Just looking at the Netflix logo puts a sound in your ear, right? “Ba-dum.” The iconic two-note pop of sound that accompanies the splashy, colorful Netflix logo before a Netflix original starts streaming away for your pleasure (heck, in these pandemicy times, this sound might be the only constant we have left). It’s simple, quick, to the point, and originally had a goat bleat attached to it (a wonderful fact per the Twenty Thousand Hertz podcast). But when Netflix films like Marriage Story, Roma, or The Irishman play in movie theaters (remember movie theaters? Wistful sigh…), a two-second minimalist sound design simply will not do. Enter: Hans Zimmer.
Zimmer is, of course, a film composer veteran with oodles and noodles of iconic scores under his belt. Most recently, we might culturally see him as an iconic experimenter of traditional orchestral arrangements and electronic muckraking in his works, especially in the Christopher Nolan oeuvre — think The Dark Knight‘s literal one-note buzzy synth motif for the Joker, or that infamous Inception “bwaaaaaamp.” It thus makes sense to me that he’d be interested in interpolating and interpreting Netflix’s intersection between “traditional” and “experimental” sound design. The final product sounds… like Hans Zimmer composed a very “Hans Zimmer” score and then ended it with the Netflix “ba-dum.” I guess I’m not sure what else I expected?
The short-ish piece begins with the classic Zimmer motif of a pulsing crescendo; as the brass and percussion grow and grow in volume and intensity, the strings hit us with striking sixteenths, giving it all the vibe of both micro and macro motion. While it does feel notably more traditionally arranged than a typical Zimmer piece, it’s worth noting how prominent pianos, synth ambiences, and that classic “booming synth sub-bass” are within its textures, ensuring it sounds just different enough. Its chord progressions and melody shapes purposefully walk into and out of major versus minor centers, making it feel a bit unhinged, restless, and even suspenseful — this piece could literally be plopped into a Dark Knight flick and fit in like gangbusters. And finally, it ends with a commanding “BA-DUM!”, the synth basses and percussion collaborating to leave you primed and ready for a streaming movie but instead on the big screen.
It’s all a bit… silly. But in a good way. A fun, bombastic way. A way that really, really, really makes me miss the ritual of movie theaters, aggressive logo sequences and all.
But don’t take my word for it. Listen to Zimmer’s extended Netflix logo theme below. And for more wild analyses of music theory, here I am going off the deep end on Eurovision.
The Netflix "ta-dum" soundmark is one of the all time greats, but doesn't work as well in a theater because it's only 3 seconds long.
So Netflix commissioned Hans Zimmer to extend it for theaters and … it's … so … good.pic.twitter.com/RGw26vCAGY
— Siqi Chen (@blader) August 9, 2020