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Ludwig

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Everything posted by Ludwig

  1. We had a discussion about this very thing a number of years ago now and found some examples in The Last Crusade rather than ROTLA, as was implied by the editing of the Nazi entrance over the part of the interview where Williams was talking about "7th on the bottom". Though the examples we found were not the minor-major 7th, but dominant 7ths. If Johnny really meant the former, then we still don't know what he's talking about for Indy scores.
  2. I came up with a breakdown of Williams' film output into style periods for an academic chapter I wrote on Williams' theme writing a couple of years ago. It was in John Williams: Music for Films, Television, and the Concert Stage. See below. There are several points supporting the divisions between the periods, but my study of his theme writing further bolstered them. Basically, I took one theme from each of his films to be the "main" one (if he composed the theme, of course, so excluding those based on others' pop songs or musicals) and included a primary new theme from any sequels. What I found was that: Whereas in the first period, Williams' main themes tended to state an idea and repeat it (e.g., Daddy-O, The Man Who Loved Cat Dancing, and The Poseidon Adventure) Williams' second period showed a marked shift towards themes that stated an idea then varied it (e.g., Superman fanfare, E.T., Imperial March). I think this is something we all kind of know about Williams' style, and it really became apparent in this period. While the first two periods showed an overwhelming preference for long-lined themes based on 8-bar models, his third period regularly included either much shorter themes (like Nixon, Amistad, and Minority Report) or ones that are more amorphous because they're drawn out way beyond a more regular 8-bar model (e.g., the dinosaur theme in Jurassic Park, Duel of the Fates, and Catch Me If You Can). The fourth period shows a return to the long-lined theme as the norm, the sole exception thus far being Tintin's motif from The Adventures of Tintin. I did this work to justify some further conclusions I made about Williams' theme writing and their associations in the film, but it was good to draw some divisions in his output. As others above have stated, you could certainly get more granular with further divisions, but the four I proposed seemed to me pretty convincing distinctions at a very broad level. And it seems many others here agree with 1975, 1993, and 2008 as new beginnings of sorts.
  3. Here are some titles this generator came up with - looks like they fit right in:
  4. I love the statements in the first 40 seconds of this cue, when Brody is flipping through a book, looking at shark attack victims. I think this is great because it emphasizes not the more recognizable ostinato but the melody on top of it. And the wonderful thing is that the ostinato is actually still there but very subdued and in descending whole tones instead of ascending semitones, gently being plucked by the harp - perfect for depicting someone mentally conjuring up the terror of the shark without the shark actually being there. I can imagine the cue being done in a horribly straightforward way, but am always delighted to hear Williams' brilliant solution.
  5. Thanks @Disco Stu! So now it's clear that your mystery chord is embedded in a sound world of harmony by major 2nds/minor 7ths and perfect 4ths/5ths rather than by 3rds/6ths (i.e., secundal and quartal harmony rather than tertian). Notice how the piece starts off - with the major 2nd C-D. Then the minor 7th B-A is added in. And in bar 3, the melody starts to unfold in 4ths (which becomes a motive at least in the opening of the piece): B-E-B-E. The harmony here starts to blend secundal and quartal ideas together: taking the melody's 4th B-E along with the supporting chord, we can unfurl the harmony as B-E-A-(D-)G-C. Sure, there's no D, but it's still easy to hear the fourthiness of the harmony (and besides, we already heard several Ds just before in the harp and viola). So when your mystery chord suddenly arises, I would call it 5ths-based (quintal, which is quartal harmony inverted), meaning I would understand it as two perfect 5ths plus an augmented one (hence the F#): Ab-Eb-Bb-F#. And notice on the second page when the chord is sustained, Piston goes out of his way to bring back a major 2nd-ish sound with the piano's Gb-Bb-Gb-Ab, and blend it with a perfect 4th melodically in the piano's Ab-Db (the motive I mentioned). Vincent Persichetti's Twentieth-Century Harmony neatly describes this kind of blending of 2nds-based and 4ths-based chords in this passage from his book (written in 1961, only 6 years after Piston's piece - clearly something was in the air!):
  6. Yes, I want to know this too as well as what chords came before it. Harmony is best understood as a contextual thing since, as @Score and @SteveMc have already pointed out, this vertical "slice" this can have several interpretations. And if non-chord tones are considered, then the possibilities become extensive indeed since each note could be on its way to resolving to the chord tone, and may be doing so at the same time as another note in the "chord". For example, following @Score's lead, maybe the F# is on its way to resolving to a "real" chord tone of G to produce an EbM/Ab (whatever that would mean in context). Or maybe the F# will resolve to G at the same time that the Bb will resolve up to C to give an AbM7. Or maybe F# will resolve to G, and the Ab (which seems like a stable note) is actually a non-chord tone that resolves down to G as well, resulting in an EbM/G chord. Beethoven's actually written this with exactly the chord @Disco Stu cites (voiced differently but with F#!). It's in the slow movement of his Bb Piano Sonata, Op. 22. Here's the relevant bit: But likely the many interpretations of Stu's mystery chord would whittle down to one when heard in its context. So, what piece is this from, and where in the piece is it?
  7. All I want is one more kick-ass march before he finishes with the saga movies, even if it's just heard just once. I'm hoping Knights of Ren?
  8. So Williams now goes for walks outdoors to solve compositional problems? That's exactly how Beethoven used to work. And Williams is reading the Beethoven symphonies for pleasure. Hmm... Clearly, he's channeling his inner Beethoven for TROS! (Btw, would absolutely love to hear a concert orchestral work from Williams whose musical architecture is influenced by Beethoven. Maybe something akin to a Shostakovich symphony. Williams loves 20th-century Russian music anyway!)
  9. Very, very sorry to hear this, Sharky. Know that you have many friends here and that, I'm sure I speak for many when I say, I'm both incredibly sorry for your loss but very glad to have you back!
  10. Here's a quick summary of Powell's picks by decade (up to 2008, where the list ends: Interesting, though not really surprising, that his favourites really pick up steam in the 1960s, the decade he was born in. But what is surprising to me is how few there are from the 2000s. And if you're wondering which composer has the most scores on the list, it's a three-way tie (7 scores each): - Williams - Goldsmith - and Elfman Zimmer is a close second with 6, but with the list's bias towards the pre-2000s, the most recent Zimmer score is Gladiator. It is a bit curious, especially since Powell has worked at RCP and with Zimmer himself. On the face of it, it looks like Powell just likes older scores, and that may be all there is to it. But maybe the list is born more out of nostalgia, a kind of list of scores from the now-distant past that he's enjoyed the most. It would be cool to see an updated list of his top scores from 2000 onward. Maybe he'd still have only 7!
  11. I think basically what Ennio's saying is that he disagrees with the choice to use an established style of score ("standardisation of stylistic choices") for such a prominent movie (this is probably what he means about it being "commerical"). He's also probably viewing Star Wars through a personal rather than historical lens, meaning that he personally remembers the classical-Hollywood-style score being popular in films of the 30s and 40s and so regards it as a nothing new even though, as @SteveMc points out, that kind of score really wasn't in vogue at the time. So essentially he doesn't like the stylistic choice because he feels it impinges on a film composer's desire for innovation. Fair enough. Personally, I feel that when people criticize Star Wars, it's for its old-Hollywood orchestration and the late-Romantic harmonic leanings. Funny thing is, there's actually a lot of modernism in Star Wars that is somehow never mentioned despite its very prominent role, e.g., Luke's theme and the use of "quartal harmony", the Stormtrooper chords and their use of "bristling" notes that don't agree with the rest of the chord, or the use of polytonality by having the bass disagree with the chord above it. But it's also probably worth mentioning that Morricone regards tone colour as one of a film composer's greatest resources, and of course this is one of his own greatest achievements. So he probably hears old-Hollywood orchestral scoring as more backward-looking than other composers might even if it includes significant modern qualities in the realm of harmony.
  12. No, no. It's just a misspelling that's a bit confusing. It should say Grandmaphone and it looks like this:
  13. I have written academic papers on JW and film music, yes: in this collection, and this article, along with several conference papers. I think writing a book on Williams is probably in the cards for me in the not-insanely-distant future, but life is packed to the brim at the moment. It would likely be aimed at composers and analysts because I feel that a book like this is long overdue. Emilio Audissino, Frank Lehman, myself, and others are beginning to fill this gap, but with Williams' command of so many musical idioms and his reforging of them in original ways, there is just so much to write about. So I can definitely appreciate your enthusiasm to seek out such material. I actually once asked an editor at a publisher that does film music books if they would be interested in a JW book. His response was that they were so afraid of being sued for copyright infringement by printing musical examples (which he said can be as high as $10,000 per example, especially for such a high-profile composer) that they simply refused to take on such a project. That was about 5 years ago now, and fortunately even in that short time span, things have changed and we are getting more written about Williams. I think that's partly because there seems to be more confidence on publishers' part that these writings are educational in nature and so fall within the limits of the fair use law, which permits the reprinting of examples for such purposes. Hopefully this trend continues.
  14. As a chord, you could call it DbM7/F, but I think there's a better way to understand it. The chord sounds a bit muddy because of a C and Db in the strings that are just a semitone apart. But the C was in the previous chord (Fm) then resolves a chord tone (hard to tell if it's Ab or Db, but the chord turns into a purely consonant chord anyway). So it's a kind of suspension, really. Which means that it's probably best understood as a plain Db major chord with a suspension added overtop. You can hear this suspension more clearly a bit earlier in the cue. At 6:37, the singer sings C over Fm/C, so the C is consonant. Then the chord changes to DbM while the singer hangs onto the C, creating a beautiful suspension that resolves down to Ab (resolves by skip down instead of the more typical step down). So I think the later chord you point to is a rearrangement of this same one, it's just that the C sounds more biting because it's in the same instrument and right beside the Db. So at the spot you point to, it's probably best to call the chord a DbM/F with a suspension.
  15. Oh, you were talking about the first chord I pointed out rather than the second. Sorry, my mistake! Well, since we're talking about that first chord, I still believe it is a half-diminished 7th chord despite not sounding an E at that point. My feeling is that the progression from mm. 138-141 (the last of the chords with E in the bass to the big cadential 6/4) composes out and "jazzes up" a traditional progression of ii6/5-ii7-V6/4. Here is the traditional version in the key of B major: In this progression, the bass arpeggiates the ii7 chord, so in the second bar, the E is understood as being there because it was already there in the same chord in the previous bar. In other words, we mentally extend the note and hear it as part of the chord despite its absence. That's the basic principle that I think applies to the Close Encounters "no E" half-diminished chord. It's just that Williams uses jazzier harmonies. So his basic jazz progression (one that we hear as the sort of background for what he actually writes) might be something like this: where the ii6/5 has been substituted with a major 7th chord on IV, and ii7 has been extended with a 9th. So then here's a reduction of what Williams actually writes: The differences now are that the first two chords of the basic IV7-ii9 have been chromaticized to give a major-minor 7th (flat 5) chord and a half-diminished 9th, and that Williams has added a passing chord (which is of lesser importance to the progression, hence the filled noteheads) that smooths out the bass to stepwise motion. Hearing this progression as an altered version of a more basic model allows us to make sense of the voice leading: for the ii9(b5) chord, couldn't Williams have led the F# down to E and filled the chord out completely? Yes, but then the intense chromatic motion toward the dominant note of G#-G-F# (or scale degrees 6-b6-5) in the inner voices (here, the tenor) would be lost. And I also think the connection to all the previous chords with E in the bass would be weaker because the whole harmonic idea of the passage seems to be to keep the upper voices on essentially the same notes while the bass moves (arpeggiates) underneath them. So keeping the upper voices reasonably fixed lends a continuity to the harmony that would be lost by moving them around more.
  16. Here is the score for the moment I was talking about. This is from the Signature Edition (strings and piano only to save space - all other instruments at this moment double one or another of these notes, so nothing new is added with them): As @The Five Tones points out, there is of course a D#. Along with the C#-E-G-B sounding, I'd say the D# is an extension of a 9th added onto the half-diminished 7th. I'd chalk the use of it up to Williams' tendency to recontextualize jazz chords in non-jazz (especially classical or classical Hollywood) styles, which fits in well with the major 7th chord as a kind of default chord in the cue generally. I was referring to the circled moment in particular, where the half-diminished chord is preserved. The funny thing is that, as it progresses, it seems to change into a dominant-type chord. At m. 148, the oboe starts a tremolo of F#-G, as though F# is becoming a chord tone and as though the melody (in the piano) is becoming a series of appoggiaturas resolving to a chord tone a semitone down rather than starting with a chord tone and moving to a non-chord tone. To clinch the change of harmony, in the last half of m. 149 (measure numbers below the score), as we get (from the bottom up) B-E-G-A#-C#, a fully diminished 7th chord above a B pedal. This is no doubt why the resolution to the next chord in m. 150 (not shown here) is so satisfying. It's actually a dominant-tonic resolution rather than moving directly from a half-diminished 7th to a tonic (which is beautiful in its own rights, but doesn't have quite sound of unequivocal resolution as does a dominant-tonic motion). Wonderful passage, isn't it?
  17. Great examples - both of the Williams-y bVI-I cadence and these "John Williams Chords"! These minor7(b5), or half-diminished 7th, chords seem to have been used for climactic effect in this period of Williams' career. A favourite example of mine (and I imagine many others here) is the one in the end credits of Close Encounters (the half-diminished chord at 3:18): This climax is the payoff for a whole movie's worth of withholding the entirety of the Devils Tower theme, a technique Williams was particularly fond of then (the main themes of E.T. and Raiders are other examples), and boy does it ever payoff! The half-diminished chord unleashes the ecstatic remainder of the theme with a cymbal crash, cascading melody in the strings, and a lofty cadential 6/4 chord that, while grandiose, does demand resolution, so transfixes us and keeps us listening still further. As though awestruck, the texture breaks off with another half-diminished chord at 3:32, this time finally leading to a soft-landing resolution on a tonic chord. We can finally exhale! What's more, notice that at 3:44 Williams plays with the bVI-I (both with major 7ths) after this tonic chord, so also incorporates the other feature you pointed out above, though here just after a cadential point rather than before one. So it seems he had this harmonic trick on his mind for cadences during this period. In the Indy scores, it seems to serve as a way of disrupting the key and providing a quirky signal of closure (appropriately enough for the tongue-in-cheek nature of the films), whereas in Close Encounters, it suggests that we're still marvelling at the meeting of aliens on Earth. So much meaning is packed into these end credits as a musical version of the onscreen catharsis we have just witnessed, it's no wonder the score is considered one of Williams' absolute best!
  18. If this were a jazz-based cue, at least harmonically, I'd expect to hear chords built in thirds with plenty of types of extensions (7ths, 9ths, 11ths, 13ths). And of course generally, Williams frequently draws on these kinds of chords in his writing, but they're not really found here. With all the clusters, polychords, and aleatory, my thinking is that the cue belongs more in the realm of Williams' atonal CE3K-ish writing influenced by such composers as Ligeti, Penderecki, Lutoslawski, et al. More detail on these kinds of cues can be found in a thread @Sharky started a few years back called "Johnny's Mystery Chords" that is filled with these kinds of chords in Williams' film music and explains more thoroughly what I'm getting at here. Hope that helps!
  19. Yes, probably a clause of the "developing" form, which is A+A2+A3+whatever at the end. I think it's also possible to hear this as a "developing" period, or A+A2+A(')+whatever at the end, meaning that it's possible to hear the third phrase as a (slightly varied) reiteration of the first. The difference between these two would be whether one hears that third phrase as a further variation of the first phrase (i.e., it is more different from the first phrase than similar to it) or more as a repetition of it with the variation not mattering so much. This kind of ambiguity, where the third phrase of a theme has both strong similarities to and differences from the first phrase, is actually rather rare in Williams. But one other one that comes to mind is the love theme from Far and Away: And actually another one is the opening theme of Cantina Band from ANH, which would have the same breakdown as the above (and the new Galaxy's Edge theme). Interpretations as a developing clause or a developing period are both credible to me in these situations. (And as @filmmusic notes in his chapter on Williams based on his dissertation, where he analyzed all of Williams' themes post-1974, the period is Williams' most favoured theme structure overall, so one might see these themes more as periods with loads of variation, at least from a compositional point of view.) But in the end, what really matters IMO is that these themes all include a heavy dose of variation, which is very unusual in the Western art-music and classical Hollwood canons that are strong influences in Williams' work. In other words, it really seems that Williams has taken his influences and transformed them, I would guess through his experience as a jazz musician (where improvisation and variation are central), into something much more his own. Thanks for bringing it up, @Falstaft! P.S. Anyone else hear echoes of Solo in the Galaxy's Edge theme?
  20. Great stuff, @Falstaft! Exciting programs for sure. I'm especially glad they give the plot summary for ANH since the movie is so obscure and for a niche audience that no one would know it otherwise.
  21. I agree with @Score that Williams treats the harmony at this part of the theme flexibly, offering either bVII or iv with various added notes. It's great that you point us to the other uses in the score itself! They're just further evidence that are mighty useful in trying to figure out what's going on at the start of the concert arrangement. One more thing would add to this productive discussion is that Williams never "fleshes out" the harmony at this spot with a minor iv with an added 4th. In addition, "add4" isn't a standard label, probably because to add a 4th means you've got the 3rd, and having the 3rd and 4th at the same time is avoided in both classical music (having a suspension and its resolution at the same time) and in jazz (an "avoid" note). If the 4th is there, in jazz it's usually placed an octave higher to be an 11th (for minor chords, it would be the perfect 11th, for major chords, the sharp 11). Personally, I don't hear this harmony as jazzy or even Johnny's special brand of jazz-harmony-fused-with-classical-so-it-doesn't-sound-jazzy-anymore. The kind of thing @TGP talks about as one of Williams' great stylistic achievements (which I completely agree with). Anyway, I don't hear it as that, but rather as a straight ahead late-Romantic style adapted into Williams' own style. So speaking again of "familiarity", an add4 interpretation would be lower down my list than an incomplete 7th chord. But as @Score points out, either way the chord (excluding the bass pedal) is perhaps somewhat ambiguous at the start because the chord is incomplete. So one has to draw on either other statements of the theme that are fleshed out more at that spot and extrapolate backwards to the opening, or draw on a familiarity argument, which, depending on one's background, may elicit different interpretations. I suppose for these reasons, I would still go with the bVII interpretation even at the start where the harmony's incomplete. But of course Williams does harmonize it with variants of minor iv as well, as @Score rightfully shows. The concert arrangement even has these as well, once the theme moves into A major at the end. So it's not as if we're supposed to hear the harmony the same way each time that part of the theme appears.
  22. There is a D#/Eb that occurs together with B, F#, and A in the orchestral score mm. 19, 27, 29, then transposed to F major as the note G with Eb and Db in mm. 51, 53, 59, and 61. These chords are then all bVIIb7. It's also important that the Db is never grouped with the rest of this chord but remains apart from it (generally in the bass) suggesting the function of a pedal point rather than a chord tone with the upper voices. With these points, I'm not sure how there's any support for interpreting this as a minor iv. Sure the bVIIb7 is subdued because of the way it's scored, but the notes as the maestro wrote them in these cases all make dominant-seventh-type chords. Have a look especially at the harp part, where the notes of these chords are sounded simultaneously (without the tonic pedal closeby). I miss @Sharky's voice in these discussions.
  23. I think the problem people are having in giving this chord a label is, as @Score implies, that it doesn't seem to match up with how they hear it. So calling it Cb7 (or B7) probably feels wrong because it sounds to them more like a Gb minor. Let's be clear then that any chord symbol we give it isn't the end of the analysis but the beginning. Calling it Cb7 doesn't mean it can't have hints of subdominant to it. But I think it goes too far to say that the chord is a Gb minor when Wiiliams writes it as Cb7 (or the equivalent when the theme is in other keys) each time it appears. I also think part of the problem is that a bVIIb7 in a major mode is extremely uncommon, so our ears aren't primed to hear it as such when the chord isn't complete and the notes emphasized are scale degrees 4 and b6, which are more typical of subdominant chords borrowed from minor and are heard regularly in film. It's a bit like Luke's theme (the SW main theme), where the second chord of the theme sounds like a dominant chord but isn't V7. It's actually a four-note quartal chord (chord built in 4ths rather than 3rds) but has scale degree 4 in the melody against degree 5 in the bass, so masquerades as a dominant. But it wouldn't be right to give it a label of V7. In any case, my point is that a chord symbol only tells you what notes are to be grouped together, not necessarily (and certainly not in this case) the nuances of its harmonic function, which can only be obtained through its context, something chord symbols don't do.
  24. Lehman's catalog of Star Wars themes marks the chord as a Cb7/Db, which I agree with: In Roman numerals, this would make the chord a bVIIb7. But I wouldn't say that's the whole story. As @Score suggests, there is an affinity with a Gb minor chord - the kind of minor-subdominant-to-tonic motion we get in the first few bars of Leia's theme. And in Luke and Leia, the notes that the Cb7, or what @Score equally well calls a B7 chord, has in common with a Gb minor chord are Gb and Bbb (written as A-natural). The Gb is of course always in the melody when the Cb7 chord shows up. But interestingly, at least in the first large section of the piece, which is in Db major, Williams chooses to write the A-natural as the first note above the Db bass pedal and usually played by the cellos. In other words, it's a very prominent note. And since it resolves to Ab, there is a kind of quasi outer-voice effect of scale degrees 4-3 in the melody and b6-5 in the bass (above the pedal), so the progression is written so as to mimic a minor subdominant. But the inner voices (once the chord becomes complete) spell out a different chord, so the interpretation is somewhat mixed: it is written as a bVIIb7 but simultaneously has intimations of a subdominant borrowed from the minor mode. The minor-subdominant quality of course alludes to the tradition of the b6 scale degree (especially in subdominant chords) as representing love and longing (Williams himself used this, as I say in Leia's theme but also in Marion's theme). And to me, the use of a b7 scale degree in the chord not only meshes well with the piece's chromatic tonal language but also places a distinctive harmonic stamp on the theme's opening, taking it a step beyond the usual meaning of love and longing, and adding a strong feeling of something out of the ordinary, like Luke and Leia's touching realization that they are in fact each other's siblings.
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