Jump to content

At what point did Williams scores start being overcomposed and how do we feel about this?


gkgyver
 Share

Recommended Posts

Since we have one for Spielberg, you know it was coming for Williams, too!

There was a clear cut somewhere in the 90s that saw Williams change his style, particulary in the action/adventure category, and use the orchestra in a more layered, frantic way to stress rhythm more than anything else.

Some, myself included, find that this approach, while technically accomplished, leads to losing the focus of the heart of scenes - something JW was so good at in his earlies days, in all aspects of film scoring, not just quiet and dramatic aspects, where he still is top. There is just too much going on in his music quite frequently.

When exactly did that change in style happen, and especially why?

Wouldn't it be nice if Williams toned down some of that overboarding complexity and focused more on shaping sequences, instead of just banging away on cymbals and xylophones?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

At what point did Goldsmith's corpse start decomposing and how do we feel about this?

When the constant pounding of "He's A Pirate" all across the world reached his casket, obviously.

I thought that was clear.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This is actually a great thread. When I first read the title, though, I thought it would be about the sheer amount of music composed for a film. Then I thought, maybe Return of the Jedi? Empire Strikes Back, even? I mean, that film works damn fine without the rejected music. Did Williams just compose way too much shit? It's like starting with Empire, Williams scored significantly and increasingly more scenes. By the prequels, it's seems there's rarely a moment without music. We love it, but is it just superfluous?

That said, I clearly misinterpreted the title. On the actual topic:

Let's compare, say, the end battle from Hook and the T-Rex Rescue to...I don't know, Desert Chase? The 90s cues are absolute chaos. Woodwinds in overdrive, oh there's that theme and that theme, shit there's so much going on here it's technically impressive but it's just so hectic and where is this even going oh man. It's a giant musical run-on sentence. The other is a pulse-pounding 7 minute buildup to glorious musical orgasm.

By the way, I don't know anything about music.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that perhaps if a film calls for a LOT of music, then you call John Williams. If you want really GREAT music, you call John Williams. So if you need a lot of great music, it's a no-brainer. If you want subdued whole notes, however, call someone else.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

?

Have you ever listened to Delerue underscore? Whenever the main themes aren't there, it's a rather monotonous affair...

Yes. Underscore wasn't exactly one of Delerue's strong suits. But the gorgeous themes make up for it ;)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

other than being a copy cat thread I don't understand the actual question.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

His action music became increasingly more frenetic, disorganized and totally over-orchestrated by the 2000s. Xylophones and woodwinds in overdrive. Everyone knows this. Are we okay with this?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

His action music became increasingly more frenetic, disorganized and totally over-orchestrated by the 2000s. Xylophones and woodwinds in overdrive. Everyone knows this. Are we okay with this?

Yes we are. Everything he does is a-okay. :thumbup:
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, Episode III is overrated. Minority Report is really underrated. Minority is more experimental and a nice break from the norm. It's some of the coolest music JW has ever composed and I think it's the best of his dramatic scores.

Revenge of the Sith is extremely predictable, thematically disorganized and basically a mish-mash of modern JW scoring techniques. That score never really feels together. You know? Like, there's plenty of entertaining cues, but they rarely seem to be a part of something bigger and it certainly doesn't keep my attention like the great ones. It's more like a collection of good JW cues that happen to be together in one score, yet don't even seem related. Something very different from the JW scores that are like a musical journey with a story. See: Jaws, E.T., Star Wars, Raiders.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It's definitely been a slow progression. Based on the scores I've heard, I'd say JP really marked the beginning of the transformation. Of course, I also think JP's action music fits that film perfectly and is a blast to listen to. While it does have many of the same characteristics of his later action music, there's still a clear dramatic shape to the thing, and the frenetic nature of the music is used to heighten the sense of fear.

Things only started really changing in the 2000s, honestly. That's when some of his action music started becoming so busy and harmonically complex that it can be difficult to appreciate. The result is a dense thicket of complex, ever-shifting tonalities that don't add up to an especially compelling emotional whole. I enjoy it for what it is, but Williams' older action music really focuses more on the emotional content of the action, not the action itself, and while there are still some very complex harmonic structures, they're used in a way that somehow has more of a clear and focused dramatic shape.

I will say that War Horse surprised me in a wonderful way - its action music has none of these problems. It's very clear with the emotions it's trying to convey.

EDIT: Well said about ROTS. I do enjoy that score quite a bit, but it really is not a very cohesive score. And at times, it definitely suffers from these problems we've been talking about.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

John Williams style has changed, not necessarily for the worse even though many may think so, over the years quite a lot, whether by some inner change and feeling that he wants to explore other avenues or by demands of the assignments and climate of the modern film making. He has answered the modern post 2000 films with increasingly busy music for what must be many reasons. Emulating needed ambience and drive of temp tracks and times and styles and perhaps over compensating and in his own way of thinking providing propulsion, which has become paramount. As Brian Tyler mentioned in one interview when talking about the trends and changing of times, not even Williams has escaped the tropes of today's scoring, the big drums and need for speed etc. This translates in Williams' writing to layers and busy feeling, although it never becomes sheer thick soup of sound like of many modern composers. The music pushes you literally forward, the woodwinds, brass and strings in effect saying "go, go, go, go, go, faster, faster, faster!" It works better in some instances than others.

Williams has also become prone, he was this before a bit, sonically painting orchestral sound effects to the movies he is scoring. The opening space battle of Episode III is a good example of this. He starts relatively clean lined and then the music becomes for long periods about either propulsion, busy, busy, busy or it catches small droids, explosions, fighters and gestures in a way that feels very nervous and twitchy. You could also say that the images are infused with same restless quality, which bleeds naturally to Williams' music as he probably has had his spotting discussions on the nature of the score and what he has to achieve. But mostly it seems to be pure drive the film makers are after, which translates into highly propulsive and insistent music, Williams' answer for these demands, building ostinati cells that can be easily manipulated and as a consequence has often left thematic development in the side lines in these longer action set pieces.

His action music became increasingly more frenetic, disorganized and totally over-orchestrated by the 2000s. Xylophones and woodwinds in overdrive. Everyone knows this. Are we okay with this?

Yes we are. Everything he does is a-okay. :thumbup:

Man, I just read your signature, what amazing words.. where did you get the quotes from?

From two recent Williams interviews.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The only JW action scores that I feel have been too frenetic at times are Tintin and Temple of Doom. But both are still good scores.

I can certainly understand ToD, which is non-stop fanfare and Raiders March from the moment Short Round escapes but Tintin doesn't really have in my opinion that same out of breath feel at all. The action pieces are fast and balletic but I never felt they were too relentless but rather well constructed and well flowing, while still catching small nuances and themes in the process.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree that some of them--"Sir Francis and the Unicorn" and "Adventure Continues"--are excellent, but the rest are a little too distracted for me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Genius gone insane, where the donkey fuck you been?

I've been around, reading here maybe once a week, just not posting. I had a revelation that, even if I disagree with the views of so many of you folks here, it doesn't mean I should talk down to you and tell you how wrong you are. You should be able to say what you want. The topic of this thread of course is an exception.

I'm going to need you guys one of these days should the Maestro stop composing. It will be a sad day. No need to hate right now.

Plus I'm actually getting laid these days. : )

Link to comment
Share on other sites

His action music became increasingly more frenetic, disorganized and totally over-orchestrated by the 2000s. Xylophones and woodwinds in overdrive. Everyone knows this. Are we okay with this?

Over-orchestrated could be a more fitting term.However, it sounds as if he is just cramming too many ideas into the music. And it doesn't do his scores a favour.His lyrical qualities are probably out of question, but when it comes to action or adventure music, the man has lost some of his zing.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I would challenge this notion that Williams' music has become more harmonically complex. Certainly there are standout pieces, mostly action, which fit that bill. But on the whole I think the trend has been toward harmonic simplicity. If we go with the Revenge of the Sith example, there's the impossibly dense action music of "General Grievous," in which Williams got lost conducting. Yup, that's definitely complex, but look at pieces like "Anakin's Betrayal." The music is relentlessly diatonic, basically straightforward harmonically. We all know "Padme's Ruminations" takes some cues from modern film music. What about the second half of the piece? It's almost a twelve-tone composition, but the texture is very clear and monophonic. Everything is orchestrated in unisons. "Enter Lord Vader." Mostly diatonic writing, orchestral unisons, wall of sound stuff. "Palpatine's Teachings." A minute and a half of sound painting on a drone. "The Immolation Scene." A tonal, straightforward tragic piece. "Anakin's Dream." Kicks off with a nice, old fashioned violin solo, which I don't think has been heard in Star Wars since the concert arrangement of "Princess Leia." "Anakin vs. Obi-Wan." Certainly not dense and inaccessible, although the xylophones are there. Very emotionally honest music. I could go on to look at other scores, but I think Revenge of the Sith provides plenty of examples.

The only problem, for me, is that while Williams is as emotional and dramatic as ever, I don't think he's... as good as he used to be. I feel that most of the old music actually offered more in compositional and orchestral subtleties. I suppose some stuff from War Horse comes close to the emotional heights of the 70s/80s music. But the dense, dissonant, inaccessible action writing, at this point, seems to be his strongest suit.

And yes, I'm not using the complete score cue titles. I just want to make it more accessible for readers.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree that some of them--"Sir Francis and the Unicorn" and "Adventure Continues"--are excellent, but the rest are a little too distracted for me.

Agreed, for the most part. "Sir Francis and the Unicorn" has some really astonishingly great moments that I wish were more representative of the score as a whole.

I would challenge this notion that Williams' music has become more harmonically complex. Certainly there are standout pieces, mostly action, which fit that bill. But on the whole I think the trend has been toward harmonic simplicity. If we go with the Revenge of the Sith example, there's the impossibly dense action music of "General Grievous," in which Williams got lost conducting. Yup, that's definitely complex, but look at pieces like "Anakin's Betrayal." The music is relentlessly diatonic, basically straightforward harmonically. We all know "Padme's Ruminations" takes some cues from modern film music. What about the second half of the piece? It's almost a twelve-tone composition, but the texture is very clear and monophonic. Everything is orchestrated in unisons. "Enter Lord Vader." Mostly diatonic writing, orchestral unisons, wall of sound stuff. "Palpatine's Teachings." A minute and a half of sound painting on a drone. "The Immolation Scene." A tonal, straightforward tragic piece. "Anakin's Dream." Kicks off with a nice, old fashioned violin solo, which I don't think has been heard in Star Wars since the concert arrangement of "Princess Leia." "Anakin vs. Obi-Wan." Certainly not dense and inaccessible, although the xylophones are there. Very emotionally honest music. I could go on to look at other scores, but I think Revenge of the Sith provides plenty of examples.

The only problem, for me, is that while Williams is as emotional and dramatic as ever, I don't think he's... as good as he used to be. I feel that most of the old music actually offered more in compositional and orchestral subtleties. I suppose some stuff from War Horse comes close to the emotional heights of the 70s/80s music. But the dense, dissonant, inaccessible action writing, at this point, seems to be his strongest suit.

And yes, I'm not using the complete score cue titles. I just want to make it more accessible for readers.

I can't speak for anyone else, but my comment about harmonic complexity was really just confined to his action music, and I would even agree that not all of it has grown in complexity. But many of his later action cues have tended to employ such a dizzying array of quasi-contrapuntal material that is frequently harmonically ambiguous, sometimes almost directionless. While we're talking ROTS, much of the opening battle, "Rolling With Grievous", and "Bail's Escape" would be examples that fall into the category I'm talking about. I still enjoy the music, but it is indeed dense, dissonant, and (I would say) less accessible.

And you'll never catch me suggesting that Williams' music was ever simple...on the contrary, his greatest works tend to be characterized by a complexity that gets leveraged into extreme emotional effectiveness.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What about cues like "Remembering Normandy"? I don't know enough about music theory, but it sounds very complex to me (at least the opening horn stuff). His newer works (non-action stuff included) also seem to incorporate more dissonance than the older stuff. Maybe it's not more complex, but they seem much less predictable to me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Williams' style has definitely changed over the years, but I think that as he has advanced in age, perhaps his focus has changed a bit. Surely, he is driven to make a film sing as best he can, and the sheer volume of work he has done constantly lends itself to that. But I think that as he gets older, perhaps he would like to be able to show how much he can re-invent himself. War Horse, I think is a fantastic example of this. When it comes to his very dense action cues, it is true that they've gotten increasingly busy, but I think it is a testament to how he is not slowing down at all. I don't think he is out to prove anything, but when you are the best, where do you go? It sounds a lot like the people posting here are wishing that he would just be the best, and continue to be the best by doing what has worked for him so well. It would seem that such a thing would ultimately become less gratifying. Pushing the envelope is what our beloved Maestro is all about, otherwise we wouldn't love him so much. He is still, and will continue to put his genius out there for all of us to see, and whether it takes this turn or that turn, we will like or not like what he has done. But it is still genius work, and we will always know that it is his best of the time, because he doesn't let anything past his own filter that doesn't belong. I, for one, trust his filter explicitly.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Well, Episode III is overrated. Minority Report is really underrated. Minority is more experimental and a nice break from the norm. It's some of the coolest music JW has ever composed and I think it's the best of his dramatic scores.

Revenge of the Sith is extremely predictable, thematically disorganized and basically a mish-mash of modern JW scoring techniques. That score never really feels together. You know? Like, there's plenty of entertaining cues, but they rarely seem to be a part of something bigger and it certainly doesn't keep my attention like the great ones. It's more like a collection of good JW cues that happen to be together in one score, yet don't even seem related. Something very different from the JW scores that are like a musical journey with a story. See: Jaws, E.T., Star Wars, Raiders.

The main problem I have with Episode III (and PoA actually, from the same period) is the action music in the middle portions, specifically Grievous' material. For me, there's nothing remarkable about General Grievous or Grievous and the Droids. It's just stock JW action music.

I mention PoA only because The Werewolf Scene to me is an utter mess of a cue. At one point it just descends into some banging metal things. Now I know that somewhat random orchestral hits has been JW's action style for years, but sometimes I prefer to hear something a bit more smoothened.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Williams' style has definitely changed over the years, but I think that as he has advanced in age, perhaps his focus has changed a bit. Surely, he is driven to make a film sing as best he can, and the sheer volume of work he has done constantly lends itself to that. But I think that as he gets older, perhaps he would like to be able to show how much he can re-invent himself. War Horse, I think is a fantastic example of this. When it comes to his very dense action cues, it is true that they've gotten increasingly busy, but I think it is a testament to how he is not slowing down at all. I don't think he is out to prove anything, but when you are the best, where do you go? It sounds a lot like the people posting here are wishing that he would just be the best, and continue to be the best by doing what has worked for him so well. It would seem that such a thing would ultimately become less gratifying. Pushing the envelope is what our beloved Maestro is all about, otherwise we wouldn't love him so much. He is still, and will continue to put his genius out there for all of us to see, and whether it takes this turn or that turn, we will like or not like what he has done. But it is still genius work, and we will always know that it is his best of the time, because he doesn't let anything past his own filter that doesn't belong. I, for one, trust his filter explicitly.

Well said!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

John Williams style has changed, not necessarily for the worse even though many may think so, over the years quite a lot, whether by some inner change and feeling that he wants to explore other avenues or by demands of the assignments and climate of the modern film making. He has answered the modern post 2000 films with increasingly busy music for what must be many reasons. Emulating needed ambience and drive of temp tracks and times and styles and perhaps over compensating and in his own way of thinking providing propulsion, which has become paramount. As Brian Tyler mentioned in one interview when talking about the trends and changing of times, not even Williams has escaped the tropes of today's scoring, the big drums and need for speed etc. This translates in Williams' writing to layers and busy feeling, although it never becomes sheer thick soup of sound like of many modern composers. The music pushes you literally forward, the woodwinds, brass and strings in effect saying "go, go, go, go, go, faster, faster, faster!" It works better in some instances than others.

Williams has also become prone, he was this before a bit, sonically painting orchestral sound effects to the movies he is scoring. The opening space battle of Episode III is a good example of this. He starts relatively clean lined and then the music becomes for long periods about either propulsion, busy, busy, busy or it catches small droids, explosions, fighters and gestures in a way that feels very nervous and twitchy. You could also say that the images are infused with same restless quality, which bleeds naturally to Williams' music as he probably has had his spotting discussions on the nature of the score and what he has to achieve. But mostly it seems to be pure drive the film makers are after, which translates into highly propulsive and insistent music, Williams' answer for these demands, building ostinati cells that can be easily manipulated and as a consequence has often left thematic development in the side lines in these longer action set pieces.

This.

I'd like to think that the evolution of Williams' style is a result of various conditions amongst which today's film scoring trends is a major one. I personally don't have much of a problem with his dense action writing and believe it can be rather effective at times.

Wanner was pretty spot on as well. As far as I can tell, it could be quite likely that Williams at this phase as a composer is attempting to break some form of new stylistic grounds. And his current action style is a product of the maestro trying to branch out his style.

I also wonder if there is a correlation between Williams' stylistic changes and his growing focus on his concert works.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow. Comparing an art form with another art form. Never seen that before. >____>

You must not get out much. I see it all the time.

Also you have a really wide mouth.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow. Comparing an art form with another art form. Never seen that before. >____>

You must not get out much. I see it all the time.

Also you have a really wide mouth.

And you never heard of sarcasm before. It just passes right through you.

Must have never dated much in high school.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Seriously, would you people really just as much like to listen to the Jungle Chase as to the Desert Chase?

To me, one of them is an epic piece of adventure, the other a cluttered piece of grandiose chaos.

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.