A scoring competition that was designed to enable composers to showcase their talents in front of a selection of Hollywood bigwigs has erupted into controversy following the announcement of the winner.
The contest, run by sampling specialists Spitfire Audio in association with the makers of HBO’s Westworld, required entrants to score a scene from Season 3 of the sci-fi series, and was judged by a panel of judges featuring not only Ramin Djawadi, who composes the music for Westworld, but also the show’s creators - Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy and Executive Producer J.J. Abrams - and the team at Spitfire Audio.
When the winning entry was revealed, though, it’s fair to say that not everyone considered it to be a worthy one. In fact, the internet was scathing in its response.
The criticism of David Kudell’s chiptune-inspired score was wide-ranging, with some commentators claiming that he’d failed to meet the brief, others questioning the judging process, and more still raging at the fact that Kudell is an industry professional whose company website (opens in new tab) says that he’s “worked as a sound editor in Hollywood on over 25 feature films”.
One of those listed is Mission: Impossible III, which was directed by JJ Abrams.
It doesn’t end there, though. The debate caught the attention of Hans Zimmer - possibly the most in-demand composer in the industry - who posted on the VI Control forum (opens in new tab) to criticise “the lack of respect for [David Kudell’s] moment of joy.”
He went on to say: “Carry on with your uninformed small-minded criticism. It’s all here now in black and white for ever. The beauty of the internet. And as a reference of how I wouldn’t ever want to work with a single one of you. Nor you with me. Bad fit. It doesn’t even ever matter how good your music is or how smart you are... And since music and film-making are inherently collaborative, I can’t really see how any director will want to deal with that amount of entitlement and hubris.”
David Kudell, meanwhile - who will now receive the Spitfire Audio Everything Drive, which contains more than 70 products and 2.5TB of sounds, as part of his prize - wrote a pretty dignified response to Zimmer (opens in new tab), saying: “When they announced me as the winner and then I saw the feedback start coming in, I told myself that this is going to be an incredible opportunity to develop thick skin.”
He concluded by saying: “My whole life I've been afraid to take risks with my music. Avoiding putting my music out there for fear it's not good enough. At 43 years old, I kick myself that I didn't follow through with music when I was scoring a student film 25 years ago. Ironic then that I won this contest by what else: Taking a risk with a take on this scene that was different.
“As much as I would love to try doing a version of Dark Knight, guess what - you've [Hans Zimmer] already done that, you invented it and it's time for us to try something new.
“As a longtime fan who, I'm not ashamed to admit, gets a little teary-eyed every time he listens to Beyond Rangoon, just reading your comment here is one of the greatest things that's ever happened to me. Thank you HZ.”
You can watch the winning entry in full, plus some snippets of the runners-up, in the video above.