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Everything posted by Ludwig

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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?
  4. 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!
  5. 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!
  6. 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?
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. @Nick Parker rightfully points out the Lydian flavour of the strings here. This brings a sense of a hyper-positive state since the Lydian mode has the raised 4th degree of the scale. There's also a raised note in the change of harmony that @Steve McQueen you ask about. An E-flat that's part of an E-flat major chord suddenly changes into an E-natural in a C major chord, and the feeling it evokes is, in this case, euphoric since it is when Jim finally sees a P-15 ("Cadillac of the Skies") in flight. Interesting to see how Williams coordinates both the melody and harmony in these raised notes to emphasize and heighten the emotional expression of the music and the scene.
  13. Just got word that Omni Music Publishing has released the score to Ghostbusters (1984). Um, yes please: And they say they'll be releasing The Wizard of Oz very soon! Will be great to have a truly classic Golden Age Hollywood score. Super excited about both of these.
  14. @Loert Great analysis! I think you're spot on that the two "hands" are working independently at the odd chord out in the third measure. Interesting, too, that Williams delays the expected chord tones around that third measure so they collide in their jarring way. Below is what the music would look like had he not used any delaying notes (the repeated notes and chromatic passing tones), and the boxes show the notes that become delayed in the actual cue. And here's what it would sound like: https://picosong.com/w2mh4/ The great thing is that the delayed notes don't occur or resolve at the same time, so we're left with this strangely off-balance part of the progression. It's not until we hit beat 2 of that third measure that the music gets back on track to close with a standard ii-V-I cadence. The normalized version above isn't terrible or out of place or anything, but it's certainly not the cheeky ending Williams wrote that captures more of the playfulness of the Lost Boys.
  15. That passage is a good example of some of the detail Williams puts into even "throwaway" moments like this one. The melody is a veiled but recognizable variant of Anakin's theme, not only with the opening rising 5th plus a step up (here a half step instead of a larger whole step) but also with the octave drop plus steps up that are part of the second phrase of Anakin's theme. The harmony is also telling. Moving from a C major chord to a Db minor chord is a very disorienting motion called a "Slide" progression, which Lehman in his book, Hollywood Harmony, notes tends to be associated with ambivalence of all kinds in film. This is the scene where Obi-Wan apologizes to Qui-Gon for suggesting that Qui-Gon ought not to have such strong belief in Anakin as the chosen one. So there certainly is some conflict suggested between the two characters, and the music's weird harmonic shifts plays on the darkish uncertainty of Anakin's future. Notice that there's also an augmented triad (where you've marked an Abmin chord), which is a typical musical representation of uncertainty. Williams has such an astonishing command of melody and harmony (and other musical elements too) that even little passages of underscore like this can be rich with meaning and help us "feel" the scene even if we're not actively listening to his score.
  16. I miss this guy a lot. Deadpan done to perfection. Fellow Canuck too. The first one here is one of my favourites. Airplane also has a number of Nielson gems.
  17. Exactly. In Royal S. Brown's interview with Herrmann in his book, Overtones and Undertones, Herrmann is quoted as saying: Still, as @TheUlyssesian points out, Herrmann does use a long-lined theme in North by Northwest. To me what's really interesting is not merely that he does use them, but how he uses them. Here are a couple of others from Vertigo: These themes, along with the one above in North by Northwest, come at crucial points in the narrative. So instead of eschewing the long-lined theme altogether (which is the impression one could easily get from his interview quote), he brought them in at key moments of emotional stability, as a kind of special musical effect that emphasizes these moments in a way one could not had the score been loaded with long-lined themes. It's also interesting that all of the above themes involve an element of romance. I've always liked Marion's driving music in Psycho for that bit that sounds like it's finally burst into a full-fledged theme, only to dissolve away and remain unresolved: Marion is of course hoping to use the stolen money to marry her fiancee but never gets that far, so the incomplete character of the theme fits her situation quite well. I'm always fascinated when I come across film music in which the forms of its themes are very tightly aligned with its narrative meaning. Herrmann's is one of them.
  18. Thanks @Disco Stu. I keep a pretty low profile - probably too low, heh. Glad you are a fan of my blog. I've tried hard to keep the analyses accessible while maintaining a level of depth as well. So it's great to have feedback like this. I will definitely update more often. Things have just been insanely busy this year but there is light at the end of the tunnel. So I can finally get to some of the things I've been wanting to do for years now. Like a 6-part series on Goldsmith themes, for example. So stay tuned!
  19. "Primitively satisfying" - what a great way to describe the harmony there! It's a progression of descending fifths that is kept in perfect fifths longer than is typical for these progressions. First, I'll just say that descending-fifth progressions are the backbone of classical harmony, and for a host of reasons they have a sound of inevitability to them. In other words, they're usually pretty satisfying to hear. Here, the descending-fifth progression is set up with a conventional turnaround progression, I-V/ii-V/V-V, then continues it in a faster rhythm starting with the home tonic chord, I (in B-flat, by the way, not F). In more normal situations, a descending-fifth pattern from I would begin I-IV-viio, with vii remaining in the key (meaning the bass is the leading tone). But here, it's altered to the flat ^7 degree, making it sound unexpected but satisfying. The pattern continues in these perfect fifths, which brings the harmony further and further away from the home key, before finally being hoisted back to the home key's dominant chord, which then dutifully resolves to the tonic, fulfilling a descending-fifth trajectory that goes: I - V/ii - V/V - V - I - IV - bVII - bIII - bVI - bII ( - V - I) I would also mention that the 3+3+2 "tresillo" rhythm that kicks in with the fifth chord in the progression speeds up the chord changes with what is probably the most common accompaniment rhythm in all popular music. So it gives it a cool factor on top of all this. Buddy Holly used the same progression in the bridge of "Everyday", but his has more subtlety and swagger IMO: Notice that the first verse (and, strangely, only the first verse) uses the turnaround progression too, as though the bridge grows out of that.
  20. I mean 0:14-0:19, the second short phrase of the theme. Yes, the passage I noted above in Yoda's Death has the markings of a Williams "mystery" mode, as you point out. But in terms of a more direct association both musically and in the scene, it is definitely drawn from that second short phrase of Yoda's Theme. Notice how, early on in the cue, Williams places the passage directly after stating the second short phrase of Yoda's Theme, 2:20-2:50: Once we hear the passage this way (i.e., as a transformation of Yoda's Theme) I think it becomes clear that the later one I originally quoted at 5:35 is a sped-up version of the same thing. Yes, though when it appears there, it's slightly different - not a full minor chord being arpeggiated (the bottom note is omitted). And I think that's important because it makes it harder to recognize it as coming from Yoda's Theme, especially since it isn't surrounded by that theme the way it is in Yoda's Death. In this way, one might view the relationships we're talking about as a kind of progression that develops a theme/motif in much the same way that a narrative gradually unfolds. In other words, visually it might look something like this: Yoda's Theme --> Minor-key Yoda (for his mysterious advice) --> Accompaniment to Brother and Sister (for the mystery's revelation to Leia) I think all this shows a keen sense of dramatic development through musical means on Williams' part, meaning that the score isn't just this theme followed by that one, but one that closely follows the discoveries and character changes of the narrative itself. Great stuff.
  21. I've always liked this mysterious version of part of Yoda's theme, which is its second idea sped up and in a minor key. Appropriately, it plays when Yoda warns Luke about the Emperor's powers and cryptically reveals that there is another Skywalker.
  22. I think he should just let the cat write the score. I mean, cats can write some bad-ass sad-death music when they feel truly inspired:
  23. Of course you can always adapt music to fit a 3/4 time when it's not written as such. Something about the melody of Rey's Theme, which is in 4/4, makes it a particularly good waltz when adapted to 3/4. Have a listen to the mockup I did below: http://picosong.com/wfnek/
  24. I agree with you and filmmusic about the first note being a downbeat. In situations like this where there's a repeating chunk but it's hard to tell where the start point is, a strong suggestion of downbeat is where the changes of harmony occur. It would be very strange to have the harmony change on the last eighth of a bar then be carried over into the next bar. Even if It were rotated that way, we tend to hear the downbeat with the change of harmony. As for the notation, it probably wouldn't be your first option because there isn't anything besides the melody that suggests another downbeat in the middle of the whole 10-eighth-note pattern. It sounds more like a consistent beat is being retained throughout, so I'd guess a continuous 5/4 here. In other words, there's no reason for the melody's quarters to suddenly sound like a strong beats if they have been sounding as weak beats just before.
  25. I agree. It's also more "classical" a progression than Williams usually writes, one that, after the first chord, follows a typical pathway for harmonizing a lament bass (stepwise down from the tonic to dominant note). Haven't seen the film yet, but makes me think there's some kind of imminent threat (represented by the lament bass) Han maneuvers out of (represented by the triumphant entry of his hero theme.
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