This is how the future sounds: Hollywood meets gearhead

4 min reading time
Hollywood composer Hans Zimmer designs acoustic worlds. What is often make-believe in the movies can now actually be experienced in the BMW i4: an electric drive sound penned by the Academy Award winner. Automobile enthusiast Supercar Blondie met him in Los Angeles for a sound test in the BMW i4.

25 January 2022

Lights, camera ... music! From the pulsating everyday life in big cities such as Los Angeles emerges an individual soundtrack, an orchestra of noises and sound: traffic, the roar of the waves, the rustling of palm trees in the wind, street music.

BMW Iconic Sounds Electric

Getting on board for the ride with Supercar Blondie and Hans Zimmer
Electric range (WLTP) in km: 416-590  
Electricity consumption in kWh/100km (WLTP): 22,5-16,1  

“Sound moves us. Sound vibrates, it’s constantly with us in all its forms. Sounds and tones take us back to special moments, emotions,” says Alexandra Mary Hirschi. She finds acoustics particularly fascinating. Hirschi, better known as Supercar Blondie, lives in Dubai and is the most successful car influencer in the world. On social media,she shares her experiences of test drives with the fastest and most exciting cars in every corner of the globe. A car enthusiast with the proverbial gasoline in her blood, she now finds herself electrified in California. This is because Supercar Blondie is on the road in the all-electric BMW i4 to pick up Hans Zimmer. During his nearly 40-year career spanning over 200 films and television projects, the 11-time Oscar-nominated composer has scored the soundtracks of blockbusters such as “Gladiator,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and “The Lion King,” as well as visions of the future such as “Blade Runner 2049” and the remake of “Dune,” in both cases working alongside director Denis Villeneuve.

But which one of them sets the tone on the ride? The car. The Hollywood composer is going to give Hirschi a glimpse of how the new e-vehicle becomes an orchestra of emotions on the sunny streets of L.A. 

This is what the future sounds

It’s easy to think that the comfortable, quiet electric vehicle lacks emotion without the roar of the internal combustion engine drive. But that couldn’t be further from the truth! The future of driving pleasure (➜ Read also: BMW and its history) is electric, locally emission-free and, even with this new technology, it still oozes with typical BMW sportiness. This driving experience is expressed not only in dynamic driving characteristics, but also in an emotionally powerful sound experience (➜ Read also: The best songs to test speakers). The script for this has been written by BMW IconicSounds Electric.

A characteristic drive sound was created as part of a collaboration between composer and Academy Award-winner Hans Zimmer and BMW Group Creative Director Sound Renzo Vitale – meaning driving pleasure can be experienced with all the senses.

Hans Zimmer has often developed sounds for cars and vehicles to form the acoustic background of films – sounds that could be plausible but were in fact purely made up. The drive sound of the BMW i4 is real, though, transposing the soundtrack of the future into today’s reality. Sounds, noises, music – as far as Zimmer is concerned, these all represent emotions. And emotions connect. They connect people and people connect sounds with feelings. How was the soundtrack for the new driving experience created, though? Just as with composing for movies, he had to get a sense of the story being told, Zimmer reveals. The acoustic script then emerges in his imagination all by itself: “Sounds create worlds of thought in my mind.”

The tone defines the personality. It gives a character more emotion and depth.
Hans Zimmer

BMW IconicSounds Electric

Intelligent Sound

“Each BMW has its own character, which is reflected in its sound,” says Zimmer. “We have therefore developed a drive sound for the electrically powered BMW M automobiles that particularly emphasizes the emotional driving experience and intensifies the feel of the performance.” Zimmer had already collaborated to develop an inspiring sound for electrically powered BMW models: a sound which awakens the anticipation of electric driving from the instant the start/stop button is pressed. The current sound integration includes drive sounds for the BMW iX, the BMW i4 and a differentiated sound for the BMW i4 in M specification.

The ride in the BMW i4 is not only a first for Alex Hirschi, but also for Hans Zimmer himself. Although he has composed sounds such as that to acoustically accompany the vehicle start, he had still been waiting for his first sound test under real conditions – until now. It is a special feeling to hear the work he developed in action for the first time. “This symbiosis of design, driving and sound just feels wonderful.” Supercar Blondie agrees. As impressive as the feeling behind the wheel of the vehicles she tests is, she says that meeting and getting to know the people behind these cars fascinates her even more.

Hirschi sees the curved display in the BMW i4 as symbolic of a new step: “To me, the curved, elegant screen represents the dawn of the future.” And she also recognizes parallels between movie and vehicle in the acoustic background: “Sounds and noises transport us to certain places or to certain memories. Sound gives rise to energy.” “Technology inspires me,” Zimmer reveals. It was obvious to him to have an electric sound. “When working on ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘The Dark Knight,’ we developed sound textures for Gotham City, acoustic identities and, of course, the distinctive sounds of the Batmobile – sounds that could have become reality in the same way.” 

In both cases, the art also lies in integrating technical progress into everyday life and making it into an experience in the process. Movies should be experienced with all the senses. So should driving pleasure. The BMW i4 has the perfect soundtrack for your personal script on board.

Author: Markus Löblein; Photos: BMW; Video: BMW