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Ludwig last won the day on October 9 2022

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    Music Theorist / Musicologist

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  1. 5 things I loved in this article: Williams confirms the Jaws theme is three different notes (not two!). He keeps a poster of The Adventures of Robin Hood in his office doorway. Like many others, the author feels that film music succeeding in the concert hall is largely because of Williams. Mangold got emotional at the final Dial of Destiny session because he felt Williams doing his job confirmed a kind of idealism of working in film. Williams will have some free composing time this year that he may want to fill "if there’s an opportunity there that I think I can fill and enjoy doing with people I will enjoy."
  2. Ludwig


    Late to the party, but thought I would add that there seems to be a connection between Williams' use of fugues in film and that of William Walton. The 1942 film, The First of the Few, is about the conception and construction of Britain's Spitfire fighter plane for World War II. In the scene where the Spitfire is finally being assembled, Walton writes a fugue. Now as @Falstaft rightly pointed out, a fugue is basically a texture that is built up one voice (melody line) at a time. The first voice announces the line that is the whole basis of the fugue, and is always called the "subject". Then another line enters with the same melody, as a rule transposed (usually up) by 5th to become the "answer", while the first voice continues with other material. Then another voice enters with the same melody, and so on... Anyway, I lay this out again because I think this idea of gradually building up a texture from a single line nicely captures something in the process of making preparations. Things start off simply but become increasingly complex, and all the "moving parts", so to speak, need to work together for the plans to come off properly. So take a look below at the way Walton does it in The First of the Few (should start at 7:51 for you). I think this is essentially how Williams uses his film fugues as well - Jaws, Black Sunday, and Home Alone. So it seems that he picked up this kind of association from Walton and really ran with it, giving it new life in key scenes from these films.
  3. I went to see Superman live in concert last night after first seeing the ads for it in the TSO's annual schedule almost a year ago. Boy was it worth the wait! It played to a packed house, was a great performance, and this time I had the added bonus of having my 10-year-old son ask to come along and he thought it was great, too and said he wanted to come to more. The acoustics of the hall and balance of the orchestra gave the score some new perspectives that were great to hear. The first thing I noticed was how much more prominent the percussion was. It gave extra bite and some more gravitas to the action in particular, but you could also hear it in the quieter moments, where it clarified the subtlety of Williams' imaginative orchestrations. But it was probably the soft moments that stood out as the real highlight, where you could hear such clarity and detail in the playing of solo instruments, like the horn then trumpet in Jonathan's Death and much of the wind writing in general, especially in the Smallville portion of the film. It gave these moments more poignance I think because the sound was more intimate. That's something else I enjoyed was that the sound itself had less reverb than the recording, so you could hear the instruments with such clarity that it really drew you in. And the audience seemed to sense that, too. There were the usual cheers and applause for both moving cues and heroic parts of the film. The end of the Smallville portion after Jonathan's funeral drew unexpected applause. It's not a bombastic end, of course, but you get that wonderful soaring melody that just hangs in the air then finally resolves. And I think that combined with the sadness of the funeral really moved people. The other moment to mention was in the film's climax during the catastrophes from the earthquake. All the heroic acts accompanied by Williams' famous fanfare motive got cheers and rapturous applause. It's said all the time that John's music makes the suspension of disbelief so easy, but it's another thing to experience it with one of his classic scores with a generation of people who grew up with this kind of score. Jimmy Olsen dangling from the burst dam, for example, prompted a shout of "hang on, Jimmy!", and when Superman stands there thinking and we know he's thinking, "oh my god, what must have happened to Lois?", after those few seconds where there's a slow zoom on his face as we realize the horror of what must have happened by now, someone shouts out "save Lois!". But it wasn't derogatory, everyone was sitting there rapt with attention, hoping with Superman that he could somehow get there in time. And when Williams' music cuts out when Superman drags Lois out of the car and realizes she's dead, you could hear a pin drop. No one made a sound. It made the re-entrance of Williams' music as Superman turns back the world all the more effective, drawing us along with the grief, anger, determination, and ultimately heroism of his final heroic act. It was a tremendous showcase of how Williams' score elevates with the right mix of emotions at the right time. During the whole climax, there's just so much happening so quickly, and Williams' score is there changing with every shift in mood. And when you're there with an audience of 2000 and a great live orchestra, it's pure magic. It may be the most satisfying LTP score I've been to, which includes the Star Wars OT, TFA, and now Superman. Can't wait to see if they program another Williams LTP for next season!
  4. That's interesting... The blu-ray with the 4K package has Dolby Atmos whereas the lone blu-ray package has DTS 7.1. It's too bad that's not the case for Amazon US - the blu-ray with the 4K still has only DTS 7.1. Where did you manage to find these disc specs?
  5. I think that one of the things that makes Williams' music so incredibly rich is that he's able to cultivate the various aspects of music individually and, in doing so, come up with something that has new elements but that also retains something of what he's done before. So the rhythm of Luke's theme is basically retained in Across the Stars, but the melody, harmony, and orchestration are of course all different. Yet you can still hear the resemblance. Or the harmony of the Force theme underpins the first half of Rey's theme even though the melody, rhythm, etc. are all different. And again, though subtle, the connection can still be heard. I think it's kind of the same thing here. He keeps the harmony the same (that was a perfect example - he uses a min(add#4) right at the start of The Battle of Syracuse!), but changes the other elements from his older action scoring. So the harmonic rhythm in Syracuse is very slow (one chord for a very long time!) but in his classic action music, he would usually change the chords far more quickly. And maintaining interest in the Syracuse cue is based very much on the ever-changing ostinato and layering melodies overtop of that, as well as using unusual instrumental combinations to create a unique orchestral timbre. So harmonic rhythm really slows down here, and I think that allows for a much different approach to scoring action that can highlight things other than the harmony, and create something that sounds new but not completely disconnected from what he wrote before.
  6. Yes, and he continues to use these techniques now, too! This is the moment from The Dial of Destiny where Indy and Helena slide down the pool of water into Archimedes secret chamber. Could have been written for a Star Wars score from 40 years ago - the chords, spacing with the semitone spaced out to a major 7th, chromatic planing of those chords, and of course for the last chord, the leap up of a minor 3rd, a common octatonic move! While his action scoring as a whole is now certainly different than it was back in the day, it's good to see he hasn't abandoned such effective techniques. Without even seeing the scene, it just seems to scream "oh no!", the last chord almost being like the musical equivalent of shouting "aaaaah!".
  7. Yes, but I think you need to be a paying member for that. At the free level, I think you can watch excerpts of it on their site after the event. You can see the different levels here: https://scoringarts.com/membership-join/
  8. For those interested in film score analysis, I'll be giving a virtual guest talk on harmony in John Williams' action music. The talk is with the Academy of Scoring Arts this Sunday, Sep. 10th, from 10am-12pm Pacific Time (they're based in L.A.). I'll be breaking down two cues from the original Star Wars trilogy: "Attacking a Star Destroyer" from The Empire Strikes Back, and "Fight in the Dungeon" (the Rancor scene) from Return of the Jedi. The idea is to give a sense not only of the kinds of chords Williams often uses, but also how he tends to use them in an action scene. You must be a member to attend, but you can sign up entirely for free on the Academy's website. Here's the link for the talk on the ASA's site (includes a link to sign up with ASA): https://scoringarts.com/event/the-music-of-john-williams-with-special-guest-mark-richards/
  9. This is weird. I can't add it to the cart on jwpepper. It says "No new items added. Proceed to cart to finalize order", but nothing gets added to the cart. Also weird is that I tried this earlier today and I could add it, but it said item was not in stock. I'm hoping this means that the suite is coming soon, but there's nothing listed on Hal Leonard's own site or even Sheet Music Plus. Fingers crossed, though! We've been waiting for this one for a loooooooooooooooooong time.
  10. I've always felt that the opening of "The Rebel Fleet/End Title" from TESB is what a concert version of the Force Theme might sound like since it has a mini B section that leads to a reprise of the theme. And, since the theme is short and almost like a motif as you say, it would make sense to combine it with the Solo and the Princess theme as it is here (another theme from the same film with a very contrasting emotion). So it could be like The Rebellion is Reborn from TLJ, which combines Rose's Theme and the Luke in Exile Theme. You can kind of imagine it if you listen to the first couple of minutes of the cue with that in mind:
  11. Yes, nice catch! It is of course transformed here, but I think what he's doing is setting it into an octatonic scale because it's an action scene. What really blows me away is that the whole first phrase of Helena's theme set in octatonic is the basis of the first 15 seconds of the cue until it reaches that big landing on C, where it leaves the scale. (That G-flat at the start is one note that deviates from the scale - a common enough occurrence in Williams.) Anyway, it really connects the action music directly to Helena but in a subtle way. Brilliantly done, IMHO.
  12. I like the way the ostinato at 2:12 comes in sounding at first like an innocuous accompaniment figure, then it beautifully blends with Helena's theme in counterpoint. And more than that, with the varied form of the ostinato (it's second statement and every other one after that), it seems like a variant of the opening figure of Helena's theme (I would say most like the one in its second phrase from 0:50 of "Helena's Theme"), which is more than an ostinato because it works in counterpoint with the melody of Helena's theme. That's what's the most interesting thing to me, almost like Williams is taking a technique that's more from concert music and importing it into his film work. It's something that is pretty subtle, but hearing the ostinato as related to Helena's theme I think explains why the ostinato blends so well with it. So compare this: to this:
  13. So, you mean is this a true long-lined theme in the manner of an 8-bar type of theme (grammatical) or something longer and more free-form? (Just translating my own obscure academic terms for fellow JW fans!) What's interesting is that I think pretty much every other statement of Voller's theme is just the opening idea, maybe repeated, so it seems like it's more a motif than a long-lined theme. But here, he stretched it out with more statements and they basically add up to a couple of AAB, or sentence, structures. It kind of reminds me of how Kylo Ren's aggressive motif becomes something more substantial at the end of TLJ and it almost turns into a full 8 bars. But there, I think Williams writing that was probably related to Ren becoming the accepted leader of the First Order by Hux (though reluctantly). The character becomes more substantial and so does the theme. In DOD, it still feels like a motif even when it's arranged like this, and I think that's because 8-bar themes tend to have a kind of predictability to their phrasing, so you kind of know when each idea and phrase will come to an end. But this use of Voller's theme is so much the opposite! Slow tempo, changing meter, different phrase lengths. It just doesn't feel like a long-lined theme, more like a motif that's being manipulated, if that makes sense.
  14. I think it's especially intuitive to place the chromatic figure starting on a downbeat each time. I tried transcribing it as well, and found that my ear was also drawn to the soft timp hits as downbeats, so I added as another factor and came up with this. I think we only differ in the amount of time between phrases, which doesn't always sound exact anyway.
  15. The theme is in a slow 3 (counting the first 3 melody notes as the main beats), so it's really any rendition that's in that meter. It can have a slightly different feel at that tempo, but I would say the feeling of 3's is still prominent. Take the ones at the end of The Magic of Halloween: Or the one at the end of The Rescue and Bike Chase:
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