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Musical sounds you hate

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I like the idea itself, the only time it becomes unpleasant to my ears is when Williams uses it as autopilot (two examples would be the passage from "Battle of the Heroes" and "Jungle Chase" you used). I love it when he uses the xylophone hits as a sort of response to the orchestra, such as the moment in "Chase Through Couruscant" (which also made it into your Quicktime) where the horns play a passage and the xylophones respond with a quick and chaotic blip. Right at 1:44.

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How about a piece that's playing perfectly then suddenly can be ruined by one of the players flubbing a note and wasn't noticed to make a correction to the cue before releasing it on CD?

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Modern movie trailer action music. In general.

I've gotten rather irritated with RCP's stereotypical useage of that blend of electronic and ethnic percussion that they use, but one of the crowning jewels is that sort of clicky thing that was put to obnoxiously gratuitous use in 3:02-5:33 of "The Battle" in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe."

The dry, emotionless Brass-sound samples Zimmer and his boys love so much...

also the fake choir from Angels and Demons.. it sounds so bad

Overused generic chorus, like in Superman Returns.

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I like the idea itself, the only time it becomes unpleasant to my ears is when Williams uses it as autopilot (two examples would be the passage from "Battle of the Heroes" and "Jungle Chase" you used). I love it when he uses the xylophone hits as a sort of response to the orchestra, such as the moment in "Chase Through Couruscant" (which also made it into your Quicktime) where the horns play a passage and the xylophones respond with a quick and chaotic blip. Right at 1:44.

Generally speaking, I agree. The device doesn't sound inherently annoying to me, but Williams has tended to overuse it in recent times, causing it to lose its effectiveness for me.

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How about a piece that's playing perfectly then suddenly can be ruined by one of the players flubbing a note and wasn't noticed to make a correction to the cue before releasing it on CD?

That's not really a musical sound, but I'll take it, and add this to it: Terrible recordings where you can hear the musicians coughing, breathing, and making other noises that are more audible than they should be. Example: Duplicity, it makes the music near-unlistenable.

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Minimalism is not something I tend to enjoy.

Aren't you a fan of AI and "Call of the Crystal," both of which employ minimalism?

They do have minimalistic traits (A.I. far more so), but they are not extreme to the point where they have practically two measures repeated for twenty minutes. Or I could just say that there was a reason I wrote "tend to", but I like the other answer

They are probably about 0.5% minimalistic. There's really no comparison.

Minimalism can't be so narrowly defined, nor should it be confused with musical repetition.

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Overused generic chorus, like in Superman Returns.

Awful, awful, awful!

Better that than synth female choirs.

I can't stand overuse of the synth percussion hits the MV gang tend to love, as well as too much shakuhachi blasts Horner style

Drum machine from the 80's

(as in Hoosiers)

I'm not a fan of it either, but there's nothing wrong with the Hoosiers score!

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The first 15 seconds of that song features an awful but thankfully rarely used synth sample which I detest no matter how good a song or piece of music might be inspite of it. The crap Doogie Howser theme had a similar version of it

Its a sound which screams cheese and tackiness and I hate it.

That's a Fender Rhodes imitation of the legendary Yamaha DX7, Quint. It was one of the first synths that used frequency modulation synthesis. Rarely used, you say? It was one of the most popular sounds of the '80s and was mainly used for ballads and ear-friendly jazz music. I hate it too ... but I love me a Fender Rhodes.

Alex

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Musical Sounds you hate

Hmm,i'm not sure there any musical sounds I "hate".

What I will say is that I always kind of liked the Doogie Howser theme (sorry Quint)

It always reminded me slightly of the classic

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You just "composed" Williams' xylophone concerto. :P

Electric cello, James Horner 90's synths, duduk.

Karol

What's so wrong with duduk? :P It added such fine atmosphere in Ronin and Gladiator ...

... and Russia House.

I don't mind electric cello or violin unless it's overused. Like synths, if used properly it adds flavour.

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Electric cello, James Horner 90's synths, duduk.

Karol

What's so wrong with duduk? :P It added such fine atmosphere in Ronin and Gladiator ...

It was interesting at the point when Goldsmith scored The Russia House (which is great, by the way). Now it's just an overkill.

Karol

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Electric cello, James Horner 90's synths, duduk.

Karol

What's so wrong with duduk? :P It added such fine atmosphere in Ronin and Gladiator ...

It was interesting at the point when Goldsmith scored The Russia House (which is great, by the way). Now it's just an overkill.

Karol

Yes, but then again violins, horns and flutes are used in every single score... Why cannot duduk apear once in a while? :P

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It was interesting at the point when Goldsmith scored The Russia House (which is great, by the way). Now it's just an overkill.

As with "ethnic wailing". John Williams uses it to great effect, I think, but it seems over-used, for the most part.

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It was interesting at the point when Goldsmith scored The Russia House (which is great, by the way). Now it's just an overkill.

As with "ethnic wailing". John Williams uses it to great effect, I think, but it seems over-used, for the most part.

Hollywood authenticity!

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I hate the twittering sound of a bouzouki. Just awful. One of the most horrendous instruments even conceived. Oh where did the evolution of stringed instruments go wrong with that one?

For those who are unsure what this monstrosity is take a look here: Bouzouki

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It was interesting at the point when Goldsmith scored The Russia House (which is great, by the way). Now it's just an overkill.

As with "ethnic wailing". John Williams uses it to great effect, I think, but it seems over-used, for the most part.

Hollywood authenticity!

Yes, exactly. I never got into the wailing cue from Munich, to be honest. While it's well written, I felt almost betrayed by Williams.

Karol

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Yes, but then again violins, horns and flutes are used in every single score... Why cannot duduk apear once in a while? :P

That's a good point. :P

Mostly because it's way too specific and appeared more than ONCE in scores in the recent years. You have to admit it was quite a lot.

Karol

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Overused generic chorus, like in Superman Returns.

Awful, awful, awful!

Agreed, but I do like the choral hit as Superman smashes through the airplane's wing. It has a godlike effect in that particular instance, which I like.

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Overused generic chorus, like in Superman Returns.

Awful, awful, awful!

Agreed, but I do like the choral hit as Superman smashes through the airplane's wing. It has a godlike effect in that particular instance, which I like.

Yes, but then again there is this sun re-charge scene. It looked nice in the trailer, but the actual scene, with this awfully cheesy music made it cheap in the film. Pity, it could be iconic. Strange there is such a thin line between right and wrong when you use choir like that. In something like Brainstorm it works beautifully.

Karol

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I don't know if I'm saying the correct instrument, but it's a clavichord? Well, the electric version, which appeared in many funky 1970s songs.

Oh, okay, here's an example you might be able to bring up in your mind... it's the keyboard instrument that's very prevalent during Stevie Wonder's "Superstitious." I absolutely cannot stand that sound.

I knew exactly what you were getting at before you even mentioned it's appearance in that CLASSIC Stevie Wonder track. Apart from its utterly brilliant use in that one record, I agree with you - I can't stand the sound of the instrument either :P

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I don't know if I'm saying the correct instrument, but it's a clavichord? Well, the electric version, which appeared in many funky 1970s songs.

Oh, okay, here's an example you might be able to bring up in your mind... it's the keyboard instrument that's very prevalent during Stevie Wonder's "Superstitious." I absolutely cannot stand that sound.

I knew exactly what you were getting at before you even mentioned it's appearance in that CLASSIC Stevie Wonder track. Apart from its utterly brilliant use in that one record, I agree with you - I can't stand the sound of the instrument either :P

That's the Hohner Clavinet. It's brilliant in funk music and on several early Vangelis albums (Odes, Heaven and Hell, et cetera). Vangelis is a master at playing ethic-sounding guitar solos on it.

Alex

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Axl Rose

Geddy Lee

OI!!!!!!! What the #@%$ is wrong with Geddy Lee??!! He has one of the most expressive voices in rock. O.K., true; his work up to, and including "Hemispheres" does make him sound a bit like he's on helium, but, over the years, as his voice has dropped, he has developed into a very "honest" (ie, without pretence) vocalist. He does not have the ability to "inhabit" a character, but then not many lead singers do (Peter Gabriel is an obvious exception. If you doubt me, check out his work on songs such as "Back In N.Y.C.", "Family Snapshot", and "Digging In The Dirt").

I digress.

I have no trouble with any natural, or synthisised sound per se. My problem is the paucity of musical context that some composers seem to adopt. Why does a duduk have to be heard over anything remotely "middle east"? Why does a solo violin have to be indicative of the plight of mid-20th Century Jews? I would prefer that composers do not rely on musical cliches to illustrate their point, which is why I really appreciate the fact that, when he dies, Darth Vader's Theme is played on...a harp. For me, it seems to negate all the evil that he did, and to say that, he finally found some kind of Heaven, or, at least, peace. This is the kind of three-dimensional musical thinking that I like. A superb example of this is "Link"; on the face of it, a totally bonkers score, for a bonkers film, but in scoring the film from Link's POV, J.G. truely gave him a musical voice. I'm not sure if other composers would have dared to do this. It shows that J.G. was a truely forward-thinking composer. It is a shame that this kind of risk taking is a dying art, with most modern composers electing to smother a scene with as much bombast, and unsubtlety as possible. To say that, when they die, we will never see the likes of Williams, Barry, and Morricone again, is an understatement. I just hope that there is enough musical brinksmanship left to extend the range of original voices in film scoring, before the writing of motion picture scores really does become mush.

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I don't know why some people have a problem with a chair being moved, something being hit or someone coughing (if barely audible) that is caught on an OST. To me that just shows that the orchestra is 100% real and not some synth job. Small stuff like that I have no problems with at all.

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I don't know why some people have a problem with a chair being moved, something being hit or someone coughing (if barely audible) that is caught on an OST. To me that just shows that the orchestra is 100% real and not some synth job. Small stuff like that I have no problems with at all.

Look up "facetious".

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I don't know why some people have a problem with a chair being moved, something being hit or someone coughing (if barely audible) that is caught on an OST. To me that just shows that the orchestra is 100% real and not some synth job. Small stuff like that I have no problems with at all.

I guess that means it's OK if some of the set is visible in the background of a scene in a film, or the boom mic is in the shot, or you hear the crew talking off camera.

It takes away from the experience.

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My problem is the paucity of musical context that some composers seem to adopt. Why does a duduk have to be heard over anything remotely "middle east"? Why does a solo violin have to be indicative of the plight of mid-20th Century Jews? I would prefer that composers do not rely on musical cliches to illustrate their point, which is why I really appreciate the fact that, when he dies, Darth Vader's Theme is played on...a harp. For me, it seems to negate all the evil that he did, and to say that, he finally found some kind of Heaven, or, at least, peace. This is the kind of three-dimensional musical thinking that I like.

Musical juxtaposition in a score is indeed a fairly rare thing nowadays, however one must only look as far as LOTR for many excellent examples of it. Howard Shore is a master of contrast during cues like Forth Eorlingas (TTT) and The Fields of the Pelennor (ROTK) osts.

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I don't know why some people have a problem with a chair being moved, something being hit or someone coughing (if barely audible) that is caught on an OST. To me that just shows that the orchestra is 100% real and not some synth job. Small stuff like that I have no problems with at all.

I guess that means it's OK if some of the set is visible in the background of a scene in a film, or the boom mic is in the shot, or you hear the crew talking off camera.

It takes away from the experience.

To some people the ambience noises of a live recording adds to the experience. Like Quint says, it reminds them of 'real'. You cannot compare it with a "boom mic in the shot" because that reminds us that it's not real.

Alex

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Some that I used to hate, but have warmed up to:

Major key harp gliss into a big statement of a theme.

Major key string run into a big statement of a theme. (Heidi!)

Tracks that only change key from C major to D major.

Bell tree for magic moments, especially "family" soundtracks. (Stepmom scene when ed harris puts the ring on the string)

Whenever Goldsmith uses a synth to play a sweet melody (Congo baby ape)

Some I still hate:

ELECTRIC PIANO

Wailing woman

Lots of cymbal crescendos for drama. Like in trailer music and reality TV. Also a lot of film scores.

Those 3/3/2 "Ethnic" Percussion patterns that do nothing but punch you in the gut and provide a dancey rhythm, used for action or transitions (Twilight)

tickatickatickaticka electronic percussion loops for action music

Bluegrass

Blues

Screaming Saxomophone

Screaming Electric Guitar (unless for comedy purposes)

Minimalism

Horror movie "sound design" that takes the place of functional scoring

Reverse piano dissonance to cut to a commercial break on smething like "24"

Anything that functions more as general mood music set to dance loops to sound "fresh" rather than functional underscore (IT IS NO LONGER FRESH).

When John Williams ruins his dissonant suspensions by overlaying synth. Much better just with strings or woodwinds that are underneath. (WOTW would be as good as CE3K without the synth mucking up the eerie quiet chords)

Fake choir "Aah" (The boxing match from Far and Away)

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Whenever Goldsmith uses a synth to play a sweet melody (Congo baby ape)

You don't like Mogwai?!

Those 3/3/2 "Ethnic" Percussion patterns that do nothing but punch you in the gut and provide a dancey rhythm, used for action or transitions

What, like those heard all over The Lost World?

Fake choir "Aah" (The boxing match from Far and Away)

Yeah, but I quite like it in Titanic though.

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Some that I used to hate, but have warmed up to:

Major key harp gliss into a big statement of a theme.

I know what you mean. But I guess cliches are only cliches because on some level, they work. These can be so...formulaic, but they just work so well!

ELECTRIC PIANO

Wailing woman

Lots of cymbal crescendos for drama. Like in trailer music and reality TV. Also a lot of film scores.

Yes.

Those 3/3/2 "Ethnic" Percussion patterns that do nothing but punch you in the gut and provide a dancey rhythm

This sounded cool the first few times, but it got old. There are a lot more things one can do with percussion!

Reverse piano dissonance to cut to a commercial break on smething like "24"

I haven't noticed that on 24...what I HAVE noticed, however, is a huge number of cues that are simply cut off as the commercial break arrives. They seem to have no real end a lot of the time. On another note, I'm curious - how do you feel about Giacchino's characteristic use of trombone and string glissandos at many of the cuts to commercials in Lost? If you're familiar with the show, that is.

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Whenever Goldsmith uses a synth to play a sweet melody (Congo baby ape)

You don't like Mogwai?!

Those 3/3/2 "Ethnic" Percussion patterns that do nothing but punch you in the gut and provide a dancey rhythm, used for action or transitions

What, like those heard all over The Lost World?

Fake choir "Aah" (The boxing match from Far and Away)

Yeah, but I quite like it in Titanic though.

I was going to mention that the Mogwai one is the exception.

In Lost World, that's not what I am talking about, but the cue when the raptors jump out of the grass is pushing it a little. I hate the unreleased cue when Hammond Jr. is giving the presentation in the tent the most. Congas, bongos and shakers goin nuts like in the other action cues are ok with me, but I felt they could use a little more variety at times.

The Titanic cue sounds a little cheap, but it's better than John Williams' use of fake "Aah". Still I would prefer it not exist.

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I have no trouble with any natural, or synthisised sound per se. My problem is the paucity of musical context that some composers seem to adopt. Why does a duduk have to be heard over anything remotely "middle east"? Why does a solo violin have to be indicative of the plight of mid-20th Century Jews? I would prefer that composers do not rely on musical cliches to illustrate their point, which is why I really appreciate the fact that, when he dies, Darth Vader's Theme is played on...a harp. For me, it seems to negate all the evil that he did, and to say that, he finally found some kind of Heaven, or, at least, peace. This is the kind of three-dimensional musical thinking that I like. A superb example of this is "Link"; on the face of it, a totally bonkers score, for a bonkers film, but in scoring the film from Link's POV, J.G. truely gave him a musical voice. I'm not sure if other composers would have dared to do this. It shows that J.G. was a truely forward-thinking composer. It is a shame that this kind of risk taking is a dying art, with most modern composers electing to smother a scene with as much bombast, and unsubtlety as possible. To say that, when they die, we will never see the likes of Williams, Barry, and Morricone again, is an understatement. I just hope that there is enough musical brinksmanship left to extend the range of original voices in film scoring, before the writing of motion picture scores really does become mush.

Musical instruments come associated to a context very easily, they receive a connotation based on different reasons. Historical and cultural associations are the most common ones. Most natural sound is that of folk instruments from a certain area when striving to give a piece of music the flavour of this area or culture. Hollywood music works with preconceptions, basic human ideas about music, the knowing of this vocabulary is part of being a film composer, the best composers knowing where to utilize such sounds and voices and where to eschew from them. And then there are trends. Someone uses an instrument, another composer, director or producer thinks it sounds marvellous and wants to use it in his/her score. It becomes a staple of film music vocabulary for a period of time.

As an example duduk is a Middle-Eastern instrument, so why wouldn't it be associated with films about Middle-East or scenes if the composer is striving for a certain authentic sound. Is this too obvious or too lazy approach? I think it is more about what the film makers are trying to say with the music, enhance the cultural aspect or choosing a more poetic expression for some subtext. Brought out of this cultural context duduk sounds to most ears foreign when attached to an orchestral palette as it just is so different in timbre and colour and sound. Some people do not like the sound and some can't disassociate the sound from Middle-Eastern context. Some love the strange sound and think it adds something marvellous even to a film that has nothing to do with Middle East. It is all about perceptions.

And some composers have utilized even duduk out of Middle Eastern context like Bear McCreary in Battle Star Galactica that uses a lot of different ethnic instruments from different cultures.

A violin is another example. For Schindler's List it became emblematic as Williams sought to evoke the period and cultural tradition of Europe and Jewry. Jewish music is informed by both European and Middle-Eastern and the instruments that evoke Jewish music and culture are well known from their music. This is part of what a film composer does. He/she evokes in us sometimes the cultural references and allusions that many of us have from our life experiences and our experiences of music but also tries to communicate the universal emotions that are part of the Western musical vocabulary or indeed universal human musical vocabulary. These two aspects are there to enhance our perception of the film in one way or the other. The score of Schindler's List is as much a piece in classical European tradition as it is evoking the Jewish musical culture.

Williams' music became very influential and indeed the violin sound seeped into other films involving Jewish culture and Jews but then again they usually want to enhance the cultural aspect of the story but also the poignant lyricism for which there are few natural instruments. When these two ideas Jewish culture and lyricism are put together, violin seems like a logical solution.

But violin has so wide usage in film scores it can't be said that it has become solely representative of a certain culture or genre.

Film music is, if we look back at the beginnings of the art form, full of clichés, inherited first from the Western musical tradition. This field of clichés has slowly grown wider and wider as different films with different needs over the little over 100 year history of film have added different musical styles and genres into the library of this field. All the new musical forms of the 20th century have become part of film music's vocabulary from blues to jazz to contemporary orchestral techniques to hip hop and techno. And orchestral music has stood the test of time in the midst of all these influences as a corner stone of the art. In part all film composers rely on this musical tradition. How we hear emotion and drama is largely through the Western musical culture, it is a built-in trait in those who have been born and raised in this culture.

Your example of Darth Vader's Death and the music accompanying it relies heavily on this musical tradition. You are impressed with the way Williams approached the scene. There are myriad ways to approach any given scene when you have the footage before you and the director has given some directions you could go with it. Williams chose a subtle one, a right choice in my opinion too, but no less clichéd when you look at the tradition. It does not always mean bombast and blaring and blantant obviousness. I do not think there is any risk in scoring the scene this way, no chance of alienating an audience. It is artistically a beautiful choice and to some would come as a surprise but I do not think it is particularly adventurous musically speaking.

A composer is taking more of a risk when doing something completely unexpected and going against the grain of the tradition and the expected. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't. It comes down to individual observations on the music and its connections to the film and how we perceive and receive them, want to understand them and how they affect us emotionally and intellectually. Composer should find his own way to illustrate the film, not only underline but add subtext in the way needed by the film. He should make it with his own voice. Film music business is and has become so tightly controlled and monitored by the studios who wish to create profit out it, that their play safe attitude offers composers very little room for free expression or exploring of ideas. Some directors allow such freedom, others look for the producers for approval. Starting a popular trend is a dangerous thing, as suddenly everybody wants to score a film in the popular and safe way to maximize the profit. Either composers adapt to this or they do not get hired. The change in film industry has affected also the film scoring industry.

And as I see it the unsubtlety and bombast are as much as a trait of the old as they are of the new film composer generation, but their usage and style differ. Williams, Goldsmith, Morricone or Barry produced a piece that is striking and may seem even too dramatic, something that makes a statement that seems even too overt for modern viewers and listeners, it is a proud piece of art that is an equal companion to the film it accompanies. It has something to say as a part of this art. Modern way is to pile sound above sound, blast of music to enhance something the director does not know how to get the impact out of any other way. Either scores do not say anything or become superficial booming blasts of noise and "cool" sounding chords to impress us for a nanosecond. The other extreme is the sound design music that for the effect of it becomes nothing but bland wallpaper that does a minimal job in the film and outside it can't achieve even that.

And still all is not lost. There are composers doing thoughtful and impactful work these days with directors who appreciate a score that not only enhances their film but tries to elevate it.

Well this is really digressing a bit but I hope I got some of my observations across.

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