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What makes for a better composer?


Quintus
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What makes for a better composer?  

16 members have voted

  1. 1. See poll title

    • Ambition, Hunger, Energy
    • Professionalism, Experience, Mastery


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A frequent debate here is the John Williams change of musical sensibility, specifically - how his music has changed or matured over the decades. During the seventies, his music had a boisterous, raw, almost unkempt quality to it - it was showy, it was keen to be noticed; it was the complete opposite of subtle - indeed Williams is most famous for his bombast in those days. Compare that stuff to what he produces today (I call it "post-Schindler's") and the contrast in style and overall musical 'feel' couldn't be bigger; gone is the maestro's cocksure usage of the orchestra, gone is the central driving force of the leitmotif, gone is the sense of fun - that last one seemingly on the part of the man himself.

Nowadays Williams writes music which is endlessly understated, knowingly modest and impeccably polished. He is no longer driven by a desire to impress, or to be famous; he no longer desires acceptance, for he is old and wise enough to realise that he has already achieved those things, and so now he is content to just write music which he finds interesting, music which further hones his skill, for his own ends.

What stage of an artists career excites you more?

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I think Williams is writing differently because it's the current trend. The flamboyant Williams style is passé ... unless he's writing for Indy, of course.

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You think Williams conforms to current musical trends? I do not. Indiana Jones 4 had quite a fun score, but it neither conformed to current trends nor reverted to his older style; it was merely the product of a grizzled master treading old ground.

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You think Williams conforms to current musical trends? I do not.

Would you not agree that current film music is generally more hold back and restraint and less flamboyant and overt in nature than it was in the '80s?

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I'd agree if by that you mean film music is not as interesting now as it was in the eighties. If the talent was out there, I reckon the music would be much more "flamboyant" than it is at the moment.

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I'd agree if by that you mean film music is not as interesting now as it was in the eighties.

No, I'm only saying that the style has changed. That typical Williams sound is gone and so are the many clones. Whether it's more interesting or not is a matter of taste.

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That sound has gone and it is a matter of taste, though I don't think it is purely the result of current trends forcing the old aside for the latest style. I believe the old 'style' is dying out not because people don't want it nowadays, but instead because there's just nobody doing it anymore. It's easy to blame Media Ventures and Zimmer for what's happening today, but they are merely filling an opening and grabbing the bull by the horns, for good or ill, but make no mistake - people would still love a brand new franchise of scores in the grandest of traditions, if only someone were capable.

I think its ridiculous to suggest that just because it doesnt exist nobody wants it anymore. But anyway, that's an entirely different discussion.

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I think its ridiculous to suggest that just because it doesnt exist nobody wants it anymore.

You want it back because you are a part of that particular era but I think the newest generation doesn't want it that badly. New generations bring with them new trends. This is normal because each generation needs its own identity. And new trends have the tendency to make the previous trends become dated. That's why we say: "That is so '80s, man!" Today there's a different approach, a preference to a different aesthetic, but as with all trends, it might come back one day. Trends come and go, and maybe that's for the best, otherwise we'd still be dancing to New Wave.

Alex

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I'll go with option #1.

Me too. I'm thinking James Horner could be cited as an example of hunger and energy put into his early scores.

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I'd say the man is clearly as hungry and as energetic as ever.

johnmasayo.jpg

If the talent was out there, I reckon the music would be much more "flamboyant" than it is at the moment.

I don't agree. David Shire, Lalo Schifrin, Bill Conti, Arthur B. Rubinstein, Richard Band, Trevor Jones, Bruce Broughton, Gabriel Yared, etc. are all active, highly capable orchestral composers who've applied their talents to a large canvas with great (artistic) success. It's not supply, it's demand -- if you don't sound like Zimmer, Giacchino, T. Newman, or Desplat these days, good luck. (To the lament of their fans, Elfman and Howard have gotten the message and taken it to heart.) Horner is something of an anachronism.

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You know, I actually voted for option 2. I'm full of option 1, but that doesn't mean I could write a good film score. There has to be some level of experience and mastery in order to know how to express one's emotion.

That said, they are both valuable assets, and I think we're currently getting both from the maestro.

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I think its ridiculous to suggest that just because it doesnt exist nobody wants it anymore.

You want it back because you are a part of that particular era but I think the newest generation doesn't want it that badly. New generations bring with them new trends. This is normal because each generation needs its own identity. And new trends have the tendency to make the previous trends become dated. That's why we say: "That is so '80s, man!" Today there's a different approach, a preference to a different aesthetic, but as with all trends, it might come back one day. Trends come and go, and maybe that's for the best, otherwise we'd still be dancing to New Wave.

Alex

I agree with Alex. I love all types of film music, but I'm not craving for the traditional style to come back. We all have decades worth of it to listen to, and yes there are composers that are capable of doing it and are indeed doing it right now.

Quint, you should be able to realize that. Remember that video game article in response to Ebert's claim that they could never be art? He just doesn't get it. Out with the old, in with the new. The only serious problem I see, is that the new doesn't care about/appreciate the old. It's like current gamers who think Call Of Duty is the best thing ever, and they've never even played an N64. Similarly there are people out there who think Zimmer's Pirates is the greatest thing ever and they've never heard anything from decades past.

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I think its ridiculous to suggest that just because it doesnt exist nobody wants it anymore.

You want it back because you are a part of that particular era but I think the newest generation doesn't want it that badly.

The newest generation doesn't even know it because they grew up in an era of declining quality.

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It's like painting.

Does anybody paint anymore? No, of course not. It's a dead art.

What people do is discuss the dead masters, like da Vinci, Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and all the others.

So soon will it be with film music. The difference is that I won't have to fly to Rome or Paris to enjoy a Williams or Goldsmith.

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I think both are necessary - which is why my favorite Williams music comes from the 1977-1995 period. He is still capable of writing great music (like Prisoner of Azkaban or Revenge of the Sith), but he is too old and has lost the energy for that to be the norm.

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A frequent debate here is the John Williams change of musical sensibility, specifically - how his music has changed or matured over the decades. During the seventies, his music had a boisterous, raw, almost unkempt quality to it - it was showy, it was keen to be noticed; it was the complete opposite of subtle - indeed Williams is most famous for his bombast in those days. Compare that stuff to what he produces today (I call it "post-Schindler's") and the contrast in style and overall musical 'feel' couldn't be bigger; gone is the maestro's cocksure usage of the orchestra, gone is the central driving force of the leitmotif, gone is the sense of fun - that last one seemingly on the part of the man himself.

Nowadays Williams writes music which is endlessly understated, knowingly modest and impeccably polished. He is no longer driven by a desire to impress, or to be famous; he no longer desires acceptance, for he is old and wise enough to realise that he has already achieved those things, and so now he is content to just write music which he finds interesting, music which further hones his skill, for his own ends.

What stage of an artists career excites you more?

I have to say, I think you completely misrepresent John Williams's modus operandi, creative choices and aesthetics.

From a technical point of view, Williams writes much more impressive music now than he did in the 1970s, generally speaking. He is harmonically, orchestrationally and thematically/motivically much more complex, and much more ambitious (at least if we're discussing his work for film).

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I must agree with Alex Cremers in this thread.

The way Williams writes nowadays has a lot to do with the way producers, directors etc want the score to be in their films.

The days of flamboyance are gone, these days film makers opt for a more sublimanal aproach when it comes to the music. The score should conform to their vision of the film, without drawing to much attention to itself.

The reason why John Williams seldom writes scores anymore with a plethora of themes and leitmotifs, is because no one else in Hollywood is writing like that anymore.

Williams has just conformed to the latest Hollywood trend, like he has done throughout his careeer.

I know this might irk people like Marcus, but to completely separate John Williams film music from the medium it was written for is not possible. John Williams writes what the producer and director wants him to write.

The job a a film composers, is by definition that of an artisan, rather then an artist. And even John Williams can never truly escape from the desires of those who pay his fee.

Another factor is of course that JW might not be as young and eager as he once was....

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A frequent debate here is the John Williams change of musical sensibility, specifically - how his music has changed or matured over the decades. During the seventies, his music had a boisterous, raw, almost unkempt quality to it - it was showy, it was keen to be noticed; it was the complete opposite of subtle - indeed Williams is most famous for his bombast in those days. Compare that stuff to what he produces today (I call it "post-Schindler's") and the contrast in style and overall musical 'feel' couldn't be bigger; gone is the maestro's cocksure usage of the orchestra, gone is the central driving force of the leitmotif, gone is the sense of fun - that last one seemingly on the part of the man himself.

Nowadays Williams writes music which is endlessly understated, knowingly modest and impeccably polished. He is no longer driven by a desire to impress, or to be famous; he no longer desires acceptance, for he is old and wise enough to realise that he has already achieved those things, and so now he is content to just write music which he finds interesting, music which further hones his skill, for his own ends.

What stage of an artists career excites you more?

I have to say, I think you completely misrepresent John Williams's modus operandi, creative choices and aesthetics.

From a technical point of view, Williams writes much more impressive music now than he did in the 1970s, generally speaking. He is harmonically, orchestrationally and thematically/motivically much more complex, and much more ambitious (at least if we're discussing his work for film).

Nice to see you weigh in Marcus, I always enjoy your posts and appreciate your thoughts on all things film music. However, you (unsurprisingly) appear to be looking at this from a musician's pov: it seems you are suggesting that "harmonically, orchestrationally and thematically/motivically much more complex" compositional skill automatically amounts to better music; which I strongly disagree with... hence the very different poll choices. Strictly speaking, you gravitate much closer to option 2 than you do option 1.

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Music is about emotion, but technical skill is a necessary means to achieving that end. That's the only reason most of the ordinary people in the world can't compose - they lack technical training/experience. I mean, nobody would ever say that Steven Spielberg lacked emotion when he was making E.T., but that doesn't mean he could have written a good score to go along with the film.

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Music is about emotion, but technical skill is a necessary means to achieving that end. That's the only reason most of the ordinary people in the world can't compose - they lack technical training/experience. I mean, nobody would ever say that Steven Spielberg lacked emotion when he was making E.T., but that doesn't mean he could have written a good score to go along with the film.

I disagree. If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything.

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That's impossible to answer as it is different depending on the individual. In the case of Stravinsky, and (dare I say it?) John Williams I would definitely say that the youthful vigour and energy of their first 50 years surpassed much of what they wrote as experienced composers. In the case of Delius, Vaughan Williams, Berg etc. their later years saw their music develop a maturity and power that resulted in some of their most wonderful compositions.

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In the case of Delius, Vaughan Williams, Berg etc. their later years saw their music develop a maturity and power that resulted in some of their most wonderful compositions.

Beethoven.

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I go for both. Williams has always had both, which is why I can enjoy music from nearly any era of his...but the scales have tipped rather differently at different points. He used to go more for the visceral thrills, but the air of consummate professionalism and mastery was still there. He's just lost some of that visceral thrill in recent years.

And regarding the importance of music's technical merits: IMO, it all comes down to what is emotionally effective, yes...but it's often the technical achievements that get you there. Again...why not both? It's not an either/or sort of thing.

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I disagree. John Williams action music today is more rhymtic and complex. Far more intense and aggressive. It's just more fun, and has more emotion. And that's entirely because he has better technical skills today. These are one and the same thing. The best composers who are the ones who are music nerds with a sense of fun.

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John Williams action music today........has more emotion.

i cant agree with that, i dont really feel any emotion in the jungle chase while in the original three Raiders pictures scores there is lots, even in the SW prequels there is more emotion then KOTCS, i believe that if the all of the Indy scores were played by the LSO KOTCS might have been a little better

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John Williams action music today........has more emotion.

i cant agree with that, i dont really feel any emotion in the jungle chase while in the original three Raiders pictures scores there is lots, even in the SW prequels there is more emotion then KOTCS, i believe that if the all of the Indy scores were played by the LSO KOTCS might have been a little better

The lack of emotion onscreen didn't encourage emotional writing to be had in the music. Not even John Williams can always get wine from an acorn.

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Not true. All George Lucas said to Mark Hamill was "Go stand on that mound of earth with your arm across your knee and look at the sky". Johnny boy did the rest.

Indeed!

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Not true. All George Lucas said to Mark Hamill was "Go stand on that mound of earth with your arm across your knee and look at the sky". Johnny boy did the rest.

I don't doubt that. Except Mark Hamill didn't have a hand in the jungle chase in KOTCS...

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Not true. All George Lucas said to Mark Hamill was "Go stand on that mound of earth with your arm across your knee and look at the sky". Johnny boy did the rest.

I don't doubt that. Except Mark Hamill didn't have a hand in the jungle chase in KOTCS...

He of course lost it, you remember, in TESB.

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Not true. All George Lucas said to Mark Hamill was "Go stand on that mound of earth with your arm across your knee and look at the sky". Johnny boy did the rest.

This is true, but Lucas did the groundwork before hand in the hologram scene and dinner afterwards. John's not seeing that solo section of film isolated from the bigger context, so he already has the right thematic impetus to go with.

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Not true. All George Lucas said to Mark Hamill was "Go stand on that mound of earth with your arm across your knee and look at the sky". Johnny boy did the rest.

I don't doubt that. Except Mark Hamill didn't have a hand in the jungle chase in KOTCS...

He of course lost it, you remember, in TESB.

Not technically, no. His mom gave him two hands, so he had one to lose in TESB, leaving only five fingernails to bite in KOTCS.

In a deleted scene, Mark Hamill is offscreen, projecting Jedi abilities on the monkeys, which permits them to swing through the trees quickly with the greatest of ease...

So Mark Hamill DID have a hand in Cloud City's ventilation system?

Yes.

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I have read the posts for this thread with interest, and I have come to the conclusion that the answer to the question is...both.

Case in point: James Horner. When J.H. started working in film, he provided a variety of great scores in a 4-5 year period, culminating with the wonderful "The Name Of The Rose". I'm not saying that J.H. has done diddly squat since then, but, IMO, in recent years, the word "coasting" comes to mind. J.H. seems to be an example where maturity of age, has not equated with a maturity of composition.

J.W. writes what is required of a particular film, and its director. That it makes for continued listening pleasure, is nothing short of miraculous, and is a testament to his monumental talent. Yes, his style of composition has changed over the decades; as his life changes, so will he, and this will be reflected in his changing music.

I am now of an age to realise that the past and the present fit together, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. One influences the other; to quote the end of Star Trek III "...and the adventure continues". I look forward to hearing whatever J.W. writes, in whatever time he has left on this Earth, whatever it may sound like.

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I am now of an age to realise that the past and the present fit together, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

I guess I'm still of an age to believe that the past can kick the present's ass, like Hakeem and Shaq in '95.

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I am now of an age to realise that the past and the present fit together, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

I guess I'm still of an age to believe that the past can kick the present's ass, like Hakeem and Shaq in '95.

Who, what, when, where, and how, with one big side order of why.

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I am now of an age to realise that the past and the present fit together, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

I guess I'm still of an age to believe that the past can kick the present's ass, like Hakeem and Shaq in '95.

Who, what, when, where, and how, with one big side order of why.

NBA basketball.

Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets defeated Shaquille O'Neal and the Orlando Magic four games to none in a best of seven series.

Olajuwon played from 1984 to 2002, while O'Neal has only been playing since 1992. In this sense, Olajuwon represents the "past" and kicked Shaq's "present" ass.

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I am now of an age to realise that the past and the present fit together, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.

I guess I'm still of an age to believe that the past can kick the present's ass, like Hakeem and Shaq in '95.

Who, what, when, where, and how, with one big side order of why.

NBA basketball.

Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets defeated Shaquille O'Neal and the Orlando Magic four games to none in a best of seven series.

Olajuwon played from 1984 to 2002, while O'Neal has only been playing since 1992. In this sense, Olajuwon represents the "past" and kicked Shaq's "present" ass.

:thumbup: ...I'll repeat that... :blink: Still none the wiser, but thanks for the heads up.

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The obvious answer is that you need both.

But since I can only choose one, I went with option 2. Why? Its simple. I'd rather listen to a well crafted piece written unambitiously (say, James Horner) than a poorly written piece by an ambitious one. As an analogy I have a friend who is also very much into photography. Very passionate and enthusiastic about the hobby and always willing to try new stuff and approaches but frankly he just isn't very good.

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