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Everything posted by Ludwig

  1. Even so, there's something to be said for the tritones outlined in some of the instrumental groups - the piano and harps outline tritones in their outer voices, perhaps adding to the "noise" effect. And even with the E you mention, while I don't show what comes before, that tuba run starts from a Bb and ends on the very prominent E - another tritone. So thanks for (inadvertently!) pointing out the tritones!
  2. Cool! You mean the Bb atop the strings and harp? That would make sense to pack a wallop between outer voices as well.
  3. Great observations, Marcus! Agreed on all points. Nice how the [0,8,11] chord meshes with the Eb7(#9), as though the latter is a filled-out version of the former. Yes, I think you're right about the harp. I think it makes more sense for Williams not to double a note in the same instrument when it comes to these highly dissonant chords. Otherwise it's kind of a waste of musical real estate, if you know what I mean - the whole point is to create loads of dissonance in the same timbral groupings so the ear hears the dissonance in each orchestral group. So yes, probably D# makes more sense than the E. You could be right, but I'm not entirely sure about D in the 2nd violins because that would mean having a non-polychord note there. I'm thinking Williams probably saves the D for the sustained chord only. It's just the score is so hard to read, a splotch could be a note or nothing at all! Since we're talking about splotches, what is that notated under the first violin chord?
  4. Here's a chord from Jaws I've been curious about for a while. It's from "The First Victim" (such a great little cue!) and is at the moment that Chrissie is first bitten by the shark: Though the chord is over in a flash, I've been wondering what notes he chooses to create this massive hit point. Note that I've transcribed this myself from the nearly illegible score. There is a fan-engraved version but it's full of mistakes. Ive done my best to read what is there in a way that hopefully makes the most musical sense. The notes I'm unsure of are those in the middle of the harp chord. I just can't be certain what those notes are, but my instinct is that they double notes that are already in other parts (excluding the sustained chord's D). It seems that the chord is basically composed of three components: a tertian chord rooted on Eb, a tertian chord rooted on A, and the three-note sustained chord on top. The Eb and A chords derive from an octatonic scale. The Eb chord is an Eb7(#9) which is hammered out in the piano and lower notes of the brass, and the A chord I would say is an A major triad. The juxtaposition of chords a tritone apart (Eb/A) has already been heard together several times in the cue in those tinkly harp and piano lines at the start, meaning that they are a kind of harmonic motive for the cue (and score). At this moment of "first strike", however, there are more notes added to the mix. The A major triad is intermingled with G# and Bb, then the F# that the violins glide up to. We could always group these notes together under a single chord symbol, but that seems rather beside the point. For one thing, the G# isn't part of the octatonic scale that houses the Eb7(#9) and A major triad. Second, both the G# and Bb clash with the highest chord tone of the A major triad, meaning their effect will be stronger because they will be more audible at the top of the harp's chord. So I suppose I'm inclined to hear these as "bristles" against the A major triad. Though with so much dissonance already, it's hard to know how meaningful it is to distinguish between chord tone and non-chord tone here. The last component is the sustained three-note chord high up in the strings and winds. This is definitely not tertian, so stands out nicely from the Eb/A polychord in chord type, rhythm, and of course register. I would probably just call this a set class of (016). Interestingly, the D in this chord is not a part of the octatonic scale of the chords below it, so it works as a kind of boundary that distinguishes it from them. The G and C# at the very top are actually present in the Eb chord at the very bottom, so they blend well with the overall mass of sound. Feel free to comment on any of this. In all, I would call this another composite chord (or mixed polychord, if you like). What's most interesting to me though is not what to call the chord, but that it is drawn from the octatonic materials of the preceding music in the cue. It's not drawn from "out of the air" as a randomly dissonant chord or from a standardized way of writing stinger chords, but from the musical ideas already in the cue. This is what I love about Williams' film music - once some of the basic ideas are established, it seems to grow largely out of itself.
  5. Sorry about the misunderstanding. I'm so used to octatonic meaning a scale with alternating half and whole steps that I'd forgotten that some use it in a more general way. And of course you could call it an octatonic chord, but what does "complete" add to the label? What would an incomplete octatonic chord be? I'm just curious. Other examples of this structure are throughout this thread. The ones I was thinking of were the "I can't remember what my parents look like" chord from EOTS, the Nazi-zapping chord from Raiders, and several chords Sharky posted from CE3K. Interesting that almost all of the chords we're discussing derive from that most prominent period of Williams' career, roughly 1975-1993. It may be that he drew on these kinds of composite chords more during that period than any other.
  6. I agree that the temporal aspect is important and that it is best to hear the first chord as primary. I would stretch this idea back even further back to include the immediately preceding Bicycle Theme, since, as you point out, the chord harmonizes the last note of its melody. With that in mind, the chord we expect to hear with the final chord's melodic C here is a first-inversion C major chord. Though the outer voices of that chord are present, the inner voices certainly don't amount to a C major chord. I would also agree that its essentially an F minor triad, and would say that it replaces the expected chord, emphasizing the surprise of the camera panning over to E.T.'s hands (remember, we still haven't seen his face yet, or know whether he's benevolent or not). I think the B with the F minor chord is stylistically important because it is possible to hear it with the C and Ab as part of a (014) set, which is one of Williams' favourite's for highly intense moments, especially in the spacing he gives, with the semitone dissonance spread out into a major 7th instead of a literal semitone. In this way, we might hear the first iteration of the final chord of this cue as an F minor chord overlaid with an intersecting (014). We might also include the trumpet's G as an additional dissonance (a bristling note, if you will). I think you're right that an octatonic scale is central to this chord, but F, Ab, and B would be part of a different octatonic scale than that containing C, Db, Eb, and E. The upper voices that are added a little after the chord's entrance - on C, Db, Eb, Fb, G - can all be viewed as a subset of a single octatonic scale. And also note that this octatonic subset contains several (014)s as further subsets, which is to say it blends well with what is already sounding. So with all this considered, I'm probably now leaning towards hearing the chord as having several distinct components: - E pedal - F minor, blended with (014) and bristled with G - octatonic subset There are other chords in this thread that have several elements like this, meaning that it's a regular feature of Williams' writing. I don't know of any name for them, but I might suggest "composite chord" for such constructions so we can refer to them more easily.
  7. Keeping the E.T. analysis going, I thought it would be useful to resurrect Sharky's thread to revisit the end of 2M2 "Looking for E.T.", which has that great complex chord: Some time ago, I took a crack at analyzing it below but am not sure I ever posted it on the forum. Essentially, I'm calling this a polytonal chord of F minor against the E pedal with loads of dissonance, or what I've labeled "bristles" (in closed noteheads). This conception blends well with the score's opening chord that I described in karelm's "sophisticated harmony" thread on Williams, but perhaps there are other ways of understanding this passage. Anyway, for those interested, what are your thoughts?
  8. In this book, Emilio Audissino has written a chapter titled "John Williams and Contemporary Film Music", which discusses versatility as one of the composer's keys to success over the decades. After mentioning several musical styles with which even 1960s Williams was fluent in his film scores, he cites Stravinsky's famous quote: "lesser artists borrow; great artists steal". I found Audissino's dissection of this pithy comment most insightful: Succinctly put.
  9. I'm coming at it from a teaching perspective. Of all the film classes I've taught, there's only ever about one person in a room of about thirty twenty-somethings who's seen it. Of course older people count, but my point is that the song's impact now isn't nearly what it surely was then. And come on, film buffs are a rare breed these days. Fewer and fewer people care about movies as time goes by (pun intended).
  10. Thanks for clarifying! So what we really need is a new thread called Pre-Existing Source Music Turned into Themes (and Vice Versa)! I get your point on the music having to be composed for the film and agree there is a difference. What I will add is that over time, the kind of "baggage" intended to be brought in by viewers to pre-existing music changes. If there were a Gaga-filled soundtrack the way you mention, it would have massive pop-culture baggage right now, but what about 75 years from now? That's exactly how long it's been since Casablanca was released, and no one really knows "As Time Goes By" anymore except if they're a jazzhead (very rare these days) or if they know that film (also very rare). So it is possible for a pre-existing tune to have much the same effect as one written specifically for a film. Of course, there's still the fact that the musical notes won't have been written for that particular film, but that's another nuance. We can talk about cultural baggage and compositional specificity as different aspects of this kind of technique.
  11. Hey, I was joking! Look at all my exclamation marks! They make it funny! I don't mean much by it - that's just how I interpret it. When the music has nothing to do with what's going on, it seems to me like all they're doing is saying, "Hey, listen to this music! It's the world of Harry Potter! Think of Harry Potter whenever you hear it!" That's all. Maybe it's just meant to be funny, clever, or cute, but especially since it's the pop-culture behemoth that is Harry Potter, that's how I hear it. But that's just me. Back to the fruitcakes for a minute... Do you mean that a composer should have written the diegetic tune for this technique to have meaning? If so, is it because the tune didn't originate with a single person's conception of connecting the diegetic and non-diegetic together? Maybe you mean something else, but if it is the single-person idea, then isn't it usually someone other than the composer who's in charge of diegetic music - the music editor, director, producer? What I mean is, even if a composer wrote a tune that's used diegetically, it usually isn't up to he/she whether it appears as such. In that case, it wouldn't matter who wrote it, would it? To me, what's really interesting is what the composer does, knowing that a tune will appear in the diegesis. That's why I mention Casablanca. Despite Steiner despising the tune, it's striking what he did with it throughout the score. The wonderfully melodramatic version we hear in the train station scene when Rick reads Ilsa's letter is another good example.
  12. Only trying to keep things positive! I guess the ones I don't like are those like HP1 with Hagrid playing the theme. I groan when I hear this one because without a strong narrative connection, it just seems to me like blatant branding and marketing. By contrast, something like the use of the 5-note CE3K motif in Moonraker (which is not quite what you were asking for, but is along similar lines) has nothing but comedic aspriations: And since we're talking about comedic uses of the technique, here's one of the first I know to make such an effort, from Mel Brooks' High Anxiety: Tough bananas! You didn't make that clear in the OP! As Homer Simpson once said, you choose fruit, you live with fruit!
  13. @BloodBoal Don't forget the oldies! A great example of a theme migrating between diegetic and non-diegetic of all time is the use of "As Time Goes By" from Casablanca. There are two times in the movie that it happens, the first being when Rick and Ilsa first see each other again: The second time is when the song spurs Rick's flashback of Paris as the diegetic piano music blends into a swelling non-diegetic orchestral version: And of course the song is used throughout as Rick and Ilsa's non-diegetic love theme. So, you asked if we like this technique? For me, it depends on whether there's a strong reason to use it. In this particular case, it really gets us into the heads of Rick and Ilsa. In the first scene, since the song was "their song" back in Paris, hearing the song move from the diegetic to the non-diegetic realm at the moment they lock eyes communicates so effectively the bond that the song has created for the two of them. In the second scene, the blend from one realm to the other vividly suggests the gradual triggering of his memories associated with the music. There are plenty of examples of the technique in classical Hollywood movies. Usually, it's a main theme that was first heard non-diegetically (in most cases in the main title) that is used later on in a club scene, dance scene, or something similar. Waxman's A Place in the Sun (1951) comes to mind, where we see Montgomery Clift and Liz Taylor dancing to a waltz that has been their love theme. Raksin's Laura (1944) is another, where the famous theme, which is usually non-diegetic, appears diegetically on the radio. As I say, there are many others. But the reason for using the technique can vary. Williams' score for Altman's The Long Goodbye (1973) is perhaps the most unique use of music I've ever encountered in film because the title song constitutes the entirety of the score! This theme is usually heard diegetically (as is typical for this period in film) but makes some appearances non-diegetically as well. Overall, one gets the feeling of something inescapable, which is an appropriate expression of how Marlowe must feel throughout the film, though this being Altman, many more interpretations are certainly possible. But yes, look through the oldies especially and you'll find a wealth of examples!
  14. This is a collection of essays by nearly 20 authors, myself included. It covers a wide range of topics on Williams and I think for that reason will have a pretty broad appeal. I worked for nearly a year researching for my chapter because I studied the structure of his main themes and their associations, which of course required me to actually watch all of his movies that have an original main theme. Many thanks to Emilio for putting this all together and spearheading a much needed body of writings that focuses squarely on Williams' music.
  15. In honor of the upcoming E.T. release, I'll suggest the film's opening chord, a reduction of which shown in the box below. While this is a chord of only four different notes, I'd say it still qualifies as a sophisticated harmony. The top three notes of the box make up a major chord - there's certainly nothing special about that. But that major chord is pitted against a bass of C naturals, which are entirely foreign to the chord. In such a low register, these C naturals demand to be heard as something stable. In other words, even though it totally disagrees with the major chord above it, the fact that it's in the deep bass makes it sound like an eerie tonic, or home base if you will, rather than a dissonance. At the same time, the E.T. motif, which appears overtop the chord in the example, has already sounded once all alone and clearly makes A the tonic. So once the chord enters, we have a tug-of-war between two different tonics - A and C. The C is so unexpected that is sounds like it's literally "from another world" and the conflict brings an immediate sense of tension and mystery to the scene. Interestingly, the original score shows that the chord was to enter simultaneously with the second statement of the E.T. motif, where the melody would have agreed with the major chord. The soundtrack and film, however, have it enter three beats later, on the motif's second bar. What this does is adds even more of a clash in the harmony since the second bar gives us notes that are not part of the A major chord, but are from the A Lydian scale (Lydian scales are often used to depict wonder, magic, and otherworldly qualities in film). The overall effect is this wonderful concoction of innocence, otherworldliness, mystery, fear, and tension that draws us right into the film before we've even laid eyes on the aliens or their ship.
  16. In the article I link to above, Murphy draws on three intrinsic factors that make this progression between major chords a tritone apart (what he calls the "Major Tritone Progression", or MTTP, for short) sound so appropriate for outer-space films: - maximal distance (in fifths or even in semitones - what Sharky mentions above) - ambiguity - we can't tell if there are four or five scale steps between the chord roots (i.e., whether it's I-#IV or I-bV) - unfamiliarity - the difficulty of hearing the progression as tonal due to the #IV/bV ambiguity Of course, he also mentions classical precedents, especially Holst's The Planets, since it is explicitly about outer space, but also mentions just that later-20th-century films are simply recalling staples of 1950s sci-fi scores in a deliberate, nostalgic way. Murphy also seems to distinguish this progression from the minor-chord version. In his chapter in the Oxford Handbook of Film Music Studies, he states that the minor version... which nicely coincides with the Ark in Raiders and the Map in TFA. It has a similar feeling of something strange and eerie, perhaps, but the associations tend to differ.
  17. Scott Murphy has a great (and free!) article on this very progression: http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.06.12.2/mto.06.12.2.murphy.html Bear in mind, he's talking about two major chords a tritone apart (not minor as in the Ark theme and Map motif), but then your examples both have major chords as well. And tritone progressions with minor chords seem to have different associations than those with major chords. As I've noted before, Williams has a penchant for using parallel minor chords for mystery or evil. And maybe it works so well not just because minor chords are "dark" or "sad" or whatever negative thing you want to call them, but also because it's difficult for them to establish a tonal center on their own. They have to do so by a kind of insistence, by staying on the chord or stating it prominently in some way - like the opening of Duel of the Fates, for example. But when a minor chord is simply stated subtly and moved away from into some distantly-related parallel chord, our sense of the tonal center wavers, which conjures up either something that is difficult to understand (mysterious) or that is warped from the ideal (evil). In any case, it makes for a fantastic film music device.
  18. Gotcha - yes, that is a plausible line of thought!
  19. It's entirely possible. I just can't get past the eerieness of the harmony. Parallel minor chords are Williams' go-to for mystery or evil, and those are really opposite to BB8's bubbly personality. The Dune Sea originated with the temp track's placing of Stravinsky's Rite at that point, so I'd sooner think that the justification for it than an association with the droids.
  20. All true. It also depends on what the competition is that year. So I don't mean to imply that if a score lost, it was always because it wasn't nominated for picture or director. But for 2005, I think that is a big part of it. When I did those Oscar prediction posts, I looked through the past 10 years of nominees for Best Original Score, and in almost every single case, there was a nomination for picture and/or director. Maybe there was a feeling in 2005 that he'd won enough. Even so, if he scored a film that was hot with Oscar nominations, that feeling probably wouldn't work against him. And he hasn't really scored any such films I suppose since Schindler, has he?
  21. My thinking is that Williams lost with Geisha because the film was perceived as sub-par by the academy. The four films for which Williams won an Oscar for an original score were all nominated for Best Picture (yes, that means Star Wars was), and all but Jaws were nominated for Best Director as well (and yes, that means Lucas for Star Wars too!). Clearly, the academy liked these films. Geisha, however, wasn't nominated for either Best Picture or Director, whereas Brokeback was nominated for both. So, while Geisha had a great score, it seems the academy has trouble voting for a score associated with a film they don't consider top-notch. I would also say this is why Williams probably had no real shot with TFA either, strong as the score was in many ways. As for the double nomination effect, I used to think this played a role but now I think it's a fallacy. I thought this would have an impact a few years ago, when Desplat was nominated for both Grand Budapest Hotel and The Imitation Game, but I was wrong. This assumes that some academy members would have a kind of allegiance to Desplat and would be hard pressed to decide between the two. But I think what is more to the point is the perception of the film by the academy, the (to some degree subjective) strength of the score in the film, and other peripheral factors, like for example knowing that The Hateful Eight was probably Morricone's last chance to win an Oscar he should have won several times in the past. I haven't done my Oscar prediction blog posts for a few years (due to time constraints), but if I were still doing them, I would no longer consider double nominations any kind of strike against a composer.
  22. Yes, I thought about that and it's certainly possible. I suppose I went only with the map as the association because of a few subtleties in the way the motif is used. The opening version we hear is not quite the same motif - it goes up instead of down. One could say that's trivial, but I think up vs. down is an important distinction when recognizing a motif. It's true that this motif is based more on harmony than melody, but there is still a sense of contour that is preserved with its other statements. The other thing is that BB8 may have a couple of other related motifs. The first is one we hear when BB8 is asking to come with Rey, then later when he is about to and actually joins his piece of the map with R2's - this seems to be the very same music for a short stretch. You'll notice that what we're calling the map motif is in these places sandwiched between this other music that may be a motif for BB8. Musically, the characteristic bit is a rising fourth (like the first two notes of the Force theme, for example). This sandwiched map motif makes more sense in the later scene, when the map is about to be shown, but here it seems out of place, which makes me wonder if it was first composed for the later scene then copied to the earlier one. There is also a related and recurring bit of music when Rey refuses to sell BB8 and when she later tells BB8 that Finn is with the Resistance (just after evading the TIE fighters). This also has a rising fourth but is followed by a stepwise falling line instead of a leap down, so it doesn't sound the same, but could perhaps be related. I find it fascinating/strange/frustrating that there are these half-associated, subtly used bits of music in this film and in the prequels (ROTS being the richest in this respect, as the "obscure motifs" thread would seem to prove). It's such a different approach from the OT!
  23. Hi all, I've now completed a blog post analyzing the musical meaning of the themes from The Force Awakens. http://www.filmmusicnotes.com/themes-and-their-musical-meaning-in-star-wars-episode-vii-the-force-awakens/ Enjoy!
  24. You're not the only one - I was out of the loop too until this thread. You have to listen really hard behind the dialogue in the film because it hasn't been released anywhere. Here's the audio from the scene: In its harmony and somewhat its melody, it reminds me of the Grail theme from The Last Crusade, which makes sense - both deal with the notion of an old legend.
  25. I think this belongs in the homage/plagiarism thread since it sounds so much like the 20th-Century Fox fanfare. Williams must have heard it and thought it a perfect "conspiracy" motif.
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