actually very quiet. And it's not bassy. Usually for the bad guys you put a lot of bass in. I mean, there are all these cliches, just like the violin for the love scene. There's all these cliches. And part of the fun is to go, let me show you or let me play you something that you haven't heard before. [MUSIC BUILDING] [MUSIC BUILD...

About the Instructor

Hans Zimmer didn’t see a film until he was 12 years old. Since then, he’s scored over 150 films, including Inception, The Lion King, and The Dark Knight. In his MasterClass, the self-taught Academy Award-winner teaches how he creates sounds from nothing, composes compelling character themes, and scores a movie before ever seeing it. By the end, you’ll have everything you need to start film scoring.

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Hans Zimmer

From collaborating to scoring, Hans Zimmer teaches you how to tell a story with music in 31 exclusive video lessons.

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