Why the 'Dark Knight Rises' soundtrack is missing some music

When the score to "The Dark Knight Rises"  was released last week, it was missing something: a significant portion of the music created for the film. 

"I wanted to make an exciting CD, but what’s on the CD is not even half the music," said composer Hans Zimmer.

The 52-minute score, released by Warner Bros. imprint WaterTower Music, follows the chronological order of the film, a direct audio companion to what's on the screen. Yet for listeners to hear four of the film's original suites (musical compositions recorded by Zimmer in the early stages of the filmmaking process), the composer is hoping fans will opt for a more interactive experience.

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Mobile app "The Dark Knight Rises Z+" aims to turn Zimmer's compositions into an evolving and immersive audio experience, one where the music heard can be dependent upon the time of day or the movement of the device. The app, available for iPhones and iPods, is a love letter to cinematic sound, coming complete with in-studio interviews with Zimmer and director Christopher Nolan, as well as giving fans the ability to re-create the film's original sound effects. 

It also feeds into Zimmer's continuing mission to find a home for cinematic compositions outside of the multiplex and the collections of film music enthusiasts. The app has two modes -- autopiliot and manual. In autopilot, the app utilizes "augmented reality," meaning the sounds heard are more dependent upon the location and movement of the user. Manual is more self-explanatory, turning the app into one dedicated solely to music.

"The CD is maybe just a third, at most, of the music in the film," said Zimmer. "All the stuff on the CD is in the film, but I created this app because I believe there has to be a different way of involving an audience."

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The app is free, but to get access to all of its available music, one will have to make a couple in-app purchases. The 21 tracks that compromise Zimmer's suites will cost $3.99. For $5.99, fans can purchase the atmospheric "Gotham City by Night" add-on, which will automatically play when using the app in the evening. Finally, an additional 99 cents will get the listener a set of the film's sound effects.

Musically, Gotham City is a murky, bass-heavy world, one full of rhythmically minimalist symphonic strikes and notes stretched thin for maximum tension. Zimmer's suites created for characters Bane (Tom Hardy) and Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) tap opposite ends of the spectrum, alternating between booming chants and playful piano prances.

The full suites formed the basis for all the music heard in the film and collected on the soundtrack.

"This shows more of the process," Zimmer said. "I wanted to divide the two worlds up. It’s a bad paradigm, but the suites are like the novel of this thing. The CD is like the screenplay. The CD follows the screenplay precisely. The suites are so much more based on all the more detailed conversations Chris and I were having." 

Zimmer and Nolan first tried a mobile approach with the 2010 film "Inception." That app also used augmented sound to fold in a user's surroundings with the score's ambient noise. For the "Inception" app, developed with RjDj, users could record their surroundings and hear them woven into Zimmer's score.

"Because ‘Inception’ was a more dream-like world, I could take the atmosphere further," Zimmer said.  

The app comes at a time when soundtracks aren't exactly dominating the charts. Only five soundtracks are in the top 200 on this week's pop tally, and one,"The Hunger Games,"features little music from the film.

It's likely, Zimmer said, that every piece of music created for Nolan's Batman trilogy will eventually be released in one collection. Ultimately, though, the composer and those at his Santa Monica studio Remote Control Productions have an underlying objective to bring greater awareness to the film composition trade. 

"I wanted to avoid the cliché during this conversation but I can’t," said Zimmer. "The idea is that it becomes a soundtrack to your life, and I want to find ways to get this kind of music out there in different ways. I want to do something more than a straight download or a CD."

And it brings a little personal touch to a Hollywood blockbuster.

"This will recompose itself to the environment," Zimmer said. "I think it’s nice that in this day and age, where everything is mass produced, here is something that adjusts to your situation. This customizes the experience a little bit."


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