Aurora by Hans Zimmer
Review by Christopher Coleman
A week ago, the anticipation for Christopher Nolan’s final installment in his Batman trilogy had reached its peak. As July 20 turned to July 21, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES would begin showing to the general public all across the United States. Thousands of fans would crowd thousands of theaters to experience the caped crusader’s conclusion. Thousands would behold Nolan’s eye-popping visuals and be taken down to the depths of theatrical despair and then to the heights of sacrificial triumph through HANS ZIMMER’s original score. For a few hundred, the experience of that night would be an unforgettably horrific, near-death experience and for twelve innocent attendees, it would prove to be the darkest of all nights.
Since, the media has peeled back layer after layer and story after story about the alleged gunman, the twelve victims who lost their lives and the dozens of others who were traumatized in that darkened theater. Thankfully, this story doesn't end there and, as the days pass, we find something else rising through this tragedy.
There have been countless cards sent, facebook posts, and tweets expressing not only outrage against such senselessness but also equal compassion for the victims. There is the story of the young woman, a composer herself, who was miraculously spared the death-path of a bullet into her brain. There was the babysitter doing all to protect a child and the “Aurora 3,” who gave their lives for their friends. Then there was the star of this Batman trilogy, Christian Bale, doing his best to secretly visit recovering survivors, as well as members of the Denver Broncos and even the President Obama doing the same. And finally, one week later, we have composer HAN ZIMMER’s latest composition, ‘AURORA;’ written in honor of the victims and for which all of the donated proceeds go to assisting.
AURORA is an 8:36 choral piece which rivals, in terms of poignancy and introspection, Zimmer’s oft referenced “Journey to the Line” from THE THIN RED LINE, the sacred forcefulness found in THE DA VINCI CODE, and the honor of THE LAST SAMURAI. If you’re thinking that is a potent combination, you’d be correct. Add to this the fact that this piece was written, not for fictional characters in make-believe situations, but for very real victims of a very real tragedy and AURORA takes on even greater emotional weight.
The piece painstakingly moves from angelic, acapella sopranos harmonizing as they...rise to gripping and robust choral performance of, what will be for fans of the Batman scores, a familiar segment and back again. As the track starts, thoughts of Samuel Barber rush in, but at just before the two minute mark, the weighty combination of deep strings and bassy vocals expand to fill-out the music's foundation. A brief introduction to a new musical idea is made here; one that is dark and almost menacing, but one to be revisited in a different light at the track's conclusion.
Male chorus takes over and discreetly deliver an elongated variation of part b of the Batman theme. Repeated choral variations of this, one of the most elegant portion of all the Batman musical ideas, serves as the main body of the piece. It repeats and continues to rise, then fall, only to rise again, yet higher. Zimmer’s elegy concludes with the solo soprano returning to perform the motif darkly introduced earlier in the track and we are, at last, left in its emotional wake.
Theaters have been sanctuaries of escapism for decades. While the images and ideas, projected onto the screens therein, have not always been tales of the good of mankind, a theater is rarely thought of, in any contemporary sense, as a place where these sorts of horrors would ever be made manifest. Yet, in the earliest of hours on July 21, 2012, it happened and, for now and sometime forward, the illusion of the protected moviegoing experience may be marred. The Dark Knight Rises will ever be connected with tragedy, but even as the smoke of our minds and hearts clear, we also will, in part due to Hans Zimmer's 'Aurora,' associate memories of heroism, self-sacrifice, and how the goodness within the human heart is released to rise above and help light the way through society’s dark nights.