Muad'Dib reacted to Falstaft in "Psalm of the Sith" (aka "Anthem of Evil") from Ep. 9 Appreciation
Another week, another underappreciated aspect of the Rise of Skywalker score to explore. This time, let's talk about the big new villain theme, "Psalm of the Sith." (Better known as "Anthem of Evil" but I just cannot stomach that name!)
My first two impressions of the theme were
I love the wordless acapella statement on track 7 of the OST; closest we get in this score to the "Legend of Darth Plageuis" unreleased snippet from ROTS we all love... This is kind of just an ersatz Imperial March, more technically fluent but maybe not much more original than Giacchino's Imperial Suite themes...
Since getting to know the score much better over the past few months, I've grown to appreciate the leitmotif quite a bit more, especially after revelations like what @Ludwig pointed out last week concerning its development in "Advice." It's treated quite flexibly over the course of the TROS soundtrack, seeping into many moments where the theme isn't necessarily at the forefront. There are also some new touches, harmonically, like the emphasis on the minor-triad immediately below the tonic (e.g. Cm <=> Bm) which is fairly rare in Star Wars and a nice alternative to the over-familiar Cm<=>Abm evil progression.
My favorite part has got to be the explosive and well-rounded statement of the theme in its full glory during the End Credits. I especially enjoy the build-up starting at 2:06 (shades of the Force Theme's dotted rhythm) and, even more, the delightfully gothic middle section. This 10 measure span has got to be one of the best but least-remarked-upon aspect of this entire score.
Here's a transcription. Could have come straight out of Dracula or The Chamber of Secrets. If anyone can discern even a passing hint of this B-section in the score proper, say so, I am just itching to add it to my thematic catalogue.
Muad'Dib reacted to Loert in Opinion on Jonn Powell's work for Solo
From what I can hear, John Powell's percussion does follow the rest of the music in a way that the average drum loop wouldn't. Listening closely, one can pick out microvariations in almost every bar of music. Because of this I never get the impression that Powell uses percussion out of laziness - if that were so, then the percussion of e.g. Corellia Chase wouldn't lift the track to the extent that it does. If I'm honest, I think Powell's typical employment of "drum loops" isn't much different from JW's work on The Lost World.
Actually, funnily enough, when I listened to Test Drive for the first time I was immediately put off by the percussion and didn't listen to it for another year. It took a while before I came to realise the integral role it played in the track.
Muad'Dib reacted to Marian Schedenig in Maxine Kwok to interview colleagues about working with Williams
Maxine Kwok, LSO violinist and, judging by her social media accounts, one of the biggest Williams fans, is going to interview colleagues like Anne-Sophie Mutter and Carmine Lauri about working with John Williams on Scala Radio this Sunday at 1pm (GMT presumably, since Scala Radio seems to be London based).
I rarely bother with radio because I hate organising my day around fixed broadcast times, but I expect if I post this here, someone will record it and the rest of us will be able to listen to it later.
Muad'Dib reacted to Lewya in New interview with John Williams in The Times
Interview: John Williams at 89, the man behind the best (and most hummable) film scores
The composer tells Richard Morrison about his decades-long career — including the time he helped out a struggling LSO with ‘some sci‑fi film’
He left it late, but in January this year John Williams added another achievement to a body of work that includes more than 100 film scores, dozens of symphonic works and 52 Academy award nominations. Just a few weeks shy of his 88th birthday he made his conducting debut with the Vienna Philharmonic in the ornately gilded Golden Hall of the Musikverein.
The concert, filmed and recorded by Deutsche Grammophon and released next week, was remarkable for several reasons. According to Williams, this venerable orchestra had never played a note of his music before. It certainly made up for lost time, delivering extracts from more than a dozen of Williams’s greatest scores, including Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the Harry Potter films, Jurassic Park, ET, Jaws and Schindler’s List.
And the Viennese musicians weren’t the only ones venturing into unfamiliar territory. “Although I’ve done a lot of concert work in America, I had never conducted publicly in Europe before,” Williams admits, speaking down the phone from his Los Angeles home. “And I never really intended to. It always seemed a long way from California. When this invitation came, however, I thought, ‘Well, if I’m ever to conduct a concert in Europe in this lifetime, I’d better get on with it.’ And there’s no greater honour than being invited to conduct in the Musikverein.”
Was Williams aware of the history of the hall as he walked out on to that famous platform? After all, in his remarks from the conductor’s podium he referred to his soundtracks for the Star Wars films — all nine of them — as “a nice round number”, a remark clearly picked up by the Viennese audience as an allusion to the number of symphonies written by Beethoven, Schubert, Mahler and Bruckner.
“Absolutely,” he replies. “For any composer, to visit Vienna is a spiritual journey. It’s as much of a Mecca as we musicians have. Especially if, like me, you revere Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Mahler. Just the chance to breathe the same air as Haydn — one of the purest, most instinctive talents in the history of music — was more than I could resist.”
Which of those composers would Williams most liked to have met? “Oh, Beethoven of course,” Williams says. “I still read through his scores for the pleasure of what I hear in my head, and for the beauty I find in their craftsmanship. And I think he might have been interested in film if he’d lived 200 years later, though he probably would have been horrified by having his music drowned out by the noise of spaceships flying past.”
And how did the Vienna Philharmonic take to Williams’s epic film scores? “They rose to the challenge brilliantly,” the composer says. “To be honest, I was a bit concerned before I got there. I know they have this fabulous romantic sound, and they can seem to turn on 19th-century style more genuinely than any other orchestra — but I had worries about the rotary valve trumpets [a more old-fashioned form of trumpet, still favoured in German and Austrian orchestras]. I was concerned about so much upper-register work being played by trumpets without the sort of pistons we use in Britain and America. I need not have worried, though: the trumpets were fabulous. Their pitching and power blew me away.”
Hearing music from so many films and decades collected together on one recording makes one appreciate the protean nature of Williams’s genius. There is no single “Williams style”. Yes, the swaggering imperial marches of Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark might be regarded as a hallmark, but so might the spooky, bitonal shifts of the Harry Potter score, or the relentless Prokofiev-like ostinatos of Jaws, or the uneasy Vaughan Williams-like pastoralism of War Horse, or the Yiddish melancholy of Schindler’s List. Does Williams recognise this aspect of his craft, the ability to use the past 200 years of orchestral composition in the way that a painter might use a palette, selecting the colours and textures appropriate to the mood of each movie?
“Yes, that’s the essence of being a film composer,” he says. “We are asked to conjure all sorts of moods. I remember in my early days being asked to write burlesque and vaudeville-type music for comedies simultaneously with supplying big romantic scores for dramas. If you are going to write music for cinema, or at least for more than one or two films, you have to accept all varieties of challenge. It goes with the territory.”
And although few people think of Williams as an avant-garde composer, there are many moments in his films when he displays a remarkable grasp of what were, at the time, very avant-garde techniques. The nebulous string clusters that open Close Encounters, for instance, could have come straight out of a score by Ligeti or Penderecki. “Yes, it’s true,” Williams acknowledges. “In film there’s often the need for a composer to change gear even in the space of a few minutes. So in Close Encounters, yes, you get those Penderecki-like clusters, but they are then combined with a romantic tune, all in the course of a six-minute sequence.”
Does his inspiration ever dry up? Down the phone there is a sardonic chuckle. “There can be no such thing as writer’s block in film composition,” he says. “You are closer to being a journalist than a novelist. You have a certain number of days to write a certain number of minutes of music, and you have to get on with it. It’s a job of carpentry, of manufacturing musical things.”
So he never hits a blank? “Oh sometimes, but if there’s a section of a scene I can’t think how to treat I will just move on to another bit, then come back to it. It usually solves itself.”
How much do film directors help or hinder the process? Another knowing chuckle down the line. “Directors will always talk about what they think they want musically,” Williams replies. “And I always listen to them. But usually when I get to the piano and start to work, those ideas are pretty much gone. It’s always better for me to respond to the visual material — the film that’s actually being shot — than to verbal instructions.
“And of course there’s huge variety in that species of humanity called film directors. Some are very musical. Others are suspicious of using music at all.”
Where does Steven Spielberg, the director with whom Williams has collaborated for 46 years, sit in that spectrum? “Oh, with Steven there can’t be enough music,” Williams exclaims. “He always wants more and more. It’s rather touching in its way. He will come to a recording session that ends at a certain hour, the musicians will be packing up, and Steven will say, ‘Where are they going? Why are you stopping? Haven’t you got anything else you can play?’ He just loves the process so much.”
Williams admits to being a “child of Hollywood” — his father, a jazz drummer, moved the family there in 1948, and Williams began his career playing piano in Hollywood orchestras throughout the 1950s. Yet some of his most famous scores for Spielberg were recorded not in Hollywood, but in Britain, with the London Symphony Orchestra at Denham or Shepperton studios.
“I was introduced to the LSO by my dear friend André Previn, when he was the orchestra’s principal conductor, and of course the LSO players were whizz kids at sight-reading, so we made many recordings together,” Williams recalls.
In fact, the story is more dramatic than that. In 1976 the LSO — in desperate financial difficulties — asked Previn if he could write another film score so the orchestra could make some money by recording it. Previn said he was too busy, but offered to phone a friend who was writing a score for “some sci-fi film”.
The friend was Williams, who said he would hire the LSO as long as the orchestra could squeeze in 18 sessions in the next month. The orchestra agreed, as long as some sessions could begin at 11pm, after its regular concerts were over. And thus was the soundtrack to Star Wars recorded.
Even more extraordinary, the LSO had just recruited a new principal trumpet — the soon-to-be-legendary Maurice Murphy. So on his first day in his new job Murphy’s first task was to blast the opening notes of one of the 20th century’s greatest movie melodies.
“Yes, Maurice came out to Denham and we started with the fanfare from Star Wars,” Williams recalls. “And of course he shocked the world by hitting that top C with that extrovert, heroic, raw timbre he had — the perfect sound for the kind of action film that Star Wars was. I loved him from that moment! We always said that we would have a round of golf together, but of course we never found the time, and then he died way too soon.”
With most work in Hollywood suspended during the pandemic, Williams might be forgiven for taking a well-earned break from composition. Not a bit of it. He’s spending his time finishing a violin concerto for Anne-Sophie Mutter, who also features in the Vienna concert playing virtuoso arrangements of his soundtracks (“Harry Potter meets Paganini,” Williams quips). Astonishingly, it will be the 19th concerto or quasi-concerto he has written for the concert hall.
“I think of my work outside film as being part of my own musical self-education,” he says. “And believe me, the road to being harp-savvy enough to write a harp concerto is a long one. But it’s also nice to write something that doesn’t require the approval of a studio boss. And, you know, even if I wasn’t being paid I would always want to write music. The greatest thrill of my life has been hearing my music played, almost immediately, by wonderful orchestras. It’s something I wish every composer could experience.”
He’s not so far away from his tenth decade. Does he ever contemplate hanging up his quill? “Never,” he says. “I will press on. Music isn’t a profession. It’s my oxygen. Take that away and I’d really be in trouble.”
Muad'Dib reacted to bruce marshall in What is the Last Cue You Listened To?
"Adventure on Earth-?ET. Suite"
I just can't enjoy anything other than the amazing ORIGINAL.
It's in the l9nger version I believe.
NETFLIX has a mini series version up.
Iirc this plays at the very beginning as a sort of ' prelude' over scenes of mountains and forests covered in snow!
Muad'Dib reacted to Remco in OLD video: John Williams on scoring Star Wars Episode VII
It’s incredible. For me, TFA somehow started my intense JW-fandom. It was like a wake-up call, realizing he was still very much alive and kicking and I’d better follow everything he did while I still could.
It’s funny how I was anxiously waiting for news about TLJ, whether he could do it or not – let alone finish the trilogy. And here we are in 2020, feeling like he could potentially do another trilogy of films still. What a gift this man is.
Muad'Dib reacted to Falstaft in "Approaching the Throne" from Ep. 9 Appreciation
I've been meaning to get another thread going for analyzing and appreciating a track from The Rise of Skywalker. So what does everyone think of "Approaching the Throne" (7m20), a true knock-out cue in my opinion.
I can get the ball rolling by offering a section-by-section breakdown. It's a stupendously rich piece of music in terms of thematic references and developments -- at least 10 independent motivic components, and I'm probably missing a few important details. Apologies too if this is restating stuff that's already been identified and discussed.
0:00-0:20: Deep, slow procession in D-minor, with a Halting Rhythmic Figure, scurrying strings and growing dissonance. Weirdly, the FYC and film version begins in C-minor, and modulates halfway through to D. Unclear if this is the sign of an alternate version of the cue or another instance of inexplicable pitch-shifting -- maybe because "The Battle of the Resistance" it succeeds ended in C. Also, that Halting Rhythmic Figure appears in an unreleased bit of score of the overall sequence (1:40:46) when Rey first takes the Exegol elevator down: there it's in F-minor -- again, not clear if it's pitch-shifted or a genuinely new variant?
0:20-0:45: A big swell onto a D-minor chord for the Palpatine Throne, gathering dissonance after its initial "reveal."
0:45-0:58: More highly dissonant, atonal material; dialed-out in the film in favor of Sith chanting.
0:58-1:15: Statement of an Insidious Minor Figure motif in parallel minor thirds (C-B-D-Eb-A) that comes up here and a few other occasions on Exegol. Related to the Psalm of the Sith leitmotif. Followed by a squirmy cousin of of the Sith Wayfinder motif (1:06) and a very brief Psalm of the Sith tag in muted brass (Eb-Gb-F).
1:15-1:30: Harmonically "darkened" version of Rey's Theme under Palpatine's dialogue that gives way to a couple of suspenseful chords.
1:30-2:00: Two rotations through the Psalm of the Sith-derived Canon, first on A-minor, then, because of the imitation at the minor-third, F#-minor. Quite clearly inspired by "Palpatine's Instructions" from ROTS to my ears (and, by extension, Vaughan Williams's 6th symphony). Appropriate, since he's once again literally instructing someone, now Rey on how she needs to kill him. Previewed elsewhere in the score in some interesting ways.
2:00-2:15: Big (and last?) statement of the Sith Wayfinder Motif, overlain with the Insidious Minor Figure. I love this moment.
2:15-2:30: Cut to space-battle, with music that recalls Psalm of the Sith (E-G-F#-A#) in melodic outline but even more-so Tension in rhythm and affect. Cool contrapuntal interplay between higher-strings on this idea and lower instruments continuing with it around 2:23. Naturally, all of this fantastic musical detail is virtually inaudible in the film.
2:32-2:43: Completely new Battle Theme in A-minor, especially notable b/c its close to being "grammatical" in @Ludwig's terms, having a pretty balanced beginning/middle/end structure. If anyone can point to precedents or links between this melody and other parts of the score, I would love to know! (And I bet @BrotherSound too)
2:43-2:46: Little return to the Tension idea from before, transitions to...
2:47-2:54: A key-change to C-min and second, incomplete statement of new Battle Theme from the winds.
2:54-3:11: A great pair of chromatic sequences, first down (Fm - DbM7/F - E - CM7/E - Ebm - CbM7/Eb) then back up from Em to Fm. Some familiar Williamsy wind+xyl stabs in there too.
3:11-3:19: A quite glorious trumpet statement of the TROS Victory Theme in D-major. Replaced in the film by a splice of the 2:32 Battle Theme for...reasons?
3:20-3:25: Two phrases worth of very ANH-flavored pounding dissonant chords, like Bbm/A.
3:25-3:40: Big C-minor statement of the March of the Resistance, one of the best in the series, and possibly its last. A lot of orchestrational details in strings and winds that are hard to pick out on the recording.
3:40-3:54: Some very tense but non-motivic interstitial material, serving to build up to...
3:55-End: "The time has come!" for a huge choral outburst on B-minor chord, intoning some as-yet unidentified text. The closest we get to Duel of the Fates in the Sequel Trilogy.
Muad'Dib reacted to Albus Percival Wulfric in John Williams & the Vienna Philharmonic: January 18/19 2020 w/ CD & Blu-ray coming August 14 2020
The sound is indeed marvelous! The soloist vs orchestra balance is very pleasant, and the orchestral support feels rich. During the concert I was a bit tired of violin antics at that point, so to hear it on its own is a very different experience. The performance is great.
Muad'Dib reacted to Tom in Witches of Eastwick Vienna Performance (updated with video)
This was announced in the Vienna thread, but I am guessing that is not regularly checked by many. The piece is extremely good--so why not give it its own thread. Here you go:
DG has now released a video of the performance:
Muad'Dib reacted to TownerFan in Rare Angela Morley interview (video)
From what I understand, up until War Horse, the orchestrator(s) took JW's sketches and prepared the full 32-line handwritten pencil score, and that was then turned to Mark Graham's team at JAKMS, who proof-read everything and prepare the parts.
From Lincoln onwards, JW decided to turn the sketches directly to Graham's team at JAKMS, who prepare both the full score and all the parts directly into Finale from JW's sketches. I think all this was detailed in an interview with Graham here: https://www.finalemusic.com/blog/may-the-fourth-spotlight-on-joann-kane-music/
As for Bill Ross being credited as orchestrator in TFA and TROS, I guess it was JW's decision to have him as a closer helping hand in both occasions (he also did some conducting).
Muad'Dib reacted to BrotherSound in Rare Angela Morley interview (video)
There’s a crucial detail that I think may help clear things up: Williams’ sketches themselves changed considerably when he stopped using credited orchestrators. The vast majority of JW sketches pre-2012 are 8 staves, with the strings on 3 staves (violin 1 and 2 together, viola, cello and bass together). Here’s an example from 2008:
There’s not a lot of ambiguity in the sketch above, but the orchestrator does occasionally have to make decisions about exactly how to divide voicings between woodwind instruments or between first and second violins, etc.
In recent years, his already detailed sketches have actually become even more detailed, with 16 staves now standard, with the strings written out on 5 staves, as they usually would be in a full score. While this is still not quite a full score, there’s now enough space to write everything out with enough detail that there’s almost no decisions left for an orchestrator to make, not even the fairly trivial ones they made before. Here’s a 2015 example:
That certainly was true before, but you’ll see above instead of a single “W.W.” staff, as he often used to write, there are now separate staves for flute, oboe, clarinet, and bassoon.
I think it was either @crumbs or @Datameister who spotted that one of the sketches in the TFA doc is actually in Bill Ross’ handwriting. I believe he took the lead while JW was at Tanglewood, probably adapting the already composed cues to fit all the substantial editing changes that kept happening during post-production.
Note that he did not receive this credit for The Last Jedi, which is the only film of the sequel trilogy that did not have any recording sessions during the Tanglewood season, having concluded by mid-June 2017.
Muad'Dib reacted to Smeltington in NEW Concert work: "Highwood’s Ghost", a fantasia for cello, harp and orchestra for cellist Yo-Yo Ma and harpist Jessica Zhou (Premieres August 19th at Tanglewood)
The concert in which Highwood's Ghost premiered will be shown here:
Trying to tell from this thread if this has already been seen before. It seems like a different program than the Blu-Ray being discussed?
Muad'Dib reacted to TownerFan in The New Yorker interview with John Williams
It’s possibly the best JW interview in years. It truly helps when you have a brilliant writer and excellent music critic who knows his stuff doing the piece.
I’m very glad also to see the work of scholars like Frank and Emilio recognized. Well done, dear friends!
Muad'Dib reacted to KK in The New Yorker interview with John Williams
That last quote is brilliant. So eloquently nails the crisis of being a popular composer.
There are some other neat quotes in there too!
Looks like Williams is a fan of Andrew Norman's work and has given him his blessings:
And I had no idea that Williams and Milton Babbitt were in correspondence. Especially given Babbitt's dickish attitude towards music outside of school of modernism:
It's also clear to me here that Williams seems to recognize more of himself in the concert world than the film world these days. But he seems to have made his peace with his fame and success and puts it so elegantly to words, even with the interviewer is fishing for silly romantic notions:
Muad'Dib reacted to Falstaft in The New Yorker interview with John Williams
I'm as floored as the rest of you! I knew from social media that Alex Ross had chatted w/ JW back in February, but had no idea about the content of their interview, or that the maestro himself apparently leafed through my catalogue.
I can't imagine the "online fan sites" Ross says Williams is "delighted" by could be anything other than JWfan. It means a lot, even in just this small way, to know that JW is aware of all the passion and interest his music has inspired in this little community.
Muad'Dib reacted to Holko in Which score do you prefer: Temple of Doom vs. The Lost World
Quite a tragic story actually. You see, he got in a freak accident when he was 2 and lost the part of his brain that helps him appreciate the storytelling, structure and development that makes film music film music and special. When he's confronted with it, his body's rejecting it in what's not too dissimilar to an allergic reaction, so he can only take it in randomised mushes (preferably under an hour long, no matter how long the original is, his attention span was severely hurt too) that scramble and obscure as much of those elements as possible.
Muad'Dib reacted to Amer in John Williams & the Vienna Philharmonic: January 18/19 2020 w/ CD & Blu-ray coming August 14 2020
Looks like I won an online contest to have John Williams answer a question which Movie Weekly (Australia) selected from a few folks. Each winner gets the JOHN WILLIAMS IN VIENNA Deluxe Edition cd/blu ray.
But they can only ship the prize in Australia. Since I dont live there they can however ship to my cousin living there. So I gather myself as lucky for it.