01. The Empire Strikes Back
02. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
03. Star Wars A New Hope
04. Raiders of the Lost Ark
05. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
06. The Fury
07. The Rise of Skywalker
08. The Last Jedi
09. The Force Awakens
10. The Adventures of Tintin
Maybe this doesn't exactly fit the criteria for this thread, but it is a JW encounter (of sorts) in what I consider to be an unexpected place.
On Deutsche Grammophon's website, their news page has an announcement about their 125th anniversary -- and it's JW who gets to grace the article with its main and only photo right beneath the headline. And it's JW who gets listed first in the murderer's row of talent that DG is touting for its anniversary activities. Moreover, reading the press release, it sure sounds like JW's Tokyo concert with the SKO was DG's official kickoff event for its 125th anniversary.
It's hard not to feel all warm inside when the world's premier classical label gives JW pride of place for its 125th anniversary announcement, right??
Maybe some sly, dark humor on the part of Williams to play Mutt's theme before the audience found out that he was unceremoniously killed off just to facilitate the plot, and drive a wedge between Indy and Marion...which Helena somehow managed to unwedge in the last minutes of the movie while Indy was out like a light...meaning poor Mutt was killed for nothing.
For those interested in film score analysis, I'll be giving a virtual guest talk on harmony in John Williams' action music. The talk is with the Academy of Scoring Arts this Sunday, Sep. 10th, from 10am-12pm Pacific Time (they're based in L.A.). I'll be breaking down two cues from the original Star Wars trilogy: "Attacking a Star Destroyer" from The Empire Strikes Back, and "Fight in the Dungeon" (the Rancor scene) from Return of the Jedi. The idea is to give a sense not only of the kinds of chords Williams often uses, but also how he tends to use them in an action scene.
You must be a member to attend, but you can sign up entirely for free on the Academy's website. Here's the link for the talk on the ASA's site (includes a link to sign up with ASA):
Ok, I finally had the time to write up a mini review. Pardon the grammar mistakes, lapses of memory, mistaking of instruments, etc. (please correct me if you find any obvious mistakes 😅) I also added some random notes down the bottom that don’t fit neatly into my review.
(review updated Sept 9 after viewing Stage+ recording! I made a few mistakes in my original review 😂)
Having been extremely fortunate to see John Williams conduct live in concert three times in the last year (once in LA, once in Milan, and now in Tokyo), l’d have to say that last night’s concert was my favorite.
As this was JW’s first visit to Japan in 30 years, excitement levels and expectations were understandably high. This was evident as soon as I arrived at Suntory Hall on a brutally humid Tuesday evening in Tokyo. You could feel the anticipation in the air, and you could see, in each and everyone’s faces, that they knew they were here to experience something special and truly historic. People certainly dressed up for the occasion (myself included!), so it wasn’t unusual to see people in kimonos and tuxedos despite the blistering hot summer weather.
As the auditorium lights dimmed to signify the beginning of the concert, the conductor for the first half, Stephane Deneve, walked out onto the stage to rapturous applause. He started off with an amusing joke – his interpreter (who was a cellist in the orchestra), opened in English with “Ladies and Gentlemen,” to which Deneve translated into Japanese! After the laughter died down, Deneve switched to English (with his charming French accent!) and explained the program for the night as well as some brief thoughts on Seiji Ozawa and John Williams.
“Sound the Bells!” kicked off the concert with its rousing array of brass melodies and sounds. From where I was sitting behind the orchestra, I could clearly see the tubular chimes which sounded crystal clear. I honestly never warmed up to this piece until I heard it live last night.
This was followed by “Tributes! (for Seiji),” a piece written by Williams for Ozawa. This was a long and less melodic piece than JW’s more popular works, but it was great hearing this rare piece live. It’s unfortunate that Ozawa was not on stage to enjoy the music.
A suite from “Far and Away” came next with its jaunty Irish sounds and spirit. It was an excellent performance that was well received by the audience.
Then came “ET,” the music many people had been waiting for. Starting with the piccolo solo in “Three million light years from home,” the audience was immediately spellbound by this masterwork of composition. It was then that I heard a familiar but unexpected sound… the pipe organ! I then turned to the huge pipe organ not far from me and I saw a young organist play the mysterious opening lines to this incredible piece. I most certainly had the feels (as young people would say!), and was left fixed on the pipe organ parts for the remainder of the piece.
Stunning is the only word that can be used to describe the night’s performance of “Stargazers.” What an incredibly moving, incredibly perfect piece. The delicate harp, the sweet caress of the strings, the yearning flute… it was gorgeously dream-like. The audience was dead quiet during the entire piece – in fact, it felt like we were all holding our breath, hanging on to every phrase and every gesture from the orchestra, not wanting to spoil the mood, the magic. When the final notes played in to silence, the audience remained quiet for what seemed like minutes, but was in reality only a few seconds. We then collectively wiped a tear (or two), cleared our throats, and got ready for the next assault on our emotions.
The “Flying theme” is probably, next to the Star Wars theme, one of the most well-known JW pieces among Japanese fans. And boy, did it not disappoint under the commanding baton of Deneve! This piece just soared under the Saito Kinen Orchestra and had the audience in raptures during the finale. And that ended the sensational first half of the concert.
The feeling of anticipation had by now reached fever point with the knowledge JW would soon be gracing the stage.
As the lights once again dimmed and the audience quietened down, the volume immediately jumped to 11 as John Williams, the undisputed GOAT of film music, stepped onto the stage to the adulation and applause of over 2,000 star-truck fans. We were all on our feet cheering, professing our love for the man and his music, and hungry to hear his first piece at the podium. Before that, JW quickly talked about how honoured he was to be there, how Japan had changed in the last 30 years, and how much love and respect he had for his dear friend, Seiji Ozawa. He then explained that the Japanese translation of the word “Superman” was “Seiji Ozawa,” which drew thunderous approval from the audience.
And thus began the second half with the iconic march from “Superman.” Expertly performed with passion, it set the tone for the rest of the night.
The “Harry Potter” suite came next, and I suspect many had come to hear this with JW at the podium. The suite was beautifully performed and didn’t sound too different from previous concert performances.
Without any introductory words from JW, the familiar strains of “Schindler’s List” began to fill the auditorium and we were treated to a precise and impassioned violin solo. From where I was sitting behind the orchestra, it was somewhat difficult to absorb the full sound and feel of the solo, but luckily it was well-captured in DGs video recording on Stage+.
It was now time for select pieces from “Star Wars” to shine. I honestly would have preferred “March of the Resistance” or “The Asteroid Field,” but we were treated to a fine performance of “The Rebellion is Reborn.” This was followed by “Princess Leia’s Theme” which was one of the highlights of the evening for me. The flautist absolutely nailed his solos which were gorgeously complimented by the French horn parts. I get goosebumps just thinking about it!
The final piece for the main program was the “Finale & Throne Room,” which was performed with such gusto and passion that it permeated an infectious energy and drive.
This was followed by JW’s second standing ovation for the night before he signaled “one more” to the audience for his first encore, which was “Yoda’s theme.” The “Raider’s March” came next with the night ending with “The Imperial March.” Except JW didn’t call it that – he just turned to the audience and said, “Darth Vadar,” to which the audience went nuts!
As soon as that ended, everyone in the audience got on their feet and gave JW the most enthusiastic standing ovation that I have ever seen… and I’ve been to a lot of film music concerts! Surely, we were clapping away for close to 15 minutes – first for Williams, then the Saito Kinen Orchestra. What was clearly apparent was the audience’s mutual love for John Williams and his music, and our deep appreciation to the Saito Kinen Orchestra for bringing his timeless music to life. My hands were truly numb by the end of night, but I just didn’t want it to end…
Going home that night and processing what I had just seen, heard, and experienced, only solidified my belief that John Williams is the GOAT of film music - I doubt anybody could argue with that.
The ticket debacle
I really must add a note about how bittersweet this experience has been. While I had been ecstatic about seeing JW in the lead up to the concert, I had also felt extremely guilty knowing that my closest Japanese soundtrack friends, who are passionate JW fans, were not able to get a ticket despite their very best efforts. It was good that concert organizers instituted a ticket lottery system because that was fair even if the chances of winning were low. However, when general tickets sales opened for the remaining tickets, tickets pretty much sold out immediately with people left with zero chance of getting a ticket. What boils my blood is that tickets started appearing online soon after at six or seven times the original prices (which were already extremely high to begin with) – and people were actually paying for them. On Twitter in the lead up to the concert, people were practically begging for tickets. And outside Suntory Hall on the day of the concert, there were scores of people holding up signs desperately looking for tickets. The organizers should have put in place a system where the ticket holder’s name had to match their ticket – and if not, there had to be an official authorized resale system. It was truly upsetting seeing the disappointment of so many people that could not get a ticket, especially those who were “true” JW fans and had waited to see JW their whole life. Shame on you ticket scalpers, SHAME.
I met up with @Harry-Pot and @zhonghun1988 before the concert. Two very friendly chaps who are deeply passionate about JW. And they certainly travelled far for this concert!
We ended up having Italian just in front of Suntory Hall… not the fancy Japanese food that I had promised (my bad!!! 😂)
Sorry no pics - we are shy!
Surprised with the lack of merch on offer. They sold:
Commemorative DG booklets with a handful of pages about JW and the concert - in Japanese only
Commemorative DG tote bags
A bunch of Sony and Universal/DG CD reissues (including the postcard with the printed signature)
I was hoping for a poster to hang up on my wall, but nothing… oh well.
Also, they were giving free single-sheet flyers with the setlist. Very basic – surprised they didn’t bother to design something fancier.
1. The Lost World
2. Jurassic Park
3. War of the Worlds
4. Minority Report
6. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
7. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
8. Return of the Jedi
9. Close Encounters of the Third Kind
I'm quite into modernism/avantgarde/Bartók-Stravinsky-Style, so my Top 5 is very 'dark'.
(Favorite cues from JP thus are "Dennis Steals The Embryo", "Eye to Eye"... and all the eerie, dissonant stuff. )
Well... fuck. After the isolated score didn't pan out this was my last hope that I'd be able to have a DoD album that's if not complete, at least comparable to the other Indy scores in my collection in terms of runtime and how much of the story they cover. I don't need 100% completeness, but I just can't stand the entire first act of the movie only being represented by 4 or 5 tracks. I guess now there's nothing left to do but pray that the dry spell in recording session leaks finally ends soon... have there been any new leaks at all since early covid?
(And yes, I'd been lurking in the DoD threads for a while and I did make an account here just to express my disappointment about the FYC.)
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
The Empire Strikes Back
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Superman: The Movie
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Empire of the Sun
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
I very easily could have included The Fablemans, and I'm growing increasingly fond of the Dial of Destiny score, even though it feels so unlike the rest of his Indiana Jones work.
I watched the show before listening to the score which does help but I feel that if you start by listening to season 1’s album and you go from there by the time you get to the last episodes album it’s a very rewarding experience. You won’t know what the themes mean but you’ll still get the development of them.
And yeah Lost became much more about the incredible characters for me than the mysteries. I got so emotionally attached to every one of them that I sorta didn’t care about the plot holes. Season 6 has a lot of them but the characters are so great that I didn’t mind. The finale of season 3 is probably the best finale in the show and one of the best in television and in my opinion it’s solely due to the characters.