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Henry Buck

Is there something to KOTCS after all?

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While I can easily appreciate the technical mastery of this score I find it difficult to connect on an emotional level. Many members here have expressed similar views. So I came up with a little experiment. The crystal skull theme is supposed to hearken back to the sci-fi serials of the fifties, isn't it? So I made it sound like the fifties. I took "Call of the Crystal," downgraded its audio quality - dropped the sample rate, dynamically compressed it, EQed it - and added tape hiss so that it actually sounds something like music recorded back then. And you know what? It sure does sound nice. It's totally UFO movie music. I could easily see it as one of those "holy grails" Intrada releases. Marion's theme and the Raiders March? It's like a flashback to Korngold.

This made me think about sound quality and the effects it has on us. Is the purest sound quality always the best, or does it depend what the quality evokes? "Call of the Crystal" definitely calls up more nostalgia after being put through my filters, even though objectively it sounds terrible. I'm considering putting the whole score through an "old soundtrack" filter and taking a listen. How would the perception of dated sound change my impression of the score?

I draw such a blank with KOTCS because the film does nothing for me. I can't associate the music with any feeling or idea from the film because I don't like it. I often find that the less we know about music the more we like it. Putting the music through these filters mystifies it. It makes you use your imagination to supply your own high fidelity perception of the sound. So given that this technique basically disassociates the music with the recently released film, I wonder how much my opinion of the score is colored by the film. This filtering is obviously not a permanent change I'm going to make to my copy of the score... it's just a curious experiment.

I'll throw this out here: I'd like to hear Superman: The Movie in perfect, modern sound (the Blue Box got as close as it could, but it's clearly a dated recording) and I'd like to hear Close Encounters in a harsh, 70s sound a la Star Wars (because the remastered release sounds so good). Why, I wonder? Do I just want what I can't have? :)

If anyone's interested in hearing retro KOTCS cues you can PM me. I suppose I can't share stuff on the forum.

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This actually sounds quite interesting. Though I enjoy the score in the quality it's in now, and I wouldn't want to go all the way to sounding like it was recorded in the '50s, I will the say the recording could've been a little less glossy. It's nowhere near as bad as something like, say, ROTS, but I think something with just a little more...how to say it...grit? Yeah, just a little more grit in the recording, if that makes any sense.

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I think it's a pretty good recording. Certainly it would be ridiculous to claim that it sounds "better" given the old movie treatment. I'm more commenting on the mental associations we make with music of different sound qualities.

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This thread topic reminds me of one of JWFAN member Adam's favorite points: how our preconceived notions influence our reception of a score. Always hard to say.

I do think that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is at its best when when it's riffing on one of the melodies showcased in "Call of the Crystal." That's when the score really seems to come into its own and lay claim to some semblance of individuality -- even if it's one that's owed almost entirely to the '50s SF serials mentioned above.

What holds the score back from the higher tier of Williams scores is what has plagued much of his action-adventure scoring for at least the last decade:

(a) Incidental underscore that meanders listlessly; and

(b) Helter skelter action writing that enervates more than it excites, and sounds untethered even when it is. The long form melody writing that once drove Williams's approach in this area endowed his cues with their own filmic identity and narrative continuity. Its decline has thrown into sharp relief the formula, the familiar licks, the standard JW compositional grab bag of tricks.

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I think the the opening scenes are the most guilty of that. Aside from the opening motif, "Warehouse Escape" is undoubttedly the highlight of the first fifteen-twenty minutes. I think it starts to pick up particularly with "The Train Station," whereas up until then yes, there is a certain blandness. After this cue, I think it starts to get more interesting. There's filler here and there, but even though it's taken time, a huge chunk of the score has really grown on me. And as I said in another thread, "Chauchilla Graveyard" has turned out to be a surprisingly delightful little cue, IMO, and the action cues really aren't quite as "random" as I thought originally. Even if it's not as deliciously in-your-face as a "Airplane Fight" or a "Bug Tunnel and Death Trap" or a "Scherzo for Motorcycle and Orchestra," each of the action scenes gets some kind of motif. I quite like "A Whirl Through Academe," which I think is kind of more of an equivalent to something like "The Nightclub Brawl," in that for the longest time I didn't realize it had a theme, and only more recently did I pick up on it. It's a similar kind of motif, not quite as hummable, but certainly graspable, and once you've grasped it, it's really enjoyable.

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the action cues really aren't quite as "random" as I thought originally. Even if it's not as deliciously in-your-face as a "Airplane Fight" or a "Bug Tunnel and Death Trap" or a "Scherzo for Motorcycle and Orchestra," each of the action scenes gets some kind of motif. I quite like "A Whirl Through Academe," which I think is kind of more of an equivalent to something like "The Nightclub Brawl," in that for the longest time I didn't realize it had a theme, and only more recently did I pick up on it. It's a similar kind of motif, not quite as hummable, but certainly graspable, and once you've grasped it, it's really enjoyable.

My point is not that Williams no longer writes set pieces (a myth perpetuated even by the likes of FSM), but that he seems less invested in them. The motifs are often introduced, then dropped -- or used mainly as bookends. Or they'll be shoehorned in from time to time but not particularly developed. In any case, the sense of fluidity that characterizes his best action cues is rarely there anymore. I wrote recently that the only action set pieces of late that even begin to approach the quality of such classics as "TIE Fighter Attack" (or "Here They Come!" -- whatever it's called) are "Escape from Naboo" and "The Whomping Willow."

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I completely understand where Henry is coming from, so much is based on presentation. A good film/score should break through the confines of this, but it doesn't always happen. For example, TRANSFORMERS was entertaining on the big screen surrounded by people, but watching it at home with my wife, no matter what HDTV and 5.1 trappings I have, it's effing terrible. On the same wavelength, some scores aren't done any favours by having bad sound quality.

I align this with something I've always said about the original THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. I love it to death and enjoyed seeing it several times in the theater, as well as the lovely HD transfer on DVD, but it will always be at its most effective on a third generation VHS watched on a small 15" TV.

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I remember a member here put ROTS through those filters and discovered that it did after all sound like "real" Star Wars music.

Also there was some discussion, when AOTC came out, about that reprise of "Binary Sunset": a lot of members argued that it was less powerful because the crystal clear sound quality removed a lot of emotion from it, even if the notes were the same.

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Nah, I love the often crude ambience of a score like Star Wars and I'll take it over any "crystal clear" remaster any day of the week.

The only criteria a recording has to meet for me is that its in stereo.

Ennio Morricone gets a pass on that though.

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I don't think crystal clear is necessarily the problem, it's the digital, glossy sound that so often occurs in recordings today. E.T. sounds crystal clear, but it somehow has that certain something that many modern recordings don't have.

the action cues really aren't quite as "random" as I thought originally. Even if it's not as deliciously in-your-face as a "Airplane Fight" or a "Bug Tunnel and Death Trap" or a "Scherzo for Motorcycle and Orchestra," each of the action scenes gets some kind of motif. I quite like "A Whirl Through Academe," which I think is kind of more of an equivalent to something like "The Nightclub Brawl," in that for the longest time I didn't realize it had a theme, and only more recently did I pick up on it. It's a similar kind of motif, not quite as hummable, but certainly graspable, and once you've grasped it, it's really enjoyable.

My point is not that Williams no longer writes set pieces (a myth perpetuated even by the likes of FSM), but that he seems less invested in them. The motifs are often introduced, then dropped -- or used mainly as bookends. Or they'll be shoehorned in from time to time but not particularly developed. In any case, the sense of fluidity that characterizes his best action cues is rarely there anymore. I wrote recently that the only action set pieces of late that even begin to approach the quality of such classics as "TIE Fighter Attack" (or "Here They Come!" -- whatever it's called) are "Escape from Naboo" and "The Whomping Willow."

I see what you're saying, and I'd mostly agree with it. I think Williams did a good job with "The Jungle Chase," and I think there's a decent amount of thematic usage in "A Whirl Through Academe." Overall, though, it is lacking that development that he just about always gave these cues in the past.

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Whilst I do appreciate Henry's intentions, I do think it's a REALLY laboured and ultimately pointless way of making a score seem better than it is.

It's an experiment. I just thought it was interesting to put this music through an "old" filter; I'm not actually going to keep it that way. Objectively there is nothing "better" about it.

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KotCS the score is IMHO a very good score, even for JW. Not outstanding, but very good nonetheless.

Certain cues rank among the very best, IMO, like Jungle Chase, A Whirl Through Academe, The Snake Pit, The Departure, The Adventures of Mutt, and Irina's Theme.

There are 2 reasons why many people dislike it or have such a low opinion of it: 1. the movie was not very good and 2. there are many boring parts in the score.

Still, I for one love the score. It's not JW's best, mind, but it doesn't have to be his best in order to qualify as a wonderful listening experience. I'm thrilled JW is still capable of writing music as good as the tracks I mentioned above. The best parts are really stunning, amazing, breathtaking...

:)

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I'm listening to these cues that Henry made, and I actually love the sound of "Call of the Crystal." I'm on "Finale" right now, and I'm not as enthusiastic about this one. The music in the finale doesn't seem very old fashioned to me (especially the bit with the painting on the doors), and I've heard the "Raiders March" so many times with different recordings with good sound quality that hearing it taken down so much just sounds like a crappy version. Still, a very interesting experience, and I'll surely go back to "Call of the Crystal" every now and then. Haven't heard the others yet.

EDIT: The Marion's Theme segment of the Finale sounds great

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I think the Crystal Skull theme is by far the most interesting thematic idea in Crystal Skull, and kicks Mutts Theme halfway across the world. I love it being crystal clear, it makes the electronic/synthesizer sound of it that much more compelling, as it reverberates through the sound stage with fantastic clarity. I also love the way it is used throughout the film, both in straight theme form, or just as synch/alien-like backing, like in Orellanas Cradle. And the horn rendition later in the same cue is absolutely breathtakingly scary, beautiful and mysterious, all at once. Bravo.

-- Pelzter, who think the plot of the film would have worked better 20 years ago, if only because it would have been scarier and more menacing. The menacing parts of the Crystal Skull, as a movie, are also by far the best.

And I've also come to enjoy the "creepy exploration" cues of the score tremendously, which I think are every bit as good as (and very much in tune with) the first two films'. Once again, all the score material surrounding the graveyard and Orellana tomb explorations are fantastic, and work even better in the film than on the album.

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