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Nick Parker

When Williams Nails It With A Melody

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12 minutes ago, Dieter Stark said:

Hedwig's Theme is a case where he nailed it but he ends up repeating it way too much in the first act, similar to a pop song where a perfectly good hook is repeated over and over again.

 

But you don't think he should have tried a fundamentally different way of scoring it, correct?

1 minute ago, mrbellamy said:

“Parade of the Ewoks” is a pretty idiosyncratic reaction to the Ewoks when you think about it.

 

 

For sure. I've commented on it specifically before, but without repeating that exactly I'll say that Williams has always had a tendency to retreat into a Prokofiev style as almost a personal shield or dignifier for characters or moments that he finds absurd or ridiculous, or cartoony if you will.

 

3 minutes ago, mrbellamy said:

always think of Home Alone, the main title and “Star of Bethlehem” in particular. The score has this haunted quality that brings out hidden dimensions in the movie. Makes sense with Kevin’s situation as lonely and threatening as it is, and there is some token religious imagery, but the movie doesn’t exactly scream out for the sort of menacing and spiritual treatment Williams gives it along with the expected sentiment and slapstick.

 

I never listened to the Home Alone score, well, alone, but reading whachu say I totally understand where you're coming from! So you think a number of composers would have eschewed that tone and stuck more strictly to a sense of lighthearted mischief and fuzzies? 

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31 minutes ago, Dieter Stark said:

Hedwig's Theme is a case where he nailed it but he ends up repeating it way too much in the first act, similar to a pop song where a perfectly good hook is repeated over and over again.

 

I strongly suspect that this was not wholly Williams' idea. All of that repetition is based directly on material he wrote for the trailers. I wouldn't be surprised if they even put it into an actual temp track and asked him to incorporate that material. It's just not like him to repeat himself to that degree.

 

On the topic of the Potter films, I think the B section of Hedwig's theme is an interesting (and delightful) choice for the first film. I'm particularly thinking of the big statements with the horns, e.g. for the approach to Hogwarts. They tend a quasi-gothic, even slightly Elfman-like vibe that you don't hear too often in Williams' work. The film is pretty saccharine, so going a little darker with the music was a nice choice.

 

Beyond Williams, I'm also thinking about BTTF. I don't think I would have arrived at such a broadly adventurous tone for the main theme if I had been the composer, and the film would have suffered for it (aside from the fact that Silvestri is a far better composer than I am).

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2 hours ago, Nick Parker said:

For sure. I've commented on it specifically before, but without repeating that exactly I'll say that Williams has always had a tendency to retreat into a Prokofiev style as almost a personal shield or dignifier for characters or moments that he finds absurd or ridiculous, or cartoony if you will.

Well it's always welcome for me to hear Williams go Prokofievan, in a stylistic sense.

 

Superman's March of the Villains, ridiculed by many and adored by probably just as many, is a fascinating example. The bumbling tuba as a centerpiece in underscoring the absent-minded Otis solidifies his dimwittedness by treating him with a more comical theme. It's interesting to see when composers hone in on Prokofiev's very famous instrumentation in his children's suite Peter and the Wolf, because certain connotations remain today. For example, timpani often plays under an artillery bombardment of some sort (recently, I think of certain moments in The Last Jedi that really embrace this), carrying through the legacy of Prokofiev's Hunters, who also sport a funny little Russian motif as they march, but take on the powerful percussion as they blast the wolf to smithereens. 

 

But what makes Otis' theme comical? Or Parade of the Ewoks in that case? Is it instrument connotation (ex. the tuba can often be used for more comical characters- it's become the norm)? Note that Williams also uses the tuba for Jar-Jar's theme, and I think that one could compare both him and Otis in terms of their respective roles. Is it the juxtaposition of how carefree a certain motif is in comparison to what may be a more weighty score? I mean, Return of the Jedi has some very heavy moments, some sprawling action setpieces, and a lot of dark and brooding stuff going on, so Parade of the Ewoks really sticks out in comparison. Is it just a sound? I'd imagine those who are more musically educated would be able to inform me of a certain compositional structure. But what contributes to how we interpret the seriousness of a melody? 

 

Obviously these two examples are extremely light, and much of their surrounding score carries a very different tone. But I wouldn't say that this is a poor showing from Williams. His fallback on this method for moments and figures of absurdity actually presents us with some of his most curious ideas. 

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1 hour ago, TheUlyssesian said:

With Malice Towards None is the perfect representation of Lincoln in music form. The theme just screams GOOD NOBLE PERSON. There is a quiet dignity about the theme which is unmissable. Speilberg and the film basically portray Lincoln as an angel - almost with a halo round his head. And with Williams' theme, I just about fall for it, the theme is that convincing.

 

Now Lincoln is a concept album and the theme is I believe used only once in the film, for the actual speech, but it is plentiful on the album and it brings a lump to my throat as I fall into a reverie about the end of slavery and the righteousness and the justice of it all.

 

It really is a distillation of the man - the version of the man the Spielberg wants us to believe in.

That's what I get out of it too

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Yep, agreed on both Lincoln and Rey's theme. The latter came to mind for me when I saw this thread's title. I don't know if the broad strokes of it are anything particularly...surprising, but it just serves the film and the character so perfectly.

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2 hours ago, Nick Parker said:

 

Honestly, I think it's one of those cases where it feels so right, but wasn't exactly forthcoming when Williams got the film to work on. Not positive or negative intrinsically, but Rey is presented  as the most complex Star Wars protagonist from the jump. Luke, by design, was very simple, and Anakin, though more complex, already had an endpoint to work towards, and in the beginning was just a little innocent kiddo, not a lot of layers there. 

 

Rey has all of these mysteries attached to her, from her abilities to her past and so on, while also being a spunky heroine, and a lot of the time being in a place of vulnerability, whether internal or at the hands of another character such as Kylo Ren. There are also multiple moments where she flirts with a darker, angrier part of her personality. 

 

If you ask me, that sounds like a hell of a tall order to convey in a theme. Where do you even start? Do you ignore or downplay one element and focus on another? (Like how Williams chose to totally eschew Leia's sass when he wrote her theme?) 

 

Well, Williams gave us everything: the mystery, the exploring and adventure, the delicate vulnerability, the heroism, and even in some moments, the darkness and the ominous. You could easily argue that these all could be a microcosm for the film itself. All in what at the end of the day is a rather simple melody. If you ask me, the best way to respond to that is: damn. 

 

I think that last paragraph is one of the main reasons so many people have really embraced her theme as an instant classic in Williams' oeuvre. 

 

Very well said!

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Beautifully put, Nick. Rey's Theme to me is less about the melody itself and more about the way Williams constructed the whole. Textures, mood and storytelling over something strictly melodically catchy.

 

This is probably where those complaints about "no new memorable themes" have arisen, because the melodic line itself is relatively simple compared to the intricate and complex orchestrational decisions Williams made for the piece. It's clear he probably spent more time perfecting this one cue than almost anything else on that score.

 

That even by the end of The Last Jedi he's still exploring new interpretations of these ideas really demonstrates just how fertile that three minute cue has been for extrapolation.

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The genius of Rey's theme showed itself in the initial reaction to the score in 2015, and then the reaction to the marketing for The Last Jedi in 2017

 

Many people (maybe not as learned as the posters here, for what its worth) were sort of nonplused by the score to Force Awakens - I remember more than a few people regarding Williams' score as being sort of "there" and not much more than that at first. Also, despite the fact there was obviously a "Rey's Theme," it seemed like many people couldn't locate Rey's Theme if they didn't go out of their way to seek out the soundtrack to the movie and give it repeat listens. 

And then when it came time to market The Last Jedi, Rey's Theme was very often front and center in the commercials and trailers, and people reacted as if an old friend was visiting them. It wasn't just recognizable, it was carrying a huge amount of the marketing's emotional weight. Somehow, between 2015 and 2017, that theme opened up in people's brains like a rose blooming. 

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How complex does a theme need to get to become an overture? We have gotten to the point where one character in a film can have multiple independent short motifs or a so-called theme so complex, that whenever a part of it is heard, we speak of an A section, B section etc. Instead one could argue that Rey has multiple short themes which together form an overture. Just because it is not up front in the film (it can't be for ceremonial reasons) doesn't mean it cannot be considered an introduction to something.

 

I hope Williams does the reverse and writes an equivalent for Kylo Ren that may or may not include some or all of his current motifs. Rey has got her daisy chain, why not Kylo? Just give him a strong melody in the center, let's say in the form of whiny cellos, and voilà. Cello Ren, if you pardon my juvenile humour.

 

So anyway... Rey's Theme might actually be the first high profile character overture composed for a film. Nothing comparable comes to my mind at the moment.

 

It has a sense of journey that overtures typically have and themes do not. 

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How about the few seconds long "ancient Sith chorale" under Sidious' tale about Plagueis.  Cadences perfectly with his delivery of "to create...life."  Perfectly evocative bit of music.  Ah you youngsters don't know what I'm talking about.  Sharky would remember. 

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I haven't posted here because, well, all the great examples were taken!

Except one, as I now realize.  The central string theme of the Olympic Fanfare and Theme.  Perfectly encapsulates the competitive spirit of the Olympics and both athletic and human triumph.  Gives me chills, that one.

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2 hours ago, SteveMc said:

I haven't posted here because, well, all the great examples were taken!

Except one, as I now realize.  The central string theme of the Olympic Fanfare and Theme.  Perfectly encapsulates the competitive spirit of the Olympics and both athletic and human triumph.  Gives me chills, that one.

 

Ugh, seriously. It's crazy how perfect it is.

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On 6/23/2019 at 4:15 PM, crumbs said:

Rey's Theme to me is less about the melody itself and more about the way Williams constructed the whole. Textures, mood and storytelling over something strictly melodically catchy.

 

Absolutely agree, crumbs. I think the maturity of Rey upon arrival is reflected by her theme not being merely a motif or melody or a signifier, but a piece with multiple elements and lines. And Williams hammers that home by making the very first time the theme appears in the film essentially a full, concert-suite-level statement—not doling it out bit by bit and developing it over the course of the film as he so often does. The theme arrives fully developed, as does Rey as a character.

 

I can't remember any other JW character theme—especially a prominent one in Star Wars—that gets such a full treatment in its very first appearance (well, aside from Luke's theme). 

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In terms nailing a melody without film context, just the music alone, I think I am most mesmerized by the melodic structures of The Raiders March and The Banquet

 

The ones I posted above however are about nailing the film context.

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