Main theme from Planet Earth II by Hans Zimmer

Planet Earth II is a BBC nature documentary series, first released in 2016 and narrated by Sir David Attenborough.  At the end of the final episode he said:

Now, over half of us live in an urban environment. My home, too, is here, in the city of London. Looking down on this great metropolis, the ingenuity with which we continue to reshape the surface of our planet is very striking. But it’s also sobering. It reminds me of just how easy it is for us to lose our connection with the natural world. Yet, it’s on this connection that the future of both humanity and the natural world will depend. And surely, it is our responsibility to do everything within our power to create a planet that provides a home not just for us, but for all life on Earth.

Sir David Attenborough
Main theme from Planet Earth II by Hans Zimmer

Listen For…

Zimmer is known for integrating traditional orchestral textures with electronic sounds – here he has written mainly for strings and light synth sounds.

  • A solo cello, accompanied by lower strings, opens the music with the main theme in 3/2 time
  • With each 4-bar phrase more instruments are added, gradually building the orchestral texture.
  • At 00:52 a new idea is heard with sparkling flute flourishes perhaps representing bird song.
  • Percussion enters at 01:21, joining the main string theme and giving energy and momentum to the music.
  • At 01:47 the excitement builds, as upper strings climb into the higher register and voices enter.
  • At 02:13 a modulation to the dominant key provides the climactic moment of the piece before it draws to a conclusion.

Things to consider

The main theme is very simple, using only 7 notes in 4 bars – how can you create a simple theme where layers are added every 8-bars, to build the excitement? 

How important is the role of the percussion in this music? 

How different would the music sound without it?

Conversation with Hans Zimmer

Image Credit: Greg Nunes