Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


September 1999 Supplement

Hans Zimmer Music Inspired by the Film K2   Varèse Sarabande Records VSD-5354 [41.22]




K2 was initially scored by Chaz Jenkel, whose music can be heard in the US versions of the film. Zimmer was asked to rescore it. However, the picture underwent so many changes that Zimmer's score ended up in the European versions only. To their credit, Varèse Sarabande released the score that Zimmer wrote for K2, even though the music did not become associated with the picture for most of its audience.

K2 was one of the earliest scores in which Zimmer explored the heavy action sythesizer sound that came to be dubbed "Zimmerian." This sound, more widely heard in Broken Arrow and Drop Zone, is usually accented with strident electric guitar played by Pete Haycock, which film music fans find either very passionate or very annoying. K2 falls into this stylistic category, except the guitar has more dramatic expressions, and the score moves with the smoldering, brooding twist that is later developed in Crimson Tide and The Fan.

The movie is about an unforgiving climb to the top of the second highest mountain in the world, K2, and the music takes the listener through the imagined highs and lows of the journey, building on prior experience but never returning to the same place. If anyone ever wanted to tell a vivid story about a mountain climb with music, this would be it. Every emotion anticipated on a rigorous feat as this, from apprehension to awe to sorrow, is perfectly captured. Flowing from mood to mood, and melody to melody, without any specific thematic structure, this album is in many ways more artistic and unrestrained than other scores, sounding somewhat like Zimmerian jazz if you will. There are so many melodic highlights that it is tempting to put up numerous audio clips to share the experience.

The album has only two tracks, "The Ascent" and "The Descent." "The Ascent," almost 30 minutes long, travels from base camp with Asian ethnic flourishes to rigorous suspensions from precipitous edges , to awakening wonder at the apex. Just when you thought this was a muscular, heroic score, "The Ascent" closes with a lustrous, melting movement performed with cello and viola that caresses the listener with tears. Following the same elegaic mood, "The Descent" begins with a weighty, tragic cue that sounds like an avalanche of grief. This track has some of the most passionately mournful expressions I have ever heard Zimmer write. The music here is truly beautiful in a panoramic way. The sadness takes time to reflect and mature, in a way that a 30 second audio clip could never capture. The score ends with poignant, romantic guitar themes.

Many people complain about the length of the two tracks, but after a few discerning listens, it becomes understandable why the music was not chopped up. This is a story told in two chapters, and the listening experience is best when the story is followed and savored from beginning to end.


Helen San

We are grateful to Helen San ( for giving us permission to include this review which is currently appearing on her Film Music site.


Helen San

Return to Index