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Ludwig

Favorite John Williams Chord or Chord Progression

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2 hours ago, Ludwig said:

 

Great examples - both of the Williams-y bVI-I cadence and these "John Williams Chords"!

 

These minor7(b5), or half-diminished 7th, chords seem to have been used for climactic effect in this period of Williams' career. A favourite example of mine (and I imagine many others here) is the one in the end credits of Close Encounters (the half-diminished chord at 3:18):

 

 

This climax is the payoff for a whole movie's worth of withholding the entirety of the Devils Tower theme, a technique Williams was particularly fond of then (the main themes of E.T. and Raiders are other examples), and boy does it ever payoff! The half-diminished chord unleashes the ecstatic remainder of the theme with a cymbal crash, cascading melody in the strings, and a lofty cadential 6/4 chord that, while grandiose, does demand resolution, so transfixes us and keeps us listening still further. As though awestruck, the texture breaks off with another half-diminished chord at 3:32, this time finally leading to a soft-landing resolution on a tonic chord. We can finally exhale!

 

What's more, notice that at 3:44 Williams plays with the bVI-I (both with major 7ths) after this tonic chord, so also incorporates the other feature you pointed out above, though here just after a cadential point rather than before one. So it seems he had this harmonic trick on his mind for cadences during this period. In the Indy scores, it seems to serve as a way of disrupting the key and providing a quirky signal of closure (appropriately enough for the tongue-in-cheek nature of the films), whereas in Close Encounters, it suggests that we're still marvelling at the meeting of aliens on Earth. So much meaning is packed into these end credits as a musical version of the onscreen catharsis we have just witnessed, it's no wonder the score is considered one of Williams' absolute best!

Wow! Wonderful analysis! 

 

I just love how he is able to keep the attention of the listeners! The example you provided is a superb one that displays his ability to prolong cadential passages without sounding boring or outdated. 

 

You brought up another good point at the end as well, I so admire his ability to perfectly capture everything we experience on screen and translate it into music. Again, this scene is a perfect example. During the climax, we are still unsure of these foreign creatures, will they harm us? Building up to a glorious realization that no, they are not here to do us harm. After that realization (as you pointed out with the child-like bVI-I with the Maj.7ths), we are able to truly marvel at their existence. 

 

Absolutely wonderful!  

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2 hours ago, Richard said:

Great post @D_nev...even though I didn't understand a single word, of it :lol:

Why this didn't win the Oscar, in 1978, is quite beyond me *

 

 

* Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know: two words.

Hey thanks! That’s okay though, you don’t know anything about music theory to enjoy the music! That’s the beauty of it! 

 

There are many times that I feel as though he should’ve won (even though he actually did in this case), but I guess that’s why I don’t make the decisions or else he’d win every year 😂 

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37 minutes ago, Falstaft said:

 

I'm glad that this chord is getting some love! There dozens and dozens of wonderful and inventive usages of the half-diminished 7th in Williams's music, truly an essential and distinctive aspect of his personal sound.

 

The D#-7(b5) in "Padme's Funeral" is one of my favorites, enhanced by the gorgeous brass writing and the unusual harmonic function (g#m: i7 - bII -  vØ7 - i - bV/#IV(!) - i)

 

 

 

Also a really nice, more traditionally functional one in the middle of "Rey's Theme" if you can spot it!

I’ve never heard this track before! It is very beautiful brass writing and of course the Minor7(b5)! 

 

I just have to go through Rey’s theme to find it now! 

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On 10/6/2018 at 6:29 AM, Marc said:

Oh and of course that chord at 6:53 !!

That has to be of the best ever :)

 

 

 

Absolutely. Without a full score or instrument at hand, and never having analyzed it, it sounds to me like there's a VII chord (with the fifth in the bass, i.e. the tritone of the key) chord pulling against the tonic in other voices and it's a wonderfully volatile "preflight" chord. 

On 1/2/2019 at 4:29 PM, D_nev said:

The progression that never fails to make me smile is instead of doing a V-I progression he will do a bVI-I and it sounds absolutely amazing. It’s a simple enough progression but very effective. 

 

My favorite use of this is in the KoTCS score the track “Spalko’s Dossier”, at the very end. He also does a much more sped up version of this progression at the end of “Flight From Peru” from Raiders. In both cases the two chords are Ab to C 

 

 

 

Yes, and he's clearly quoting himself. I love it when, almost surprisingly for someone who is always moving forward in his work, he takes a moment to acknowledge little details from past scores that are obscure to all but his most devoted fans - us!

On 1/3/2019 at 8:16 PM, D_nev said:

Another quintessential John Willaims idiom that is sure to elicit a smile is what my brother and I have labeled “The John Williams Chord” which is typically approached by a Minor7(b5) a perfect 5th above the target chord. (e.g. F#m7(b5) to B major) 

 

The chord leading up to “The John Williams Chord” isn’t always the same, but you’ll definitely know it when you hear it! 

 

Let me know what you guys think!

 

(Start at 4:01) 

 

and another famous one:

 

(Start at 3:35) 

 

 

Very much so. Below is another well-heard example, which is a fav and in my mind some kind of harmonic reference to Leia, although the cadence from her concert arrangement is heard in reverse - the tonic to the dominant half-diminished 7th. There's a lovely tension in alternating the chords to match the instability - spatial and dramatic - in the scene.
 


Does JW's 70s/early 80s fascination with the half-dim / Neapolitan dominant chords (or however one most aptly labels these) have it roots below?

 

On 1/4/2019 at 10:29 PM, Ludwig said:

 

Great examples - both of the Williams-y bVI-I cadence and these "John Williams Chords"!

 

These minor7(b5), or half-diminished 7th, chords seem to have been used for climactic effect in this period of Williams' career. A favourite example of mine (and I imagine many others here) is the one in the end credits of Close Encounters (the half-diminished chord at 3:18):

 

 

This climax is the payoff for a whole movie's worth of withholding the entirety of the Devils Tower theme, a technique Williams was particularly fond of then (the main themes of E.T. and Raiders are other examples), and boy does it ever payoff! The half-diminished chord unleashes the ecstatic remainder of the theme with a cymbal crash, cascading melody in the strings, and a lofty cadential 6/4 chord that, while grandiose, does demand resolution, so transfixes us and keeps us listening still further. As though awestruck, the texture breaks off with another half-diminished chord at 3:32, this time finally leading to a soft-landing resolution on a tonic chord. We can finally exhale!

 

What's more, notice that at 3:44 Williams plays with the bVI-I (both with major 7ths) after this tonic chord, so also incorporates the other feature you pointed out above, though here just after a cadential point rather than before one. So it seems he had this harmonic trick on his mind for cadences during this period. In the Indy scores, it seems to serve as a way of disrupting the key and providing a quirky signal of closure (appropriately enough for the tongue-in-cheek nature of the films), whereas in Close Encounters, it suggests that we're still marvelling at the meeting of aliens on Earth. So much meaning is packed into these end credits as a musical version of the onscreen catharsis we have just witnessed, it's no wonder the score is considered one of Williams' absolute best!

Fantastic analysis Ludwig! One might well imagine with my username I am indeed a big fan of that chord. My question for those of you with work with a score to confirm notated reality incl. Dr. L. @Falstaft is - as I work by ear in most cases with JW - in this chord, while it can clearly be considered a predominant half-dim (C#-E-Gnat-B in the key of B major), does the audible and quite resonant presence of D# in the chord (i.e. the mediant) not also give it the identity of an augmented or even altered dominant (of an ostensible but absent relative minor key)? It certainly matches the tonal identity of the second chord of the Devil's Tower theme; again, a sort of augmented dominant to the relative minor.
 

Sorry for the extended, multi-embed response... I only noticed this thread a few months ago and have been too overwhelmed in my schedule (and by the topic!!) to respond before now, but I was so intrigued by the recent comments I had to engage! I'm going to post some of my favs at some point. One thing I appreciate is that the topic appeals or is handled in such a way that it effectively appeals to theory as well as non-theory people.

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8 hours ago, The Five Tones said:

Fantastic analysis Ludwig! One might well imagine with my username I am indeed a big fan of that chord. My question for those of you with work with a score to confirm notated reality incl. Dr. L. @Falstaft is - as I work by ear in most cases with JW - in this chord, while it can clearly be considered a predominant half-dim (C#-E-Gnat-B in the key of B major), does the audible and quite resonant presence of D# in the chord (i.e. the mediant) not also give it the identity of an augmented or even altered dominant (of an ostensible but absent relative minor key)? It certainly matches the tonal identity of the second chord of the Devil's Tower theme; again, a sort of augmented dominant to the relative minor.

 

I think you're right about this one -- as far as I can tell the chord is C# - D# - G - B. I'm not actually hearing an E natural anywhere, so if it's absent, it's not a half-dim7, technically. Though the chord does serve as a substitute to the syntactically more accustomed ii7b5. A wonderful, surprising sonority that links up nicely with the overall harmonic style of the Mountain Theme, as you note!

 

Here's some more unusual ones to hunt for:

 

ivØ7: Imperial March

bviØ7: Chamber of Secrets

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1 hour ago, Falstaft said:

 

I think you're right about this one -- as far as I can tell the chord is C# - D# - G - B. I'm not actually hearing an E natural anywhere, so if it's absent, it's not a half-dim7, technically. Though the chord does serve as a substitute to the syntactically more accustomed ii7b5. A wonderful, surprising sonority that links up nicely with the overall harmonic style of the Mountain Theme, as you note!

 

Here's some more unusual ones to hunt for:

 

ivØ7: Imperial March

bviØ7: Chamber of Secrets

I’m loving this discusssion! I was listening through some scores the other day and found another great example of these chords and I meant to come here and talk about it, but I have since forgotten! 

 

Maybe I will find it again some day! 

@The Five Tones

Very excellent examples from you as wel! I just love that sequence from the asteroid field, one of my favorite Williams cues! 

 

I agree about your quoting statement about the Indy films, it was so cool to discover those two similarities between the two scores, clearly paying an homage to the original scores! 

 

I also find the fiddle example quite compelling as well! It’s entirely possible that fiddler is where he discovered his love for the chord. If I’m not mistaken though, the minor7(b5) is a pretty common Jazz chord as well, perhaps he also took inspiration from his Jazz pianist days as well! 

 

So fascinating!

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16 hours ago, The Five Tones said:

Fantastic analysis Ludwig! One might well imagine with my username I am indeed a big fan of that chord. My question for those of you with work with a score to confirm notated reality incl. Dr. L. @Falstaft is - as I work by ear in most cases with JW - in this chord, while it can clearly be considered a predominant half-dim (C#-E-Gnat-B in the key of B major), does the audible and quite resonant presence of D# in the chord (i.e. the mediant) not also give it the identity of an augmented or even altered dominant (of an ostensible but absent relative minor key)? It certainly matches the tonal identity of the second chord of the Devil's Tower theme; again, a sort of augmented dominant to the relative minor.

 

Here is the score for the moment I was talking about. This is from the Signature Edition (strings and piano only to save space - all other instruments at this moment double one or another of these notes, so nothing new is added with them):

 

Half-Dim-7th-end-credits-01.png

 

As @The Five Tones points out, there is of course a D#. Along with the C#-E-G-B sounding, I'd say the D# is an extension of a 9th added onto the half-diminished 7th. I'd chalk the use of it up to Williams' tendency to recontextualize jazz chords in non-jazz (especially classical or classical Hollywood) styles, which fits in well with the major 7th chord as a kind of default chord in the cue generally.

 

I was referring to the circled moment in particular, where the half-diminished chord is preserved. The funny thing is that, as it progresses, it seems to change into a dominant-type chord. At m. 148, the oboe starts a tremolo of F#-G, as though F# is becoming a chord tone and as though the melody (in the piano) is becoming a series of appoggiaturas resolving to a chord tone a semitone down rather than starting with a chord tone and moving to a non-chord tone. To clinch the change of harmony, in the last half of m. 149 (measure numbers below the score), as we get (from the bottom up) B-E-G-A#-C#, a fully diminished 7th chord above a B pedal. This is no doubt why the resolution to the next chord in m. 150 (not shown here) is so satisfying. It's actually a dominant-tonic resolution rather than moving directly from a half-diminished 7th to a tonic (which is beautiful in its own rights, but doesn't have quite sound of unequivocal resolution as does a dominant-tonic motion).

 

Wonderful passage, isn't it?

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On 1/7/2019 at 11:00 PM, Falstaft said:

 

I think you're right about this one -- as far as I can tell the chord is C# - D# - G - B. I'm not actually hearing an E natural anywhere, so if it's absent, it's not a half-dim7, technically. Though the chord does serve as a substitute to the syntactically more accustomed ii7b5. A wonderful, surprising sonority that links up nicely with the overall harmonic style of the Mountain Theme, as you note!

 

Here's some more unusual ones to hunt for:

 

ivØ7: Imperial March

bviØ7: Chamber of Secrets

You're correct, the E is not actually there. I put it there as a child learning by ear ca. 1980, and I wonder if it's as you suggest, that's because it's syntactically correct; vocab, grammar, syntax and memory structures being fast friends of an auto-didact. Or perhaps, I'm making an association with the later, accented instance of the chord that @Ludwig points out which contains an E. For that matter, I was even more gaga over augmented chords as a child, so who knows.

 

I still have a particular attraction to augmented/tritonal harmonies, which was cemented a few years after CE3K when I first heard Steve Reich's The Desert Music and nearly fainted, and Scriabin after that. The Mountain theme (Devil's Tower) is almost a micro-study in these kinds of harmonies, as we get hints from the outset of the score of a very jazzy (Scriabinesque?) E7#11 chord that arrives with the third melodic phrase (the ascent via G# and A# to B - that top note saved for the end of the film - the opposite of Luke's theme's first appearance of that same year). I'm speaking in particular about the moment below, where over about 12 seconds, an urgent D-flat 7#11 tonality is formed. It's my favourite moment in the early part of the score. I wonder, does this serve as the first, subtle hint of the Mountain Theme, whether we're speaking of the E#11 or the D#aug/C# sonorities?
 


I would reckon @D_nev that the half-dim7 / Ø7 / min7b5 is a pretty common chord even for young pianists as I first encountered it as simply the 7th chord built on B in C major, and re: my attraction above, have always loved its particular synaesthetic colour/texture/flavour whether in jazz, classical, pop or other contexts. I feel like the particular use of it as a dominant chord is the instance Williams most often uses, which I suggest has its roots in Fiddler, and beyond that in earlier compositions in classical canon that work with Jewish/folk themes. In the case of Asteroid Field as it relates to this paragraph, it is a half-cadence (iiØ7 - V transposed to vØ7- I), and thus is pretty rudimentary theory wise.
 

On 1/8/2019 at 7:23 AM, Ludwig said:

 

Here is the score for the moment I was talking about. This is from the Signature Edition (strings and piano only to save space - all other instruments at this moment double one or another of these notes, so nothing new is added with them):

 

Half-Dim-7th-end-credits-01.png

 

As @The Five Tones points out, there is of course a D#. Along with the C#-E-G-B sounding, I'd say the D# is an extension of a 9th added onto the half-diminished 7th. I'd chalk the use of it up to Williams' tendency to recontextualize jazz chords in non-jazz (especially classical or classical Hollywood) styles, which fits in well with the major 7th chord as a kind of default chord in the cue generally.

 

I was referring to the circled moment in particular, where the half-diminished chord is preserved. The funny thing is that, as it progresses, it seems to change into a dominant-type chord. At m. 148, the oboe starts a tremolo of F#-G, as though F# is becoming a chord tone and as though the melody (in the piano) is becoming a series of appoggiaturas resolving to a chord tone a semitone down rather than starting with a chord tone and moving to a non-chord tone. To clinch the change of harmony, in the last half of m. 149 (measure numbers below the score), as we get (from the bottom up) B-E-G-A#-C#, a fully diminished 7th chord above a B pedal. This is no doubt why the resolution to the next chord in m. 150 (not shown here) is so satisfying. It's actually a dominant-tonic resolution rather than moving directly from a half-diminished 7th to a tonic (which is beautiful in its own rights, but doesn't have quite sound of unequivocal resolution as does a dominant-tonic motion).

 

Wonderful passage, isn't it?

Yes, it is. The E is indeed here and not in the instance you linked which precedes the B major cadential 6/4, however between the sudden shift of volume with the sfz and the chromatic appoggiaturas wafting over the chord, it can be a little hard to hear for more than an instant. I've certainly thought of and played around with the chord as a C# half-dim 7add9.

Re: maj7 chords as the default in the cue, it's interesting perhaps given what I said above about the 7#11 chord, that in that final section of the Mountain theme, due an inner voice that oscillates between D# and Dnat, the E chord changes identity from 7(#11) to maj7 and back during the passage. It's arresting, and very Williamsy/late Romantic to my mind, as though he is drawing your ear slightly towards the D# as a plaintive relative minor dominant note, or at the very least a dissonant note straining above the E tonic.

Thank you for this whole wonderful discussion which you began closing on six years ago!

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20 hours ago, Ludwig said:

The differences now are that the first two chords of the basic IV7-ii9 have been chromaticized to give a major-minor 7th (flat 5) chord and a half-diminished 9th, and that Williams has added a passing chord (which is of lesser importance to the progression, hence the filled noteheads) that smooths out the bass to stepwise motion.

 

Hearing this progression as an altered version of a more basic model allows us to make sense of the voice leading: for the ii9(b5) chord, couldn't Williams have led the F# down to E and filled the chord out completely? Yes, but then the intense chromatic motion toward the dominant note of G#-G-F# (or scale degrees 6-b6-5) in the inner voices (here, the tenor) would be lost. And I also think the connection to all the previous chords with E in the bass would be weaker because the whole harmonic idea of the passage seems to be to keep the upper voices on essentially the same notes while the bass moves (arpeggiates) underneath them. So keeping the upper voices reasonably fixed lends a continuity to the harmony that would be lost by moving them around more.

That is compelling enough, to the extent any chord with omitted lower tones but with a clear syntactical identity can be considered a substitution. It's very familiar to me from playing jazz and R&B with its substitutions that omit lower chord tones, especially sus11 and sus13 (and sus13#11, for that matter!) And with that in mind, preserving the voice leading is in this case somewhat an intuitive thing that is at the heart of what JW does so incredibly well.

I would say the passing chord is of differentiated, perhaps not lesser, importance: it is prominent and accented, and has the dramatic effect of a foot placed just before a leap. It is an articulation of the Lydian dominant mode occupied by the E#11 (IV) chord. We are somewhat in post-tonal, early 20th century territory here. Have a listen again to the first chord I linked above in "Lost Squadron;" it's the passing chord transposed, within the same modal context.

 

Speaking of flight, though, leaving that ii half-dim chord somewhat ambiguous without a third over the root reduces its density and gives it more lift - it's spacier. The focus is more squarely (triadically?) on the resonant augmented sound. Even the wind arpeggi articulate that. It's really quite Herrmannesque/Vertigo when I think of it.

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On 1/7/2019 at 11:00 PM, Falstaft said:

 

I think you're right about this one -- as far as I can tell the chord is C# - D# - G - B. I'm not actually hearing an E natural anywhere, so if it's absent, it's not a half-dim7, technically. Though the chord does serve as a substitute to the syntactically more accustomed ii7b5. A wonderful, surprising sonority that links up nicely with the overall harmonic style of the Mountain Theme, as you note!

 

Here's some more unusual ones to hunt for:

 

ivØ7: Imperial March

bviØ7: Chamber of Secrets

 

Speaking once again of half-diminished seventh chords, @Falstaft, I'm just finding time to listen all the way through the LLL HP box. Perhaps obviously there is a big, unusual half-diminished seventh passing chord that everyone knows at a near reflexive level here:

 

 

Given it is also a bviØ7 (once the bass note is added), is this the chord you reference in CoS, or is it derived from this for some other thematic content?

Of course there is this; a truly weird cadence - iØ7 to I - but not without precedent (I think of the English progressive rock band Yes, and exactly which song I've forgotten):

 


I just revisited the Buckbeak theme in PoA, and was reminded of the familiar way JW uses vØ7 (dominant half-diminished seventh), just as he does in Leia's theme and The Asteroid Field:
 

 

and

 

 

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6 hours ago, Gnome in Plaid said:

I'm not sure how to name this progression from 1:30-1:41 (what even is that first chord?), but damn do I love it.

 

Lesse... Beginning with the start of Palpatine's glorious pantriadic chorale:

Bm - Dm - Bm - C#M7b9(b5) - F#m - DM(addb6) - Ebm/Bb - Gm/E5 - Em - Fm...

 

The progression you're asking about at 1:30:

...Cm - DbMa7(sus4) - Cm - Fm - Cm/Eb - GM/B - Abm - Em(7)/Abm - EM/G# - Gm

 

Two things leap out after transcribing this. First the vivid similarity with Nixon's Miami Convention Cue (which I analyzed a while back in an article). The resemblance is so striking I suspect it's either temp-track emulation or Williams really wanted to link these two corrupt tyrants musically. Second, can't believe I never noticed this before, but the brief opening progression (Bm-Dm-Bm) is The Emperor's leitmotif. Duh!

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Cool thread. A good chord can really change the context or psychology of a scene or surrounding music and lift it to new heights. The chord change at 0:59 comes to mind as my favorite. Creates such whimsical magic and humor with the bells and melody together, like some kind of lost Disney fantasy.

 

LISTEN FOR 0:59 :

 

 

Some other favorite chord changes are

 

The I to II/I Williams uses in his popular themes, like at 2:29. To me this chord epitomizes 'Epic Adventure.'

 

Then, when Williams uses the IV7 chord, like at 0:23. This chord to me epitomizes 'Reminiscence/Wistfulness', 'Intrapersonal Romance or Sentimentality.'

(Also not a bad chord at 0:31, simply because it fits the context of the footage's ethereal fantasy, where it might not in other scenes. You can have the same chord do a terrible job elsewhere.)

 

 

Then 1:02 is a different chord change than the first video and it really cannot top the effect of the first video (ie. humorous magic), but it does UPLIFT the psychology of this scene quite effectively.

 

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11 hours ago, Borodin said:

Then, when Williams uses the IV7 chord, like at 0:23. This chord to me epitomizes 'Reminiscence/Wistfulness', 'Intrapersonal Romance or Sentimentality.'

(Also not a bad chord at 0:31, simply because it fits the context of the footage's ethereal fantasy, where it might not in other scenes. You can have the same chord do a terrible job elsewhere.)

 

It is a IV7 in the harmony, and if you observe the melody in that measure (B-C-D), there is the barest hint of a IV7#11 (i.e. F7 coinciding with the B natural) and Williams’ flair for things Lydian. It’s also a VI of vi as it were, since it cadences on the relative minor (A min). Elements of that particular pitch collection recur in the next two chords: IV – VII7 (F to B7), which yes, in constituting the tritone progression (with a tritone in the melody line as well) makes a typical Williams/sci-fi/fantasy chordal move, though he uses it with subtlety and delicacy here and perhaps in other examples of Harry’s/Family theme. Without going into too too much detail, there is a parallel harmonic move at the end of E.T.'s Flying Theme: vi - II7flat5 - I maj7.

Williams certainly loves to flow a series of key changes in his themes. Flying is a notable example. I also love this one:
 


As there is virtually no chord progression structure to the brief main and orbit themes - they are stated over a static tonic major - the key changes provide the harmonic movement in this cue. The modulations seem arbitrary: down a minor third, a tritone, up a minor second, etc., but they enhance the melodic line, and give the music a real feeling of lift, appropriately enough. (There is a single same-key move, the beautiful IV-I cadence at the end.) 

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At the risk of hitting spam level commentary on this thread, was already six years old when I found out about it, I'm finally adding my list of favs, in addition to what I've already posted.

 

First Seance from Family Plot - tritonal/altered dominant chord (pre-echo of CE3K, wordless chorus and all):

 

The Destruction of Krypton from Superman - Lydian mode and "super" major 7th chord with added/stacked tones (relating to the Main Title A theme):


More Lydian mode:


Far from Home from E.T. -  major chord/minor mediant root for the "Call" motif (and all of the harmonic brilliance in "Far from Home," for that matter):


Water! from Temple of Doom - chromatic major triads over dissonant bass. Something very Lost in Space about it, but just a wonderfully resonant result and an orchestration/engineering highlight of ToD:

 

Father and Son from Jaws - D major secundal chords over a C bass like something in the deep, also foreshadows End Credits and narrative resolution:

 

The Funeral of Qui-Gon from The Phantom Menace - final sequence of chords finishing with a bitonal sound: A minor over D-flat major, literally the harmonic degree for Vader on top of the chord of rest that begins and ends all the light side themes. Almost as if Williams guessed or knew there would be another funeral two films later and an opportunity to resolve the theme unambiguously:

 

 

Luke and Leia from Return of the Jedi - the pitches of the upper chords shift back and forth by a semitone while the bass descends chromatically from the sixth degree down to the fourth (and a iv - ii half diminished - V - I cadence). IMO the most tragic, Tchaikovsky-esque sounding theme in the saga. Indeed, there is something incredibly sad about the twins' Force-assisted reunion and good-bye in The Last Jedi:

 

TreeSong - the central harmonic idea, a restive altered dominant chord that only resolves obliquely and ambiguously at the very end of the work:

 

 

The Mecha World from A.I. - one of the best moments in all JW for me, combining his beloved minor sixth chord with an abrupt modulation to two parallel Lydian/tritonal statements and back again, while still keeping the melody in the original key, and the harmonic rhythm is shaped by the minimalist-textured, metronomic, seven-beat groove:

 

 

Sean's Theme from Minority Report - mid-statement modulation upward by a minor third, an ancient trick to be sure, but its placement adds elegance here:

 

 

Opening Title from Catch Me If You Can - This is the ultimate. Those very jazzy, meticulously arranged and voiced, fourth-based chords moving in parallel in even dotted quarter notes against the 3/4 time signature (i.e. playing it "straight" in a jazz waltz). It sounds just like a bridge for this "tune," but in fact Williams is actually, unbelievably, quoting in variation the bridge melody in Across the Stars from Attack of the Clones, which he had just completed earlier that year (2002). Johnny Williams in the house, jazz-quoting himself and flying his own chameleon flag, appropriate to the film in question:

 

Here is the melody I'm referring to, and which is to my ears quite clearly quoted (intentionally or not? come on!). I'm sure someone in the history of JWFan has pointed this out before at least once (if not me already that I'm forgetting):

 

 

 

To come back one last time to the half-diminished 7th chord topic which was covered extensively in the exchanges above, I don't think we mentioned this example from the Prelude from Superman. The chord has the same function here as in Princess Leia / Love Theme from Superman / Asteroid Field / Han and Leia / Buckbeat's Flight, which is as the dominant chord. It's somehow Debussyian to my ears, and makes an extended tonal centre out of the half-dim chord, with lots of passing detail:

 

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Wow an interesting discussion - this chord progression has become a defining thing for John Williams - almost a signature. It picked up in the 80's and snowballed out of control to no it's almost everywhere in his stuff as shown by the clips above. Question is, where did this start and why? John Williams has been writing for a LONG time. I have a theory:

 

Listen to his stuff in the 60's - wow, lots of great material but the cadences just aren't there like they are now. No bII V I (and related variances) but lots of jazz (Don't forget Johnny was a jazz trombone player) and very cool angular quartal and quintal 20th century stuff straight out of the Copeland playbook. What happened? What changed and impacted his music forever? John Williams is known for strong melodies full of deliberate and effective cadences.

 

1971 - Fiddler on the Roof. No he didn't WRITE it but he did the orchestration - go back and listen to the original and compare - he really worked this out and fixed chords and melodies here and there - really made it pop and it's incredible. Fiddler is BOTH a Jewish and Russian story utilizing lots of double harmonic scale - Harmonizing with this much chromatic material is TRICKY but relies on lots of these cadences. bII V I is VERY common in Russian classical stuff like end of the melody in Swan Lake. Listen to the end of "Far From the Home I Love" (From Fiddler) sounds like it's straight out of his stuff now!

 

I can't find anything like this in John Williams material before 1971, can anyone else? I don't mind being wrong about this, it's just a theory and it really doesn't change anything one way or another but the previous arguments about the classification of the chords should be treated as double harmonic scale, not jazz and not modal even though it does exist in both.

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