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Who are John Williams' influences?


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Williams was already long-since scared away from this place 

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Elgar seems to be a big influence to my ears.

I think JW's music has some of Peter Tchaikovsky's influence in it. Maybe not the orchestration, but the way he treats his themes (variations, counterpoint, etc.) I don't have any examples off the top of my head, but I know when I listen to JW's music I often think of how certain theme treatments are similar to Tchaikovsky's. (Of course, I may be biased, because Tchaikovsky is probably my favorite non-film composer!)

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I think JW's music has some of Peter Tchaikovsky's influence in it. Maybe not the orchestration, but the way he treats his themes (variations, counterpoint, etc.) I don't have any examples off the top of my head, but I know when I listen to JW's music I often think of how certain theme treatments are similar to Tchaikovsky's. (Of course, I may be biased, because Tchaikovsky is probably my favorite non-film composer!)

Home Alone scores were inspired by Tchaikovsky . . .

He has many influences. Tchaikovsky might be one of them, but not nessecarily the greatest.

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It might be just me but I think I've heard about Bernard Hermann being the go-to person for Williams more times than just about anyone,both in print and in his music.

I'll list some movies that Williams did the music for,in order from easiest to hardest in terms of scoping out Mr. Hermanns influence on Williams.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

WAY easy because Williams just totally lifted this From North by Northwest.Note for note.

Star Wars :Episode 4

Somewhat easy but again,in my mind,Williams found inspiration from NBNW.Hint-It happens in the end credits for Star Wars.

The Fury

Getting harder,but if you've read about this movie,you already know what I'm talking about.

Jaws

Hardest.If Bruce the shark wasn't in the water,he should have been taking a shower,if you know what I mean.

Good Luck.

How come you don't mention Minority Report? If only for the chasing-his-own-eyes bit (track 7 on the CD).

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  • 9 months later...
It might be just me but I think I've heard about Bernard Hermann being the go-to person for Williams more times than just about anyone,both in print and in his music.

I'll list some movies that Williams did the music for,in order from easiest to hardest in terms of scoping out Mr. Hermanns influence on Williams.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

WAY easy because Williams just totally lifted this From North by Northwest.Note for note.

Star Wars :Episode 4

Somewhat easy but again,in my mind,Williams found inspiration from NBNW.Hint-It happens in the end credits for Star Wars.

The Fury

Getting harder,but if you've read about this movie,you already know what I'm talking about.

Jaws

Hardest.If Bruce the shark wasn't in the water,he should have been taking a shower,if you know what I mean.

Good Luck.

How come you don't mention Minority Report? If only for the chasing-his-own-eyes bit (track 7 on the CD).

Sean's Theme is actually inspired by Mahler, the Adagio of one of his symphonies (I think 5th?).

I found another JW similarity in classical music. I have played this piece myself but never realized its resemblence to The Basket Chase:

Mussorgsky's Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks:

http://nl.youtube.com/watch?v=8cJSbWtTia4

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Why do we have a new thread on this every time a new member joins?

Ideally, new members would use the Search Form, but it's not exceptionally user-friendly.

The key to using the search here is to click "more options" and then choose "titles only"

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Everybody go and listen to:

William Walton: Portsmouth Point Ouverture

About 3' in the piece, or about 30'' after the extensive oboe+piccolo solo right in the middle of the piece: The full Star Wars Main Theme is there.

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I think Howard Hanson's Merry Mount Suite has a lot of JW sound in it, I hear flashes of Jurassic Park, Home Alone and Always.

I am also amazed by the Harry Potter and Episode 1 sound of Holst's Neptune, The Mystic.

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They have probably been mentioned but:

Stravinsky

Holst

Hansen

Elgar

Dvorak

Korngold

his own music lol!

A point thats worth mentioning (and this gets on my nerves) is that people will say for example Harry Potter theme is a copy of Tchaikovsky ballet works when it has no similarity whatsoever apart from the Celeste.

As said in one of the above posts, I don't see any influence in his writing from Bernard Herrmann. In Minority report, motifs are repeated but the orchestration remains the same, Herrmann generally used the same material but altered the orchestration each time; Williams doesn't tend to do this.

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They have probably been mentioned but:

Stravinsky

Holst

Hansen

Elgar

Dvorak

Korngold

his own music lol!

A point thats worth mentioning (and this gets on my nerves) is that people will say for example Harry Potter theme is a copy of Tchaikovsky ballet works when it has no similarity whatsoever apart from the Celeste.

As said in one of the above posts, I don't see any influence in his writing from Bernard Herrmann. In Minority report, motifs are repeated but the orchestration remains the same, Herrmann generally used the same material but altered the orchestration each time; Williams doesn't tend to do this.

Check previous list in the thread, you're missing Walton ;)

Bernard Herrmann's influence can be heard on North By Northwest and Mysterious Island. There are cues where the orchestration cannot be distinguished from JW's. But you are right that Herrmann believes much more in the power of repetition than JW does.

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  • 4 weeks later...
People, what do you think of this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBpZUTJXMX8

who knows could really have been a temp track - LOL I think if James Horner would have composed Harry Potter it would have sounded like that! :thumbup:

I find it amazing that whenever Williams influences are discussed.. people name 20 classical and ontempory composers but one style is missing all of the time but maybe the most important:

JAZZ!!

I mean I can imagine 50% percent of his acion music (mostly moderndays) being played by small jazz combo or big band.

you know I am talking about rhythmic structure, certain interwoven elements - but of of course many harmonic prgressions are typical jazz inspired (no I not only mean Catch me if you can)

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I find it amazing that whenever Williams influences are discussed.. people name 20 classical and ontempory composers but one style is missing all of the time but maybe the most important:

JAZZ!!

I mean I can imagine 50% percent of his acion music (mostly moderndays) being played by small jazz combo or big band.

you know I am talking about rhythmic structure, certain interwoven elements - but of of course many harmonic prgressions are typical jazz inspired (no I not only mean Catch me if you can)

I can see what you mean, but Williams never felt like being a jazz musician and I think he much more identifies with 20th century classical music. Of course his training is jazz, and that's why the harmonics are still there.

But maybe you can name some jazz musicans who might have inspired Williams, it would be interesting.

What do you think of my latest post?

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I find it amazing that whenever Williams influences are discussed.. people name 20 classical and ontempory composers but one style is missing all of the time but maybe the most important:

JAZZ!!

I mean I can imagine 50% percent of his acion music (mostly moderndays) being played by small jazz combo or big band.

you know I am talking about rhythmic structure, certain interwoven elements - but of of course many harmonic prgressions are typical jazz inspired (no I not only mean Catch me if you can)

I can see what you mean, but Williams never felt like being a jazz musician and I think he much more identifies with 20th century classical music. Of course his training is jazz, and that's why the harmonics are still there.

But maybe you can name some jazz musicans who might have inspired Williams, it would be interesting.

What do you think of my latest post?

I already answered to your latest post.

No I cannot tell you jazz musicians in particular, as I did not mean a particular style of one special jazz artist.. I meant the whole artform of jazz and the mannerism of it.

I think that is something that can't be denied - John Williams music throughout the ages is always very, very jazzyI repeat myself: I am referring to certain rhythmic phrases and models he keeps using.

I mean you can say that f.e. General Grievous from ROTS is influenced by symphonic music - but just imagine it:

The bass played by picked bass, add a drumbeat, piano hits and sax takes over the wood winds part

of course with differenmt kind of cadenzes and chords... I can perfectly imagine that piece to be a swinging fast paced jazzpiece

Even Williams HIMSELF said in an interview (1year ago or so) that there is ALOT of Jazz in his music!

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I find it amazing that whenever Williams influences are discussed.. people name 20 classical and ontempory composers but one style is missing all of the time but maybe the most important:

JAZZ!!

I mean I can imagine 50% percent of his acion music (mostly moderndays) being played by small jazz combo or big band.

you know I am talking about rhythmic structure, certain interwoven elements - but of of course many harmonic prgressions are typical jazz inspired (no I not only mean Catch me if you can)

I can see what you mean, but Williams never felt like being a jazz musician and I think he much more identifies with 20th century classical music. Of course his training is jazz, and that's why the harmonics are still there.

But maybe you can name some jazz musicans who might have inspired Williams, it would be interesting.

What do you think of my latest post?

I already answered to your latest post.

No I cannot tell you jazz musicians in particular, as I did not mean a particular style of one special jazz artist.. I meant the whole artform of jazz and the mannerism of it.

I think that is something that can't be denied - John Williams music throughout the ages is always very, very jazzyI repeat myself: I am referring to certain rhythmic phrases and models he keeps using.

I mean you can say that f.e. General Grievous from ROTS is influenced by symphonic music - but just imagine it:

The bass played by picked bass, add a drumbeat, piano hits and sax takes over the wood winds part

of course with differenmt kind of cadenzes and chords... I can perfectly imagine that piece to be a swinging fast paced jazzpiece

Even Williams HIMSELF said in an interview (1year ago or so) that there is ALOT of Jazz in his music!

Ah yes you mean in general jazz has been an influence on his music. I totally agree. JW is basically 20th century classical music mixed with jazz/pop influences, chord progressions, bass lines, counterpoint etc. It's all recognizable as popular music. I think this is one of the reasons JW's music is so much loved by so many people, it attracts people from a broad range of styles.

With my latest post (the link to the Youtube clip) I actually wanted to show the resemblance of Hedwig's Theme to John Debney's theme for Halloween Tree.

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  • 3 years later...

I know all Bruckner symphonies more (3-9) or less (00-2) by heart. I hear a bit (probably accidental) of the 4th early in Star Wars, but nothing specific to the 8th, and not much in general. It's Goldsmith who often, and I believe deliberately, has touches of Bruckner's horn chorales and string lines in his scores.

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I appreciate all the helpful information. Here's a quantity count of all the mentions:

Substantially:

Korngold
Stravinsky
Prokofiev
Herrmann

Commonly:
Walton
North
Shostakovich
Bartok
R Strauss
Mahler
Wagner

Less Commonly:
Elgar
Holst
Hanson
Vaughan Williams
Barry
Tchaikovsky

Occassionally:
Ravel
Debussy
Goldsmith
Penderecki
Lutoslawski
Ligeti
Adams

Though not to forget "Jazz" of course.

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Does anyone know who influenced that wistful dreamlike piano style in E.T. end credits and touches of jazz in Over the Moon and Sabrina? John Williams began as a jazz pianist so I assume it's probably no one specifically.

Though I may just be obsessed with that melody as I'm also in love with the lush strings in Bait for E.T.

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I did a quantity count on the number of mentions a while ago:

Mostly:

Korngold

Stravinsky

Prokofiev

Herrmann

Often:

Walton

North

R Strauss

Shostakovich

Mahler

Bartok

Wagner

Elgar

Additionally:

Holst

Hanson

Tchaikovsky

Barry

Vaughan Williams

Ravel

Goldsmith

Penderecki

Ligeti

Adams

Though not to forget "Jazz" of course. I appreciate all the helpful information.

That is a wonderfully correct listing :) (although personally I consider Stravinsky an occasional rather than a main influence; and Lutoslawski might substitute for Penderecki; and indeed Debussy should be on the list)

Does anyone know who influenced that wistful dreamlike piano style in E.T. end credits and touches of jazz in Over the Moon and Sabrina? John Williams began as a jazz pianist so I assume it's probably no one specifically.

Though I may just be obsessed with that melody as I'm also in love with the lush strings in Bait for E.T.

They are both very Williams. Besides the obvious jazz idiom there is a touch of 20th century Russian piano concertos (think of Rachmaninoff and Shostakovitch).

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That is a wonderfully correct listing :) (although personally I consider Stravinsky an occasional rather than a main influence; and Lutoslawski might substitute for Penderecki; and indeed Debussy should be on the list)

I will add Debussy and Lutoslawski to the list now that they've been mentioned twice.

They are both very Williams. Besides the obvious jazz idiom there is a touch of 20th century Russian piano concertos (think of Rachmaninoff and Shostakovitch).

Ah so you think Rachmaninoff too, that's what came to my mind. Though I'll have to check out the other composers. Thanks.

This piece by Arnold sounds like the setup for Luke's theme

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This may be entirely unfounded.... but my belief is that Williams specifically has a predominantly Russian influence in his music (Prokofiev much). That, mixed with some operatic techniques from composers like Wagner (I know, German), kind of rounds him out. Of course there is the influence of more classic film composers as well, many of which have been mentioned. However, I think that it is the Russian influence that may cause his style to be truly unique. The music of Russian composers is not as widely studied as that from other countries. Perhaps the reason for this is that we are still suffering from the effects of the Cold War as far as what is deemed important in music conservatories. Who knows. I just know that my own experience in conservatory had very little emphasis on Russian music. I had to study it on my own, and I found that it was definitely unique unto itself. Nothing else in the world of classical music sounds quite like it. And no film composer sounds quite like John Williams.

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Oh, I don't know. Listen to "Superman", and you'll hear a lot of William Walton, and I'm pretty sure he wasn't Russian. Similarly, "Jane Eyre" is almost pure Vaughn Williams, and he was English.

Horner, on the other hand, is so far up Prokofiev's (words deleted due to reasons of taste!) that he snorts (words deleted due to reasons of taste!).

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