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Everything posted by Ludwig

  1. I thought ANH was the only film to do this as well, until I sat down and recorded all statements of the theme from all the films. It's true that no other statements are quite like this truncation in ANH, but there are a host of others in the other films that do shorten the first phrase, usually just because it veers off into something else. One example is in TESB, when Luke is doing a headstand and levitating Yoda, then suddenly worries about Han and Leia, loses concentration, and allows Yoda to tumble to the ground. That Force theme is shortened in its second idea, much like the initial statement in ANH, and here, it's narrative significance is Luke's inability to keep his focus and gracefully finish what he is doing before moving on to something else. Another interesting one is in ROTJ, when Luke refuses to join the Emperor, saying it is because he is a Jedi. There is an odd overlap of the first and second ideas of the theme. That is, the second enters before the first has had a chance to end. It seems to have a sense of foreboding to it, like a warning of "uh-oh" or "watch out", especially because that second idea is distorted and rises up by step at its end instead of falling down. There are lots more interesting things I found about this theme's statements, I just tried to choose the most striking developments for analysis.
  2. The question of being foregrounded for me has to do with the music occupying the most prominent part in the scene. In the scenes mentioned above, of course these are complete statements, but they are overlapped by dialogue, which takes precedence over the music since we have to understand a film's story in order to understand the music's meaning within it. So those I would not consider foregrounded the same way something like Binary Sunset is- they're more like "middleground" statements. I find it interesting that the complete and foregrounded statements are reserved for the big narrative turning points. Not that these other statements are unimportant, but, I would argue, a notch down in importance from the ones I cite.
  3. As a way of celebrating the Star Wars saga in honor of the upcoming Episode VII, I have begun a series of six posts on my blog that will analyze one prominent theme from each of the six films in turn. The first is on uses of the Force theme (I had an analysis of the Force theme's structure before). http://www.filmmusicnotes.com/celebrating-star-wars-part-1-of-6-uses-of-the-force-theme/ Enjoy!
  4. For contact info, see my profile page

  5. Yes, I like how he only plays the familiar tune on the third time through each progression. It's like a "eureka" moment.
  6. Thought we should start a general thread on any theory/composition sources we find on film music so they can all be found in one place. Here's one that was just posted yesterday on two-chord progressions and their associations, especially in Hollywood blockbusters. If you're musically literate, you'll want to skip ahead to 5:39, or if you haven't seen the "MnM" kind of notation before, start at 2:28:
  7. I figured it out. It starts on an upbeat, not a downbeat. If it started on a downbeat, the triplets would be virtually impossible to notate. Besides, the Bond theme B section tune doesn't always start on a downbeat, and actually in the title song of this film, it begins offbeat, so it's not as strange as it may seem. Here's a revised version:
  8. This is a passage with a lot of offbeat accents, especially the ride cymbal, so it's easy to lose track of the downbeats, which are actually in the timpani on each of the pedal Fs. The trumpet triplets then appear on beats as well and no triplets go over the barline. The trombones on the Bond theme are in swing rhythm and more importantly, they don't always enter on the same beat. At first, they come in on the downbeat with everyone else, then with the second statement, they come in on beat 4, further confusing things rhythmically. Here's a sketch of what I believe is basically going on. It's not complete and it may not be 100% perfect, but it gives you the idea:
  9. I think this is a very good thing for film music. Like you, GP, I yearn for the day when film music is treated with the same respect as classical music, but in the meantime, this will only help build the case with a conductor and orchestra as prestigious as they are here. There have to be these kind of intermediate steps before it can be welcomed by the classical milieu whole-heartedly. The only thing I find curious is the way they try to make it sound enticing by implying they will play the "music" of the chariot race from Ben-Hur. In that case, they should also play Herrmann's famous music for the cropduster scene from North by Northwest, and Steiner's wonderful music that is heard as airplanes shoot down King Kong off the Empire State Building. That would really wow audiences.
  10. For any arrangements or performances that are made as a tribute to Horner's untimely passing... A friend of mine made this solo piano recording just last night as a fitting elegy for Horner. A very moving performance.
  11. We did, but they remained rather inscrutable as I recall, no?
  12. Are we certain they're not products of more complex operations like multiplication, rotational arrays or Latin matrices? No, but I find it very unlikely. Such complex operations usually sound more atonal, especially given the reliance on semitones in Goldsmith's series. The chords of "The Search Continues" sounds much more tonal than the completely series-derived chords in the score. I have a what I think is a pretty good hunch as to how they might best be analyzed, but that will have to wait until my blog post on the score (at some unspecified future date!).
  13. I'm curious to see what he says of the chords of "The Search Continues." Unlike most other cues in the score, they don't fall into the series Goldsmith uses.
  14. It seems to me that a few different ideas are being conflated here and it's worth separating them out to understand them better. Yes, these passages all have a minor triad as their basis, but what's added to that triad is not always the same, nor is it always used in the same way. Some are essentially used as ornamented pedal points, others as part of functional progressions, others as passing sonorities, etc. Basically, I think it's safe to say that Williams has a huge penchant for minor chords in underscore, whether it contains added notes or not. There are many passages where there is nothing but minor triads used in parallel - the opening of E.T., the Ark theme, and so on. So there's something about that type of chord that elicits the sort of inconclusiveness that is so effective for underscore. Maybe it's that it's difficult for it to suggest a tonic, dominant, or subdominant without other functional chords around it, which as you mentioned occurs in Journey to the Island to make the chord a subdominant. But on its own, it can only sound like a tonic, and even then, only by a kind of insistence rather than by the surrounding chords. In other words, it's hard to get a sense of the chord's meaning, which is a great for underscore since it usually accompanies scenes where the narrative is driven forward - we don't know what will happen next, and this musical technique is an ideal match for that sort of feeling. As for its origins, this minor chord with added sixth, or more commonly known as the half-diminished seventh chord, was a staple of late-nineteenth-century music. Wagner's famous Tristan chord is precisely that, and the impact that opera and its famous chord had on music that followed was nothing short of phenomenal. You'll find it in many of those works from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that film composers have drawn on, pieces like Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Fawn, and Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice, to name a couple of prominent examples. Williams sometimes uses the chord in its pure form, and other times he adds abrasive dissonances to it, and I'm not sure we would call them all half-diminshed chords but perhaps minor triads with added notes - forms of what I've called "bristling". I would separate out those that are functional from those that are non-functional, and those that are half-diminished chords from those that are minor triads, and those that have added notes from those that do not. As we've seen so many times before, Williams' sense of harmony is anything but simple, and I think allowing for these many categories allows its complexity to come through somewhat more. In short, I believe that the reason we find this in Williams is that he is ultimately rooted in the music around the turn of the twentieth century, but many of the more dissonant constructions might be seen as a fusion of this basically tonal technique with more atonal techniques. Another example of the "tonalization of atonality" I've also mentioned before in our many discussions on the forum.
  15. There's a great new book on music perception called On Repeat: How Music Plays the Mind (2014) that might in part explain why this is true for so many people. The author refers to several scientific studies on how listeners reach a "satiation point" with music, or in other words become bored with it. Basically, these studies conclude that more complex pieces take a longer time to reach a satiation point upon repeated listenings. But more specifically, the author adds that In relation to the Imperial March and Williams' music in general, my hunch is that it so much detail in the way of melody, harmony, rhythm, orchestration, musical meaning, and so forth, that repeated listenings allow us to re-hear it in all kinds of different ways and still be richly rewarded for it.
  16. Great bite-sized videos that explain things in an easy-to-follow way. Interesting about the orchestration of the theme in your first video, which is of course of the end credits. As you say, it has some oomph with the trumpets (which are by no means in their highest register) and the mid-range horns. That's surely a big reason this sounds like a more fun version of the theme than the main title, where the trumpets are up nearly an octave higher and are allowed to blast out the theme by themselves up into the stratosphere, at the top of their range. The orchestration of Yoda's theme is particularly nicely spaced musically, the violins and violas staying clear of anything below middle C so the cello can enter with the melody unobstructed, a bit like the opening of Princess Leia's theme, with those wavering strings that stay clear of the horn's mid-range entrance with the tune. Nice videos. Keep 'em coming!
  17. Care to cite your source? Joseph Straus, Introduction to Post-Tonal Theory (2005), 3rd ed., pp. 235-40. Yes I know we can judge any work on its merits. I was just implying that Straus' is the best viewpoint on the issue because it is the most up-to-date in published form. He does acknowledge Heinemann's work, which was published in a top academic journal nearly twenty years ago. Also, I don't believe Straus contradicts what Heinemann says, he just distills it down to its essentials for the sake of pedagogical clarity. So in short, I think we can agree on what Heinemann calls "simple multiplication," yes? He also cites "compound multiplication," but says it's not particularly important to Boulez's Marteau, then cites "complex multplication," which adds transposition based on aspects of the subsets in the series. Here's what Heinemann says exactly in his article: In the example we're discussing with the T4 transposition, that's the result of F being the rightmost pc he's talking about.
  18. The explanation I cite comes from published work by a PhD in music theory at one of the world's top universities. I'd go with that over something only on the Internet.
  19. That's not quite it: in addition to the process you've described, the entire result must then be transposed by a degree determined by the position of the second subset. This is why, in the example you referenced, figure B is also transposed upwards by four semitones: the root note underlying this example is F, while the lowest note of figure C is four semitones higher at A. Edit: It's a pity they couldn't have denoted those two figures X and Y or something sensible like that! The transposition by four semitones is just an extra thing Boulez does with this particular piece. It's not part of the regular procedure of multiplication. He just transposes all his multiplied products by the interval created between the constant of F and the first note of the multiplied subset, in this case meaning F to A, which is four semitones. That's the answer, Sharky.
  20. Pitch multiplication means transposing one subset of a twelve-tone series by the intervals of another subset. So in the graphic below... the minor third of C is stated on each of the notes of B (though for some reason, B is transposed up T4). And in the lower staff, the minor 7th of A is restated on each of the notes of B. The result (disregarding duplicate notes) is a new set, the notes of which can appear in any order. On another note - what is going on in this thread? I feel like we're trying to figure out the theme to the Enigma Variations.
  21. Yes, of course the first chord is not exactly octatonic (my bad for doing this too late and too fast!). But I think it's important that it's extremely close to that. All that's off is the D, which should be Db. It's like those "fuzzy" relationships we've discussed before where something almost but not exactly fits some concept - surely the product of doing these things intuitively rather than systematically. Though in this case, the combination of those two minor chords I cited (F#- + G-) is, as you agree, the way I would describe them, especially since minor chords are one of Williams' bread-and-butter techniques in writing underscoring. I've updated the post to reflect the "almost" quality of the octatonic here. And I agree with hearing a combined (0123) and (0134) in the brass. We might even think of these as another fuzzy relation. (0134) is also an octatonic subset. The wind chord works well as several manipulations of (026) and that's probably the best way to understand it. And again, it's another subset of the octatonic scale. I suppose what I'm starting to see here is a compositional pattern of what could be called "linked eclectic" writing. In other words, the use of several different but related techniques in the same segment. Here, we have: - tonal polychord (F#- + G-) - polychord of fuzzy-related sets - single-set manipulation - octatonic polychords - octatonic clusters And all of these chords have strong elements of the octatonic. This ensures a sense of cohesion among the disparate techniques. So what I'm starting to see are layers of composition: the smallest building blocks are the trichords, tetrachords, and tonal chords, the mid-size blocks are the near-consistent use of one technique with these blocks to produce the larger chords in each orchestral family, and the largest layer is the resulting compound polychord that creates an enormously frightening sound, perfect for this moment in the film.
  22. The "Miracle of the Ark" chords are essentially a number of octatonic scales put together into a compound polychord - that is, a series of polychords, most of which are arranged as combinations of tonal harmonies ("OCT" means "octatonic scale"' and the subscript letters indicate where the semitone around C or D is in the scale. I've also added (+x) notation to show bristling notes, or notes added to regular tonal harmonies. The spacing of the diagram reflects that of the score above. Also note that the Eb notated in the second OCT cluster is actually an Fb in the cue - but an otherwise impeccable transcription by Sharky): OCTD,Eb + OCTC#,D = Ab7 + mainly secundal dyads OCTC,C# Cluster = OCTC,C# Cluster = Db-(+b5) + Gadd6(+b3) Closed cluster (almost) OCTC#,D Cluster = OCTC,C# Cluster = F#- + G- Eb7 + A7 + Gbadd9(+#1) E Bass (part of OCTC,C#)
  23. It mainly has to do with a lack of leading-tone resolutions. @1:53-2:01, the violas and accompanying violins have a suspension D that falls normally to the leading tone, C#, but this C# doesn't resolve to the tonic D as expected. The violins leap up to the E to produce a jazzy 9th chord, and the violas leap even further to F, giving the 3rd of the chord. @2:07-2:13, the accompanying violins again have a suspension D-C#, but the C# this time leaps up to F, doubling the solo violin line (you can hear it ringing a split second after the solo strikes the note). This F is part of the chord but it hasn't gotten there through a smooth line. In the score, this 7th doesn't resolve smoothly either - it just leaps up to D (!) - but I have trouble hearing that one. @2:15-2:18, the accompanying violins once more have a C# that sounds as though it should go to D, but it again leads to the E to give the same 9th chord as before. This kind of thing is common in jazz because dissonance is incorporated into chords, so it's more about the color of the chord rather than resolving tones in a traditional way, which is why I cite his jazz training as a big influence for it. Maybe I make too much of it, but that's what I was getting at, anyway.
  24. Yes, I know. It ends up not sounding strange because inner parts generally have the function of filling out the harmony. Even so, in traditional classical writing, inner voices still have an integrity and follow the rules of voice leading. That's what's a bit unorthodox about it. Not the whole, but its parts.
  25. Of course, there is always a sense of line and contrapuntal processes in Williams' writing, but remember he came into composition through being a pianist, and not just any kind of pianist, but a jazz pianist. The many pianists I have known have always had greater interest in harmony than counterpoint. Playing chords is just what pianists do, and jazz pianists in particular are expected to be fluent in a very large vocabulary of chords. I really can't help but think Williams writes with a chords-first mentality and voice-leading second. I think that's why we can have a thread like this, where we pick apart fairly clear chordal constructions. You'll notice, too, that the voice-leading in a lot of his chords do unusual things, even when it's in a very tonal style. Look at what happens in the main theme to Schindler's List. The inner voices are sometimes quite unorthodox. The overall sound, though, does not suffer since the melody and bass are completely normative, so smooth out all the inner-voice wrinkles.
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