5 Modern Composers Every Music Junkie Should Have On Their Playlist


Where would the entertainment industry be without music? Whether you're creating a TV show, a video game, a summer blockbuster or an online flash series music is so important an element that it can either make or break whatever your work may be. Done right a good score combined with excellent visuals will send shivers up and down a person's spine and forever associate the audio with the scene.

Done wrong and a bad soundtrack can make a work that much less enjoyable, or even be a deal breaker for the show or movie. The importance of a soundtrack cannot be underestimated, so here's a shortlist of the talented individuals who have composed some of my favorites.

1. John Williams

If you've ever watched a Steven Spielberg film, you're already familiar with the art and magic of John Williams. Considered one of (If not the) greatest, most successful, and influential film composers of all time, Williams' career spans six decades and has some of film's most well known themes to his credit. Jaws, the Star Wars saga, Jurassic Park, the Indiana Jones saga, Saving Private Ryan and the first three Harry Potter films are only a handful of the scores he's produced, but Williams has never limited himself to film scores.

Williams has written many concert pieces, including a symphony, several concertos and a sinfonietta. In addition he acted as Principal Conductor for the Boston Pop's Orchestra from 1980-1993 and is now the Pops' Laureate Conductor and maintains a long working relationship with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Though 81-years-old, Williams shows no sign of stopping anytime soon, and no music fan's playlist is complete without him. To put it simply: John Williams Is The Man.

2. Hans Zimmer

While John Williams is slowly stepping down from his position as Hollywood's chief Composer, Hans Zimmer is quickly stepping up as the man to see about a score. First composing for Barry Levinson's 1988 film Rain Man, Zimmer has since gone on to write the scores for Walt Disney's The Lion King, Gladiator, Pearl Harbour, The Last Samurai, and the Pirates of the Caribbean series. He also wrote the score for Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy alongside James Newton Howard. Though he has stuck primarily to film scores, Zimmer has composed the soundtrack for several video games including Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. Zimmer is the founder of Remote Control Productions, a film score company that features many successful composers from across the entertainment world, as well as currently being the head of the film music division at DreamWorks studio

3. Yoko Kanno

Born in Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, Yoko Kanno has made her name as one of Japan's finest and most versatile composers. Relatively unknown on the American side of the Pacific, Kanno's fame stems primarily from the soundtracks she's written for Japanese animation and video games. Unlike Williams and Zimmer, whose stick mostly to orchestral scores, she is most comfortable hopping between a varied number of genres. Kanno first became well known in America for composing the jazz, blues, and western inspired soundtrack of the 1998 anime Cowboy Bebop before moving onto the classical, electronic and techno songs of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. In addition to anime, Kanno has also composed music for video games, TV series, live action Japanese cinema and advertisements for companies as varied as Canon, Google, Microsoft, Nikon, Nintendo and Toyota. Of everyone here, Kanno is my hands down favorite composer on this list.

4. Richard Stone

Attention Millennials, if Warner Brothers/Steven Spielberg animation was a large part of your daily cartoon schedule, this is the man who scored your childhood. Best known for his work on shows like Tiny Toon Adventures, Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, Taz-Mania, SWAT Kats, and Histeria!, Stone’s musical talent is credited for playing a major part in the revival of Warner Brothers Animation in the 1990s. He won several Emmy Awards for Outstanding Music Direction and Composition as well as for Outstanding Original Song, the latter of which he shared with lyricist Tom Ruegger. Stone made sure to share any music directing/composing award he earned with his team of composer, which included Steven Bernstein, Julie Bernstein, Gordon Goodwin and Tim Kelly. Stone died in 2001 of pancreatic cancer in Los Angeles, Calif.

5. Two Steps From Hell

I’m kind of cheating on this one in that it’s not a single composer who earns the final spot on this list. Two Steps From Hell is a music production company based out of Los Angeles that specialises in creating music for movie, TV series and video game trailers. Founded by Nick Phoenix and Thomas J. Bergersen on February 14, 2006, the music composed by Two Steps from Hell has been featured in trailers for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, Game of Thrones, the 2012 London Olympics, and X-Men: First Class. Though young and lacking the pedigree this article’s other listings have, Two Steps From Hell nonetheless provides excellent dramatic scores that are perfectly suited for whatever creative work a director might have in mind.

Honorable Mentions

Here’s where I’ll be listing the composers who are either new to my musical ear or only have one body of work that has caught my attention.

Jeff Beal for HBO series Rome OST; Yuki Kajiura for the Fate/Zero OST (particularly these three tracks); Nobuo Uematsu for his work on many Final Fantasy OSTs; Howard Shore for his work on the Lord of the Rings trilogy OSTs; Kenji Kawai for his work on Ghost in the Shell.