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The What Can JW Improve on Thread


BLUMENKOHL
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So, last night for my pre-bed light reading, I decided to tackle the great "Why Don't You Like John Williams" thread over at Film Score Monthly. Let me spare you the torture and give you a summary. It is an epic battle between those who have to attack John Williams because it's artsy and fartsy, and those who genuinely (and incidentally, rightfully) believe that John Williams is a great composer. And that is pretty much where the argument falls apart if you're looking at it from any perspective, the anti-Williams side just doesn't have a lot of valid points. There are a couple of valid points, but that's about it, and even those are exaggerated to being fatal faults, which they are not.

As with anything in this universe, it's a given that nobody's perfect, and we being the fans of John Williams probably know his work better than any random wanna-be black-turtle-necker and beret wearer at FSM. It's always easy to gush about someone, or to attack a single work of his (as usually happens around here, without much evidence or back up), with some really not witty cliche and think "Woo, I just nailed that one!". But it takes a lot more effort to actually sit down and ask yourself, "why do I attack it?" or "I love it, but yes, there are things that could be better." If you can't think like that, don't post in this thread, and resume your cave drawings. By posting in this thread you are acknowleding two givesn: John Williams is a great composer, and nobody is perfect.

Musical experts of JWFan (especially Marcus ;)) are hereby ordered to post in this thread....or I will be very disappointed. :)

I'll be first and bring up the issue of diversity. Out of the top 3-5 or so composers from his generation of film music, I have always felt that John Williams had among the least diverse of portfolios. Now don't get me wrong, he creates exceptionally unique principal identities for the films he scores, i.e. The Raiders March vs. Hedwig's Theme, but the bulk of his non-concert work for those scores gives one an eerie sense of deja vu that is not just style. To me his most diverse works are Images, Star Wars, and Memoirs of a Geisha.

Yes, Star Wars, believe it or not.

All three are scores John Williams steps outside of himself while maintaining the principles of his style. He's not just imparting them with unique identities, but also inventing a new universe for them. When I listen to his other works, nothing quite reminds me of Images, Star Wars or Geisha. Star Wars is proof that one can be completely innovative and different with a full orchestra. Geisha and Images were evidence that he can take it even further. So what about his other quirky work like Schindler's List, Munich, and Seven Years in Tibet? Well even they don't quite hit the chameleon level of thsoe three scores I mentioned. If John Williams were two categories "bombast" and "close" they'd fall into close. I could sit in the theater without ever knowing he was the composer, and tell you it was by John Williams.

He certainly has the chops, the thing is, he doesn't quite spread his wings that far as much as he could.

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He can improve on what goes into his OST albums

I agree. I find many of his cues too choppy, but that's just me. Although, most of the deeper emotional tracks are perfectly fine.

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Good thread, and I hate to cop out on you like this, but I can honestly say I see no where for improvement. The only thing that needs improvement is the Academy in their ability to judge.

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I'll leave the technical stuff to those who want to pick apart his music. I think Williams is more diverse than some give him credit for. But he has a formula that he's comfortable with and it hasn't let him down nor his ability to find work.

But I'd probably agree with Steef, although the man has had a long and distinguished career and truthfully the creative juices probably aren't what they once were, it happens to everyone in some form or another.

I know there are those who wish Williams would write like he used but to go back and visit his past would probably fall under patische, much like TPM, while sounding good it was Williams copying Williams.

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He can improve on what goes into his OST albums

thats bull

while some of you might need every millisecond of music,

it must be said that some of his OST are much better listening experiences than his expanded releases,

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No complaints.

I once had a professor from Eastmann who shot to pieces the Beethoven Tempest Sonata for piano, I wanted to hit him. Some people don't have the right to complain about people above their heads.

Just wish he was doing more movies.

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I'd love to hear JW do romance without the building symphonic sweep he so adores. As warmly heartfelt as his very best love themes, minus the ever growing climatic crescendo. A sweetly soft play on the kind of melodies he masters so expertly would just do the trick and would be music to my ears.

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thats bull

while some of you might need every millisecond of music,

it must be said that some of his OST are much better listening experiences than his expanded releases,

That is true in some cases, but there is no excuse for both "Duel of the Fates" and "Anakins Theme" to appear twice in full on the TPM OST. You can't tell me that isn't a complete waste of disc space when there is an hour or more of music to pick from. It's not just about "every last second" but using what space is there effectively.

I agree as a whole TOD is an excellent listening experience, yes we want more but what we have makes for a superior album.

TOD is probably worse than ROTJ. What's included on both albums are great, but TOD is horribly selected and sequenced. Like Steef said, Mine Car Chase as the last cue before the Finale? Terrible. At least the ROTJ OST is a good listening experience if you don't know what is missing. "The Emperor" and "Return of the Jedi" are great climactic cues that appropriately appear toward the end of the album, despite being out of film order.

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thats bull

while some of you might need every millisecond of music,

it must be said that some of his OST are much better listening experiences than his expanded releases,

That is true in some cases, but there is no excuse for both "Duel of the Fates" and "Anakins Theme" to appear twice in full on the TPM OST. You can't tell me that isn't a complete waste of disc space when there is an hour or more of music to pick from. It's not just about "every last second" but using what space is there effectively.

Most of mischief managed is a total waste of disc space if you look at the CD as a resource of music from the film.

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Williams needs to write less music.

I'm talking about his wall-to-wall approach to scoring. It affects his blockbuster scores the worst (everything from Jaws to War of the Worlds), but I could point to instances in nearly every score. Conservation is key.

Fortunately, some of his films are excellently spotted and scored. Star Wars, for example.

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I don't like his recent, more ostinato-based action music as much as his older, more thematic style. The pieces don't seem to have as much direction this way. Oh, and I could really live without hearing syncopated flute/xylophone hits ever again.

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Hook is overscored. It's also a great album, luckily enough.

It's appropriately over scored. It goes back to the film's roots as a musical.

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To me, John Williams will always be a definition of what a film composer really is and should do to make film music a perfect and unmissable accompaniment of the motion picture. In a career as long as his, there were sure moments and/or scores he could've done better and I'm sure he's also aware of that himself, but those opportunities are IMHO absolutely dwarfed by all those other immense successes which he achieved and which will forever be a part of film and music history. I daresay that in the decades to come, nobody will be completely able to successfully fill his shoes and repeat the outstanding work that he did. Perhaps we will not have another "John Williams" in future 50 or 100 years, but we're happy to enjoy his music in this time, as it is being written and recorded, and I try to cherish and enjoy that to the full.

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I'll be first and bring up the issue of diversity. Out of the top 3-5 or so composers from his generation of film music, I have always felt that John Williams had among the least diverse of portfolios.

I disagree completely. He's scored...

1. Witches of Eastwick - evil, mecabre-like music

2. A.I. - emotional, but also new and futuristic music

3. Jaws - horrorfilled music

4. Far and Away - Irish music

5. Images - weird music :o

6. The Lost World - safari music

7. Raiders of the Lost Ark - adventure music

8. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - magical music

9. Home Alone - Christmas music

10. Catch Me If You Can - jazz music

11. Minority Report - film noir, Herrmann-like music

12. The Terminal - foreign music

13. Memoirs of a Geisha - Asian music

14. Star Wars - bold, brassy music

15. Saving Private Ryan - somber, honorable music

16. The Cowboys - western, exciting music

17. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - medieval music

And he's done wonderful for all these scores, and that's not even all! If that's not variety, I don't know what is.

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Williams needs to write less music.

I'm talking about his wall-to-wall approach to scoring. It affects his blockbuster scores the worst (everything from Jaws to War of the Worlds), but I could point to instances in nearly every score. Conservation is key.

Fortunately, some of his films are excellently spotted and scored. Star Wars, for example.

Is overspotting really Williams' fault or the director's fault?

John- who also thinks Williams could improve his album producer persona

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Yeah, I wonder. I suppose the directors probably are at fault. Lucas doesn't know a thing about the role of music in a film and Spielberg is losing his touch with it as well.

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Very simply put. I wish that in his more recent scores, he would make his themes a little more complex and his orchestrations a little less complex.

Actually, his themes are often quite compositionally complex. Something simple sounding like Across The Stars has, apart from its very tonal and hummable main melody, a very chromatic, yet sweeping, beautifull, tragic melody. Of course, the classic example is The Imperial March, which begins by using the tonic minor arpeggiation for its melody. But then it also moves to a very chromatic section, yet everyone can hum it, so it seems like it must be simple, when really it isn't. This is part John Williams genious: his ability to create complex, semi-atonal sections that do not sound strange and foreign, but relatable, while avoiding the cliched sound that results from overly tonal pieces.

John Williams 'overscoring' is because of his background. He comes from the operatic school of scoring (which I sonsider to be the better one) where music is an integral part of the story, just as visuals are. Though you might get a bit of blank screen here and there on different movies, the majority should have something happening visually. The same is true for music, because why should the eye get more attention than the ear? I think that the ear starts developing seven and a half months before the eye. It is just sadly neglected in today's culture. Why should visuals tell the story any more than audio? Next time you think there should be less music, ask yourself if adding blank screen sections would enhance the movie. Probably not for most people, but that is because most people rely so heavly on their eye for any and all information about what is happening.

Just some thoughts for ya'll to think about.

Colin Thomson

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"John Williams 'overscoring' is because of his background. He comes from the operatic school of scoring "

Actually, I am pretty sure it is because of the director's wishes. Look at Seven Years in Tibet, Rosewood or Stepmom, Saving Private Ryan or even WotW. Williams has said too, that directors ask for more and more music. In Star Wars series he said they started having him do wall to wall while knowing they would decide later where they did not want the music. Goldsmith also stated they started asking for more and more music. I think this is to cover their asses,but I agree that it could be done more judiciously. However in Star Wars and Harry potter, it is perfectly appropriate.

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I often think the LotR films were overscored as well.

Surprisingly I agree with you here. I think Jackson may be as guilty as Lucas in that he likes most scenes, e.g. dialogue scenes, to be scored, but there was a heck of a lot of material in the CRs that wasn't used in the film so I do think Jackson knows how to limit to an extent.

To be honest I think an awful lot of movies are overscored these days, I don't really think it can be attributed to just a few directors.

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Challenge accepted!

Here goes:

I find it hard to really use the word "improve", because technically, I have a hard time imagening something Williams couldn't do, meaning whatever he does or doesn't do, would be based on rationale, rather than actual limitation. This is what craftsmanship is all about.

Having said that, I wish Williams would show more reluctancy towards being a "pops" composer. I would like him to program more of his concert music, and I would also like it if his suites from his film scores were slightly less tailored to a "pops" concert audience at times. Every now and then, I think there are some missed opportunities in his music, especially the concert suites, that do sometimes adhere a little to easily to a form that seems to require everything ending on an uplifting note, most frequently expressed by a brilliantly orchestrated "sffz" major chord.

There are also times where I feel it would have been great if Williams had challenged himself a little more, aesthetically and technically. Especially in his film scores.

I would also at times maybe wish for a little more austerity, more bleakness, in his music.

This last point refers probably more to a certain existensialism, which is understandably hard to expect from a film score.

I would love it, for instance, if "JFK" had been more about "Arlington", than "Theme from JFK".

(Everyone, I am simply responding honestly to a challenge here. My admiration for Williams' work is undiminished!)

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I wish he pushed harder for releasing complete scores. I know he doesn't have control over that, but I'm sure if he really tried, something might happen.

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Challenge accepted!

Here goes:

I find it hard to really use the word "improve", because technically, I have a hard time imagening something Williams couldn't do, meaning whatever he does or doesn't do, would be based on rationale, rather than actual limitation. This is what craftsmanship is all about.

Having said that, I wish Williams would show more reluctancy towards being a "pops" composer. I would like him to program more of his concert music, and I would also like it if his suites from his film scores were slightly less tailored to a "pops" concert audience at times. Every now and then, I think there are some missed opportunities in his music, especially the concert suites, that do sometimes adhere a little to easily to a form that seems to require everything ending on an uplifting note, most frequently expressed by a brilliantly orchestrated "sffz" major chord.

There are also times where I feel it would have been great if Williams had challenged himself a little more, aesthetically and technically. Especially in his film scores.

I would also at times maybe wish for a little more austerity, more bleakness, in his music.

This last point refers probably more to a certain existensialism, which is understandably hard to expect from a film score.

I would love it, for instance, if "JFK" had been more about "Arlington", than "Theme from JFK".

(Everyone, I am simply responding honestly to a challenge here. My admiration for Williams' work is undiminished!)

Well, you actually criticized Williams. Consider me impressed!

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