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Everything posted by Ludwig

  1. I would like to let everyone know that I have begun a series of blog posts on all the 2013 Oscar nominees for Best Original Score. I've started with Alexandre Desplat for Argo. John Williams's score for Lincoln will of course be featured in one of these posts as well. Here's the first post: http://www.filmmusicnotes.com/oscar-nominees-2013-alexandre-desplats-score-for-argo/ Hope you enjoy it!
  2. Tedfud, Sorry for the delay in responding - I've been inundated with work for the beginning of the academic semester (argh!). Anyway, at last I am now reunited with my scores and can give you my answers to your questions. It seems that your questions 1, 2, and 4 basically ask about the same thing, just for different instruments. The short answer to these questions is that the notes in the flourishes naturally always agree with the chord at that point. But these flourishes are usually filled in with scale-wise motion, and that's where it gets complicated - the scale is not always that of the key the music is in at that point. Most of the time, these flourishes are just the scale of the key the music at that moment. The Superman march, for example, which starts in C major, has plenty of C major flourishes in the strings, winds, harp, and combinations of these. No surprise there. But at other times, you may have two flourishes at the same time that have different notes! In these cases, the flourishes don't really fit with each other, so they sound more like a musical effect or gesture but one that still sounds good because it contains the notes of the chord. Again to point to the Superman march, just before the main theme gets going when you have that gradual buildup of fourths in dotted rhythms, when you hear the cymbal crash with the rising arpeggio melody in trumpet and winds (basically when you hear melody come in), there are flourishes in some other winds, harp, and piano. But while the winds and piano have a rapid arpeggio that goes Eb-Ab-Db, Eb-Ab-Db, Eb-Ab, the harp has a scale that goes G-Ab-Bb-C-Db-Eb-F-gliss-Ab (an Ab major scale). The chord at that point (from the bass up) is G-Ab-Db-Eb-Ab, so as you can see, the flourishes both contain most or all of these notes. This allows the flourishes to blend with the chord and makes it less important whether they are composed of a scale or arpeggio. The important thing is that they contain notes of the chord and therefore sound good. So in short, you could say that JW's flourishes, whether in winds, harp, piano, or what have you, tend to contain notes of the sounding chord but that they can be written as a scale or broken chord (arpeggio) or even both at the same time. Cool. Your questions 3 and 6 might best be answered as one. You mention the end of the Star Wars main theme - this is a great example for both questions. In question 6 you ask about bitonal/polytonal chords. When the tune finishes, the strings start scurrying upwards for a few bars. Right when the strings reach their high point, we hear those strange, outer-spacey sustained chords with the strings playing rapid broken chords repeatedly. This short passage, which is just as all goes dark as you mention, is made up of three different chords. All three of them maintain a C major chord in the upper parts while the lower parts change to different notes. Basically the first chord is a combination of a Db major chord in the lower parts with a C major chord in the upper parts. But the wind parts are scored so that an Ab from the Db chord is placed higher than the rest of that chord, and it is combined with C and E from the C major chord. So it ends up sounding like there's a chord of Ab-C-E in the winds - an augmented triad that tends to sound like outer space music. But the overall harmony at this point is essentially a bitonal chord of Db and C (the G from the C major chord is strangely missing from the winds - instead it's in the rapid string arpeggios and piano, which is basically playing the same thing as the strings). The horns and lower winds are in keeping with the lower parts and sound out notes of the Db chord. The second chord keeps the C major chord above while the lower parts change to an A major chord. So now the G and E from the C chord blend with the A major chord to sound like a dominant seventh chord. But now the C of the C chord clashes with the C# of the A major chord, so it again sounds very strange, like a combination of major and minor at the same time (actually this happens with the first chord as well, since there is both an E and F over the bass Db and so it sounds like Db major and minor at the same time). Here, the upper winds are now all sounding notes from the C chord, E and C, while the lower winds and horns again are playing the A chord of the lower parts. The third chord again keeps the C chord major chord above but now the lower parts change to an augmented triad, from the bass up, E-C-Ab. So here I think it sounds less bitonal (since an Ab augmented chord can't really be a key, whereas C major and Db major or C major and A major certainly are). Instead, I think it blends into one of your Mixolydian flat 6 chords (or what I've called in my earlier post above a chord from the "harmonic major" scale). The upper winds are now sounding all notes of the C major chord while the Ab is heard only in the lower parts of the bass clarinet, piano, and low strings. As you've said yourself, this chord is typical of outer space music in films, this being one of the best examples I'm sure. And actually, this third chord is kept the same as the music now softens to a hushed murmur, setting up for that beautifully mysterious piccolo melody just before all hell breaks loose with the overhead shot of the ships going by. Another thing I would point out here is that the mysterious feeling is in part created by sounding the "space" chord (C-E-G-Ab) in the vibraphone, harp (which he says to "let ring"), celeste, and very high violins, along with the soft sustained chords in the upper winds. For what it's worth, I'm reading a great book on Bernard Herrmann right now that describes many of his own bitonal chords in scores like Vertigo, North by Northwest, and Psycho, among others. It's by Graham Bruce and titled Bernard Herrmann: Film Music and Narrative. One of the ones that's talked about most is the "vertigo" chord from that film, a combination of an Eb minor chord in lower parts with D major in higher parts. Perhaps JW picked up something of this use of bitonal chords from Herrmann. Finally, as for question 5, it sounds like you've pretty much covered the topic of non-resolving chromatic chords. Because in a major key, if a chord is not a flat mediant, flat submediant, flat supertonic, or tritone away, it's likely closely related to the key. The only other chromatic chord I can think of that might be useful this way is the flat leading tone chord in major, so going to a B-flat major chord from a C major chord. But that tends to sound like a C Mixolydian mode rather than a strange chord in C major. Then again, I think it can be a good way to lead to other temporary keys on the "flat side" of the major key - like all the flat chords you mentioned. It may be more useful to think of JW's tonal writing in 3 different categories: 1) Pure triads and seventh chords - tend to be reserved for important statements of themes and main title music (virtually any of his main themes) 2) Triads and seventh chords with added dissonant notes - tend to be used in action sequences (I think there is lots of this in the final battle in Star Wars) 3) Bitonal chords - tend to be used at moments of great tension or expectation (like in the Star Wars music above, we seem to be holding our breath for something exciting to happen) That's about all I can say at the moment. I hope this helps!
  3. I would second those above who say that imaginative and fanciful images inspire imaginative and fanciful music. I would add, though, that even though the trend for big original orchestral scores with fantasy movies really took off with Star Wars, it did exist much earlier, even as far back as the early sound films. In that light, I find it interesting that Max Steiner, one of the pioneers of film music, once said: "Some pictures require a lot of music and some of them are so realistic that music would only hurt and interfere." He seems to be saying that the films that require a lot of music are those that are less realistic, i.e. fantasy. It's no coincidence that Steiner's first lengthy orchestral score that became widely known was for King Kong (1933), a fantasy film that the producers were afraid was going to tank because the giant ape didn't seem scary enough. Steiner's music certainly helped and is IMO a high quality score even if it seems a bit dated now. I think the Errol Flynn swashbucklers scored by Erich Korngold are other early examples of these high quality fantasy scores. And they are such a tremendous influence on Williams that they certainly deserve mention, scores like Captain Blood, The Sea Hawk, and The Adventures of Robin Hood from the late '30s and early '40s.
  4. I see. If you mean the scale that the chord comes from then, you have two options. The one you mention, C-D-E-F-G-Ab-Bb-C, doesn't have a name in traditional music theory. It's a combination of the bottom half of a major scale (C-D-E-F-G) and the top half of a melodic minor scale (G-Ab-Bb-C), so many (outside of traditional theory texts) call this the "melodic major" scale. But if your scale had B instead of Bb, so C-D-E-F-G-Ab-B-C, then you'd have the bottom half of a major scale combined with the top half of a harmonic minor scale, so many (again outside of traditional theory) call this the "harmonic major" scale. You could call it a Mixolydian flat-6, like you said, but to me that defeats the purpose of calling it Mixolydian, which really describes the whole scale bottom to top. I like the harmonic and melodic names because they refer to the top half of the scale, whereas major and minor are defined more by the bottom half (the third note of the scale especially). They just seem like more accurate names to me, but I still understand what you mean.
  5. tedfud - I would very much like to respond to your questions, but I am away from my JW scores at the moment and won't be reunited until the weekend. I have full scores for a number of the best known cues and would at least be able to contribute something to the conversation. Kudos to karelm for good observations already. Just a question, though. When you ask about the "mixolydian" chord (which doesn't sound like the right term to me), do you mean a major chord with an added flat 6th as karelm suggests? I couldn't figure out why there would be an A in the chord you mentioned. From what I know, these chords are some form of C-E-G-Ab or a transposition of it.
  6. Generally, I find Zimmer's scores to be effective when heard with the film. But since they tend to focus on timbre, rhythm, and texturing, when the music is taken on its own, I find it a bit on the dull side, especially because it usually involves a lot of repetition. This is why I tend to prefer the more classical approach to scores, which instead focuses on the development of melody, harmony, and motives in a constantly changing, organic way. In Zimmer, these elements often remain fairly static for the sake of exploring other musical elements. So, no I certainly don't hate Zimmer's music - in fact as film music it can be quite good, but I think it works best when heard with the film.
  7. Thanks Alexander. I have changed my analysis accordingly.
  8. Just saw The Hobbit yesterday and while I was a little disappointed in the film, the score was kind of cool. I discuss some of the new themes here: http://www.filmmusic...usical-journey/ Enjoy!
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