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Conversations - New Chamber (piano solo) by John Williams

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Has anyone read the sheet music to that Symphony?

Is it closer to his other atonal concert pieces or a kind of "Star Wars" without the film

I don't think anyone has.

I was about to purchase it once, but it was too complicated and expensive to order from here in Greece.

Maybe for someone in USA it's easier..

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Has anyone read the sheet music to that Symphony?

Is it closer to his other atonal concert pieces or a kind of "Star Wars" without the film

I don't think anyone has.

Doug Adams read the score and he also posted his comments here on JWFan:

http://www.jwfan.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=21033&p=788022

This is Williams' own description from the original program notes:

Since science fails to provide all of modern life's solutions, I prefer, like Robert Graves, to believe in myths…at least where music is concerned. My music contains no truisms of musical relationship nor other scientific "conceit". My first symphony was composed in 1966, partly because of a life long affection for the orchestra as a medium of expression and partly because of my admiration for the vital and energetic qualities of my friend, André Previn.

The first of the work's three movements is worked out on two basic themes, in simple metres of four, respectively. The second movement has jazz as its inspiration and features a flute solo written somewhat in the style of the late Eric Dolphy. The third movement features a fugato based on intervallic material taken from the first movement and proceeds through a parody waltz to the work's conclusion.

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He likely now sees it as a work of youth and probably doesn't feel comfortable to see it published. He planned to do a major revision several years ago, but I guess he wasn't pleased with that too. Who knows, maybe one day he will, or maybe not.

I think it's more vanity.

Or just being uncomfortable.

I wouldn't like anyone to hear my first piece.

(I remember my teacher saying it's just outside the limits of being kitscsh. :P And he was right!)

Well, it isn't really his FIRST piece. I would have understood it if it was the 1951 piano sonata or another teenage/student work. But this is a mature piece composed by someone in his mid 30s! I respect his decision, but I don't really understand why he doesn't want to revise it, this being his only symphony and everything.

He likely now sees it as a work of youth and probably doesn't feel comfortable to see it published. He planned to do a major revision several years ago, but I guess he wasn't pleased with that too. Who knows, maybe one day he will, or maybe not.

Well, he did record "Essay for Strings" just a few years ago (its premiere commercial release), and that was from the year BEFORE the symphony. He even provided liner notes. So I doubt it has anything to do with the piece being old. I think it's more vanity.

Williams did not record the "Essay for Strings" -- though he did perform it at Tanglewood a few years ago. The score for that one as been available for ages now, have been somewhat regularly performed and two commercial recordings exist -- not sure if the LSO/Feldman is still in-print, and the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra/Brosse one is just available as a digital download.

I was thinking about the Feldman/LSO album (where it's coupled with the trumpet concerto). For some reason, I assumed Williams conducted. But he gives his own thoughts about the piece and recording in the liner notes; I guess that's why I got it mixed up.

I've not heard the Brossé version.

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Well, it isn't really his FIRST piece. I would have understood it if it was the 1951 piano sonata or another teenage/student work. But this is a mature piece composed by someone in his mid 30s! I respect his decision, but I don't really understand why he doesn't want to revise it, this being his only symphony and everything.

JW is notorious for being quite self-critical about his own music, so in this sense I can understand him being not too fond of some of his earlier works. It seems he always prefers to look ahead and write new music instead of returning on his own past footsteps to rework old material. One of his mantras appears to be something along the lines "I can do it better".

When it comes to artists, it's always very difficult to fully understand the feelings they have toward their own work. There isn't much to do, actually. There are plenty of examples of similar situations, even just in music history

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He likely now sees it as a work of youth and probably doesn't feel comfortable to see it published. He planned to do a major revision several years ago, but I guess he wasn't pleased with that too. Who knows, maybe one day he will, or maybe not.

I think it's more vanity.

Or just being uncomfortable.

I wouldn't like anyone to hear my first piece.

(I remember my teacher saying it's just outside the limits of being kitscsh. :P And he was right!)

Well, it isn't really his FIRST piece. I would have understood it if it was the 1951 piano sonata or another teenage/student work. But this is a mature piece composed by someone in his mid 30s! I respect his decision, but I don't really understand why he doesn't want to revise it, this being his only symphony and everything.

Yes, i didn't mean it's his first piece.

I meant generally early pieces, but I referred specifically to my first piece.

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Well, it isn't really his FIRST piece. I would have understood it if it was the 1951 piano sonata or another teenage/student work. But this is a mature piece composed by someone in his mid 30s! I respect his decision, but I don't really understand why he doesn't want to revise it, this being his only symphony and everything.

JW is notorious for being quite self-critical about his own music, so in this sense I can understand him being not too fond of some of his earlier works. It seems he always prefers to look ahead and write new music instead of returning on his own past footsteps to rework old material. One of his mantras appears to be something along the lines "I can do it better".

When it comes to artists, it's always very difficult to fully understand the feelings they have toward their own work. There isn't much to do, actually. There are plenty of examples of similar situations, even just in music history

I think we should try to think about it from the perspective of the artist. We all think some thing we have done in our work or creatively could have been better and could certainly be improved upon and and might as well be forgotten as it is more of an embarrasment to us now than when it was in our younger days. As fans we tend to forget this and just want to hear every note of every work John Williams has written. I know that we could apply the "he doesn't get to decide what is worthy and what is not as the time and audiences will do that" but in the end Williams is entirely within his rights to not have some of his work performed or released as unfair as it may feel to us.

As you say history is full of these examples. And how many works are left in the drawer, never published or made even public?

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Brahms constantly changed and revised his own compositions well after the first performance. Also, there are even examples of composers destroying their own scores. It's not that unusual for the artist to see his/her own work as a constant work in progress. You know the old saying "An opus of art is never finished, only abandoned".

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Brahms constantly changed and revised his own compositions well after the first performance. Also, there are even examples of composers destroying their own scores. It's not that unusual for the artist to see his/her own work as a constant work in progress. You know the old saying "An opus of art is never finished, only abandoned".

Let's hope Williams hasn't given too many of his works to the flames like Sibelius did with his 8th symphony as he burned it unfinished.

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I knew it must actually be crap even though I like it.

 

On 1/31/2015 at 2:02 PM, TheGreyPilgrim said:

So...anyone else utterly adore Conversations, Surface Tension, and L'étreinte?

 

Sorry John, everyone talks about how they wish there were more discussion about you on here, but no one actually wants to do it. Stick to the fanfares and kiddy marches, I guess.

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Hey folks - just a reminder that this goes on sale for non-Kickstarter people on Tuesday (and is already available for pre-order on Amazon)! :)

I just put in a big order on Amazon last night and this slipped my mind. What a terrible fan! *adds to cart*

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As self-consciously academic as Davis's piece is, I still find it a lot more accessible than Williams's. I'm still wading my way through the latter.

Johnny is obviously making his way through some old unfinished business with the gentlemen in the titles of movements of Conversations.

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What makes a work "academic?" If the mode of expression is removed enough from the common one, is that all it takes? Babbitt, Ferneyhough...that's what I'd call actually academic. It's not just a matter of being "atonal" there, but there are full-fledged intentions to be understood only on a theoretical level.

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Oh come on, give me more than that! Write an essay!

Tough musical language doesn't make a piece academic. Someone who knows nothing about music beyond its sound can easily come to appreciate that sort only by listening to enough of it. No academic understanding required.

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When that is the only thing meant to be considered or appreciated in a piece of music, yes. Like I said, Babbitt and Ferneyhough are some of the worst offenders in that area. It's music made in a laboratory meant to be picked apart and examined and nothing more. There's no artistry to it and no aesthetic ROI. It's clinical intellectual masturbation. None of the pieces on this album remotely approach that.

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It's a shorthand for being unwieldy and complicated, obviously written by someone who IS an academic himself: note how Giacchino's piece shies away from anything that is too far removed from the harmonic language of his typical film music or Randy Newman writing easy-going bar numbers and how, in sharp contrast, Williams approaches his subject in a rather abstract manner that i would call academic in nature.

It's again more of a semantic nuance though i think most here understand exactly what 'academic' means in context of this album, and i'm afraid that even includes the Desplat.

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I would add that i don't find CONVERSATIONS an ideal starting point for that. Ironically, music like this would be much easier to grasp if it would be attached to a film narrative. I must credit Jerry Goldsmith urging me to understand his more abstract scores (POTA, MEPHISTO WALTZ, SATAN BUG, FREUD etc.) via watching the movies (in my early 20's). I mostly couldn't stand them - only after seeing the movie i realized what the music was doing structurally and that enabled me to appreciate it.

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Challenging music is always more palatable when there's a visual and dramatic roadmap to orient yourself with. Certainly Conversations is not an entry level piece of concert music, but why not seek out the stuff that will eventualy lead you there?

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What makes a work "academic?" If the mode of expression is removed enough from the common one, is that all it takes? Babbitt, Ferneyhough... that's what I'd call actually academic. It's not just a matter of being "atonal" there, but there are full-fledged intentions to be understood only on a theoretical level.

To me there's 'academic' in the average listener sense and then there's the insider (AKA composer/student/musicologist/musician) definition of 'academic', which is what you're referring to.

I'd say the Williams, Davis and Broughton pieces are of concert composers who write (or have written) film music, where's the Giacchino and Newman are from film composers trying their hand at concert music. The Desplat is curious because it has some of the craft and form of the former, but the accessibility and more film music-like rhetoric of the later.

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