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Why can't other composers write like JW?


Eric_JWFAN
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I've been a lurker here for a while, and I thought I'd finally post. I am a composer (very little work for film) and an avid fan of JW. Over the years, I've gone through various "composer of the month" phases, but the one I always seem to keep coming back to is JW. I decided to use my first post to vent. Like many of you, I love film music in general, but have been disappointed with most of the scores for the recent films that should have stand out music. It is clear that this newer generation of composers is far less skilled at composition in general, particularly when it comes to orchestration. Is there no one out there capable of writing in this style? Today's composers seem to take the easy way out and use cookie cutter techniques: the obnoxiously loud heavy metallic percussion hits in syncopation that has become a staple of recent action movies and thrillers, the myth that the piano is the only instrument suitable for tender moments, and of course the most common shortcut- The long held notes in the strings to underscore moments of suspended tension.

The quality dropoff is no more evident than when you look at Patrick Doyle's disappointing job in Harry Potter GOF. I realize it's not easy to do a follow up score in a series started by Williams, but Doyle's lacks all the details that Williams used to help create that Harry Potter "magic". No movies in recent memory call for that dazzling whimsical style of orchestration than the HP series. You can sense Doyle is trying, but he just doesn't have "it". God only knows what we'll get with Nick Hooper, but I guess I am willing to give him a chance.

Williams shows a much higher awareness of the possibilities of the traditional orchestra. He can write "busy" music without it being intruding. He realizes you can have more than one moving line. He has mastered the art of chord color. He knows how to incorporate the various bowing techniques of the strings. He knows not to underestimate the effectiiveness of the woodwinds. He knows that the trumpet is not just a melody instrument for fanfares. Listen to William Walton (2nd best orchestrator of the 20th century after Stravinsky imho), listen to his 2nd symphony and you'll hear John Williams. JW is in this class, and no other composer for film in the last 25 years is. Not Goldsmith, not Zimmer, or any of the Newmans. Not even Alan Silvestri (although I do love his music).

Sidenote, I realize it's unclear how much orchestration JW (or any other film composer) is actually doing on his projects, but I believe his music is composed with the orchestral assignments in mind and if in fact he doesn't do all his orchestrations, he obviously gives an enormous amount of input on what specifically he wants.

Will we see another composer with the craftsmanship and attention to detail of John Williams? Or just more Klaus Badelts? (average quality, memorable "tunes", and very very loud)

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why can't other baskeball players play like Michael Jordan, why can't other directors be like Steven Spielberg?

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why can't other baskeball players play like Michael Jordan, why can't other directors be like Steven Spielberg?

True... but there are few mediums where its greatest master is so head and shoulders better than the rest of the pack. Even in basketball, D.Wade looked a lot like MJ over the last couple weeks. ;)

I don't think I've heard a score over the past few decades that I felt could have been John Williams.

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I don't think I've heard a score over the past few decades that I felt could have been John Williams.

;)

Well I am referring to the Star Wars/ET/Hook John Williams, not the Terminal/Presumed Innocent John Williams.

If you know of any with that level of orchestration, please fill me in. ;)

edited: okay maybe Stargate has some John Williams moments, but I am really struggling to think of more.

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I don't think I've heard a score over the past few decades that I felt could have been John Williams.

;)

Like he has been living for...centuries! ;)

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Hi Eric,

Welcome onboard! You are absolutely right; about Williams, Walton and the general state of affairs in film music (and actually concert music, too, to far too great an extent). As composers, we should follow Williams' example: Study our craft and practice it to perfection! Know our history, our tradition, and always look to gain more experience!

By the way: Williams' orchestrators are really glorified copyists: He leaves no decisions up to them, everything is accounted for in his sketches.

Best,

Marcus

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It's more that, if you say it like that, it sounds like film scoring has been crap since at least 1986.

He is saying that appart from Williams' he has not heard any score similar to his, i think.

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The Amazing Stories CD has been a case in point for me. I was glad to have all of the other composers’ work on there with JW because it was an excuse to hear other music and composers that I might not have otherwise heard. I wanted to like the other writing (and I need to give it more listens actually) but I keep listening to JW’s Ghost Train. Its not even that great of a listening experience as JW goes but there’s something more satisfying about it, nonetheless. I remember Davis of JP3 using the word “integrity” to describe JW’s writing and I think that’s very true. There’s an extra level of complexity, but seamlessly woven together, that gives the music more depth.

Still, people cultivate different interests and tastes. There’s plenty of other film composers, historically and today, writing quality music, even if they don’t combine the particular attributes that I find so impressive in JW. They’ll bring something different to the table that maybe JW doesn’t. I try to keep that in mind as well as the fact that technical talent, in it of itself, is not what people listen for in music generally. Its valuable in so far as it increases the quality of what we hear but music is ultimately something more visceral that we connect to. Chariots of Fire isn’t a particularly impressive musical piece in technical terms but I can still enjoy it and it clearly connected with a lot of people. That’s just one example that comes to mind for some reason.

- Adam

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It's more that, if you say it like that, it sounds like film scoring has been crap since at least 1986.

Well that's not what I meant. I meant there are few if any non-JW scores over this time that sound like John Williams, even though many are apparently trying. Not that there hasn't been any "great" scores, because there has. Just not ones that use JW's level of orchestral detail.

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To this date I think the closest thing that sounds like JW is when JG chooses to write in that style. Don davis fails terribly in his attempts.

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Comparing Goldsmith with Davis.... wow... :P

IMHO, the closest thing i have heard to John Williams is when Giacchino 'chose' to wrote in that style for his MOH scores.

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Williams style is nto only big brassy adventurous type of scores. You of all people should know that.

Well, Merkel, some are only in it to seek heroic satisfaction. It's strange but true.

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If everyone wrote like JW, i couldnt feel superior to other people who dont like his scores :P

But IMO Goldsmith wrote music equally as good as Williams. Orchestral and cohesive and so.

What is being discussed the ability to write williamesque scores or the to write good music?

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If everyone wrote like JW, i couldnt feel superior to other people who dont like his scores :P

But IMO Goldsmith wrote music equally as good as Williams. Orchestral and cohesive and so.

What is being discussed the ability to write williamesque scores or the to write good music?

Definitely meant the ability to write like JW. I realize there's great stuff that isn't the brassy fanfare type. One of my very favorite scores in recent memory is Elfman's score to A Simple Plan. Not a big score, but with a very unusual instrumentation involving twenty-something flutes and detuned guitars and pianos creating some of the most spine chilling music I've heard. So no, I agree it doesn't have too be the big thematic overture for it to be good. But when it comes to those overture-types, no one writes with the intricacies of Williams. I remember years back one of my composition friends used to whine "Williams has it easy because he gets to write overtures, which are so simple". Well, yeah, when you write them like John Barry, they are. When it's a melody and an accompanniment, sure it's easy. But not when you write them like John Williams.

There is more craziness going on underneath those lead trumpets in the Overture to Star Wars than probably anyone would ever dare try to write. And yet all that chaos under that melody is somehow controlled enough and doesn't intrude, it's just blends perfectly.

I realize I am preaching to the choir here, as we all (or most of us) agree JW is in a class by himself. But I just wonder if anyone on this planet is capable of writing that style. I disagree that everyone needs to be different. JW's style obviously works, and it's what we want. If someone, somewhere on this planet is capable of writing like that, he should do it. There's room for another film composer with that ability.

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Will we see another composer with the craftsmanship and attention to detail of John Williams?

We already have...his name was Jerry Goldsmith, and in some cases I daresay he surpassed Williams' attention to detail.

I disagree that everyone needs to be different.

Kudos to you!

HAIL 1984! HAIL COMMUNISM! :P

Williams must be a very rare case when someone is the best in his field and the most popular at the same time.

Actually...James Horner and Hans Zimmer... are far beyond John Williams or any other composer in terms of popularity. And I mean....FAARRR beyond. We're talking a set of film composers who's albums can sell a million copies as easy as drinking water, in an industry where selling a couple hundred thousand is considered major success.

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Will we see another composer with the craftsmanship and attention to detail of John Williams?

We already have...his name was Jerry Goldsmith, and in some cases I daresay he surpassed Williams' attention to detail.

Well... needless to say, I strongly disagree. Although JG could write some damn good music.

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JW's style obviously works, and it's what we want. If someone, somewhere on this planet is capable of writing like that, he should do it. There's room for another film composer with that ability.

Depends on how you measure works. Works for you?

As I said above, the "styles" of composers like James Horner and Hans Zimmer have proven much much more successful than people like say Williams.

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why can't other baskeball players play like Michael Jordan, why can't other directors be like Steven Spielberg?

Or Kubrick?

sorry but I can't stand kubrick.

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JW's style obviously works, and it's what we want. If someone, somewhere on this planet is capable of writing like that, he should do it. There's room for another film composer with that ability.

Depends on how you measure works. Works for you?

As I said above, the "styles" of composers like James Horner and Hans Zimmer have proven much much more successful than people like say Williams.

And nothing against those composers (and esp. Goldsmith), but JW is just a cut above. His ability is just in a different league.

I love the piano music of Schumann, Liszt, and Mendelssohn. But there is something altogether different and better with Chopin. And all four of these composers lived pretty much the exact same time and had pretty much the same means and influences to draw from, but none were able to churn out consistently great piano music like Chopin. You hear a measure of Chopin and you know it's him, even if you've never heard the piece. I think JW is the only film composer you can say this about.

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And nothing against those composers

The popularity of their styles says nothing of the quality. Horner is the copycat and Zimmer's the robot.

I could write an essay on how Goldsmith and Williams are on par with each other...but I think I'll spare you the argument, our perspectives are so radically different that we'd just go in circles.

You think everyone should write in the style of Williams, I think that concept is absolutely repulsive and would only serve to completely diminish the art form that is film music.

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I can hear a measure of liszt and you know its him. I hear a beat of Elfman and I know its him right away. Goldsmith is easy to tell also!

The chopin thing you said is an opinion, and i know better then to start an opinion fight. One of Mendhelsohns best is the Rondo Capricioso if you don't know it. love the hungarian rhasodies #2,6,12 of lizst along with the transandental etudes. Chopin ballades and sonata in b are just so brilliant, also the waltzer are great ( i playeed the waltz cycle for a recital once - i especiall love the Ab minor, Eb major grand waltz and a minor.

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Williams must be a very rare case when someone is the best in his field and the most popular at the same time.

Hmmm...among filmmusic lovers he's the most popular, for sure.

But in general, are we sure? I think there are composers (mainly because they scored kolossal movies) that are more famous to the general audience, like Zimmer for Gladiator or Horner for Titanic, for example.

Williams' music is famous and everyone knows it, but I'm not sure about him being popular as the other (outside filmmusic experts I mean, of course).

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I can hear a measure of liszt and you know its him. I hear a beat of Elfman and I know its him right away. Goldsmith is easy to tell also!

I think you're very very talented if you can do this. :angry: Again' date=' I am talking about taking a piece of music you've never heard before.

The chopin thing you said is an opinion' date=' and i know better then to start an opinion fight. [/quote']

Yes I realize it is an opinion, but the opinion of most pianists, at least the majority that I've come in contact with. Schumann, Mendelssohn, and Liszt ... I can't think of any pianist that thinks any of these were better composers for piano than Chopin.

i especiall love the Ab minor

There is no Ab minor waltz.

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I simply asked why other composers haven't shown the ability to produce music of that level.  Where did you read me say all composers should write their scores like John Williams?

I'd be happy if 2 or 3 could.

Goldsmith could, but he died.

Basil Poledouris can, but for some reason he's dissapeared.

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Basil is one of my favorites what the hell happened to him? its a shame. Ok its ab major i guess - The one horowitz plays as an encore it has a nick name of some sort.

More layman no the NAME hanz zimmer, and the music of JW but not his name and not zimmers music.

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Will we see another composer with the craftsmanship and attention to detail of John Williams?

We already have...his name was Jerry Goldsmith, and in some cases I daresay he surpassed Williams' attention to detail.

Surpassed?

I think goldsmith orchestration sketches were less developed than Williams'. And with that im not saying Goldsmith didnt do orchestrations.

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Link please?

If you listen to Goldsmith then you will hear that the orchestrations do not suddenly chance if they are done by Alexander Courage instead of Arthur Morton.

Nor was there any noticeble change when Mark McKenzie started doing them.

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I agree.

Now Goldsmith did streamline his writing style over the years but if you listen you can hear the orchestrations are similar thru out the years.

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I have seen the goldmith sketches, it leaves very little in the hand of the orchestrators.

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If everyone wrote like JW, i couldnt feel superior to other people who dont like his scores :P

But IMO Goldsmith wrote music equally as good as Williams. Orchestral and cohesive and so.

What is being discussed the ability to write williamesque scores or the to write good music?

Definitely meant the ability to write like JW. I realize there's great stuff that isn't the brassy fanfare type. One of my very favorite scores in recent memory is Elfman's score to A Simple Plan. Not a big score, but with a very unusual instrumentation involving twenty-something flutes and detuned guitars and pianos creating some of the most spine chilling music I've heard. So no, I agree it doesn't have too be the big thematic overture for it to be good. But when it comes to those overture-types, no one writes with the intricacies of Williams. I remember years back one of my composition friends used to whine "Williams has it easy because he gets to write overtures, which are so simple". Well, yeah, when you write them like John Barry, they are. When it's a melody and an accompanniment, sure it's easy. But not when you write them like John Williams.

There is more craziness going on underneath those lead trumpets in the Overture to Star Wars than probably anyone would ever dare try to write. And yet all that chaos under that melody is somehow controlled enough and doesn't intrude, it's just blends perfectly.

I realize I am preaching to the choir here, as we all (or most of us) agree JW is in a class by himself. But I just wonder if anyone on this planet is capable of writing that style. I disagree that everyone needs to be different. JW's style obviously works, and it's what we want. If someone, somewhere on this planet is capable of writing like that, he should do it. There's room for another film composer with that ability.

Good points there. Well, IMO, the reason why other (film) composers don't write in his vein is simply because they aren't good or talented enough. John Williams is a master in composing like Steven Spielberg is a master in directing. Countless others have tried to imitate both, but none come even close. (And yeah, Jerry Goldsmith was a hell of a talented composer and yeah, I do love him, but he's not on the same level as JW.)

You keep wondering why other composers don't write like JW. Well, you make it sound so easy, like it's baking bread or making the bed or something. This is art, everyone has his own style and everyone has different levels of talent. John Williams just happens to be the best of them all. By far.

:nopity:

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Link please?

If you listen to Goldsmith then you will hear that the orchestrations do not suddenly chance if they are done by Alexander Courage instead of Arthur Morton.

Nor was there any noticeble change when Mark McKenzie started doing them.

I hope this is not a hoax interview... or an aprils fool...

http://www.geocities.com/Hollywood/Cinema/...l_interview.htm

Question: Do you do your own orchestrations?

GoldsmithJ: I do very complete sketches that are completed by my orchestrators.

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Williams has never said anything like that, i think, and he doesnt credit his orchestrations on the CD covers.

As i said in the past, Williams does enough work for not need to credit his orchestrators but not enough to put the 'orchestrated by' next to composed and conducted.

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That's a pretty vague reply.

Do you mean my reply?

If so, if I could tell you exactly what JW does when he writes his brilliant scores, believe me, I would be doing that myself and looking forward to next year's Academy Awards!

:nopity:

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