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'Inception' score, now with barking dogs, flushed toilets; Hans Zimmer talks iPhone app, gets pestered on 'Dark Knight Rises'

December 9, 2010 |  6:14 am

ZIMMER_LAT_6_
Hans Zimmer scored one of the biggest films of the year in "Inception." His 2011 slate includes "Rango," a highly anticipated animated feature from Gore Verbinski and Industrial Light & Magic. He's already begun exchanging ideas with director Christopher Nolan for the conclusion of the filmmaker's Batman saga, "The Dark Knight Rises." 

Yet the only thing Zimmer really wants to discuss is an iPhone app. In an interview set up to chat about the award-season chances of "Inception" for The Times' Envelope, Zimmer was eager to postpone the matter at hand. "There's an in-built German disdain," Zimmer said of Oscar season. "There goes art." 

Instead, Zimmer encouraged this reporter to play with one of his recent musical acquisitions, a guitar fashioned out of old dynamite boxes. It was a gift, Zimmer said, from Verbinski. When the musical session was done, Zimmer handed over his iPhone. Zimmer's Santa Monica-based Remote Control Productions, working with technology from developer RjDj, has released a free iPhone app, one that boasts so-called augmented sound. In short, one's surroundings are folded into Zimmer's score, with the intent to create a dream-like sensation while walking around.

"It scores the room," Zimmer said. "I’m not kidding. It takes a second. Just to explain the principal: It’s not just a phone, it’s a clock. It knows what time it is. It knows where you are, due to whatever you call the direction-finding doodad. For instance, at 3 p.m. in the afternoon, if you’re in Mombasa, you can hear the track entitled ‘Mombasa.’ " 

Following? It probably wouldn't be an officially sanctioned "Inception" piece if there wasn't at least a slight level of confusion. But for those who saw "South Park's" "Insheeption" episode -- and those who didn't can watch the clip above -- it's sort of like walking around with your own personal dream expert humming the score back at you.

"Wander around," Zimmer instructed, entrusting his iPhone and all its contents to a Times writer. "Go to the bathroom. Flush the toilet. It takes your environment and matches it up with the music. You will come back walking different. It’s the last legal drug, and there are no side effects."

Though I opted not to spend my few minutes with the application by seeing how it distorts the sound of a flushed toilet, the app is designed to amplify and manipulate your surroundings. Music changes depending on the speed of your walk, the time of the day or your location. (And if one doesn't want to go all the way to Africa to hear "Mombasa," it can be found on Zimmer's soundtrack.) 

"It gives you different dreams," Zimmer said. "If something cool happens, you can record it and e-mail it. It’s great when I’m out on the beach at night. The waves, the dog barking -- it all comes back to me about an hour later. It wraps the sounds in. It quantizes everything." 

Zimmer's schedule, of course, has more on it than iPhone apps. The composer will be reuniting with Nolan for the director's completion to his Batman saga with "The Dark Knight Rises." So, how far along is Zimmer in laying the foundation for the score to "The Dark Knight Rises"?

"Far," Zimmer said. "I’ve started thinking. I’ve started. It hasn’t been recorded. But man, sometimes I get worried by what I carry around in my head."

How's that for vague?

"Everyone knew we were making a Batman movie," Zimmer said of when he worked on the 2005 film "Batman Begins," "and when they saw it, they didn’t know it was going to be that sort of Batman movie. That’s a really important thing to preserve. Same with 'Inception.' There were rumors and innuendos about what this movie was about. But it wasn’t about any of those things."

But like "The Dark Knight," the conclusion of the series will feature mostly original music composed specifically for the film. Nolan and Zimmer began work early; Zimmer starts composing based off story ideas and initial pages of a script.

"I wrote 'Inception' as a tragic love story," Zimmer said. "I read the script, or Chris tells me the story, and as he tells me my brain is parsing: I can ignore this. I can ignore that. The actors will do that. So what's the story I want to tell? I have to find my bit, the bit the actors and Chris cannot do."

-- Todd Martens

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Photo: Hans Zimmer. Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times

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