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Everything posted by Ludwig

  1. Just to let you know, someone just left an "interesting" comment on the Force theme post: http://www.filmmusicnotes.com/john-williams-themes-part-1-the-force-theme/ I will certainly join the fray, but I thought I might call on some of my allies here for extra defence...
  2. Well, I'm always looking for new ideas to write about, so that's definitely one I'll keep in mind. Because time is so short right now, I'm just going to analyze themes in the context of individual films because it doesn't require a lot of extra viewing/listening. But still, a good idea.
  3. This triggered another thought about the Force theme. It's a good point that JW adapts the theme throughout the film. This even happens within the theme itself. I didn't mention this in my analysis, but it's really quite fascinating that the theme is composed of four ideas, the first three of which are variations of each other, the last a cadential idea to close the theme off. What's fascinating is that we can't really say that the first three ideas are either exactly the same as one another or completely different. If we wanted to classify the theme as a certain type using what theories exist, we would have to decide one way or the other because that's what traditional classical themes do, but Williams does neither. It's just a great example of how Williams stretches traditional ideas beyond what we already know.
  4. Thanks for this. I gave it a listen and found it to be very well done. (BTW, how did you find this?) I liked his piano reductions - you can really hear the orchestra coming through (though you might need 3 or 4 hands to play some of what he had!). And it was just funny to hear the Force theme put into a major key. I don't know what it is, but minor key themes tend to sound just plain silly when they're put in major.
  5. Yes, and I'm sure you speak from your own experience as well, filmmusic. It's easier to appreciate the beauty of a well-crafted melody when you've struggled yourself over exactly this kind of thing - I know because I have as well. And I never come up with something like the Force theme!
  6. Thanks, guys! Can't agree more. And I think that's at the heart of what makes this music so engaging, memorable, and fitting for what it represents in any film.
  7. Congrats, Johnny! Another two to add to his already enormous collection.
  8. EDIT: Part 2 is now complete - the Star Wars main title: http://www.filmmusicnotes.com/john-williams-themes-part-2-star-wars-main-title/ As an homage to our beloved JW, I am writing a series of blog posts over the next few weeks on some of his best-loved themes, starting with... The Force Theme! (Yeah!) Part of my goal with this blog is to make some of the music theory stuff I've learned more accessible to the average music-lover. The blog is still very new, so I'm still trying to find the right balance of being informative and understandable. If you're interested in the structure of music, I'd very much like to hear your opinions. Things you feel work well, things that might be improved, that sort of thing. Or hey, even if you just think it's awesomesauce, I'd love to hear that. Anyway, here's the link: http://www.filmmusicnotes.com/john-williams-themes-part-1-the-force-theme/
  9. LOVE this show! Glad to hear it'll make a comback.
  10. Aha! Well done, karelm! That makes a lot of sense. Of course, Star Wars would be the first film most authors would want to write a book about, so I can believe that it's the huge roadblocks put up by LucasFilm that has prevented it up to now. Hopefully Disney has more interest in cooperating with any interested parties. It is still strange, though, that LucasFilm would have been so protective. I mean, there's Star Wars everything. I suppose the legal wranglings of getting a book published on it are more complicated than, say, producing Star Wars lunch boxes.
  11. I feel the same. There is a series of books out called the Scarecrow Film Score Guides that take a single film score and analyze it. Their whole idea is to build up literature on the great scores of the past and present. I was shocked to find that, not only is there no Star Wars entry, but there's not even a John Williams entry!!! I'm going to a film music conference in the spring. Maybe I can find out if there's one in the works. Or better yet - take it onto your hands. Show those ignorant bozos in academe how it's done! LOL - thanks, Prometheus. I might just do that, but the time isn't right just yet. Maybe a few years down the road.
  12. I feel the same. There is a series of books out called the Scarecrow Film Score Guides that take a single film score and analyze it. Their whole idea is to build up literature on the great scores of the past and present. I was shocked to find that, not only is there no Star Wars entry, but there's not even a John Williams entry!!! I'm going to a film music conference in the spring. Maybe I can find out if there's one in the works.
  13. In everything I've come across about quartal harmony, I've never seen roots or Roman numerals attached to them. The Persichetti book gives a good reason for this: "Chords by perfect fourths are ambiguous in that, like all chords built by equidistant intervals (diminished seventh chords or augmented triads), any member can function as the root. The indifference of this rootless harmony to tonality places the burden of key verification upon the voice with the most active melodic line." Whenever I've analyzed this kind of harmony, I've just said it was quartal and left it at that. What example are you thinking of?
  14. I think the purpose of the harmonization in the Imperial March is to avoid sounding more normal (as it would with real dominant chords) and therefore emphasize that something is "amiss" with the Darkside. The first section of the march is made up almost entire of minor chords - a strong signal in itself. But more than that, these minor chords are distorted versions of what "should have been". The first four bars after the intro, for example, oscillate between the minor bvi and i instead of a more normal V and I. Likewise, the next eight bars go from i to minor #iv and minor #v, then back to i - a distorted version of a normal i-iv-V-i progression. Again, something is amiss with the Empire. The minor bvi of the opening is even more interesting because, as Prometheus points out, it has the leading note F# in it, so perhaps "should" be harmonized with a dominant. But the use of the minor bvi chord forces that note not to be heard as a leading note F#, but rather as its enharmonic Gb. We hear it as part of the Eb minor chord, bvi. And actually, in the third and fourth bars of the theme (again after the intro), that bvi chord changes to A-Bb-Eb-Gb above a G pedal. With the A in there, you might think this is more like the dominant-function diminished seventh chord, A-©-Eb-F#(=Gb) with a dissonant added Bb. But because we have been "primed" to hear the Bb-Eb-Gb as minor bvi in the first two bars, that dominant potential gets absorbed, so it ends up still sounding like bvi with a gritty dissonance. It almost seems to be saying that the influence of the evil Empire is so strong that it swallows up even the faintest hope of things becoming "normal" again. Doom and gloom!
  15. If you wanted to keep it in F major, I would probably call it minor bII (written enharmonically). But It probably doesn't matter so much what you call it because no single chord symbol would totally explain everything that's going on. To see the tertiary progression Prometheus points out, you would need to think enharmonically with some chord no matter what symbol you choose. And Marcus is certainly correct in pointing out the other keys touched on here. But as I think I said earlier in this thread, harmony exists on several different levels at once, so a passage like this can be thought of as in D minor or Bb minor on the surface level, and in F major on the larger level. It seems to me you want to emphasize the larger level, so either #I or minor bII I guess would be your choices. To me, the most interesting thing about the progression is that is doesn't sound quite as jolting as it looks like it should. I mean, what is an F# minor chord doing in an F major passage? That, I think, is best explained by the relationships between each of the chords. From the D minor chord to the Bb minor chord is, in D minor, i-vi, so the VI has been borrowed from its parallel minor. And from the Bb minor chord to the F# minor chord, we have the same relationship - i-vi, with the latter chord borrowed from its parallel minor. Then from the F# minor chord to the D minor chord, the same thing happens once again. In other words, you could describe it visually this way: Bar: 5 6 7 in D minor: i - vi - - i in Bb minor: i - vi in F# minor: i - vi That way, you can actually see both Prometheus' tertiary progression and Marcus' pull between different keys, and also you can see why the progression works well despite looking very odd.
  16. Yes. While Marcus' point is well taken, I think it applies more to the kinds of things you see in fast action cues. Interesting that the themes you've been asking about, filmmusic, are indeed very tonal. I wonder if that's something you're exploring in your work - i.e., the difference in style between themes and other types of cues. I have no problem with the way you analyzed this to begin with. I like the idea that we stay grounded in D as tonic through the passage. It nicely shows how the tonality is weakened in the middle of the passage by the use of the secondary chords of a key, i.e., II, III, VI, and VII, rather than the primary ones of I, IV, and V. So, to me, it wouldn't matter whether you called the chords with G# altered chords in D major, or chords borrowed from D Lydian. They're the same thing.
  17. Yes, I've noticed this too. It seems to me this is the kind of thing that happens in a lot of his action cues. As for the hypothetical harmonization of a C minor scale, I see what you mean, but it might be more helpful to look at a real example so we can say for sure what happens in this music. Perhaps you could suggest one along the lines of the kinds of chords you give? So, from this perspective, how would you analyze the Fourth of July excerpt earlier in the thread?
  18. That's exactly what I'm talking about. He doesn't adhere to Lydian exactly, and he doesn't adhere to augmented sixths exactly. As you say, this is a big part of Williams' style. I completely agree with this. What I disagree with is using one term to describe everything odd that happens in his music. For example, saying that the Lydian passage isn't Lydian, it's free chromaticism. And that the half-diminished augmented sixth isn't an augmented sixth, it's free chromaticism. If I asked you to compose a passage in the Williams style and said you should use free chromaticism if you want to sound like him, what would you think I meant? You might have an idea of what you think it means, but that might not match what I think it means. You see the problem. It's not precise enough on its own. It should be something specific enough that we know what it is before we say whether we agree or disagree with it. Maybe we could say, "here are the various types of free chromaticism Williams uses." Then we'd be on to something. However, from the responses in this thread that oppose the Lydian view of the Born on the Fourth of July excerpt, all I seen is the free chromaticism label. I'm willing to see it another way if I have something more specific to go on.
  19. THIS...An overall comment: I think that in general, the idea of confining John Williams' music to traditional theoretical concepts, in a sense, misses the point. His music is tonal, yes, but the idea of "free-chromaticism" is a good one. We must also remember that he is a jazz pianist as well. Oftentimes, what CAN be described as lydian this, or V/V/V/V/V that, could be taken in a simpler context. Sometimes, it is a variant on a traditional theoretical concept, but does not adhere to the qualities. In the original example of this thread, yes it is possible he is writing a variant on some sort of +6 chord, to be resolved quickly to V and then I. However, his usage is a half-diminished chord, which is often traditionally considered to have no tendencies of resolution. Herrmann used these all of the time for this reason. But then, there is the question of HOW he moves the individual notes. Free chromaticism is the best way to describe it. It is a simple question of tension and resolution, the constructs of which are relative, based on a clear idea of where the piece is headed harmonically. You raise a good point - that the things we're trying to describe in this thread don't completely match up with traditional theoretical concepts. If I may build on that, I think that there is something to be gained by determining just how much something in Williams deviates from any traditional concept. Take the Lydian passage, for example. To call something Lydian means that it has a scale that is like major but with a raised scale degree 4, and that it centers on the first of that scale as a tonic. In that passage, we do have the raised 4, but the feeling of D as a tonic is weakened because we don't have a clear tonic-function chord. But then, no pitch seems like a clear tonic in the middle of this passage, so nothing strongly challenges D as the governing tonic. In other words, we don't get the feeling that a new tonic has arrived, but only that D as a tonic is now somewhat questionable. So the passage is closest to Lydian without being 100% Lydian the way we usually define it. In other words, it tends towards Lydian. The first example given in this thread can be thought of in a similar way. There is no question that the chord is a half-diminished seventh, but it is not at all used in a way that is similar to traditional uses of half-diminished sevenths. But it does have three of four notes in common with the French sixth - only the F# differs (which would be G otherwise). And it resolves to V, the way a French sixth does. So it ends up sounding close to an augmented sixth without being one in the way that traditional theory tells us. Again, it tends towards an augmented sixth. My point is that I think the traditional concepts we use to describe music ought not to be thought of as neatly defined boxes into which a musical passage either fits or doesn't, but rather as a spectrum of possibilities, with the traditional concept at the center, and degrees of deviations radiating out from it. We can therefore think of odd passages as being a variation of the traditional concept rather than something completely different. To say that such passages use "free chromaticism" is certainly not inaccurate, but I like to think that we can add to the terms we use rather than subtract from them. If we are unwilling to extend the meaning of traditional terms, then "free chromaticism" becomes a catch-all that prevents us from using more specific terms to describe odd passages. In other words, I don't mind "free chromaticism" as long as one is willing to explain more precisely what one means by it. This is not to criticize the term itself, but only to say that I think we should go further to try to explain exactly what is happening in this wonderfully rich music.
  20. Yes, I too think that's in there. And strings of parallel whole tones always give me that feeling of unease, like I've been winded and I'm waiting to catch my breath again. The whole tone scale is the ultimate example of that.
  21. That's at the back of my mind too. But only because I don't think Skyfall is really the best of the lot. I suppose it would be alright in a way for Newman just to win one, but then it sort of defeats the purpose of the award. Call me idealist, but I like to think that Best Original Score means just that.
  22. Same key signature, yes, but different tonics. If we consider F minor in way equivalent to Ab major, then we'd have to throw in all the modes with the same key signature as well. And something like Eb mixolydian, which also has the same key signature, doesn't have anything to do with the passage, at least not to my ears. Which is why I like the Ab interpretation. It grounds us around a single axis for that bar. I still think you're right about the "off-kilter" flavour of the last chord. Nicely put.
  23. Well, in Heartbeeps, there was only that one weird chord you asked about. Apart from that, there were no other notes outside of the G major key of that passage. So I didn't hear any reinterpretation in the key. Here, there are several notes outside of F major that appear all of a sudden. All the chromatic notes belong to A-flat major (besides the last chord) and I hear A-flat as a tonic because it is a sequence of the previous bar, where F was the tonic. Yes, I agree. That's why the harmonic shift in the last bar of the 1st page sounds darker and "grittier" as you say. The great thing about harmony is that it works on several different levels at once. On the surface, we can hear A-flat major, but on the larger level, the flat III key of F major.
  24. Yes, using III (C-Eb-G) for the last chord of the last bar would be an exact sequence - I don't disagree there. Just about what the tonic is. And I don't disagree about avoiding the tonic chord either. I think the last chord of the last bar is that, and especially with the alterations, gives the "off-kilter" feel Prometheus mentioned. I'm just wondering if you would consider hearing A-flat as a tonic there. We can of course have progressions that are in a key without sounding the tonic chord of that key.
  25. The structure of the scores are totally different, especially as presented on CD. Granted the style of the scores are pretty similar, but I would attribute that to the "Williams sound." But the Oscars don't care about CD presentation, they evaluate film presentation. Also, the structure is not really relevant when the style of the scores are very similar. I listen to scores mainly for their sound and style, and not really their structure. And I don't think the Academy goes that deep into "structure" either. When something sounds similar, it sounds similar, end of story. That's most likely also one of the main reasons why An Unexpected Journey wasn't nominated. They just don't care about structural and thematic connections when the whole score as presented in the film sounds like a LotR highlight reel. Well then YOU and the Academy don't care about structure. That doesn't make your original statement true. What exactly are we talking about with "structure"? To me, that means the choice of harmony, melody, and rhythm, but that amounts to style, doesn't it? Indy, you said the "style" of Lincoln and War Horse are similar, but the "structure" is entirely different? Could you clarify? Just wondering... I mean more big picture stuff, like how the different themes and ideas interact with each other. The way I see it, War Horse can be split into 3 distinct sections (pre-war, war, post-war), whereas the bulk of Lincoln is more consistent, but it is framed between the People's House theme that doesn't appear in the rest of the score. Also, War Horse was more about development of themes, whereas Lincoln was more about derivation; in the former you have new themes (that are based on old ones) replace the old ones, whereas in Lincoln you have competing themes, many of which are linked, all interacting with each other at once (this is less true in the film since "Malice" doesn't appear until the end). To me the scores tell a different story in a very different way. WH is about contrasting two ideas and showing how one impacts the other, both negatively and positively. Lincoln is about how various related-aspects interact with each other to achieve a goal, and how those interactions are viewed by history. I'll admit I was probably exagerrating a little when I said the structures are "totally" different, as each score has a little of both approaches and many of the most important standard JW structural decisions are heard in both. I just disagree with the claim that War Horse served as a "template" for Lincoln, even if there are some very clear similarities. I'll also admit that the motif for war is probably an instance of self-plagarism. Very cool. I see what you mean now. "Structure" is just one of those loaded terms in music, so it's sometimes hard to know exactly what people mean. Thanks for clarifying!
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