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My favourite mark of Williams' 1970s-1980s orchestration style is the addition of a grand piano or two to the orchestra. It can be heard  already in some of his early scores IIRC (I didn't like those

Check out the Star Wars and Indy trilogies, Superman, Hook and the Jurassic Parks. Some top-notch action cues in there.

It most certainly does, it just takes some studying/repeated listens to appreciate it.

  • 6 years later...

Hi all,
I know I'm 6 year late on this thread. But, I have also been fascinated by Williams' action cues - be it his more thematic ones (E.T., Superman, Indy, the first trilogy of Star War movies, etc.) or more modern, chaotic stuff (JP, Minority Report, The War of the Worlds, etc.). I was wondering if any of you would know some composers (dead or alive) who have composed music similar to Williams's more modern action cues. I know a lot of his older action music is inspired by composers, like Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, but, as far I know, when it comes to modern stuff, I can't think of anyone with a similar style. 

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Some of Michael Giacchino's action music is similar to Williams' modern action style.

 

Also check out Gordy Haab's scores to Star Wars video games

 

Joe Kraemer has some music in The Man Who Killed Hitler and then The Bigfoot that is similar to Attack of the Clones action style

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Yea, that's all I was trying to say - there's no one as inventive and interesting as Williams at this style, but there are some that are influenced by it and work it into their own style.

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3 hours ago, lionelflon said:

Hi all,
I know I'm 6 year late on this thread. But, I have also been fascinated by Williams' action cues - be it his more thematic ones (E.T., Superman, Indy, the first trilogy of Star War movies, etc.) or more modern, chaotic stuff (JP, Minority Report, The War of the Worlds, etc.). I was wondering if any of you would know some composers (dead or alive) who have composed music similar to Williams's more modern action cues. I know a lot of his older action music is inspired by composers, like Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, but, as far I know, when it comes to modern stuff, I can't think of anyone with a similar style. 

Tons of composers compose in this action style.  The question is what director asks for it.  For example, Ed Shearmur told me personally that no director has ever cared for him to reproduce this "retro" action style he nailed and is fully capable of delivering.  He said he thought this would be his big break into this style of scoring and "the number of times any director cared I wrote this type of score...zero".  There are so many composers who can compose like this but aren't asked to.  The question should be directed to directors for no longer asking for this style.  Anytime it is asked for, it is usually pastiche like "Death of Stalin" which again, Christopher Willis truly nails but that is satire of the Shostakovich/Prokofiev Soviet style which he nails.

 

To answer your question - start first with directors, not composers. 

 

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The biggest problem with today's film music is that there are very few directors with any kind of musical sensibilities. 

It seems like they actively push composers away from any interesting decisions in fear of it being too "manipulative".

Though that's not to say that direct Williams pastiche is the answer either

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13 minutes ago, Montre said:

That sounds like JW’s older, more sing song style of action music. Composers can and have reproduced this sound, although JW is still the best. Where JW is really unique though is his modern style, and I still have heard no other composer really come close to that. 

Learn how to compose music then compose the kind of action music you wish others would compose.

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Thanks all! 

And, yes, I was listening to Joe Kraemer's Mission Impossible too earlier. The track "A Flight At The Opera" isn't bad either! As for Giacchino, for some reasons, to me, his music often appears to emulate that of the Masters but ends up being pale in comparison (the only score of his that I can listen to in its entirety is MI3). However, now I think about it, James Newton Howard did some good action cues for King Kong and Vertical Limit. 

 

Also, I should've specified that I wasn't only referring to film music. I remember, a few weeks ago, someone on Facebook, in a group about contemporary music, posted a John Williams' action cue (from Tintin, if memory serves me), asking for a similar type of music. And people came up with some really interesting composers, relatively unknown from the general public, who wrote some pretty dense, visceral orchestral music that somewhat reminds me of John Williams. I wish I had written their name down. Anyway, I shall ask again in that group and report here, if anyone is interested.

 

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58 minutes ago, Disco Stu said:

Just listen to “Break Out” from Solo

 

“Into the Maw” came the closest for me. 

 

@lionelflon I’m interested to know more. I’m sure there are composers who can write in this style, but I guess it’s so rarely called for, and actually probably considered pretty out of style, in films and media today.

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How could I forget Bill Conti's Masters of the Universe score. As you all know, MOTU has my highest recommendation. It was a score obviously done in the style of SW but not quite SW. JW himself later composed stuff that was actually pretty similar to MOTU for TFA!

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  • 4 weeks later...

We all know that John Williams' action style of the 1970s/80s is very different of his action style of the late 90s/2000s, which in turn is different to the style of today. They are all from the same composer, but they are also... different.

 

However, in you guy's opinion, which are the "transformative" scores of Williams action music? I mean, which scores helped define the action music he would follow for the next few years? Maybe Star Wars for the late 70s/early 80s, then Jurassic Park/Lost World for the late 90s and Attack of the Clones for much of the 2000s? And do you think his action scores for his in-between period after his 80s classics and before JP (The Last Crusade and Hook) are more aligned with his 80s output or with his late 90s output?

 

I think this is a very fascinating subject. Horner's action music for most of the 90s and 2000s was defined by Sneakers/Apollo 13 on one hand, and Braveheart/Revenge from Legends of the Fall, until Avatar came out and informed his music for Amazing Spider-Man.

 

But what do you guys think?

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My favourite mark of Williams' 1970s-1980s orchestration style is the addition of a grand piano or two to the orchestra. It can be heard  already in some of his early scores IIRC (I didn't like those so listened to them only once), but is especially well used in action music in Jaws "The Shark Approaches", Black Sunday - "Commando Raid", "Takeoff", "Air Chase", in SW in the "Battle of Yavin" and at the beginning of the Battle of Hoth, to name a few examples. 

 

Bass key slams and high register runs are great colour ingredients.

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