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Lewya

Here is what other composers are saying about Williams

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I thought it would be interesting to collect what other composers think about Williams and/or his scores in this thread, I am particularly interested in concert composers.

 

I will share one I just found, Aaron Jay Kernis, a Pulitzer prize winning composer said this about Williams last year in an interview (about The Force Awakens):

 

As it happens, Kernis had just taken his son to see "Star Wars," whose music was written by Williams. Unprompted, Kernis volunteered that the score was "fantastic." That's where the conversation started, before turning to today's landscape and Kernis' own artistic concerns.

 

Question: What was so good about Williams' score?

Answer: I felt like he was back to his old powers. I tend to assume that he has an army of assistants, and there are some scores where I felt I heard that more, where he had written really good opening music — "Catch Me if You Can" I felt had fantastic opening music — but the rest was more nondescript. This one had an operatic through line. Quality was maintained.

 

David Lang, another Pulitzer price winner:

 

Lang admits to a certain excitement about the release of the new Star Wars movie The Force Awakens. “What makes that movie so great is John Williams. The core of that experience, the reason why it’s a multibillion dollar empire, the reason why it has captured the imagination of billions of people for the last forty years or however, is because of John Williams. That music makes that movie and makes that franchise revolutionary.

 

“And Jaws is a very exciting score,” he continues, “that score is also operatic, because of its use of motifs. It has little things that tell you this is when to be scared and every time you hear this you are going to be scared. It really does treat the movie as if it is a giant epic which I think is a very powerful way to do it.”

 

Osvaldo Golijov (interview from 2008):

 

Williams's most striking recent achievement is in Golijov's estimation is Munich (2005), where Williams "approaches the score as a young person", using ouds and Middle Eastern street music in ways "new and subtle".

 

Golijov regards Williams as a master who combines high inspiration with great craftsmanship ; he says that placing Williams next to his colleagues in film music is like comparing Mozart to his now-forgotten contemporaries.

 

Please help and post others.

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I just remembered this one from way back -

 

Osvaldo Golijov (interview from 2008):

 

Williams's most striking recent achievement is in Golijov's estimation is Munich (2005), where Williams "approaches the score as a young person", using ouds and Middle Eastern street music in ways "new and subtle".

 

Golijov regards Williams as a master who combines high inspiration with great craftsmanship; he says that placing Williams next to his colleagues in film music is like comparing Mozart to his now-forgotten contemporaries.

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QUOTES:

 

1. "In the music department at Universal Television in 1963 I was in one office, John Williams was in another, Quincy Jones, Dave Grusin, and Lalo Schifrin were all there. We'd try to out do each other. It was a very creative time that doesn't exist now."

 

Jerry Goldsmith (May 8, 2002)

 

link: http://www.emmytvlegends.org/interviews/people/jerry-goldsmith

 

2. “Maybe I should have done the John Williams thing and stuck to changing my name from ‘Jerry’ to ‘Jerrald.’  He changed his name from ‘Johnny’ to ‘John’.”

 

Jery Goldsmith (http://www.jerrygoldsmithonline.com/spotlight_biography_preview.htm)

 

3. RED CARPET: Who are your contemporaries?

 

ELMER BERNSTEIN: I don’t have any! They’re all younger. John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith. But they’re my gang. John Barry is also younger than I am.

 

link: http://elmerbernstein.com/interviews/knowing-the-score-the-wise-man-of-movie-music-composition-elmer-bernstein-celebrates-50-years-in-hollywood/

 

4. FSM: It is probably fair to say that your first score to make a broad impact was the soundtrack for Big Wednesday. What do you remember about the process of creating this piece? Did you listen to music while writing it?

Basil Poledouris: I remember everything (laughs). It is kind of a fluky thing. You go back over the piece for re-release and you think, 'Oh yeah, I remember what I was thinking that day.' It is kind of terrifying. Big Wednesday was the first one where I had an orchestra. In those days, we didn't have access to synthesizers, or at least quality synthesizers so there wasn't really such a thing as a 'mock up' -- it all had to be done on the piano. If you had to show a director or producer your idea you couldn't go out and hire an orchestra if you were just starting out, you had to play it on the piano and hope they had an imagination. Now I had studied to be a pianist, so it would be kind of scary if you hadn't. Of course, the result of this is that most of the composers were pianists. John Williams was for instance, a great pianist, and Henry Mancini was accomplished as well. So a lot of the guys of my generation had to rely on that (July 14, 2004). 

 

link: http://conancompletist.forumactif.com/t1089-basil-poledouris-interviews

 

5. James Horner Film Music (JHFM) : If one has the melodic gift you have or like John Williams and Ennio Morricone, they were able to write great music, melodic music, music that touches people, and people can remember their melodies. But it's difficult for some composers to find something that is really memorable and touches you. It's rarer today.

 

JAMES HORNER: Well John is such an icon, he comes from the golden age of film scoring but nobody is asking for John's style of writing. I meanGeorge Lucas does and Steven Spielberg does. That's a very unique world and most filmmakers find that to be something that works against the film, yet it's such beautiful writing. At its heart, one has to be able to write like that, and also still somehow translate to the tastes of what filmmakers now are asking for. John really just works for Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, and he does concert music, but he's really such a brilliant composer.
 

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A brief quote from Wayne Shorter on John Williams: 

 

"I like the depth and breadth of sound that he can get to reflect the vastness of something -- of space."

 

He's a big Williams buff: earlier in the interview he mentions his score for The Killers, and in concerts he's thrown in snippets such as the Star Wars theme and the Jurassic Park Island fanfare. I'll post a link if I can find it.

 

Edit: Here's the Jurassic Park reference.  Listen from about 5:20 on.

 

 

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On 1/25/2018 at 9:52 PM, TGP said:

It's refreshing to see Kernis positive about the score, and Williams in general, but it is too bad that he has some of the same misconceptions that float around everywhere about how film composing works.

 

Yeah, especially this is some strange reasoning:

 

I tend to assume that he has an army of assistants, and there are some scores where I felt I heard that more, where he had written really good opening music — "Catch Me if You Can" I felt had fantastic opening music — but the rest was more nondescript.

 

So if the music is more nondescript it's written by JW's "army of assistants"? Kernis clearly doesn't understand the concept of underscore.

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35 minutes ago, Jurassic Shark said:

 

Yeah, especially this is some strange reasoning:

 

I tend to assume that he has an army of assistants, and there are some scores where I felt I heard that more, where he had written really good opening music — "Catch Me if You Can" I felt had fantastic opening music — but the rest was more nondescript.

 

So if the music is more nondescript it's written by JW's "army of assistants"? Kernis clearly doesn't understand the concept of underscore.

 

Does Williams have assistants in this regard? I suppose Bill Ross is an assistant of sorts.

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9 minutes ago, Nick Parker said:

Now, correct me if I'm wrong...but doesn't Williams have orchestrators, that are more like copyists? I thought I've read somewhere that Williams writes very detailed and precise sketches...is that right?

yes and no.

 

He writes detailed sketches but not to the last detail.

eg. maybe he has some chords that notes "wws" (woodwinds).

Now, it's the orchestrator that will decide how these chords will be spread among the wwws.

Would it be 2 clarinets, 2 oboes, 2 flutes? will it be 2 clarinets and 2 oboes? will it be one of each ww? Which wws will double which ones? etc.

 

Of course from what I had seen in a video, they cooperate with Williams in some instances. (eg. asking questions)

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9 minutes ago, Lewya said:

“I consider him a hero because of the colorful way he uses the orchestra but also because he has been such a generous musical citizen.”

 

Nice quote.  One of the things I admire most about Williams is how involved/active he stays in the larger orchestral/classical community, very uncommon among Hollywood film composers these days.

 

We're definitely seeing a little more recently with Elfman and Powell's ventures into that world, but it's still strikingly uncommon.

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1 hour ago, Lewya said:

In our field, in the field of new music we are often criticized for being too cinematic or writing music that is too close to film music, but I have never really understood the aversion to these comparisions. I find it kind of flattering actually, because there is so much film music that I love so much but also because as a composer I want to tell the story with great impact for it to really hit home emotionally for the audience.

 

There is still hope left in this world.

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Here's what other composers are saying about John Williams!
"I started my John Williams intake, and have already lost ten pounds!"

"Tastes great, even in milk!"
Buy John Williams now for 8.99$! Available at your local supermarkets. 

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He said something once about how Williams is his "antichrist" and that he "can't bear his music" and that it's "ruined many a good film"

 

 

I feel like he was sort of being cheeky but obviously JW's sentimentality is too much for him. Which is always fair enough but when he puts it in such personally offended terms you can't help but go "Poor thing"

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That thread is a JWFan classic full of great banter and a few amusing idiotic comments.  Presumably Eno feels Williams' whole emotionally overt style, in tandem with a film, is at odds with his own aesthetic goals, that's all.  He's also known to be a fan of listening to film music in isolation though.

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I didn't feel he was pompous, however dismissive, nor did he say anything about pomposity with regards to Spielberg/Williams, but I've not listened to the actual comment since then so I don't remember for sure.

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That was annoying, Eno's comments on Williams that is. I am probably as big Eno fan as I am a Williams fan - I am a pretty big fan of both. On most days though I actually prefer Eno over Williams. It would be interesting to hear him eloborate on why he thinks so, it is most likely because of what TGP said. I would actually agree with some of the criticisms, but I would obviously not be anywhere near as dismissive as he is. He sounds overly dismissive.

 

My biggest critisism of Williams is probably that I would like to hear less of the big romantic writing and hear more diverse, alternative scores. Like Alex Ross wrote in The New Yorker - I miss some of his 70s diversity and the occasional daring every now and then. That said, Alex Ross probably overlooked some of Williams later diversity. I am not only thinking of A.I., but also of Catch Me If You Can just to mention two titles - and there are some more that qualify. I wouldn't say Williams is as diverse and/or daring as he was in the 70s, but he hasn't fallen THAT FAR behind, at least not if we count the 00s - possibly even his finest decade in terms of diversity etc since the 70s. A valid critisism though is that he isn't keeping up the diversity consistently - it only happens every now and then - too seldom imo.

 

It is not that I would like to see him abandon his most known "big" style entirely, but I would like to hear more alternative things far more often, especially since we know he can do other things so well, so I am not the biggest fan of the brand "sound" that he built since he is so rarely writing the kind of more alternative scores that I enjoy a lot (as much as I like his big usual mode - it gets too samey because he does it too often).

 

As I have said elsewhere - on most days I would probably prefer to listen to Newman more than any other film composer even if he isn't necessarily my favourite film composer - one of yes, but I don't really have a number one. I love a dozen or so of film composers for different reasons, but I don't have a number one.

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Well, had a look at the Eno thread. That was..interesting.

 

Most surprising to me is the number of people here who not only barely knew who Eno was, but were either ignorant of, or questioned his influence. The guy practically invented the genre of ambient music, and is by far one of the most brilliant, influential artists ever. Think how big JW is in film music, now think that across multiple genres and you've got the idea.  Just because you may never had heard his name doesn't mean much. Lots of people have no idea who JW is either, but they've either been exposed to his music or music that's been influenced by him. Everyone here knows that, which make some of the comments about Eno a little surprising. Williams fans should know better.

 

That said, Eno can be a bit of a crank, and his comments on Williams were hyperbolic (probably intentionally).

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Eno is brilliant, and I respect his right to say whatever he wishes -- even if I disagree with his view in this case. It's an odd things with certain kinds of fans; they can't seem to tolerate views opposed to their own, and so feel the urge to diminish whoever said them (even if their knowledge of said person is limited). I mean, I disagree wholeheartedly with Terry Gilliam's views on Steven Spielberg, but I still think he's a bloody brilliant director when he's "on".

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46 minutes ago, Richard said:

Lee's right, Thor. If I ever criticise a fellow professional, I do it honestly, and fairly, always offering right-of-reply.

What Eno is saying is immature and vitriolic.

As a musician, I admire Eno. His work with Roxy Music, U2, Robert Fripp, and others, is beyond question, and his contribution to "ambient" music can be ignored, but his JW comments are unjustified, and unnecessarily callous.

If only he added "why", to the "what"...

 

Thor kind of likes that though. He also defended the times Horner went off on his contemporaries.  That's not a criticism of Thor, he just seems to appreciate that kind of blunt honesty.

 

I think most people can agree that Eno is an influential musical genius, but also could have worded his criticism of Williams better.

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Yes, I do appreciate that kind of blunt honesty -- even if I disagree vehemently with the view in question. How is Eno's statements any different from that of Gilliam on Spielberg?

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