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How can you tell who's the composer?


chuck
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Some composers have a very distinctive style, so you can recognize them fairly easily (Goldsmith, Williams, Horner, Elfman, Jarre, ...), especially when a cue features very specific, trademark sounds (Goldsmith's, rhythms; Elfman's choirs; Jarre's percussions; Williams, Horner or Barry's themes; ...).

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How about Harry Gregson-Williams, Brian Tyler Michael Gia, Howard Shore? Can you spot some distinctive styles or quirks in their vocabulary?

I personally couldn't differentiate or spot a composer not named John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, or James Horner, Danny Elfman.

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I can usually tell it's JW on any given track. There's always details that give it away (Unless it's something really unusual)

For some others only specific tracks have enough trademarks to identify them (Morricone,Barry, Horner,Elfman)

Other orchestral composers I cannot differentiate easily (Debney,Silvestri...)

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All composers, film or otherwise, have distinct ways of writing music. It's like your handwriting. You retain certain quirks or tendencies in your musical grammar. You can spot a piece by R. Strauss from a mile away with just how he writes for strings.

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How about Harry Gregson-Williams, Brian Tyler Michael Gia, Howard Shore? Can you spot some distinctive styles or quirks in their vocabulary?

I personally couldn't differentiate or spot a composer not named John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, or James Horner, Danny Elfman.

well, it is true that the most contemporary film composers (especially in the adventure genre), don't have so much of a distinctive style.

The music has a homogenity and sounds all the same.... (at least to me)

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Elmer Bernstein has a distinctive way of utilizing the string sections which could easily betray him and of course his use of ondes martenot as well.

How about Harry Gregson-Williams, Brian Tyler Michael Gia, Howard Shore? Can you spot some distinctive styles or quirks in their vocabulary?

I personally couldn't differentiate or spot a composer not named John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, or James Horner, Danny Elfman.

well, it is true that the most contemporary film composers (especially in the adventure genre), don't have so much of a distinctive style.

The music has a homogenity and sounds all the same.... (at least to me)

You and me both.

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I would say that Howard Shore's work has a slower, more lumbering sound to it, than the frenetic sound of modern Williams.

I hear Desplat shares the same kind of passion. (Never really listened to that guy, yet).

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Williams: thing with the woodwinds he does

Goldsmith: thing with the brass he does

Barry: thing with the horns he does

Elfman: basically sounds like the Family Guy parody

I would add to Goldsmith thunderous percussion and high pitched dramatic strings..

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Electronic percussion with string ostinato and horns playing two notes. Got to be Zimmer!

Of course, if it's totally overbearing, manipulative and saccharine, it's got to be Williams!

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I can often tell very easily, at least if it's a composer with distinctive stylistic tendencies (and who I'm familiar with). Sometimes it's a little harder in the context of the film, depending on how much attention I'm paying to the music, but I can usually still do it.

I would think that Williams would be the one I have the easiest time identifying, especially on CD, simply because I've spent so much time listening to and analyzing his music, and because his myriad trademarks are amazingly difficult to nail. Then again, some of his scores are so different that I'm not sure I would ever feel blindly confident that they were his. Images and Geisha come to mind.

Some other composers (e.g., Horner and Elfman) tend to confine their styles within pretty limited bounds, thereby making their work easy to point out as well. Interestingly, I had a really hard time figuring out Giacchino's style in his earlier days, but now he's definitely developed a stereotypical "sound", and when he sticks to that sound, I can identify it like *that*.

Goldsmith is one I probably wouldn't be too good at pointing out. Until afterward, that is - all Goldsmith sounds like Goldsmith once you know it's his. When Zimmer isn't being stereotypical Zimmer, he can fall a bit into that category, too, although for vastly different reasons. When I saw Rango, for instance, I couldn't figure out who the composer was, but it all made sense once I looked it up halfway through the film. Many of Zimmer's tendencies are fairly easy to mimic, though, which makes it rather easy for an imposter to make me think, That's Zimmer!

I find that JNH's musical voice is hard to pinpoint. He has his idiosyncrasies, sure, but a lot of his work - good or bad - doesn't really scream JNH specifically to my ear.

One thing that's interesting to just generally note is that recording techniques, mixing, and so forth can have a significant impact on the recognizability of the composer's style. Giacchino comes to mind again - his partnership with Dan Wallin has produced a very distinctive timbre and sonority (or lack thereof) in most of his work. Murphy-era Williams is also pretty distinctive, albeit in a very different way.

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Or you just haven't listened to many of a given composer's scores. I wouldn't know a Desplat from a Shore, Potter and LOTR aside, since what little else I've heard of their respective oeuvres has bored me.

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It's become very easy for me to recognize the composer based on ears alone because all composers have a distinct style. Even the chameleons have begun to come out and show distinctive trademark sounds. Composers like Shore, Desplat, Newman, Tyler, etc. are incredibly easy to spot too.

At one point, James Newton Howard used to be a tough one (in his earlier years) but that's surely not the case now. Debney is the only real challenge because he really is quite the chameleon. He has his trademark sounds for sure, but he has a tendency to through you off his trail by writing some very Williams-esque stuff like Cutthroat Island and Lair to scores with James Newton Howard written all over it (Dragonfly). And then there's all his rom-com material. He's a great composer though and a versatile one at that.

Or you just haven't listened to many of a given composer's scores. I wouldn't know a Desplat from a Shore, Potter and LOTR aside, since what little else I've heard of their respective oeuvres has bored me.

You need to visit the Howard Shore thread. You're missing out on some great stuff ;)

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Or you just haven't listened to many of a given composer's scores. I wouldn't know a Desplat from a Shore, Potter and LOTR aside, since what little else I've heard of their respective oeuvres has bored me.

Isn't that a given with anything though? People unfamiliar with Williams couldn't spot SpaceCamp from a mile away.

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People unfamiliar with Williams couldn't spot SpaceCamp from a mile away.

Spacecamp sounds 100% Williams. It has probably one the highest concentration of his trademarks of all his scores. I knew he composed the music when I saw a TV commercial for the movie and only hearing a few seconds of music

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At one point, James Newton Howard used to be a tough one (in his earlier years) but that's surely not the case now.

JNH had, or used to have, a great deal of his own little things. Something like King Kong and Atlantis are like a collection of them. His mor subdued stuff also had a JNH flair to it.

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I think it is slightly more easy to think something is not JW while it is, than vice versa. In other words, I think I would have a sensitivity of around 95% and a specificity of around 75% for Williams for any JW cue. It depends of course how much material you hear and whether or not it contains thematics. For other composers I would score significantly lower.

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Spacecamp sounds 100% Williams. It has probably one the highest concentration of his trademarks of all his scores. I knew he composed the music when I saw a TV commercial for the movie and only hearing a few seconds of music

It sure does. It's instantly recognizable as Williams from the first two seconds of the opening titles. For me, it's as pure Williams as the opening of the Star Wars main titles.

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Here's a little test

First play that part in John Carter Sab Persues the Princess at 4.40 where Giacchino rips off Tintin's Heroic theme

Then play Tintin's Heroic Theme at 4.17 of Persuit of the Falcon

It shows you what 2 different composers of different talent can do with almost the same notes composed in the same action mode. Not only is the Williams composed section instantly obvious, but the dynamic quality of Williams music is so much better it's not even comparable

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At one point, James Newton Howard used to be a tough one (in his earlier years) but that's surely not the case now.

JNH had, or used to have, a great deal of his own little things. Something like King Kong and Atlantis are like a collection of them. His mor subdued stuff also had a JNH flair to it.

Definitely. His subtle piano/suspense is easily recognizable. But back in the 90s, Howard was largely a chameleon. Only in the late 90s/00s did his style and voice begin to become more clearly defined.

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Here's a little test

First play that part in John Carter Sab Persues the Princess at 4.40 where Giacchino rips off Tintin's Heroic theme

Then play Tintin's Heroic Theme at 4.17 of Persuit of the Falcon

It shows you what 2 different composers of different talent can do with almost the same notes composed in the same action mode. Not only is the Williams composed section instantly obvious, but the dynamic quality of Williams music is so much better it's not even comparable

It's neither the same theme and the "action mode" isn't the same either.

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At one point, James Newton Howard used to be a tough one (in his earlier years) but that's surely not the case now.

JNH had, or used to have, a great deal of his own little things. Something like King Kong and Atlantis are like a collection of them. His mor subdued stuff also had a JNH flair to it.

Definitely. His subtle piano/suspense is easily recognizable. But back in the 90s, Howard was largely a chameleon. Only in the late 90s/00s did his style and voice begin to become more clearly defined.

I disagree. 1999 is the year where his style took a dramatic turn (for the better IMO), but most of his 90s work is very JNH. The Fugitive, Wyatt Earp, Waterworld, etc.

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Silvestri is easily recognisable.

How so?

His brass (the horns in particular), percussion (he uses a lot of snare drums in his action cues) and his style of composing themes. I have to say though, he was more recognizable in his early years.

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These days when I watch a film I only have two reactions to the score: 1) Meh, it sounds Zimmer-ish. 2) Hmm, the music is good, I wonder who the composer is ... Ah, it's Deplat.

Alex

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Silvestri is easily recognisable.

How so?

His brass (the horns in particular), percussion (he uses a lot of snare drums in his action cues) and his style of composing themes. I have to say though, he was more recognizable in his early years.

I agree. You can still hear Silvestrisms in his music though.

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