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Who are John Williams' influences?

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Who influenced John Williams' composing voice? What composers did he "look up to?"

Also, on a more random note...do you guys think that John Williams is so good thanks to natural, borne talent, or was his classical/jazz training also pivotal in developing his aptitude for music composition?

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Who influenced John Williams' composing voice?

There are probably quite a few, and it depends on which style of JW you're talking about... but if I was only allowed to pick one it would be William Walton.

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Well you can hear the influence of the following; Mahler, Strauss, Wagner, Stravinsky, Korngold, Alex North, Herrmann and Prokofiev.

I can definitely hear how he may be influenced by Alex North; the other day, I was listening to Cinemagic, and Spartacus came on...at one point, I thought I was listening to a John Williams fanfare!

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Don't forget Bela Bartok.....listen to Johnny's "Return of the Jedi" (Approaching the Death Star) and Bartok's "Concerto for orchestra" opening movement.

I'm thinking The Fury, maybe?

- Marc, not well versed in Herrmann.

Then how come you don't know "Row, row, row your boat"? :cool:

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Herrmann

When does JW sound like Herrmann? I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm just curious. My JW and BH collection are far from complete, but I haven't heard anything too similiar so far.

One of the motifs on Indy's Very First Adventure, is quiet Herrmannesque.

Do you concur, Mr. Merkel?

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Herrmann

When does JW sound like Herrmann? I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm just curious. My JW and BH collection are far from complete, but I haven't heard anything too similiar so far.

One of the motifs on Indy's Very First Adventure, is quiet Herrmannesque.

Do you concur, Mr. Merkel?

it's like a positive version of an Herrmann cue :eek:

I also hear a lot of Bartok in tracks like the Well of Souls.

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Also, on a more random note...do you guys think that John Williams is so good thanks to natural, borne talent, or was his classical/jazz training also pivotal in developing his aptitude for music composition?

I'm going to attempt this one: yes, of course his training was pivotal. Nobody is borne an orchestrator.

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Herrmann

When does JW sound like Herrmann? I'm not saying you're wrong, I'm just curious. My JW and BH collection are far from complete, but I haven't heard anything too similiar so far.

One of the motifs on Indy's Very First Adventure, is quiet Herrmannesque.

Do you concur, Mr. Merkel?

it's like a positive version of an Herrmann cue :eek:

Ah, I see. Is it the one that starts at 3:48?

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Brian Tyler.

What's funny is that the new Indiana Jones teaser almost plays as an inside joke in reference to the October 14, 2007 FSM podcast:

"If you take a theme like 'The Raiders March,' you can't take that and put that in some other movie, because people know it -- it's so strongly identified with Indiana Jones. But the theme from Deep Blue Sea [and Children of Dune], no matter how many times you use it in how many movies, nobody quite remembers what it's from, because it's so malleable."

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Brian Tyler.

What's funny is that the new Indiana Jones teaser almost plays as an inside joke in reference to the October 14, 2007 FSM podcast:

"If you take a theme like 'The Raiders March,' you can't take that and put that in some other movie, because people know it -- it's so strongly identified with Indiana Jones. But the theme from Deep Blue Sea [and Children of Dune], no matter how many times you use it in how many movies, nobody quite remembers what it's from, because it's so malleable."

I remember that! That's quite ironic, actually. Who'd have thought that this malleable theme, so commonly used in movies and trailers would be incorporated into an Indiana Jones trailer.

Ted

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So : Alan Rawsthorne, William Walton, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst, Serge Prokofiev , Igor Stravinsky, Dmitri Shostakovitch, Bela bartok, Zoltan Kodaly, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel, Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss,Richard Wagner, Gyorgy Ligeti, John Adams, Samel Barber, William Schuman, Walter Piston, Howard Hanson, George Templeton Strong...

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From what I understand, Williams is far more of a classical fan than a film score fan. Maybe that's why he doesn't sound like anyone else in his field (except imitators).

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Well yes. I basically agree, but much of it probably comes from the fact that Williams is among the last composers from his generation. He does seem to have found a very distinct voice of his own (far more so than that in most of his very good and easily identifiable, but nevertheless "traditional"-sounding scores from the 70s and 80s).

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1) Sergei Prokofiev

2) Erich Wolfgang Korngold

3) Igor Stravinsky

4) Leonard Bernstein

5) Gustav Holst

To a lesser extend:

6) Dmitri Shostakovitch

7) William Walton

8) Gustav Mahler

9) Richard Wagner

10) Richard Strauss

11) Claude Debussy

12)Pjotr Ilyich Tschaikovsky

13)Aram Khatchatrian

14)Maurice Ravel

15)Darius Milhaud

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1) Sergei Prokofiev

2) Erich Wolfgang Korngold

3) Igor Stravinsky

4) Leonard Bernstein

5) Gustav Holst

To a lesser extend:

6) Dmitri Shostakovitch

7) William Walton

8) Gustav Mahler

9) Richard Wagner

10) Richard Strauss

11) Claude Debussy

12)Pjotr Ilyich Tschaikovsky

13)Aram Khatchatrian

14)Maurice Ravel

15)Darius Milhaud

Move William Walton up to the top and put Ravel in the top 5, and I think you have a good list.

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The list must include Hermann.

JW stated his admiration for Herrmann. Judging from his writing though I don't see many apparant influences (like is the case with Elgar except for Throne Room.)

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The list must include Hermann.

JW stated his admiration for Herrmann. Judging from his writing though I don't see many apparant influences (like is the case with Elgar except for Throne Room.)

I agree, and I think the OP has a 2-part question. 1. Who influenced his compositional voice, and 2. Who did he look up to.

He probably looked up to Hermann, but I see very little direct influence on his music and not nearly as much as some other composers.

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In his early days, Claude Thornhill and a whole host of prominent jazz and light music arrangers and composers, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, and just about everything that's in some way neoclassical and essentially tonal.

Later these influences were purified through a more "Anglophile" filter; Walton (prominently!), Vaughan Williams, Finzi and, perhaps most importantly, not stylistically, but structurally and aesthetically; Elgar.

Certainly the textural palette of the Polish avantgarde has been a considerable influence, and I'm guessing this must have happened actually quite early, i.e. basically when composers such as Lutoslawski and Pendercki rose to prominence. A similar surprisingly early influence is Takemitsu.

Strauss/Korngold/Mahler/Wagner-type romanticism is actually less of a substantial influence. It might have been crucial to the musical universe of Star Wars, but it has less to do with Williams' style ("Star Wars" is actually one of the least representative late 70s Williams scores!!! His own signature is more clearly articulated in scores that might seem superficially more odd, stylistically speaking, such as Missouri Breaks ans Images). First and foremost, though, Jane Eyre is the early incarnation of Williams' mature style. Not in trems of idiom, but in terms of deeper musical technique (phrase structure, tonal design, etc. Also, it has one of the earliest fully formed "Williams scherzo"s.)

Surely Henry Mancini, and Broadway and American light music in general has been influential to some aspects of his melodic writing, although usually cross-fertilized witha more neoclassical tendency.

I think some of the last composers to have influenced Williams to some extent, might have been Corigliano and Adams.

I think other film composers such as North, Steiner, Rosza, Korngold, Waxman and Herrmann could have been more superficial influences. Herrmann, I think, might have been more influential to Williams many years after he passed away. While Hermann was alive (and Williams and Herrmann were friends), I can imagine that Williams sort of took Herrmann for granted, in a way.

And above all, Haydn.

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In his early days, Claude Thornhill and a whole host of prominent jazz and light music arrangers and composers

You're right here, of course, I forgot to mention those.

Strauss/Korngold/Mahler/Wagner-type romanticism is actually less of a substantial influence.

I think other film composers such as North, Steiner, Rosza, Korngold, Waxman and Herrmann could have been more superficial influences.

And above all, Haydn.

JW stated his admiration for Haydn indeed, and the influence goes as far as to form, but stylistically the two composers cannot be more different of course.

As to Korngold, I must disagree. If there is any composer who stylistically resembles Williams, it is Korngold. This is paradoxically not very apparant in Korngold's film scores, however very much in his formal music. Who knows the violin concerto, knows what I mean: the colors and richness of orchestration and melody are almost as if Williams wrote them. And who ever has heard the Overture to Korngold's Baby Serenade, realizes this piece of music is actually the first Williams scherzo ;)

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I've been very much an admirer of Korngold's concert music, and know all of it very well, but I really feel that Williams and Korngold are quite different. Korngold's orchestrational style has much of the same "brightness", but they're executed very differently. Korngold is a lot like Strauss, just much lighter, whereas Williams' orchestrational technique is actually not so very "romantic", although its effect can be.

Harmonically, the two are also actually quite different, although Korngold also likes to embellish his main structures with auxiliary triads, and they both share an enthusiasm for parallell leading tones/appogiaturas, especially anything revolving around #4,b6 and b2.

But Williams' harmonic style is generally much less triadically conceived.

But I can understand that the last movement, or the main theme of the first movement, of Korngold's violin concerto, seem williamsesque. But is you look at Korngold's melodic structures, they are generally much looser, much more "amorpheus", whereas Williams tends to be very tight, very controlled and classical.

But this is very silly, nit-pickety petit-maitre'esqe of me! There is of course a great connection between the two, but this is mostly felt in certain parts of Williams' film output, and in his concert music not so much.

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Also, it has one of the earliest fully formed "Williams scherzo"s.

I believe it is the scherzo writing actually, more than any other kind of writing, that was greatly influenced by William Walton. Listen to his Partita and 2nd Symphony.

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You could probably break down every cue by every composer and search for influences. Sometimes the quote is more direct than others, though Williams isn't nearly as guilty of this as some other composers. The lush, romantic sound that I think of when I think of his music (Superman Love Theme, Harrys Wonderous World, etc.) is his own creation. I can't think of a piece of classical or film piece that used this sound before he had, the warm extended jazz chords used for a love theme.

Of course I'm sure someone with encyclopedic knowledge of scores can prove me wrong here.

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I believe it is the scherzo writing actually, more than any other kind of writing, that was greatly influenced by William Walton. Listen to his Partita and 2nd Symphony.

Also, "Johannesburg Festival Overture" is one of Walton's most Williams-esque pieces.

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1) William Walton

2) Sergei Prokofiev

3) Erich Wolfgang Korngold

4) Igor Stravinsky

5) Leonard Bernstein

6) Gustav Holst

To a lesser extend:

7) Dmitri Shostakovitch

8) Gustav Mahler

9) Richard Wagner

10)Richard Strauss

11)Claude Debussy

12)Pjotr Ilyich Tschaikovsky

13)Aram Khatchatrian

14)Maurice Ravel

15)Darius Milhaud

Move William Walton up to the top and put Ravel in the top 5, and I think you have a good list.

Walton moved to the top. If you can make a nice Ravel-influence video I'd consider the latter too :lol:

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It might be just me but I think I've heard about Bernard Hermann being the go-to person for Williams more times than just about anyone,both in print and in his music.

I'll list some movies that Williams did the music for,in order from easiest to hardest in terms of scoping out Mr. Hermanns influence on Williams.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

WAY easy because Williams just totally lifted this From North by Northwest.Note for note.

Star Wars :Episode 4

Somewhat easy but again,in my mind,Williams found inspiration from NBNW.Hint-It happens in the end credits for Star Wars.

The Fury

Getting harder,but if you've read about this movie,you already know what I'm talking about.

Jaws

Hardest.If Bruce the shark wasn't in the water,he should have been taking a shower,if you know what I mean.

Good Luck.

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It might be just me but I think I've heard about Bernard Hermann being the go-to person for Williams more times than just about anyone,both in print and in his music.

I'll list some movies that Williams did the music for,in order from easiest to hardest in terms of scoping out Mr. Hermanns influence on Williams.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

WAY easy because Williams just totally lifted this From North by Northwest.Note for note.

Star Wars :Episode 4

Somewhat easy but again,in my mind,Williams found inspiration from NBNW.Hint-It happens in the end credits for Star Wars.

The Fury

Getting harder,but if you've read about this movie,you already know what I'm talking about.

Jaws

Hardest.If Bruce the shark wasn't in the water,he should have been taking a shower,if you know what I mean.

Good Luck.

You got the order wrong. The last two are the most obvious Herrmann-vibed Williams scores. The first two, on the other hand, are groundless.

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