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JW Scores Theoretical Analysis Thread

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if u think about it, williams really loves the lydian now that we mention this.

It's interesting how the Lydian mode somehow "became" the music of Hollywood. It's connection is almost inescapable. I don't know if it's Williams to thank (or blame) for this, but nowadays just about any composer who needs to write something magical, dreamy, or just something heart warming will use the Lydian in some way.

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I think it goes back as far as we go, or as far as our awareness (emotionally, not theoretically) of acoustics. It also has to do with the pan-cultural significance of the interval of a fifth, and fifths in general. After the octave, the fifth was in early cultures always the first interval to gain prominence, and the lydian scale offers a leading tone to it, -an additional emphasis, if you will. As for magical and otherworldly connotations and connotations of adventure and grandeur, these have to do with the tritone as an interval of resolution.

The Lydian scale is also the "brightest" of our western scales, and as such, it naturally lends itself to a spirit of flight, of lift, of fantasy..

In Norwegian musical lore, Lydian is associated with the underworld and the world of spirits. The tritone has diabolical connotations dating back to the middle ages at least.

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One of the most striking uses of Lydian I've heard is in a piece written by Mozart when he was 10! Modal music is not normally associated with the Baroque, Classical, or even Romantic eras for the most part, and yet baby Mozart uses it very boldly in his Gallimathias Musicum (K.32), in the 4th section entitled Pastoral. I presume he is in some way trying to emulate the shepherd's pipes by using the mode. Check it out! A nice CD with this piece is "A Little Light Music" performed by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.

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That's a wonderful Mozart-piece! Modality was the exception, not the rule, from ca. fifteenth/sixteenth century to the late 19th century, yet those sounds never left us! There are great examples of blatant modal writing to be found throughout those ca. 300+ years. I guess it just proves the "truthfulness", the necessity, of modality.

And let's not forget that it was always the language of various folk- and liturgical traditions.

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Just to clarify, I realize the lydian mode dates back long before any film composer. I was referring more to the abuse of it.

Marcus, excellent ideas there. I didn't know about the connection to Norwegian musical lore.

Slightly off topic, have you ever read Leonard Bernstein's Harvard lectures?

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Just to clarify, I realize the lydian mode dates back long before any film composer. I was referring more to the abuse of it.

Marcus, excellent ideas there. I didn't know about the connection to Norwegian musical lore.

Slightly off topic, have you ever read Leonard Bernstein's Harvard lectures?

its not that long ago. only 600 years ago:P. (btw greek modes are not the same in case u want to argue otherwise) But ya i didnt know norwegians thot it evil. i've always thot of the lydian as being very bright. theoretically, it is simply taking the tonic, and jumping up consecutive perfect 5ths. you will eventually arrive at the lydian. it is more natural than the ionian, which was formed as two tetrachords merged together.

anyways, i have read the lectures. they are beautiful. bernstein was a very good teacher. as good as feynman was to physics.

and one more thing. back to jw. so JW is one of the most unique composers i know because he doesnt have a signature style. his music is an amalgamation of so many other composers. You have all the romantic sounds from strauss, mahler and korngold. then you get the john adams sound in so many of his fanfares. the elgarian melodies etcetc. the more i think of it, the more i CANNOT identify something that makes JW JW other than the fact that the pieces are usually well constructed. anyone can offer any traits? and dont say boomtzzz:P.

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As far as the ABUSE of Lydian goes, my guess is it really began ca. mid-80's, which is when a lot of the current middle-aged generation of Hollywood film composers rose to prominence. I think it has to do with an attempt to emulate the sound of the Hollywood Golden Age, which was again quasi in vogue (certainly due to, among other things, the success of "Star Wars"), and an attempt that lacks the depth of technique and understanding that Williams has, and that composers such as Korngold, Tiomkin, Waxman, Rosza, etc. had. So--a less experienced, less skillful composer wants to write something that sounds grand and epic, and he sort of thinks, "Gee, Yoda's Theme and the theme from E.T are Lydian (which isn't completely true), I know what to do!!", and a few bars and moments of glorious inspiration later, - here's a new lydian theme!... albeit this time harmonised consistently with I and V/V chords, with maybe the occasional use of another triad or two within the same mode.

Now, there's nothing wrong with this per se, mind you. But it starts becoming "abusive" modality when we cease to dig deeper, look further, which is really ceasing to understand what each color, each nuance offers (or doesn't offer). Lydian has now become the uber-cliche of Hollywood film scoring, and only a select few composers have really managed to breathe fresh life into it.

tony69: I agree that Williams' style is an amalgamation of a great many other styles, or rather, a very long and great tradition, and there's certainly Walton, Elgar, Strauss, Korngold and Prokofiev there, and much, much more, but I do think there are many unique twists and turns that can be identified as uniquely Williams. Unfortunately, these are often very subtle, elusive qualities that are hard to give generic terms, much the same way that it can be difficult to describe what makes Haydn Haydn or Mozart Mozart.

I will say this: His melodic writing is unique in its blend of romantic sweep and classical construction (he is closer to Haydn than Strauss, save for his choice of pitches). Harmonically, its uniqueness comes from the fact that, while almost always tonal, Williams' palette is completely chromatically saturated, and seldom stays within one mode for very long. His strict diatonicism is usually pan-diatonic, but differs from the pan-diatonicism of, say, Copland by its awareness of clusters as extensions of underlying harmonic structures. I have made a number of brief compendiums that try to analyse different aspects of Williams' style technically, an attempt to "de-code" the technique of his musical language, and I'm in the process of collecting these now, and have offered examples from them to other people here who are interested in Williams' work from a practical-analytical perspective.

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Once again I will state my opinion that Music Theory will be able to make sense of most anything, even bending its own rules, in the post *after it is written* but it will not aid you much while writing. It is where the ART part of composing comes into play. I know so many of my old teachers who knew so much and couldn't write anything interesting in any style. All you really need are a few good ideas (textures, settings, harmonies, rythms, dissonances, silences etc...) - and if you study too much music theory you concentrate too much on others ideas and not your own, unless you wish to study it strictly academically.

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"Theory" is simply a term for describing musical events, and an attempt to decipher music's inner logic. Fortunately, this has been going on for centuries and centuries, and we don't have to rely only on our instincts, inherent musicality and good ideas, but we can aid all of those with the experience of our predecessors, the experience of the great masters of this even greater art form!

Academia is one thing, but a theoretical/analytical awareness of music exists everywhere there's a deeper interest in music. Williams wouldn't, COULDN'T, be the composer he is today without the intense amount of studying, of devouring, music in the quantities that he has. He is such an impressive man; he will casually quote (I have heard him do this in person) the most obscure Mendelssohn quartet, or any piece by Takemitsu, or anything else for that matter- his knowledge of the repertoire is bordering on encyclopedic!, yet this vast, vast, vast knowledge hasn't clouded his vision, but promoted his individuality through "losing" himself in that which is greater than any one of us can be.

Yes, all great, true art, comes from ideally eliminating your ego so you become what your create, serve what you create, allow it to take a beauteous, lasting form. I think this is the secret of great craft.

Pi, I'm sorry you've experienced such bad teachers. I've experienced some of those myself, but I've also been blessed with truly amazing teachers,- artists who are not only some of the greatest and most inspiring practitioners of their craft, but who have a profound understanding of tradition, and who have realised that the only way to progress, is to know your past.

The analogy is this: A Bow and Arrow.

The farther you pull the bow-string, the farther the arrow will fly. The deeper we know our past, the history and technique of our craft, the longer will our contributions last, the more insight (and foresight) shall we be granted.

Bach knew this. Mozart knew this. Ravel knew this. Shostakovich knew this. Williams knows this. And you know this, too, I'm sure.

So pull that string, study those scores, and write and write and write and write and write. It hasn't failed yet!

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"Theory" is simply a term for describing musical events, and an attempt to decipher music's inner logic. Fortunately, this has been going on for centuries and centuries, and we don't have to rely only on our instincts, inherent musicality and good ideas, but we can aid all of those with the experience of our predecessors, the experience of the great masters of this even greater art form!

Academia is one thing, but a theoretical/analytical awareness of music exists everywhere there's a deeper interest in music. Williams wouldn't, COULDN'T, be the composer he is today without the intense amount of studying, of devouring, music in the quantities that he has. He is such an impressive man; he will casually quote (I have heard him do this in person) the most obscure Mendelssohn quartet, or any piece by Takemitsu, or anything else for that matter- his knowledge of the repertoire is bordering on encyclopedic!, yet this vast, vast, vast knowledge hasn't clouded his vision, but promoted his individuality through "losing" himself in that which is greater than any one of us can be.

Yes, all great, true art, comes from ideally eliminating your ego so you become what your create, serve what you create, allow it to take a beauteous, lasting form. I think this is the secret of great craft.

Pi, I'm sorry you've experienced such bad teachers. I've experienced some of those myself, but I've also been blessed with truly amazing teachers,- artists who are not only some of the greatest and most inspiring practitioners of their craft, but who have a profound understanding of tradition, and who have realised that the only way to progress, is to know your past.

The analogy is this: A Bow and Arrow.  

The farther you pull the bow-string, the farther the arrow will fly. The deeper we know our past, the history and technique of our craft, the longer will our contributions last, the more insight (and foresight) shall we be granted.

Bach knew this. Mozart knew this. Ravel knew this. Shostakovich knew this. Williams knows this. And you know this, too, I'm sure.

So pull that string, study those scores, and write and write and write and write and write. It hasn't failed yet!

Yes, yes I knew you would post that, i have read this before and we always disagree on everything anyway. And like you I have had some wonderful teachers, and yes I still study scores everyday and I could tell you the name of any one measure of any dvorak, rachmaninoff, beethoven symphony or concerto etc... And yes John Williams knows a ton about classical music, no denything that. And yes I agree it cannot hurt to know the theory in detail for voicings, notational stuff etc.. BUT BUT BUT!

that doesn't gaurantee anything about you coming up with one clever original idea. That seperate skill must be nutured a different way if it can at all.

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Well, there are no guarantees for anything... "Original" can mean many things. And there's good originality and bad originality, true originality and false originality...

Also, I think the emphasis should be given to good or bad music, not original or not. What we have to offer of true, good originality,-if anything-, will only benefit from solid training.

This has always been true.

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What we have to offer of true, good originality,-if anything-, will only benefit from solid training.

This has always been true.

Except for the case of the beatles and other brilliant people.

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Well, I'm sure they too would have benefited from a better training, musically and otherwise...

Also, there's a difference between The Beatles and classical music. Classical music demands so much more of its composers. Just look at Paul McCartney! A good songwriter, but he certainly can't write "classical" music, and he has tried and tried and tried...

Brilliant people are brilliant because they have somehow been stimulated to unleash their potential in whatever form this takes. Of course, this stimulation can also take many forms, but in classical art, there's no

escaping a thorough study of craft, whatever your medium may be.

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"Theory" is simply a term for describing musical events, and an attempt to decipher music's inner logic. Fortunately, this has been going on for centuries and centuries, and we don't have to rely only on our instincts, inherent musicality and good ideas, but we can aid all of those with the experience of our predecessors, the experience of the great masters of this even greater art form!

Academia is one thing, but a theoretical/analytical awareness of music exists everywhere there's a deeper interest in music. Williams wouldn't, COULDN'T, be the composer he is today without the intense amount of studying, of devouring, music in the quantities that he has. He is such an impressive man; he will casually quote (I have heard him do this in person) the most obscure Mendelssohn quartet, or any piece by Takemitsu, or anything else for that matter- his knowledge of the repertoire is bordering on encyclopedic!, yet this vast, vast, vast knowledge hasn't clouded his vision, but promoted his individuality through "losing" himself in that which is greater than any one of us can be.

Yes, all great, true art, comes from ideally eliminating your ego so you become what your create, serve what you create, allow it to take a beauteous, lasting form. I think this is the secret of great craft.

Pi, I'm sorry you've experienced such bad teachers. I've experienced some of those myself, but I've also been blessed with truly amazing teachers,- artists who are not only some of the greatest and most inspiring practitioners of their craft, but who have a profound understanding of tradition, and who have realised that the only way to progress, is to know your past.

The analogy is this: A Bow and Arrow.  

The farther you pull the bow-string, the farther the arrow will fly. The deeper we know our past, the history and technique of our craft, the longer will our contributions last, the more insight (and foresight) shall we be granted.

Bach knew this. Mozart knew this. Ravel knew this. Shostakovich knew this. Williams knows this. And you know this, too, I'm sure.

So pull that string, study those scores, and write and write and write and write and write. It hasn't failed yet!

very good analogy! the bow and arrow is great. i have to agree with you in that we must know our past in order to make better contributions.

And i would like to say the point of music theory is not to analyze music. The point of music theory is to create the words from which you can shape the poetry. Theory is not about professors sitting in a room and argue that its a V7b5 chord instead of a V7#4, etcetc. Theory is the syntax of music. In English, we need to know that it is impossible to make a word like gthoijylk but this ont he other hand, gersang, may be an english word. Theory is the way we can create these words, with which the composers make art. So basically i disagree with u, 3.141592653 etc.

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Lydian = Space, Flight, Magic

I to iv = Romance (especially with a iv add6 in 2nd inversion, eventually to a bIIMaj7 in 3rd inversion)

IMaj7 = American, Olympic, heroic, etc.

Octatonic = Action, scary

I to v = Exploration, slight mystery

It's a little oversimplified, but it's pretty much some of the basic rules of film music that Williams has further cemented during his career.

Jason

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Lydian = Space, Flight, Magic

I to iv = Romance (especially with a iv add6 in 2nd inversion, eventually to a DbMaj7 in 3rd inversion)

IMaj7 = American, Olympic, heroic, etc.

Octatonic = Action, scary

I to v = Exploration, slight mystery

It's a little oversimplified, but it's pretty much some of the basic rules of film music that Williams has further cemented during his career.

Jason

And don't forget bVII (subtonic) for westerns.

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Tony I disagree with you and Marcus. Music theory helps some people yes. But many people in the business suceed very well with out it. Reading music is not neccassary any more with the invent of recording techniques and computer sequencers.

I think you can both see my point and I honor the fact that you both are well studied (mee too) in it and I am not criticizing your efforts.

New music theory = copy temp track. Use your ears. Copy this style from a CD track, use your ears. Use your sequencers and samples. Most people do it that way. Some of us still know the old schoool stuff.

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Lydian = Space, Flight, Magic

I to iv = Romance (especially with a iv add6 in 2nd inversion, eventually to a bIIMaj7 in 3rd inversion)

IMaj7 = American, Olympic, heroic, etc.

Octatonic = Action, scary

I to v = Exploration, slight mystery

It's a little oversimplified, but it's pretty much some of the basic rules of film music that Williams has further cemented during his career.

Jason

i think its kinda sad that I to iv has become overly cliched to become romance. it was originally the transfiguration motif in the Ring. but then everyone loved it and began to overuse it. i wonder which composer was responsible for making that progression into the cliche it is now. prolly korngold.

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Lydian = Space, Flight, Magic

I to iv = Romance (especially with a iv add6 in 2nd inversion, eventually to a bIIMaj7 in 3rd inversion)

IMaj7 = American, Olympic, heroic, etc.

Octatonic = Action, scary

I to v = Exploration, slight mystery

It's a little oversimplified, but it's pretty much some of the basic rules of film music that Williams has further cemented during his career.

Jason

i think its kinda sad that I to iv has become overly cliched to become romance. it was originally the transfiguration motif in the Ring. but then everyone loved it and began to overuse it. i wonder which composer was responsible for making that progression into the cliche it is now. prolly korngold.

And there are many great uses of the borrowed iv before Wagner's time.

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The transfiguration motif in the Ring is i - vi - i - vi - i - vi - III5 (cm, abm, Eb w/o third)

Sorry it was unclear, I didn't mean "I don't know if Korngold invented the lydian scale" but "I don't know if he was the first to use it in film".

On a side note, I seem to have fallen for that cliché too... the second theme from the MaxFighter main title starts with a lydian motif, and it's supposed to conjur sweeping flight in space... :oops:

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The transfiguration motif in the Ring is i - vi - i - vi - i - vi - III5 (cm, abm, Eb w/o third)

Sorry it was unclear, I didn't mean "I don't know if Korngold invented the lydian scale" but "I don't know if he was the first to use it in film".

On a side note, I seem to have fallen for that cliché too... the second theme from the MaxFighter main title starts with a lydian motif, and it's supposed to conjur sweeping flight in space...   :oops:

i didnt mean that motif. there was a analytical study that i read that mentions wagner's association of the plagal cadence (the ii6/5) with the transfiguration idea. its not the motif ur thinking of. i think thats called the transformation motif.

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Pi, do you know that you are in essence promoting illiteracy?

It is a lot like saying, "well, as long as you can say a word, it doesn't matter if you can write it or not,- use your ears!".

A deep understanding of music will only allow your ears to work better. I remember when I was a kid, there were so many mysteries out there, musically speaking. When I was 12, I wasn't able to transcribe music with the harmonic density of, say, Berg or Hindemith. Today, many, many years later, I can do that and more because my ears have improved with my understanding of music.

I realise only too well that there are people out there calling themselves composers who can't write music, much less hear anything more sophisticated than your average MV score.

We can embrace that, and in effect say: "Finally, we don't have to be good musicians anymore, we can all just be lazy and write Eurotrash techno and ship that off to our orchestrators. Let them worry about it! Champagne and jacuzzi for everyone!", or we can do the decent, responsible thing, which is to protest!

Protest by learning and mastering our craft, to better our musical minds!

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Lydian = Space, Flight, Magic

I to iv = Romance (especially with a iv add6 in 2nd inversion, eventually to a bIIMaj7 in 3rd inversion)

IMaj7 = American, Olympic, heroic, etc.

Octatonic = Action, scary

I to v = Exploration, slight mystery

It's a little oversimplified, but it's pretty much some of the basic rules of film music that Williams has further cemented during his career.

Jason

i think its kinda sad that I to iv has become overly cliched to become romance. it was originally the transfiguration motif in the Ring. but then everyone loved it and began to overuse it. i wonder which composer was responsible for making that progression into the cliche it is now. prolly korngold.

And there are many great uses of the borrowed iv before Wagner's time.

ya but the quintessential cadential version is by wagner. imagine sheet music:

C D C D E

G Ab C

E F G

G F D C

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New music theory = copy temp track. Use your ears. Copy this style from a CD track, use your ears. Use your sequencers and samples.  Most people do it that way. Some of us still know the old schoool stuff.

And here all these years I've been using a pencil and manuscript paper, with an occasional piano thrown in to aid my addled ear.

Actually what I'd like is software that can break down the harmonies of a track from a CD, as I'd find that pretty educational. Know anything that does that?

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pi, not knowing the structures of the music that came before you doesn't make you more original. It just limits your means to get your music out of your head onto paper/disc/whatever.

For the record, I'm with Marcus on this matter. I can't understand your stubbornly arguing that it was good to not know how music works from the inside.

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Marcus get over yourself thats just the way the business is, you will not change it.

correction. thats the way the business is if you are a pop song artist and you want a one hit wonder. knowing more that enough people as well as being in the business, i can tell you that the stubborn way you are suggesting is the recipe for failure. ALL successful composers listen to stuff from the past to improve. and this is not for classical composers only. Film score composers ALSO listen to the past, study past scores. Even successful pop musicians constantly pick up influences fromt he past and other musicians around them. Sadly to say, even Hans Zimmer studies past scores (he loves Wagner for instnace).

back to the topic at hand, the jurassic park journey theme is kind of lydianish. it has the qualities ud normally associate with the two major triads a second apart. also, jw loves triads a third apart. viktors theme, imperial march, emperor's theme, etc.

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To clarify if you look I have stated it is good, but not necassary, to know music theory. Knowing all sorts of music helps for sure. I know a couple of classical music experts who can't read notes, but they know it and can play it by ear. If you think about that in terms of snyth writing and the end result is that any different really? Thats really what I am trying to say.

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I hardly think you can refer to people who can't read music as "classical music experts". Classical music lovers, perhaps? So much of what we do, as classical composers and musicians, has to do with a legacy that is based on written music. Technically, as composers, a lot of what we create comes out of the very process of writing: Bach didn't just improvise his more substantial fugues, Mozart didn't just "hear" the quintuple-fugato of the last movement of his "Jupiter" symphony... A lot of the layering happens in the love-making between pen and paper. Not that the ear is ever absent from the picture!

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Well now you're saying somethign different, pi... Of course it is not (always) necessary to study theory to write good music, but (like you said) it sure helps, and never is studying theory detrimental to writing good music! Anyone who studies theory just to emulate past styles and forms can just as easily emulate them by ear, just on a poorer level :) You don't need to study to be a hack *g*

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First off remember that I only speak regarding film music on this board unless otherwise noted.

I have said for some people knowing music theory helps them for some it does not, it limits their creativity by making them aware of "rules" which all the great composers have broken. I have also said that it is important to know all sorts of music to be a good film/tv composer. Example, clientel says he wants a "chet akins meets steely dan" sort of cue, bang you have to know that to continue the conversation. Do you have to have pages of notes at home with that stuff? No. Is listening enough to know it? Yes, if you have listened to it in plenty. Example 2, - a composer is doing a snyth score (which is standard for most low budget films, perhaps there is enough budget for a live player or two), the music is in the style of ethnic asain and traditional film score. The composer, not knowing hardcore theory, writes a great, imaginative score (incorporating what his ears call the Asain scale, and we nerds call pentatonic, and then modifying it). He plays in the Taiko's, shamisens, with his fingers on the midi controller. He is familiar with big scores, by working as at a music house doing commercials, and needs no theory to write in the Harry Gregson williams Style, only his ears and the amazing samples he has purchased from Sonic Implants. He has enough money in the budget to hire one player so he choses a wind player to come over to his studio, because he has had the hardest time getting those samples to sound real ( this is always the requirement for live players, if it sounds good keep it synth - note JNH and ZIMMER and even WILLIAMS uses this theory (williams his synth celeste). So the player arrives over with his bamboo flute, some pipes, shaku, piccolo etc... Composer sets up microphone explains that he wants some breathy, sparse, improvised flute calls. He plays the cue once for the player to get the idea. He then punches in measures 23-32 for the first flute area and the player nails it, he then goes all over the score adding parts. He gets to cue 14 and wants the plyer to double the strings for 12 measures on the C flute. He plays the cue two times, the player figures out the tune with the composer singing it...viola take 1 the flute is now doubling the strings. Etc. Etc.

NOTE: Now all you theory experts pull out Jurassic Park score and see that in Dennis Steals the Embryo Williams has NOTATED the shakuhachi parts. With standard avante garde notation. I bet the winds expert who has played the music his whole life could have MADE something UP as good! I think actually the guys name is Phil, is leading oboe player, and the greatest ethnic player in Hollywood. But thats just Williams. Its not any different when he gives CHORDS to Mike Lang (piano) and he improvises stuff over textures or does a solo.

That last part is a true story. And in fact I have seen theory experts use the same approach, because so often we are in a time crunch to get the shit recorded we bypass the writing down steps. And in most studios, who are not offered the luxirious time advantage Williams is, the composer may do one of two steps:

1 - Compose the score right on the sequencer

2 - Compose the score at the piano, record it and hand it off to be expanded on synth or mocked up, while the composer continues writing back at the piano

in case number 2 the recording is then handed off to a sequencing expert or a take down person who takes it down or enters it in the synth.

In either case the director comes over to HEAR the finished product! the AIFF file locked to his his movie and favoring the Dialogue, and Sound effects like in a real movie.

There is not any NEED for music theory up to this point!!!!! As far as I know of alive composers very FEW are required not to demo anything. And only three I can think of write only on pen and paper. Williams, Broughton and Clausen. It does not matter if the violins are playing a LOW F that is not the composers prob, he was JUST writing it to make it sound good and get the directors approval.

Now what happens?? The composers assistant drops the score to Jo anne kane or the like and they clean up the tracks midi file on to something a tiny bit more legible. Imagine a standard page in Finale with 120 staffs. Thats what it looks like. It the goes to the orchestrator.

Now from here!!! the orchestrator better damn well know his music theory notation or the whole thing is Fd.

Back to the copyist who makes the parts.

BOOM at the stage! ready to go.

The composer, who is super tired and stressed out at the session, he has not slept in days. He relies upon his staff to be sharp and make sure everything is golden. The orchestrator subtly corrected all the errors (taking the five note french horn chord and making it four for the stage, he made the high flute line a picc line at pitch, he made the 1st 3 trombones switch over to bass trombone to hit the clusters at measure 43 cue 13, he doubled the violas with a solo horn to help point out their line, he fixed all the range issues and voicing issues...... that is his job.

So BOOM the shit is recorded and it is down the director or producer calls, move on.

NOW carefully review this 99 percent realistic acclimation of how it actually goes (i have been at every step) and tell me, in the modern age where the composer HAS to know music theory.

Can it make you a better composer knowing it? Yes for certain cues i suppose. If one relies upon it to heavilly can it make a groove, sound designish cue souunds like shit? yes it can also. Is it needed for the requests of most film makers?? NO!!!

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Oh my God...

First of all: None of this would be possible without a certain amount of theoretical knowledge. "Theory" does not equal "rules", or even musical notation at its most basic level, but simply an awareness of the nuts and bolts of practical musicianship. Where did you study, since you seem to have such a warped, misguided idea of what theory is?

Sidenote: Williams often uses synth celeste because most celestas don't project very well in fast passages.

Of course, if you think that being as bad a composer as Zimmer or his drones is O.K., there really isn't much reason to push ourselves or our musicality and musical proficiency.

For those of us with higher standards and a deeper respect for the potential of music, the potential of musical composition and the potential for beauty and truth in film music and elsewhere, the process is a lot more involved, and must be!

The modern age, you say? There is no modernity in stupidity. We should fiercely protest against dumbing down our art forms! It is cruel to underestimate an audience! It is vulgar, arrogant and contemptuous!

And it as an atrocity against art to settle for anything less than our very best effort, no matter what the task at hand!

This is the secret of Williams' success, and the secret of all the greatest contributors in all fields.

Your example above shows us very realistically the process of mediocrity.

This will prove fatal to film music, and to all other art forms where such an attitude is present.

I would really hate to see film music become a rightfully neglected art!

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Marcus you have a very glamourized and unrealistic view of film music. You would most likely freak out the first time a director wanted a revision. Try writing 7 minutes a day (which was the requirements were on the last project i worked on) and keeping that glamourized view. Stick to concert music this is a business.

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Most of what you wrote is surely how it goes in the industry, but it doesn't have much to do with the topic at hand...

And those parts that are on topic, do further prove the point we're trying to make:

Of course the composer can tell the shakuhachi player "improvise something wild, breathy"... of course he can write some basic chord patterns and tell Mike Lang to improvise some jazz above that... of course he can make all kinds of errors regarding instruments' ranges, advantageous or disadvantageous passages or techniques (like clarinet trills over f#/g) and trust on the orchestrator to fix all this...

But I don't consider someone like this a fully capable composer, no matter how creative he is (that's not to say that "fully capable composers" in this sense always write excellent music, see James Horner). It comes down to "He can do a part of the job, but without all the help the music would never end up on tape in finished form.

Just a little comment to composers like Zimmer&Co., of course I don'T deny that they can have excellent creative ideas, and occasionally put the music together in a really satisfying way, even for "theory enthusiasts" :). But the fact remains that it is incredibly more time consuming to write complex music in which all the parts fit together, if you don'T have a theoretical basis. Through experience in theory you just know for many things if they work or not, what combinations sound awkward, how to get from this key to that one quickly, etc. Then you can always explore new ways to do this or that. But if you have to explore the most basic things in music each time instead of already knowing them, you either run out of time, or just put something simple together, a steady ostinato beat, some random orchestral hits on top, a simple stretched melody on top... It's just that with theoretical grounding, complicated things just go way faster.

Footnote: Of course there's the odd genius every once in a while who just has the instincts to put everything together in a perfect way and pick up the important things quickly along the way. But you can't take this as the regular case. Most "untrained" composers would greatly benefit from a thorough theoretical background. Without studying composition in a conservatory, John Williams wouldn't have written many of his masterworks like he has.

Marcus you have a very glamourized and unrealistic view of film music.  You would most likely freak out the first time a director wanted a revision.  Try writing 7 minutes a day (which was the requirements were on the last project i worked on) and keeping that glamourized view.  Stick to concert music this is a business.

I touched that topic in the above post: Thorough knowledge of theory helps get that job done faster, not hinder it.

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Chris, yes you make some decent points. But I would like to point out JNH, who now writes on his snyths and is fully capable of writing by hand - I have seen his accurate hand scores. He knows theory, he is an expert in it but he writes on his snyths strictly for time sake. He still writes some complex stuff but if its too complex the director will reject it. Remember if they want amazing classical music they can go to the source and use it. I think it is on topic becuase I am just talking about film music. I still study scores because after working on a film or whatever I still like to see the artistic side of music after the business side.

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Marcus you have a very glamourized and unrealistic view of film music.  You would most likely freak out the first time a director wanted a revision.  Try writing 7 minutes a day (which was the requirements were on the last project i worked on) and keeping that glamourized view.  Stick to concert music this is a business.

pi, u have to realize one thing. people that go into the business go in AFTER they've learned all this stuff that we're discussing. you cant just go in without knowing anything except a triad and something that sounds sorta scary and expect to be successful. writing 7 minutes a day is NOT difficult. remember, the extensive harmonic vocabulary we are discussing is stuff that you would draw upon. no one writes music thinking hm... now lemme do a Dominant seventh, but actually make it a german 6th so i can modulate down a semitone, before doing a third relation. etcetc. this comes NATURALLY after u learn it. just like when you learn to speak french, u'll start off by thinking of the grammar, if the nouns are masculine or feminine, wats the conjugation, etcetc. but once u can speak it fluently, u dont think a damn about it. Same with music pi. harmony IS a language. there is no other way to put it simply.

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Anyways, so i was wondering pi. You stated: "music theory helps some people yes. But many people in the business suceed very well with out it. Reading music is not neccassary any more with the invent of recording techniques and computer sequencers. "

So with all this discussion we've had so far, name at least 4 people in the industry that are successful who do not know music theory? I will think you cannot name any. Even trevor rabin and hans zimmer knows some theory. This has nothing to do with your JNH argument about the synth. Yes, using a synth is not a problem, but we weren't initially arguing that in the first place. we were arguing whether people can succeed int he business without music theory. and i will think you cannot find any. even the people that play on the keyboard, they will know some music theory or else they would not be able to superimpose various lines on top of each toher.

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Dude writing 7 minutes a day is near impossible, what are you talking about!?!?!? And if you use the speaking example is it neccasary to know how to write a language which you can speak and record it? You get your point across. Most jazz players of the 50s couldnt read or spell an italian 6th but they were scale and harmony experts based upon their EARS alone.

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Dude writing 7 minutes a day is near impossible, what are you talking about!?!?!?  And if you use the speaking example is it neccasary  to know how to write a language which you can speak and record it? You get your point across.  Most jazz players of the 50s couldnt read or spell an italian 6th but they were scale and harmony experts based upon their EARS alone.

actually wriitng 7 minutes a day is not impossible. i've done it, but i would not prefer to do so if i could. it gives less time for revisions and thematic continuity etcetc.

and so what if jazz players cant read or spell an italian 6th? We were NEVER talking about reading or writing music. we're talking about whether music theory is necessary for success and it is. music theory does not entail reading notes. for instance, jazz musicians DO have music theories. chord-scale theory, tritone substitutions, modes, voicings. its not classical theory, but is still necessary music theory to be successful. how do you want to improvise if you dont know what a C7b5 chord is? etcetc. i think my point is clear enough.

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We were NEVER talking about reading or writing music. we're talking about whether music theory is necessary for success.

Tony if we are not talking about writing music what are we talking about?? Success in what then??

You are not making clear arguments. You claim that I can know Marcus' James Horner theory with no study just because I play chopsticks on a piano? I thought the theory we were speaking of took semisters of knowldege to achieve.

For most people who do play piano chopsticks, they just do it by pattern recognition and can scarecly tell the differnece between a C and E on the piano. Hence they always start the notes in the wrong place and play it in mixolydian mode or somethign wierd. I admire your enthusiam but I do not understand your points of the last few posts.

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Wow. Chris, Marcus, and Tony, thanks for going up to bat on this subject. I can't even put into words a debate for this topic, but I completely agree.

I heard that Harry Gregson-Williams never went to music school, but I know he knows theory--it's just self-taught.

I just finished my first year of college, and even though I don't theoretically analyze every note I write, I can tell that the quality of my music has dramatically increased, only after one year of studying theory. It helps tremendously!

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Pi,

I think we should push ourselves-always! Regardless of schedule...

I've scored about half a dozen films in my career, and I've had to write close to 10 minutes of music per day on a couple of them. While this is certainly not ideal, I will say that the only reason I got through it, got it done, was because I could rely on craft and experience. Experience mostly from concert music, granted, but also from theater, which I've done a lot of work for (I'm part of the adjunct company of New York-based The Actor's Company Theater, or 'TACT').

And again, at the risk of repeating myself, and many others here, theoretical knowledge can only aid our scoring process, be it a symphony or a film score. This should be obvious.

P.S: Concert music can certainly also be an "industrious" affair: In August 2005, I was asked to take over an opera-commission from an older colleague, and had to write a chamber opera (two soloists, choir, 7 instruments) in less than a month (the piece was to be premiered in late September of that year), with a duration of about an hour and thirty minutes.

Working with directors and producers is part of the fun of multi-medial art, and I've been involved in projects were a film was drastically re-edited only a few days before the recording session, and of course this is grueling, to say the least. But the all-nighters are also part of the work-a-day life of a concert composer, trust me. And I have yet to meet a director or producer as demanding as certain opera singers!

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We were NEVER talking about reading or writing music. we're talking about whether music theory is necessary for success.

Tony if we are not talking about writing music what are we talking about?? Success in what then??

You are not making clear arguments. You claim that I can know Marcus' James Horner theory with no study just because I play chopsticks on a piano? I thought the theory we were speaking of took semisters of knowldege to achieve.

For most people who do play piano chopsticks, they just do it by pattern recognition and can scarecly tell the differnece between a C and E on the piano. Hence they always start the notes in the wrong place and play it in mixolydian mode or somethign wierd. I admire your enthusiam but I do not understand your points of the last few posts.

Let me reiterate. Your original argument which most of us are arguing against is that "One does not need to know ANY music theory to be successful in the music business." (if you do not believe me, read your original message) We are not talking about writing music, but whether music theory is necessary to be successful. And no we did not mention whether the theory was that which took seminars to achieve. You just stated music theory in general. Of course, most musicians spend at least a year learning music theory (rudiments at least) to be able to grasp what is a major scale, or what is a chord, etc.

Several other members and I have refuted your argument by claiming it is impossible to play anything without knowing any theory. For instance, pop musicians HAVE TO know what triads are, what a C/G chord is or A/F. Or Jazz musicians must know chord-scale theory, voicings, tritone substitutions etc in order to improvise on the standards. Or for Classical composers, you have to know basic tonal harmony; not knowing any would literally make you a joke.

Yes, you can play chopsticks without knowing any theory. But could you improvise on Heart and Soul without knowing the basics of a C-Am-F(or Dm/F)-G progression? The answer is NO. You cannot play randomn notes (again assuming you have NO musical theory) and expect to be successful. That is completely impossible.

anyways, back to the original topic at hand, I recently discovered the Flute concerto. its a great 12 tone piece. anyone heard it?

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Thank you, tony69, for your poignant and precise posts, and may this at last end this rather pointless debate on a note of great lucidity.

And yes, the Flute Concerto is a wonderful piece, and one of Williams' most beautiful exotic contributions, in soundscapes that are at times somewhat reminiscent of the style of Takemitsu, while retaining the typical eloquence that is unmistakably Williams'!

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Tony, contrary to Marcus' support that is a poor argument. You have claimed that anyone who plays any instrument at any level and even gone to the lowest ring of musicians, pop musicians, know theory? That is a observation with great fault, considering the subject. Thats not the theory we are discussing, i am discussing not what the notes are on a piano, but more like academic level music theory. Theory 1, counterpoint 1,2, etc... Your beloved French sixth chords, row theory, shenker anaylsis, roman numeral procedures, modulation methods etc... YOu do not need to know any of that shit to be a successful film composer these days. Yes of course you need to know how to make a sound on your instrument but any fool can do that.

The most important thing you need as a film composer is a good, likeable personality with the clients. You can fake everything else.....and it has been done.

And yes, i have a four year old cousin, who can improvise on Heart and soul cuz i tought her this trick. PLAY THE WHITE NOTES ONLY! duh.

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"you do not need to know any of that shit..."

Pi. Can I ask a personal question? Did you not do very well in your theory classes? Or have you never taken one? It seems to me that your stubborn belief that good music and theory have nothing to do with one another stems from a deep rooted desire to discredit music theory as a whole. Let me ask another question. If you were to be operated on by a doctor, would you rather he was someone who learnt all his skills from watching TV, or someone who had spent much his professional life reading medical treatises, journals, and learning from other master doctors in order to understand more fully how your body works, and what might actually make you better. I would trust any professional who takes the time to actually understand what they are doing over someone who didn't feel that understanding how music works might actually help them improve.

Pi, the audience doesn't need to know how the magic works, but if the magician himself doesn't understand his trick then trust me, he is no magician.

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