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HenryH

Who are John Williams' influences?

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Oh, and please don't misunderstand me. I am not trying to say that he is not as diverse as he is. I am aware of his versatility, sure. Vaughn Williams, Aaron Copland, etc... there is a lot there. I just think that his unique perspective may come from a Russian influence, which is also unique and inspired by itself. Perhaps I mean that it is his APPROACH that is predominantly Russian. I'm not exactly sure. Like I said, it could be entirely unfounded.... but that's what my gut tells me. The reality is that no one really knows, unless he states specifically who his influences are. I do know that he has said that he doesn't listen to much music at all, or that it is a very rare occurrence.

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That is a wonderfully correct listing :) (although personally I consider Stravinsky an occasional rather than a main influence; and Lutoslawski might substitute for Penderecki; and indeed Debussy should be on the list)

I will add Debussy and Lutoslawski to the list now that they've been mentioned twice.

They are both very Williams. Besides the obvious jazz idiom there is a touch of 20th century Russian piano concertos (think of Rachmaninoff and Shostakovitch).

Ah so you think Rachmaninoff too, that's what came to my mind. Though I'll have to check out the other composers. Thanks.

This piece by Arnold sounds like the setup for Luke's theme

I agree, there are snippets of the Force theme!

Also the second set of English Dances is very much like Williams as to counterpoint and orchestration.

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According to USA Today, Elgar and Stravinsky appear to be his greatest influences:

Music is a major part of his decor, though — the walls of his Southern California home are adorned with pictures of Elgar, Igor Stravinsky and Seiji Ozawa, and he maintains a collection of a couple dozen antique music stands.

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/life/movies/movieawards/oscars/story/2012-02-17/john-williams-oscars-soundtrack/53160208/1

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According to USA Today, Elgar and Stravinsky appear to be his greatest influences:

Music is a major part of his decor, though — the walls of his Southern California home are adorned with pictures of Elgar, Igor Stravinsky and Seiji Ozawa, and he maintains a collection of a couple dozen antique music stands.

http://usatoday30.us...rack/53160208/1

Hm...maybe music stands are his greatest inspiration.

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This is likely less an influence on his technique as it is a direct influence on several of his pieces, but . . . elements of the third movement of Howard Hanson's Symphony #2 ("Romantic")—yes, the one Ridley Scott used for the end credits of "Alien" (though that was the first movement)—can be heard in several of Johnny's scores. To hear it, you'd almost think he took "The Bicycle Chase" from E.T. straight from the beginning passage of the 3rd movement. A bit later the plucked-string action motif, bisected by strong horn flourishes—a la "Flight From Peru"—makes an appearance, followed immediately by the sort of heavy, rhythmic string ostinatos that often pop up in both Williams and Bruce Broughton action/antagonist sequences.

I wouldn't go anywhere near saying these are examples of plagiarism. However, it's hard to hear Hanson's piece and credibly believe that passages that sound so similar are the result of simple coincidence.

- Uni

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This is likely less an influence on his technique as it is a direct influence on several of his pieces, but . . . elements of the third movement of Howard Hanson's Symphony #2 ("Romantic")—yes, the one Ridley Scott used for the end credits of "Alien" (though that was the first movement)—can be heard in several of Johnny's scores. To hear it, you'd almost think he took "The Bicycle Chase" from E.T. straight from the beginning passage of the 3rd movement. A bit later the plucked-string action motif, bisected by strong horn flourishes—a la "Flight From Peru"—makes an appearance, followed immediately by the sort of heavy, rhythmic string ostinatos that often pop up in both Williams and Bruce Broughton action/antagonist sequences.

I wouldn't go anywhere near saying these are examples of plagiarism. However, it's hard to hear Hanson's piece and credibly believe that passages that sound so similar are the result of simple coincidence.

- Uni

Sure, that's why Hanson is on the list too.

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I have no idea if John Williams is officially influenced by this composer, but one listen to E.J. Moeran made me think of John Williams instantly. Listen particularly to Serenade in G (1948) and it sounds like John Williams from the opening bars. There are other hints of John Williams in many of Moeran's other works too, including Symphony in G Minor (1937). I would just recommend listening to anything by E.J. Moeran. His name has not really lasted through to our modern day, so he is not very well-known anymore, and his music is difficult to find because of that. He lived 1894-1950. Ever since I first heard him, he has been one of my favorite composers, along with John Williams (and specifically because he reminds me a lot of John Williams, though he precedes him). I am sure that any fan of John Williams' music will love E.J. Moeran as well. I actually registered an account on here just so I could tell you all about E.J. Moeran, since I didn't see his name on here. He's just THAT good in my opinion. I don't want his name/music to disappear from knowledge.

You can buy CDs of his music here: http://www.arkivmusic.com/

Also, you can download some of his music for free here: http://www.moeran.net/

People have also uploaded some of his music on YouTube:

(the beginning melody of this sounds just like John Williams, though it's from 1937).

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Well, I would say that the Moeran music you linked to falls more generally into a type of impressionism, and there are certainly elements of that in John Williams' music (no need to remind people of the Debussy-ian finales of E.T. and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, for example).

Nice music, in any case. Never heard of the composer before.

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Great music indeed, it was a wonderful period dominated by Strauss and Mahler but with many talented composers that have been more or less forgotten today (Draeseke, Taneyev, Von Reznicek, Von Zemlinsky, Wagenaar just to name a few). Never heard of Moeran before, but it sounds fresh and full of ideas. I would actually say it sounds more expressionist than impressionist to me. Indeed some of the orchestration reminds of JW, and some of the modes used (I hear lot of lydian); however I don't see a direct influence.

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I would actually say it sounds more expressionist than impressionist to me.

You mean it sounds more like the Second Viennese School than Debussy and Ravel?

Certainly not, thanks for correcting me, I think I meant neo-classical; I was thinking of composers like Vaughan Williams, Hindemith, Gershwin, and Prokofiev/Stravinsky, but of course RVW is an impressionist, and the others rather as jazz and neo-classical than expressionist. Although I find it too strict to define expressionism as mere 'atonality'; there is certainly overlapbetween styles, I mean Richard Strauss and Puccini could classify as expressionists, while Bartok and Walton would be something of both expressionism and impressionism, depending on you definition. However you are right that Moeran cannot be classified as an expressionist.

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On 1/18/2013 at 9:29 PM, Uni said:

This is likely less an influence on his technique as it is a direct influence on several of his pieces, but . . . elements of the third movement of Howard Hanson's Symphony #2 ("Romantic")—yes, the one Ridley Scott used for the end credits of "Alien" (though that was the first movement)—can be heard in several of Johnny's scores. To hear it, you'd almost think he took "The Bicycle Chase" from E.T. straight from the beginning passage of the 3rd movement. A bit later the plucked-string action motif, bisected by strong horn flourishes—a la "Flight From Peru"—makes an appearance, followed immediately by the sort of heavy, rhythmic string ostinatos that often pop up in both Williams and Bruce Broughton action/antagonist sequences.

- Uni

 

On 1/11/2013 at 7:32 AM, Cantus Venti said:

Does anyone know who influenced that wistful dreamlike piano style in E.T. end credits and touches of jazz in Over the Moon and Sabrina? John Williams began as a jazz pianist so I assume it's probably no one specifically.

Though I may just be obsessed with that melody as I'm also in love with the lush strings in Bait for E.T.

 

Check out this, it offers a good process for finding these influences--I'm working on it and will post more in the thread. E.T. has been interesting me lately too.

 

 

On 5/31/2013 at 10:26 AM, Orchestral_fiend said:

 

 

 

That's the beginning of the E.T. Flying Theme right there, spot on. 1 whole-step lower, oboes play the same run:

 

 

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3 hours ago, Borodin said:

Who is John Williams's favorite composer?

(Doesn't mean they have to be better than Williams. Even Beethoven had favorite composers.)

Haydn. I can't figure out why though.

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7 hours ago, Fabulin said:

Haydn. I can't figure out why though.

 

Thanks y'all. I guess Haydn wasn't always Williams's favorite composer, but he said "Haydn's my favorite now. Maybe I'm regressing." :D and by that he means Haydn + Mozart, but Haydn moreso.

 

Yeah cool, Mr. Williams. He also said in one interview "I don’t listen to a lot of music, because I’m working all the time on something and listening to music is not a particular help. It’s difficult to go to concerts and often one is listening to music that is better than one’s own and that isn’t particularly encouraging either. My work, particularly the film work, puts me into a particular setting, and it isn’t helpful to be jarred out of that. "

 

Then he goes on to say "Because I start listening into the music. I think that D could be a little more sharp, or it’s a little flat or whatever, and before you know it, I’ve lost the dinner table conversation entirely. Or I’m risking driving off the road." :D

 

Williams on his favorite composer

 

On 10/4/2013 at 8:13 AM, Bespin said:

It's difficult not to compare Haydn to Mozart, and his music is far less inventive than Mozart.

 

I think this is highly disputable and disputed, no?

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I think it's interesting that both JW and BH can claim Richard Wagner as influences but come up with very different results.  With Herrmann, Tristan und Isolde Liebestod is an obvious influence in Vertigo's Scene d'Amour since the topic of unattainable love was captured by unresolvable musical harmonies.  In Star Wars, JW used the Wagnerian leitmotif system that was used throughout his Ring cycle. 

 

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58 minutes ago, karelm said:

I think it's interesting that both JW and BH can claim Richard Wagner as influences but come up with very different results. 

Herrmann also used leitmotifs, especially in the Harryhausen flicks. In fact, one of them might remind you of something:

As for other influences on Williams, mind the trumpets here:

What differs Williams from Herrmann is the former's superb use of the french horns, which Herrmann didn't use much, and definitely not prominently on their own. I can't recall the source score by BH, but I remember that the introductory music at Hoth also sounded inspired by his works, and it was also a part given to horns.

 

As for differences in tastes, I found it slightly amusing how something that to Herrmann would be a rather casual background music for characters walking around to Williams is a clear symbol of evil and dread.

In fact, in Star Wars, especially in ANH and ESB (and also in Raiders, for example), quite a few unnerving or tense moments sound very Herrmannesque, unless Willliams goes for something much more dissonant or Shostakovich-like. But then, it is also possible, that sometimes Williams might have quoted Shostakovich's style indirectly, inspired by Herrmann's quotes. 

 

I would say that to Williams, especially earlier in his career, Herrmann's thriller music was something that came to his mind very quickly whenever the film material called for unnerving, tense or scary moods.

 

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Regarding composers influenced by Wagner, Williams is unique in this respect: he distills Wagner's sweeping, if ponderous, gestures and profound emotional impact into vibrant, economical constructions, dictated in part by the nature of film scoring, but also, I feel, an admiration for the almost rhythmic overall musical structures of the Russians, like Stravinsky.

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48 minutes ago, SteveMc said:

Regarding composers influenced by Wagner, Williams is unique in this respect: he distills Wagner's sweeping, if ponderous, gestures and profound emotional impact into vibrant, economical constructions, dictated in part by the nature of film scoring, but also, I feel, an admiration for the almost rhythmic overall musical structures of the Russians, like Stravinsky.

Really insightful comments! I follow you all the way!

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