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The Definitive John Williams Plagiarism/Homage Thread

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I hate it when I suddenly find that a beloved JW theme or work was not entirely original. So, let's get them all out of the way quickly, like a band-aid! Also this kind of stuff can be fun. Please read some guidelines before posting:

1. NO self-plagiarisms. I don't think you can compile a definitive list of those, since with any composer there will always be very similar stylistic tendencies that jump with them from film to film, so the line can be really blurry between self-plagiarisms and style. If anybody wants to hear these as well, let's do that in a different thread.

2. If possible, please include a video and a time stamp for the work you're saying JW was influenced by. If you're talking about a more obscure JW work, a timestamp would be appreciated for that one as well.

3. Include homages. I say this because there's often a lot of disagreement between what constitutes plagiarism vs an homage. To be safe, let's just get them all down, even if it means including blatant homages (i.e. use of the Nutcracker in Home Alone). That said, we don't need to include homages that only make sense in context (i.e., JW uses a theremin in The Fury to homage Herrmann, but the rest of that cue isn't that Herrmannesque as far as I know). That also means that these accusations aren't neccessarily going to include value judgements against JW (for those who get offended by this kind of stuff).

I'll start with a few I remember right now!

0:00 of Shostakovich's 5th symphony movement 1--->"Gillian's Powers" from The Fury

0:00 of this video of Dvorak's Dumky Trio---->Flying Theme from E.T.

0:00 of Copland's A Lincoln Portrait---->war motif in SPR, War Horse and Lincoln

0:13 - 0:40 of Copland's Appalachian Spring-->The People's House from Lincoln

0:11 of Mancini's "Sweetheart Tree"--->With Malice Towards None

4:17 and 6:33 of Holst's Mars: Bringer of War-->The Death Star and Main Title (respectively) from SW

0:00 of "The Charge" from War Horse (the play)--->"Charge and Capture" from War Horse (the movie)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCFupJ8JqAw

0:00 of "Death of Falstaff" ---> "My Friend the Brachiosaurus"

0:18 of Bernstein's "Make Our Garden Grow"---> Luke and Leia's Theme

0:00 of Tchaikovsky's Trepak--->"Making hte Plane' from Home Alone



0:11 of Tchaikovsky's "Dance of Sugar Plum Fairy" --> Main Titles from Home Alone

14:12 of Strauss' Death and Transfiguration----> Love Theme from Superman

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFSLw2UWdB8

3:39 of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring--->"Death Star" from SW (and other places)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGFRwKQqbk4

0:00 of Delerue's Agnes of God Theme ---->Face of Pan

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iu9Y0yQF7hM

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If I couldn't live with it, I probably wouldn't be starting a thread asking for more...again not sure why some people act personally offended when we talk about things like this. It's a discussion board, and I'm here to discuss! Nothing wrong with understanding who inspired great composers.

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I hate it when I suddenly find that a beloved JW theme or work was not entirely original.

I hate it when phone rings while I'm taking a shower.

Why is the most diabolical leader of our time surrounding himself with total nincompoops?

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I hear a lot of SPACECAMP, THE MISSION (after the 5-minute mark), JURASSIC PARK, E. T. of course, and several fanfares JW wrote. I knew the piece, but listening to it after all those years reminded me how similar the approach to orchestration is.

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There's certainly a similarity in gesture and overall approach to the symphonic writing as used by Williams in several of his beloved film scores. However, Williams has never hidden his love for the American school of 20th century composers like Copland, Hanson, Barber, Harris, Thomson and Bernstein. I guess it's part of his musical DNA. Like he said recently in the interview for the US Marine Band, the music of 20th century American composers is somehow the result of a great synthesis of the European classical tradition and local vernacular (jazz, folk etc), something that could very well apply to Williams' music itself.

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Another one I recently stumbled upon: this gorgeous song by Camille Saint-Saens sounds very similar to JW's "When You're Alone" from Hook. At 1:28:



Also this one from War Horse, which I think can be considered more of an homage to Vaughn Williams than a theft (like how composers have been referencing folk music for centuries). At 0:12

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I was amused by a FSM post with this Hanson piece:

It's really the glossy 80's Williams in a nutshell.

Oh really, N**i, I though John Williams is responsible of all the evolution of the western music. He didn't invent

the romanticism, modernism, classicism or the rest of the shit?????? Damn!

You should have done this other way round, learned first all the classical composers and then this shouldn't be such a news.

Amused?

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Oh really, N**i, I though John Williams is responsible of all the evolution of the western music. He didn't invent

the romanticism, modernism, classicism or the rest of the shit?????? Damn!

You should have done this other way round, learned first all the classical composers and then this shouldn't be such a news.

Amused?

I could also punch you in the face for an indefinitive time. Seems also much funnier than listening to classical music for an indefinitive time

.

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I hate it when I suddenly find that a beloved JW theme or work was not entirely original. So, let's get them all out of the way quickly, like a band-aid! Also this kind of stuff can be fun. Please read some guidelines before posting:

1. NO self-plagiarisms. I don't think you can compile a definitive list of those, since with any composer there will always be very similar stylistic tendencies that jump with them from film to film, so the line can be really blurry between self-plagiarisms and style. If anybody wants to hear these as well, let's do that in a different thread.

2. If possible, please include a video and a time stamp for the work you're saying JW was influenced by. If you're talking about a more obscure JW work, a timestamp would be appreciated for that one as well.

3. Include homages. I say this because there's often a lot of disagreement between what constitutes plagiarism vs an homage. To be safe, let's just get them all down, even if it means including blatant homages (i.e. use of the Nutcracker in Home Alone). That said, we don't need to include homages that only make sense in context (i.e., JW uses a theremin in The Fury to homage Herrmann, but the rest of that cue isn't that Herrmannesque as far as I know). That also means that these accusations aren't neccessarily going to include value judgements against JW (for those who get offended by this kind of stuff).

I'll start with a few I remember right now!

0:00 of Shostakovich's 5th symphony movement 1--->"Gillian's Powers" from The Fury

0:00 of this video of Dvorak's Dumky Trio---->Flying Theme from E.T.

0:00 of Copland's A Lincoln Portrait---->war motif in SPR, War Horse and Lincoln

0:13 - 0:40 of Copland's Appalachian Spring-->The People's House from Lincoln

0:11 of Mancini's "Sweetheart Tree"--->With Malice Towards None

4:17 and 6:33 of Holst's Mars: Bringer of War-->The Death Star and Main Title (respectively) from SW

0:00 of "The Charge" from War Horse (the play)--->"Charge and Capture" from War Horse (the movie)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCFupJ8JqAw

0:00 of "Death of Falstaff" ---> "My Friend the Brachiosaurus"

0:18 of Bernstein's "Make Our Garden Grow"---> Luke and Leia's Theme

0:00 of Tchaikovsky's Trepak--->"Making hte Plane' from Home Alone

0:11 of Tchaikovsky's "Dance of Sugar Plum Fairy" --> Main Titles from Home Alone

14:12 of Strauss' Death and Transfiguration----> Love Theme from Superman

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JFSLw2UWdB8

3:39 of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring--->"Death Star" from SW (and other places)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aGFRwKQqbk4

0:00 of Delerue's Agnes of God Theme ---->Face of Pan

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iu9Y0yQF7hM

I listened to these with interest, but noted only a vague similarity between these pieces and John's.

Clearly words like "stealing" and "plagiarism" are inaccurate. Williams is of course influenced by his predecessors, same as any composer. Many musicians and composers in this forum are no doubt familiar with the experience of creating something "original," only to discover later that it was influenced by something now mostly forgotten by the conscious mind.

There are 12 tones in the chromatic scale. That's not an infinite spectrum of note combinations. To say "John Williams stole the E.T. theme" is sort of like saying two people with a 12-block set of letter-blocks "stole" each other's word because they put the letter-blocks together in the same way.

It happens.

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There are 12 tones in the chromatic scale. That's not an infinite spectrum of note combinations. To say "John Williams stole the E.T. theme" is sort of like saying two people with a 12-block set of letter-blocks "stole" each other's word because they put the letter-blocks together in the same way.

Some of these examples go way beyond 'totally random association'. If you listen to especially Prokoviev and Shostakovich or Copland (and Dorak) you notice that Williams used them as template. The opening to Shostis 5th is not just a bunch of dramatic chords, it's an idiomatic writing for strings and Williams honors this in THE FURY.

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There are 12 tones in the chromatic scale. That's not an infinite spectrum of note combinations. To say "John Williams stole the E.T. theme" is sort of like saying two people with a 12-block set of letter-blocks "stole" each other's word because they put the letter-blocks together in the same way.

Some of these examples go way beyond 'totally random association'. If you listen to especially Prokoviev and Shostakovich or Copland (and Dorak) you notice that Williams used them as template. The opening to Shostis 5th is not just a bunch of dramatic chords, it's an idiomatic writing for strings and Williams honors this in THE FURY.

There are 12 tones in the chromatic scale. That's not an infinite spectrum of note combinations. To say "John Williams stole the E.T. theme" is sort of like saying two people with a 12-block set of letter-blocks "stole" each other's word because they put the letter-blocks together in the same way.

Some of these examples go way beyond 'totally random association'. If you listen to especially Prokoviev and Shostakovich or Copland (and Dorak) you notice that Williams used them as template. The opening to Shostis 5th is not just a bunch of dramatic chords, it's an idiomatic writing for strings and Williams honors this in THE FURY.

Publicist, I'm not hearing the similarity. Can you please post a link to the John Williams piece you refer to?

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The opening of JW's sinfonietta is also similar to the same part from Shostakovich's 5th.


Clearly words like "stealing" and "plagiarism" are inaccurate. Williams is of course influenced by his predecessors, same as any composer. Many musicians and composers in this forum are no doubt familiar with the experience of creating something "original," only to discover later that it was influenced by something now mostly forgotten by the conscious mind.

I'm not trying to attach any sort of judgement to these discoveries. it's just interesting to me to hear what pieces have influenced JW. it used to bother me but not anymore, now it's just fun to try and pick them out

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The opening of JW's sinfonietta is also similar to the same part from Shostakovich's 5th.

Clearly words like "stealing" and "plagiarism" are inaccurate. Williams is of course influenced by his predecessors, same as any composer. Many musicians and composers in this forum are no doubt familiar with the experience of creating something "original," only to discover later that it was influenced by something now mostly forgotten by the conscious mind.

I'm not trying to attach any sort of judgement to these discoveries. it's just interesting to me to hear what pieces have influenced JW. it used to bother me but not anymore, now it's just fun to try and pick them out

FANS are often very touchy about the semantics but i think it's inevitable: young people, especially if they're not from overly musical households, often listen to music as STAR WARS and assume that Williams invented this music from the scratch, in a vaguely classical idiom. If you keep on discovering the world of music you come to a point where you realize that the amount of 'homaging' is probably much higher than you would have dared to guess. Then either comes the betrayed-lover routine or the lion-momma-protects-her-babies routine - as evidenced in these threads.

In the end, if you are an experienced composer you tackle this much differently, Williams probably never imagined to what extent people would put his music under close scrutiny but drew from the composer's and styles he personally loved without bothering too much about anyone connecting the dots. I think he would have been delighted at someone discovering Shostakovich by way of THE FURY (or whatever), and not at all mind that people found these connections. That you can phrase these findings in vastly different tones is another matter, of course.

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You know, the "borrowings" don't bother me nearly as much as they did when I was, say, 12-15 years younger. It just how creative process works, anyone who has ever tried to apply their talents to creating something knows this. What I don't buy about all the plagiarism criticism is that composers somehow do it "on purpose". I don't think that's how this process goes at all. Especially with film music, where the luxury of endless pondering on the subject is virtually non-existent. The influences are more or less obvious, no one is trying to challenge that. But that doesn't mean they "ripped-off" another piece of work out of laziness or lack of ideas. Human brains just don't work like that, especially the creative ones - they just don't want to repeat things.

Besides, music is about the only art form where this kind of discussion takes place. Not so much with painting, sculpture - where repetition and, yes, plagiarism are part of natural development. I know, said it before.

Karol

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In general i agree, it's just that especially the film composers with an especially 'worthy' classical sound - this includes Williams, Horner (the early one) and in Europe Philippe Sarde - often suffer the most from direct comparisons to classical composers because their style (or better: parts of) is much more linked to that era. If you take allrounders like Morricone or Goldsmith, sure they have the same amount of leanings and citations quantitatively but their style is always clearly evident, something you just can't say about Williams or Horner channeling Strauss and so on. Their music often is more rooted in the era of another time without deviating from it too much.

So my take is that i tended to be in more awe of Williams in my earlier years while dismissing less obviously 'classically' polished scores by said gentlemen and now this perception goes the other way around. I don't mean this in any way derogatory, it is just my subjective take on it that i now give more awards for distinctive personal styles rather than technical brilliance.

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