Jump to content

Unique "Williams-isms"?


mrbellamy
 Share

Recommended Posts

Thank you very much for the link, very interesting!

Another chord (or sound) that Williams likes to use is that octatonic or Hungarian minor cluster (i.e. F#-G-A-Bb-C#-D or something similar). The second you hear that, you just KNOW it's John Williams, or at least somebody doing a smart parody.

Yes! I´ve been also thinking where that actually comes from ?-) Could it just be as simple as having a clustered D harmonic major (first inversion)? Hmm, have to listen more where Williams actually goes after it. (-EDIT- it sure seems to be part of a hungarian minor scale as you originally wrote.)

All kinds of cool possibilities handling it. Like being a F# minor and G minor or Dmaj7 and Eb7 combined, (polychordal), Being a symmetrical scale D-Eb-F#-G <-> A-Bb-C#-D, or just being a F#minor-major with added tones. You probably know this already, but this just struck me and hence venting!-). I do wonder if Williams thinks more in scales or in (poly)chords when he´s doing clusters.. Or something else :).

As for the JAWS, you're right. There's also the A - Eb polychord heard a good deal throughout the score. Those two chords being a tritone apart (the furthest from the octave), bare a sort of debt to Stravinsky's famed Petrushka chord (C - F#). Williams mostly uses it represent the romance of the sea, the placid yet exotic, foreign nature of what lies in the depths below. You can hear it in the harp and celesta triplet figures at the beginning of Chrissie's Death/The First Victim, and in the muted strings.

Really interesting! Thank you also for pointing out the track. So it is a lot to do with Stravinsky with this one? By doing so he might´ve thought to apply the same kind of primitive/nature feel to the whole soundtrack than what Stravinsky did with Sacre (in where Petrushka chord/octatonic can also be found quite a lot among other things). Hmm, analysis is really hard. You always tend to find the things you are looking for :).

Jonne

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I keep forgetting to respond back here, but this is fantastic! Just the responses I was looking for, and some great non-technical discussions as well! I have to say I don't really have much to add, other than this is just the type of JW resource I was looking for (and then some) but was never able to find too much in-depth discussion of online or in print. It's really been helping me to hear so many new things and common threads as I listen to the Maestro's music again smile.gif

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great posts here! Datameister, I feel like I took a course in JW music just by reading your posts..and those from Prometheus.

Funny, but when I think of John Williams music I often think of lydian themes. The quick and easy scale to create an old fashioned huge movie space mystic wonder atmosphere. But nobody has mentioned that scale yet. Funny the different ways to experience music.

Kalli

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Another chord (or sound) that Williams likes to use is that octatonic or Hungarian minor cluster (i.e. F#-G-A-Bb-C#-D or something similar). The second you hear that, you just KNOW it's John Williams, or at least somebody doing a smart parody.

Yes! I´ve been also thinking where that actually comes from ?

It's mostly linear, rather than vertical in its origin. One has to consider Williams's general style of writing, which as many have said - involves lots of modulations, flourishes, runs, along with some polyphony and heterophony (as opposed to true counterpoint, this is just a series of variations of one or two ideas. The introductory movement of the Rite of Spring is a great example of this, with many similarities to birdsong and African pygmy forms).

There are many scales that Williams seems to use. Octatonic, Hungarian minor, diatonic and harmonic minor as mentioned, but also harmonic major, augmented etc. along with large number of what you call "synthetic scales" - created by certain unusual chords/polychords - i.e. Scriabin's 'Mystic Chord' and 'Mystic Scale'. For example, at the beginning of "Goat Bait/Eye to Eye" from JP - there's these four odd synth/string chords, with harp and synth embellishments - (E-Ab-Bb-C-Db-E-G) - (Ab-C-Db-E-G-B-C) - (G-C-Db-Eb-F#-C) - (C-Db-Eb-E-F#-Bb). The first one appears to be a sort of polychord of C and Dbm6 (or Bbhalfdim7) created from a Ab harmonic major scale, the next - CMaj7 and Dbm from an overlapping Ab harmonic major + Ab augmented (Ab-B-C-Eb-E etc.), followed by - F# w/o 3rd and C, and finally C w/5 and Em7 (or F#6). The last two being octatonic.

As you can see, attempts to describe them as superimposed chords, becomes overly convoluted - thanks to suspensions and alike. It's best to see them as clusters of one or more scales. :)

Could it just be as simple as having a clustered D harmonic major (first inversion)? Hmm, have to listen more where Williams actually goes after it. (-EDIT- it sure seems to be part of a hungarian minor scale as you originally wrote.)

Without the E, it can be both. Eb for G Hungarian minor, and E for D harmonic major. A tone cluster of the later can be heard in the start of Count Dooku's Entrance from ROTS.

All kinds of cool possibilities handling it. Like being a F# minor and G minor or Dmaj7 and Eb7 combined, (polychordal), Being a symmetrical scale D-Eb-F#-G <-> A-Bb-C#-D, or just being a F#minor-major with added tones. You probably know this already, but this just struck me and hence venting!-). I do wonder if Williams thinks more in scales or in (poly)chords when he´s doing clusters.. Or something else :).

Maybe someone should ask him, and slip in a hefty donation to the Boston Pops as a bribe? ;)

As for the JAWS, you're right. There's also the A - Eb polychord heard a good deal throughout the score. Those two chords being a tritone apart (the furthest from the octave), bare a sort of debt to Stravinsky's famed Petrushka chord (C - F#). Williams mostly uses it represent the romance of the sea, the placid yet exotic, foreign nature of what lies in the depths below. You can hear it in the harp and celesta triplet figures at the beginning of Chrissie's Death/The First Victim, and in the muted strings.

Really interesting! Thank you also for pointing out the track. So it is a lot to do with Stravinsky with this one? By doing so he might´ve thought to apply the same kind of primitive/nature feel to the whole soundtrack than what Stravinsky did with Sacre (in where Petrushka chord/octatonic can also be found quite a lot among other things).

I think this paper sums it up pretty well:

Jaws, in a sense, is a classic Williams score and one that is representative of the compositional approach that he has maintained to the present. Part horror film and part action-adventure film, Jaws presents a unique challenge to the composer: one could go for the avant-garde, atonal approach that much of the action seems to warrant, but that approach might not work for the great shark hunt sequences that dominate the last part of the film. Williams eschewed purely atonal or even post-modern approaches to scoring the film, and he also eschewed the purely classical late-19th-century post-romantic musical language. He nonetheless still reached back in time and borrowed ideas that fall between those two musical camps: instead of Schoenberg he quotes Stravinsky for the horror, and instead of Wagner/Max Steiner or Komgold he quotes Debussy for the seafaring ideas. The Great White's music is a page ripped right out of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, echoing especially the vigorous polyrhythms of the ballet's opening, "The Adoration of the Earth." What he achieved was a music whose firmly grounded tonal centers wouldn't alienate most audiences, while finding a musical idiom that captured perfectly the primordial state of which the Great White is a part. This, mixed with music evoking Debussy's La Mer, achieved what I think is Williams's great strength as a film music composer and one of the reasons for his continued success: he found the emotional core at the center of the film, a compelling admixture of romance, mystery and terror, something primitive and noble (both on the part of humans and fish).

That said, it does underestimate the diversity of JAWS's score. There are in fact, highly dissonant moments (though not stretches) that seem to follow in the line of the likes of Rosenman, North, Goldsmith, Rodney Bennett, and concert composers like Webern, Boulez etc. Such as the eerie later half of Ben Gardner's Boat/Night Search, the famous dolly zoom (muted strings glissandoing up from one cluster to another) and so on. They may be infrequent, but they're still there.

Hmm, analysis is really hard. You always tend to find the things you are looking for :).

That's 'cause I'm lucky enough to have the material to study. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...

I am grateful . But have read this so many times....what a treasure trove of useful hints. Speaking off which found Leon Willitt's blog over the weekend . http://www.leonwillett.com/leonwillett.com/Blog/Blog.html

He has done an excellent job of nailing that sound i think.

T

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks, Prometheus, for the bump. I had come across this before and thought this was a mighty helpful thread. We should really keep it going from time to time.

I read through everything here and would add a couple of things that have not yet been mentioned as to the "Williams sound":

1) Pedal point

2) Musical form, especially in themes

For those who don't know, pedal point is a simple device really - all you do is sustain or repeat a note, usually in the bass, and usually the tonic or dominant note of a scale (1st note or 5th note). But it's an enormously powerful technique for anchoring music around a certain tonic or dominant. Tonic pedals are by far the more common in Williams, probably because the harmony gets so complex that a dominant becomes very difficult to hear as such when the chords overtop have nothing to do with the key the dominant is in. I would say that this technique is so central to Williams' style that it deserves a thread of its own. If others are interested, I might do that in the next few days.

Musical form is also something that hasn't yet been mentioned. Our fellow member filmmusic and I have had some lengthy discussions off-forum about form in Williams themes in particular. We agree that Williams bases his theme structures on patterns from classical music but that these patterns are altered in such a way that they actually become something else in the process. Again, this is something that could well be discussed in an entirely new thread. But the gist of it is that classical themes are based on statements of short ideas that are usually a couple of bars long. And in these classical themes, the ideas are either clearly the same as or clearly different from one another. The whole system of analyzing them is based on that principle. But in Williams, you usually start with a two-bar idea, then you get something that is kind of the same and yet kind of different, so it becomes difficult to classify the theme from a classical standpoint. In short, the classical models don't quite apply anymore, and what one needs to do is describe them in a slightly different way. I know this sounds very dry and esoteric, but I believe that it is one of the most fundamental things about Williams' style, at least in his main themes. And I think filmmusic would probably agree with this.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

yeah, i agree about the pedal.. It's all over his themes.

This pedal creates all the time suspended chords, non-tertian chords and 11-13ths chords. (of course they are not really 11s and 13ths but just the pedal which is kept though many bars)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For example a Ab Major chord over a Bb pedal can create the feeling of a B11 (Bb-F-Ab-C-Eb) chord (thanks to the third harmonic of the Bb - an octave and a fifth above the fundamental), where's it just a passing tonality. Irish folk songs contain a lot of this, in the form of a drone. She Moved Through the Fare is a great example.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For example a Ab Major chord over a Bb pedal can create the feeling of a B11 (Bb-F-Ab-C-Eb) chord (thanks to the third harmonic of the Bb - an octave and a fifth above the fundamental), where's it just a passing tonality.

I guess I hear this differently. In most cases, the bVII chord is a dominant function chord and it's usually placed between two statements of the tonic chord, as in the song you cited. So I hear the pedal as completely separate from the chord above and not part of it. I'm just not sure what harmonic function you'd give the chord if you called it Bb11.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For example a Ab Major chord over a Bb pedal can create the feeling of a B11 (Bb-F-Ab-C-Eb) chord (thanks to the third harmonic of the Bb - an octave and a fifth above the fundamental), where's it just a passing tonality.

I guess I hear this differently. In most cases, the bVII chord is a dominant function chord and it's usually placed between two statements of the tonic chord, as in the song you cited. So I hear the pedal as completely separate from the chord above and not part of it. I'm just not sure what harmonic function you'd give the chord if you called it Bb11.

I'm not calling it a Bb11, since it's clearly a VII with a pedal tonic. I'm just saying for that brief moment in time, it sounds like a Bb11. That is, it's got a modal and even kinda jazzy quality, which you wouldn't get if there was no Bb pedal, or it was replaced by an Ab.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

For example a Ab Major chord over a Bb pedal can create the feeling of a B11 (Bb-F-Ab-C-Eb) chord (thanks to the third harmonic of the Bb - an octave and a fifth above the fundamental), where's it just a passing tonality.

I guess I hear this differently. In most cases, the bVII chord is a dominant function chord and it's usually placed between two statements of the tonic chord, as in the song you cited. So I hear the pedal as completely separate from the chord above and not part of it. I'm just not sure what harmonic function you'd give the chord if you called it Bb11.

I'm not calling it a Bb11, since it's clearly a VII with a pedal tonic. I'm just saying for that brief moment in time, it sounds like a Bb11. That is, it's got a modal and even kinda jazzy quality, which you wouldn't get if there was no Bb pedal, or it was replaced by an Ab.

Ah, so the sonority of a Bb11 then. Cool - that I can buy. I knew you couldn't have meant it is a Bb11.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

John Williams wasn't the first to do this (Ferde Grofe was among the first, if NOT the first, in his fantastic Grand Canyon Suite) commenting on animals , using the orchestra.

Mr. Williams has done this sort of thing at least four times-but ONE of those WASN'T an animal!

I'll give you the movies, you give me the instances.

1. The Towering Inferno

2. The Empire Strikes Back

3. Return Of The Jedi

4. Raiders Of The Lost Ark

Have fun!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not sure I understand what you're asking, but it did make me think of two passages I love from Raiders - the random pizzicato jitters for the tarantulas, and the brief moment when a solo Eb clarinet slithers through a dissonant arpeggio to depict the snakes in the Well of Souls. Perhaps these could be viewed as rather obvious orchestral effects for characterizing the two animals and their respective creepy methods of locomotion, but they're so well executed, so insanely effective, and so well-integrated into the surrounding score that I can't help grinning when I hear 'em.

Incidentally, when Richard Bellis arranged the music for Disney's Indiana Jones Adventure attractions, he overlaid those two passages on top of each other to great effect - this time for a dark room with hissing bugs crawling all over the walls.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What makes Williams Williams? It's the fact that millions of fans the whole world over buy, listen, and adore his music. Without an audience, his music means nothing. I am unable to discuss music (any music) in intellectual terms. Rather like Charlton Heston, I am unable to explain the use of dominant fifths in "POTA" to portray simian society. I just accept it.

When it comes to music, I am very much a layman, and I react to it purely on an emotional level; all this techno-babble just makes by brain bleed.

I am grateful to JWfaners who attempt to explain music, and I read thier posts with bemused (and sincere) admiration, and I will listen to the examples listed by them, but I don't profess to understand any of it. Like Genesis, I know what I like...

Keep writing the posts, guys: educate us, please, and I will attempt to make some sense of it all. I suspect that the reasons why Williams sounds like Williams, is that he likes it that way, and he knows that his audience does as well. When I listen to classic JW, I don't think "wow, what a wonderful triad", I just think "that's f**king brilliant, man!", as I suspect most people do. This talent you have for analysing music is clearly Heaven-sent, and don't stop it, but don't forget that JW's music lifts the soul, and the heart, as well as the brain.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

I have a question, (seems most suitable for this topic). How much of the final score is actually written in by JW? For example, his wealth of exquisite scalic flute passages that can be found in almost all of his conventional scores (most prevalent to me in E.T) - are they all written in directly by him, or do his orchestrators add some of them? I only ask because that has to be one of my favourite aspects of JW orchestrations; the sublime woodwind parts that are completely unique to his style. That and the glockenspiel ;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All Williams.

It's simply beyond comprehension how he actually does it all himself...not just for one track but for an entire soundtrack. "Remembering Childhood" from Hook or "The Visitors/Bye/End Titles" from CE3K must have taken hours and hours to put together, especially for a full orchestra.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

i think he has said he usually composes 2 minutes per day.

well, the difficult part is to find the themes. that can take days or weeks.

The whole thing is difficult to be fair, especially the manner in which JW does it. Thinking of the themes is one thing, but then interweaving the various instruments in the orchestra to realise that theme (that he has most likely originally played just on the piano) is something else entirely. I get the impression that it just comes naturally to him, in his head. The perfection of some of the flute flourishes and countermelodies that come together to produce that distinctive timbre are unique to JW, it can only be his natural talent that allows him to do it otherwise there'd be loads of other composers who would do exactly the same.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The fact that he's also a tremendously good jazz pianist (he was the best in Hollywood when he first came on the scene in the '50s) helps a whole lot. So his skills are surely a combination of an exceptional compositional mind and the kind of quick-witted improvisation a jazz pianist is expected to do. In the British interview for Empire Strikes Back, you can hear him playing away on the piano, trying out this and that. I imagine that his fingers can come up with ideas just as fast as his mind alone can.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All Williams.

It's simply beyond comprehension how he actually does it all himself...not just for one track but for an entire soundtrack. "Remembering Childhood" from Hook or "The Visitors/Bye/End Titles" from CE3K must have taken hours and hours to put together, especially for a full orchestra.

How is he able to do it all, himself? The answer is that he is VERY, VERY GOOD at his job.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would say that's a way of paraphrasing, not an explanation of how it's possible. And I don't think anyone, including Williams himself, could fully explain it...he just somehow ended up with the right combination of genes and environment, and the results are magical.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would say that's a way of paraphrasing, not an explanation of how it's possible. And I don't think anyone, including Williams himself, could fully explain it...he just somehow ended up with the right combination of genes and environment, and the results are magical.

Ooh! The old nature/nurture debate, eh? You are right, of course, in that I was a bit "reductionist" in my appraisal. How does any-one do what they do? It's combination of elements making us all tough little sons of bitches. I can't really explain what goes on in my job, I just use the skills that are either inherent in me (nature) or what I have been trained to do (nurture). I suspect that JW does the same, plus he ENJOYS IT!!!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

RIchard, if by "all" you mean, how does he write all the voices, and orchestration and details, this is the result of music education.

Of course if the result is good or not, that depends on the talent.

Williams is not the only one who writes all by himself.

Goldsmith was, Herrmann was (actually he did the full score too), and many others, usually older composers.

Today unfortunately the world of film music is open to everyone, including people with no education at all, that's why they need 10-20 more collaborators/ghost writers/helpers/orchestrators.

I don't know if this sounds "bad" to anyone, but I strongly believe if anyone wants to do something in whatever field, he must study in that field and not be based only in his inner talent.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

All Williams.

It's simply beyond comprehension how he actually does it all himself...not just for one track but for an entire soundtrack. "Remembering Childhood" from Hook or "The Visitors/Bye/End Titles" from CE3K must have taken hours and hours to put together, especially for a full orchestra.

How is he able to do it all, himself? The answer is that he is VERY, VERY GOOD at his job.

...and works his butt off. He's famous for having a solid work ethic that he applies to all things he does. We shouldn't forget this part of the equation. Conrad Pope said he's never seen anyone attack a musical problem with as much focus as JW.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah, we would be sorely mistaken if we wrote off Williams' music as solely being the result of raw talent. The man lives and breathes music, and has been doing so for over half a century.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...

Thanks, Prometheus, for the bump. I had come across this before and thought this was a mighty helpful thread. We should really keep it going from time to time.

Yes, what with it being one of the greatest JWFan threads of all time - mainly due to Data's astounding first page contribution and then Promo's elaborative follow-ups.

We need a Greatest Ever Threads thread. The best, most riveting JWFan.com threads all in one handy, easily readable shortcut/appreciation centre.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I saw an article a few years back that gave a fairly detailed procedure on how williams works..... talk about time consuming.. I don't know how he does it

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 5 months later...

I decided to bump this thread for a question I have regarding a recurring compositional technique found in some of JW's cues. It involves the blending of a triad (usually minor) or seventh chord (usually dominant) with dissonant atonal sets, as in the cue "In the Jungle" from Raiders we discussed recently with minor triads and (014)s, or in "You Bred Raptors" from Jurassic Park, where there is an E-flat minor triad in the strings at the start combined with C#-G-A, D-F#(-D)-F, which breaks down into a (026) and a (014).

I'm wondering if anyone has come across this precise technique in the music of any 20th-century composers. I'm not looking for suggestions of a composer that may have influenced JW. Only passages that you know that have used this or something very close to it.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ah, interesting question! And certainly pertaining to one of my favorite aspects of Williams' harmonic writing.

I can't think of any one single "culprit" here, but similar hybrids and harmonic conglomerates exist, although to my knowledge not with the same kind of "fluency": Messiaen's polymodality sometimes explores similar terrain, in terms of triadic structures embellished by modally unrelated sonorities (but they are still typically limited to Messiaen's modalities). And if we allow bi- and poly-modal and -tonal writing to account for some of these, I suppose one could argue that precedence can be found in anything from Bartok to Britten... Still, there's a uniqueness to Williams' particular structures, and I suppose they have to do mostly with context, but also with some of his intervallic and sonoric preferences: The example mentioned above is a good case in point. The way I see it, there are actually several "Williams-isms" at play here: The harmonic embellishment in and of itself is strikingly "williams-esque", as is the tonal tension between the implied G (Lydian) major tonality and the Eb minor chord. What I find interesting, is how much "character" each harmonic segment has. It seems to me that Williams would employ some of his trademark sets (0-8-11, 0-2-5 etc.) "regardless" of or in conjunction with a broader harmonic context; he treats them almost as individual colors, not mere harmonic extensions.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

so is it then just an example of his choice of parallel techniques being used ? surely he does this a lot. various ( vertical ) bit's of the score in different keys and modes. Maybe his Jazz roots ? Perhaps this really is just a case of " If i like it, I'll play it ! " and its up to us poor sod's to figure out why ?

t

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It seems to me that Williams would employ some of his trademark sets (0-8-11, 0-2-5 etc.) "regardless" of or in conjunction with a broader harmonic context; he treats them almost as individual colors, not mere harmonic extensions.

Yes, I agree. It would certainly be wrong to regard these atonal sets as altered 9, 11, and 13 chords. It seems he's combining both tonal and atonal. The tonal grounds the music in something immediately comprehensible and gives the cue coherence, especially if through a pedal point or clear bass note suggesting a tonic. Then the sets are added on top of this, producing a more unsettling, tension-inducing effect.

What I'm wondering is if someone has described this technique before in the music of another composer. Messaien has his modes of limited transposition, which may be important considering his frequent use of the octatonic scale, though Williams tends to sound much more tonal than Messaien, where there is often no real sense of key. Bartok is a good one too, but there again, it's different. I find that his pieces tend to be either tonal or atonal, not really both at once. I would have trouble believing it's unique to Williams because it's such a natural thing to want to do. Britten may be a precursor, but his influence was probably more European.

Maybe I should be looking at what's been said of American composers who used tonal elements like Copland, Ives, and those more in academia like Roger Sessions, and Howard Hanson.

so is it then just an example of his choice of parallel techniques being used ? surely he does this a lot. various ( vertical ) bit's of the score in different keys and modes. Maybe his Jazz roots ? Perhaps this really is just a case of " If i like it, I'll play it ! " and its up to us poor sod's to figure out why ?

I don't know. So many of these passages have such Williams-esque sound, I have to think there's something binding them together. I have the feeling this is the kind of question that's going to take a long time and a lot of work to answer in some detail.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think you are right. It makes it much harder to study if the choices are as hidden as they seem but i guess we are getting to the essence of "style" and that can be a very vague thing to define....still ......fun trying !

t

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Maybe I should be looking at what's been said of American composers who used tonal elements like Copland, Ives, and those more in academia like Roger Sessions, and Howard Hanson.

I think this is the wisest avenue to pursue.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

I decided to bump this thread for a question I have regarding a recurring compositional technique found in some of JW's cues. It involves the blending of a triad (usually minor) or seventh chord (usually dominant) with dissonant atonal sets, as in the cue "In the Jungle" from Raiders we discussed recently with minor triads and (014)s, or in "You Bred Raptors" from Jurassic Park, where there is an E-flat minor triad in the strings at the start combined with C#-G-A, D-F#(-D)-F, which breaks down into a (026) and a (014).

I'm wondering if anyone has come across this precise technique in the music of any 20th-century composers. I'm not looking for suggestions of a composer that may have influenced JW. Only passages that you know that have used this or something very close to it.

Just thinking out loud the tonal aspect of it :

Ebm

C#-G-A = A7

D-F#-F = D (#9)

So the tonal reference might be something like : VI (Ebm) - V/V (A7) - V (D (#9)), where everything is stacked on top of each other. How that would work ?

Might even be as simple as A7-D (V-I) and Ebm-Dm (parallel movement) all played at once. Would LOVE to know how he thinks these..

(Oh, and you can more or less find these things from Prokofiev, etc)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

So the tonal reference might be something like : VI (Ebm) - V/V (A7) - V (D (#9)), where everything is stacked on top of each other. How that would work ?

I considered that myself, but I'm not sure it would explain much about how we hear the passage. In other words, is it possible to hear the tertian harmony as tertian harmony? The Ebm chord, for example is blurred by the dyad G-A underneath it from the start, to which a sustained C# is added a couple of beats later. You might say we have a polytonal chord of A7/C# + Ebm, which is then blurred further by the addition of D-F#-F in the same register as the Ebm chord. But that's probably a stretch since it doesn't sound the least bit tonal. Polytonality should probably have some recognizable tertian sounds to be heard as such, shouldn't it? Just listen to the opening of the cue:

To me it sounds closer to Webern-esque dissonant set manipulation than Prokofiev-like polytonality. But if you have a specific Prokofiev piece in mind, please share!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You´re right, I wouldn´t go near polytonality/Prokofiev either, just had an idea without listening.

Boy you have good ears! I´m not really finding the Eb minor chord in there ?-) What I hear (from the bottom up) is C#1 D#1 E1 G1 A1 Bb1, C#2 (D#2) F#2 C3 D3 F3. How about two octatonic scales juxtaposed ?-) That would also cover the lower F#1 that I´m not getting. :) One starting from the C#1 (D#,E,F#,G,A,Bb C) and the other starting from D#2 (F, F#,G#,A,B,C,D,Eb,F) ?

Oh, the lower G and A comes in a bit later ? This is really making it Eb7/G for me. Basically you would have Eb7(#9)/G and D7(#9)/F# on top of each other then ? How about this ? The octatonic scales would start from G and F#2 ? He has been using this device before (f.e. in JAWS). And can be found written by Stravinsky (his famous chord on the Rite of Springs). Something that was discussed earlier in this thread. So, Polymodality or polychords in play here ?-)

(I´m not really getting a pitch class/webern vibe here as there are triads (minor/major) to be heard?, but this is propably just me)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The octatonic explanation is more compelling than a polytonal one, since the final chord in that cue is an octatonic cluster, but it still doesn't feel right.

BTW, I highly recommend Ludwig to check out R13P3 The Wrong Choice from THE LAST CRUSADE - bars 5 to 21. It employs those [0,1,3] and [0,1,4] sets, though it's more developed than You Bred Raptors - where the material is condensed by necessity.

http://grooveshark.com/#!/search?q=john+williams+wrong+choice

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The octatonic explanation is more compelling than a polytonal one, since the final chord in that cue is an octatonic cluster, but it still doesn't feel right.

Yes, that's the question we've been grappling with, deciding how best to describe these "in-between" type passages. The problem is that they don't seem to fit entirely the tonal or atonal camp but, in a very convincing way, combine both!

BTW, I highly recommend Ludwig to check out R13P3 The Wrong Choice from THE LAST CRUSADE - bars 5 to 21. It employs those [0,1,3] and [0,1,4] sets, though it's more developed than You Bred Raptors - where the material is condensed by necessity.

http://grooveshark.com/#!/search?q=john+williams+wrong+choice

Excellent - thank you. This does indeed fit the bill for what we're after, and is more developed as you say. I haven't studied it in enormous detail yet, but there are two things I would offer here as possibilities for understanding these passages:

1) It sometimes seems in passages like this that Williams is adding thorns to a basic sonority with semitonal dissonance. "Bristling", you might call it. Like at the beginning of the cue, we have a sustained C while "shivers" in the winds and harp dance around the C with figures using the notes Db, C, and B.

2) The figures sometimes seem to retain constant pitch-classes (i.e., have the same notes). That Db-C-B cell returns in the synth celeste as a repeated wavering figure (though it's extended down to A# as well). It also comes back in the harp as quick gestures, now as C-Db-B.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I wonder if Michael Small would be a candidate for someone who uses this technique ?

This cue certainly qualifies. It uses a lot of what I noted above in (1) - chromatic neighbors to chord notes. The cue is basically in B major, and it flirts with the notes of its tonic chord, B-D#-F# by using the notes just above or just below these ones. So at first, that two-note motive that appears overtop the pedal starts on F# then drops over an octave down to E# (or F). The F comes back several times as a dissonance over the B (or even B major chord) and is sometimes coupled with a prominent C over the same for a biting crunch to the sound.

This probably describes it better than using set classes since this cue's all about those chromatic neighbors to chord notes.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

oh i love this piece...at 19.07 you get this mad riff in the strings...then it doubles at a different pitch then at 19;40 the woodwinds come in playing it....is this a set ? I know Bartok was fond of his "cell Z"

I heard an obvious quote of this very section in a JW score the other day....

have you ever read any books by Erno Lendvai ? .

t

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.