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The Definitive John Williams Plagiarism/Homage Thread


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21 hours ago, Omen II said:

Tom Service regurgitates his obvious dislike for John Williams at any opportunity.


So… he plagiarises his own complaints about JW (allegedly) plagiarising others? I’ve just discovered a new definition of irony. Or hypocrisy.

 

Mark

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12 hours ago, Marian Schedenig said:

Holst? I thought the Imperial March was Elgar?

 

 

 

Anyway… I used to think that Williams copied his bridge from Across the Stars for Catch Me If You Can (or the other way round?)… turns out Silvestri went there first, 13 years earlier:

 

Interesting, I can hear a slight echo in the Elgar but an allusion that's closer to coincidence than anything specific. The BTTF/Across the Stars is an interesting one, I'd never noticed before. Surely coincidence, but you never know, maybe JW is a massive fan of time bending comedies?!

 

11 hours ago, QuartalHarmony said:


So… he plagiarises his own complaints about JW (allegedly) plagiarising others? I’ve just discovered a new definition of irony. Or hypocrisy.

 

Mark

That pretty much sums it up. His reference points and arguments are incredibly hackneyed. I think I just found the whole thing dispiriting as he could have made some interesting points, say, comparing how JW used leitmotif in Star Wars compared to Wagner or something a bit more interesting but chose to do down the cliched route.

 

Thanks to everyone else who commented, agree with all your points! I almost felt like I was posting one of those "am I the arsehole?" threads... as in, am I just being a sensitive dick about this show, but actually, nah, it was just crap and relied on the same old prejudices. What a waste. Especially compared to the episode of Sound of Cinema from a few months ago where Matthew Sweet did a run through of less well known JW scores. I appreciate that's a specific film music show, but actually trying to highlight that there's a whole lot more to JW than Star Wars, Spielberg and Harry Potter was a breath of fresh air.

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Even if these types of claims have merit, and I'm not saying they do......

JW wrote lots of distinctive , original scores in the Nineties and Aughts that hardly draw on the classical repotoire.

A fact conveniently overlooked by tiresome , self- important critics.

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The funny thing about how people point to these similarities is if Brahms quotes Beethoven or Strauss quotes Brahms then it is a nod, an hommage, a bow. If a film music composer does it, it is stealing, copy paste, appropriation.

I know, I put it too simple. There are many flavors. But I mean the attitude.

It would be good, if people after those findings, especially music journalists would spend a minute on reviewing, how well the quotation was done, how far it makes sense instead of just jumping the "Gotcha!" dance.

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4 minutes ago, GerateWohl said:

The funny thing about how people point to these similarities is if Brahms quotes Beethoven or Strauss quotes Brahms then it is a nod, an hommage, a bow. If a film music composer does it, it is stealing, copy paste, appropriation.

I know, I put it too simple. There are many flavors. But I mean the attitude.

It would be good, if people after those findings, especially music journalists would spend a minute on reviewing, how well the quotation was done, how far it makes sense instead of just jumping the "Gotcha!" dance.

Absolutely that! As I said in one of my original comments, he spends so much time and energy in the show saying "this sounds like this" for fragments of themes or melodies that often only slightly resemblance the source material, but ignoring the vast majority of the score which is comprised of wholly original material and/or JW does entirely his own thing with it. Whatever the allusions, it still sounds like JW and he pretty much does his own thing with all of them, they are just fragments of an idea on which he builds something new. Sure, some are closer than others (it's undeniable that, say, the Love Theme from Superman follows the shape and, perhaps more importantly, the harmonic shift of Death and Transfiguration) but most are just a couple of notes of similarity before JW goes off and does entirely his own thing.

 

 

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8 hours ago, Tom Guernsey said:

The BTTF/Across the Stars is an interesting one, I'd never noticed before. Surely coincidence, but you never know, maybe JW is a massive fan of time bending comedies?!

 

I'm sure it's a coincidence (and even if it isn't, Williams's versions are different enough in character to count as original in my book), but I still think it's funny.

 

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8 hours ago, Tom Guernsey said:

Absolutely that! As I said in one of my original comments, he spends so much time and energy in the show saying "this sounds like this" for fragments of themes or melodies that often only slightly resemblance the source material, but ignoring the vast majority of the score which is comprised of wholly original material and/or JW does entirely his own thing with it. Whatever the allusions, it still sounds like JW and he pretty much does his own thing with all of them, they are just fragments of an idea on which he builds something new. Sure, some are closer than others (it's undeniable that, say, the Love Theme from Superman follows the shape and, perhaps more importantly, the harmonic shift of Death and Transfiguration) but most are just a couple of notes of similarity before JW goes off and does entirely his own thing.

 

Ain't that the truth for many fans. People hear a succession of a few notes and cry 'wolf!' when in 90% of the cases it's a completely different key and harmony and has its accentuation on a different phrase (and so on). In other word: completely knee-jerk reaction.

 

But in the bigger scheme of things it's laudable to make people aware that there are classical film music origins, and especially with more eclectic composers as Williams and - brace yourself - James Horner, who time and time again tried to get away with wholesale theft of complete themes from all over Europe's and Asia's musical heritage. With education being what it is you can bet that the number of people who recognize the heavy Prokoviev influence in both composer's work is dwindling.

 

 

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8 hours ago, GerateWohl said:

The funny thing about how people point to these similarities is if Brahms quotes Beethoven or Strauss quotes Brahms then it is a nod, an hommage, a bow. If a film music composer does it, it is stealing, copy paste, appropriation.

 

Not necessarily. For example, Mahler very clearly lifted entire iconic ideas of his symphonies from Hans Rott's first symphony:

 

Rott wrote the first movement of his symphony while still a student at the conservatory, together with Mahler. He included lots of allusions and more or less quotes to Mahler and Bruckner (who was one of his teachers, and also known to deliberately use Wagner quotes in his works) himself, but also some strikingly inventive parts of his own. He died a few years later, before Mahler even wrote his own first symphony. Mahler was a friend of his, and even at one point considered conducting Rott's symphony himself, so he definitely was familiar with the work. His lifts may have been conscious or subconscious. Either way, my guess is they were the reason why he decided not to perform Rott's work after all.

 

That of course doesn't diminish Mahler's numerous other innovations. And what works in his favour are both the total obscurity (at least for 100 years) of Rott's work and our own temporal distance to his own works. I find these things much more irritating when they are a) clear lifts of something relatively new/something that everybody copies, b) defining moments of a work that are almost entirely based on the lift with relatively insignificant contributions by the lifter (that's what often bothers me with Horner), and/or c) in a strongly programmatic context where e.g. a clearly recognisable theme either reminds me of something else (that the original theme was meant to represent) or clashes with my ability to accept it as a specific theme for a new subject or character because I'm already familiar with it in an entirely unrelated context.

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My point was, the pure existence of similarities in music is no big deal. Even the question if it is a concious reuse of an idea or subconciously or even an accident is secondary. Under the assumption that all of them are concious or careless quotes the"how is it done" is the interesting question. Is it done in a precious, enriching way or in an ignorant, cheap way?

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1 hour ago, publicist said:

 

Ain't that the truth for many fans. People hear a succession of a few notes and cry 'wolf!' when in 90% of the cases it's a completely different key and harmony and has its accentuation on a different phrase (and so on). In other word: completely knee-jerk reaction.

 

But in the bigger scheme of things it's laudable to make people aware that there are classical film music origins, and especially with more eclectic composers as Williams and - brace yourself - James Horner, who time and time again tried to get away with wholesale theft of complete themes from all over Europe's and Asia's musical heritage. With education being what it is you can bet that the number of people who recognize the heavy Prokoviev influence in both composer's work is dwindling.

 

 

It has to be said that JW is a lot more nuanced in his classical references and really only uses them as a starting point, definitely nothing like the level of similarity that James Horner used to indulge in. I mean, I still love his music, but he was definitely in a different league in the homage/plagiarism stakes. Then again, I'm always amazed that James Horner still pretty much always seems to sound like James Horner, despite this (although that could just be me!).

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8 minutes ago, Tom Guernsey said:

It has to be said that JW is a lot more nuanced in his classical references and really only uses them as a starting point, definitely nothing like the level of similarity that James Horner used to indulge in. I mean, I still love his music, but he was definitely in a different league in the homage/plagiarism stakes. Then again, I'm always amazed that James Horner still pretty much always seems to sound like James Horner, despite this (although that could just be me!).

 

No question, but i'd counter that Williams reliance on Prokoviev's 5th for so many of his lighter scores (starting with 'Fitzwilly') or moments in big adventure score like the Basket Chase in 'Raiders' has a similar quality of 'appropriation'. 

 

Williams on the other hand wouldn't be caught dead passing off a secondary theme from Prokoviev's Ivan The Terrible as big inspirational Oscar main theme for a civil war epic 'composed by John Williams'.

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George Lucas instructed JW to write in the style of the composers he emulated.

When the soundtrack became popular, it was natural that other directors would ask for the same.

This important part of the picture is always left off. Critics act like JW , all of a sudden, decided to " steal" from the classics to become famous.

Idiots!

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Whenever I hear the ending of A.I., I hear the ending of Brahms' Intermezzo in A Major:

 

 

 

(...and vice versa :) )

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This isn't Williams plagiarism, but I'm so proud of myself for figuring it out that I had to post it somewhere.  And there is a Williams theme in the cue, just not in the place I'm quoting:

 

Oh, what now!

 

I knew Baby Yoda was powerful, but it turns out he's omnipotent!

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I always thought that Rey's theme sounded somewhat familiar, but I couldn't put my finger on it. But yesterday I was listening to Dvorak's Cello concerto and finally put the two and two together:

 

Dvorak, Cello Concerto in B minor, 1st movement:

https://youtu.be/nJSlmoXpzfM?t=28

 

Rey's Theme:

https://youtu.be/65As1V0vQDM?t=13

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23 hours ago, Svarec said:

I always thought that Rey's theme sounded somewhat familiar, but I couldn't put my finger on it. But yesterday I was listening to Dvorak's Cello concerto and finally put the two and two together:

 

Dvorak, Cello Concerto in B minor, 1st movement:

https://youtu.be/nJSlmoXpzfM?t=28

 

Rey's Theme:

https://youtu.be/65As1V0vQDM?t=13

I can relate to that. A little bit.

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On 03/04/2022 at 8:47 PM, publicist said:

It's a completely different piece, apart from a superficial similarity of the opening phrase.

Sure. But sometimes that's enough to be reminded of a piece, especially when you are very familiar with it.

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12 hours ago, GerateWohl said:

Sure. But sometimes that's enough to be reminded of a piece, especially when you are very familiar with it.

 

IMHO that's not enough when you put it in a The Definitive John Williams Plagiarism/Homage Thread.

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I think I posted about this a while ago in another thread, but some sections of Henze's Undine seem to have many stylistic similarities with Star Wars music, particularly the original trilogy. Now, that piece, despite being written in 1958, was only first recorded in 1996, so whether or not Williams could've "plagiarised" it is up for debate, but...here's an excerpt (19:34-19:55):

 

 

 

I hear a bit of Death Star, a bit of Imperials motif, even a bit of Rebel Fanfare...they both inhabit the same "musical space".

 

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Some interesting comparisons with the Debussy, Henze and Myaskovsky there; more at the stylistic influences end of the spectrum than specific and obvious passages, but this kind of thing is what led me to a huge love of classical music (I made the jump from James Horner to Prokofiev and rarely looked back!). I have a few Myaskovsky symphonies but not the 6th but I shall clearly have to rectify this (I mean, 27 is a lot... most composers after Mozart and Haydn barely reached double figures!).

 

I'm trying to work out if I heard some Henze and didn't like it or if I'm confusing him with another composer (maybe one who did electronic music or processed sounds? - anyone know?!), but from listening to a few sections of Undine (or Ondine apparently), it's challenging but within my tolerance for astringent orchestral music. I think I'll have to check out the full thing. Ballet music often seems to be a good way into discovering a composer! Annoying that both the Henze and Myaskovsky aren't available on download from Presto though, 7Digital is way more expensive!

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10 minutes ago, Loert said:

Myaskovsky's 6th is amazing, blew my mind when I first heard it. Whichever recording you pick, make sure it has the choir in the last movement (the Jaarvi recording above has it, but I also recommend the live recording conducted by Kondrashin).

 

Cool, I think I'll get the Jarvi recording. Is the complete set conducted by Svetlanov worth getting? It's surprising reasonable on Presto (£28 for the whole lot!) but some of those USSR recordings can be a bit... rough.

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6 minutes ago, Tom Guernsey said:

Cool, I think I'll get the Jarvi recording. Is the complete set conducted by Svetlanov worth getting? It's surprising reasonable on Presto (£28 for the whole lot!) but some of those USSR recordings can be a bit... rough.

 

I think it's worth getting, if just for the 17th symphony which has, for my money, one of the most beautiful slow movements of all time. Sound quality and performances are a little hairy at times, but overall it's an incredible set and great value.

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2 hours ago, Tom Guernsey said:

Cool, I think I'll get the Jarvi recording. Is the complete set conducted by Svetlanov worth getting? It's surprising reasonable on Presto (£28 for the whole lot!) but some of those USSR recordings can be a bit... rough.

 

Yep, while I'm a fan of Svetlanov's "musical sensibilites", the playing in that set can get quite shoddy in places. Clearly some symphonies are more rehearsed than others. For example I think the performance of the 24th is really good, but the 4th...well, the less said the better. But ultimately, as far as I know it is the only complete set of Myaskovsky's symphonies though, so... up to you really! (I do wish another orchestra came round and did another complete set, Myaskovsky certainly deserves it).

 

EDIT: Looks like only symphonies 3, 19 and 22 were recorded during the USSR, the rest were recorded between 1991-3!

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18 hours ago, Falstaft said:

 

I think it's worth getting, if just for the 17th symphony which has, for my money, one of the most beautiful slow movements of all time. Sound quality and performances are a little hairy at times, but overall it's an incredible set and great value.

 

18 hours ago, Loert said:

 

Yep, while I'm a fan of Svetlanov's "musical sensibilites", the playing in that set can get quite shoddy in places. Clearly some symphonies are more rehearsed than others. For example I think the performance of the 24th is really good, but the 4th...well, the less said the better. But ultimately, as far as I know it is the only complete set of Myaskovsky's symphonies though, so... up to you really! (I do wish another orchestra came round and did it another complete set, Myaskovsky certainly deserves it).

 

Even if some of the performances/recordings aren't great, it seems well worth getting given the price. I already have the album with symphonies 16 and 19 so I'll have to give them another listen. The full set is such a bargain that I may as well pick it up. As I've commented elsewhere, while film music collecting can be expensive, classical collecting can sometimes be ridiculously cheap at times! It looks like some other labels have recorded some of his works, I have 24 and 26 on Naxos, 17 on Chandos and 2 and 10 on Orfeo. Naxos seems to have quite a few, but not a complete set, but any one of those labels feel like the type to do a full survey at some point but clearly never quite did, or BIS (my favourite classical label, to me they're the LLL of classical music).

 

Guess we should really move this to the classical music recommends thread lol...

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Listening to Vaughan Williams’ Antarctic Symphony (based on his score to Scott of the Antarctic) and it struck me that the use of wordless soprano in the first movement is very similar to the finale to Attack of the Clones, I think it’s the bit where Count Dooku flies to meet with Palpatine. The overall textures are strikingly similar and supremely eerie. Indeed there’s quite a few passages in the Vaughan Williams that are reminiscent of JW, albeit more the overall orchestral texture than specific melodic lines or ideas. 

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On 14/04/2022 at 10:44 AM, Tom Guernsey said:

Listening to Vaughan Williams’ Antarctic Symphony (based on his score to Scott of the Antarctic) and it struck me that the use of wordless soprano in the first movement is very similar to the finale to Attack of the Clones, I think it’s the bit where Count Dooku flies to meet with Palpatine. The overall textures are strikingly similar and supremely eerie. Indeed there’s quite a few passages in the Vaughan Williams that are reminiscent of JW, albeit more the overall orchestral texture than specific melodic lines or ideas. 

 

An even more literal quote is the passage immediately before the soprano entrance, see at 2:15 here:

 

 

 

The very distinctive chord is exactly the same as the "twinkling stars" chord from the Star Wars Main Title, see 1:47 here:

 

 

 

The instrumentation and the general mood are also very similar.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Score said:

 

An even more literal quote is the passage immediately before the soprano entrance, see at 2:15 here:

 

 

 

The very distinctive chord is exactly the same as the "twinkling stars" chord from the Star Wars Main Title, see 1:47 here:

 

 

 

The instrumentation and the general mood are also very similar.

 

 

Oh yes! Don’t know how I didn’t spot that. Interesting that JW’s RVW influences are more textural and orchestration than more specific as for some other composers. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I can definitely hear the final movement of Ravel's Piano Concerto in some of JW's action writing, particularly "The Falcon" from TFA:

 

 

Both this and "The Falcon" are splendid pieces!

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Was surprised to hear the first four notes of the CE3K theme appearing as a little motif in Janacek’s opera The Cunning Little Vixen. It’s played quickly and playfully so a bit like in the mothership dialogue sequence. But no farting tubas.

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On 26/04/2022 at 7:00 AM, Will said:

I can definitely hear the final movement of Ravel's Piano Concerto in some of JW's action writing, particularly "The Falcon" from TFA:

 

 

Both this and "The Falcon" are splendid pieces!

This whole concerto is for me probably the greatest piece of orchestral music ever written. Love it so much.

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On 09/04/2022 at 9:17 AM, Falstaft said:

Now, if you want an almost certainly accidental but nevertheless cool link between Nuages and Rey's Chimes, check out this passage from Myaskovsky's 6th Symphony (1923) -- for a long time best known of his 27!. Uncanny, right?

 

   

 

Also:
 

 

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  • 1 month later...

My son's band teacher is teaching his class that The Imperial March is based on Mars. Arrrrgh.

 

1) I now have to teach my son all of the parts of Star Wars (singular movie) that ARE based on Mars.

2) I have to do it in such a way that he doesn't mouth off to his teacher. (He has the genetic disadvantage of a disposition to snark and "knowing things".)

 

Does anyone have any good videos or articles? I think I have the "Star Wars has references to The Planets" in hand. It's more the "The Imperial March is NOT just a rip off of Holst" part.

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The stuff they teach in school nowadays... :angry:

 

I don't have an article but, for starters, these are I think the two parts in ANH which sound closest to Mars:

 

1:40 - end

 

0:55 - 1:21

 

(and of course, the bit just before the Death Star blows up at the end of the film).

 

As for The Imperial March, that has more in common with Chopin's Funeral March than Mars (Darth Vader = death):

 

 

 

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Thanks @Loert. I know all the Holst in Star Wars, believe me! :) I was just hoping there was already a bite sized summary.

 

 

This wasn't bad. He didn't know for a fact when he made the video that Lucas temped Star Wars with Holst so he doesn't mention it.

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I remember a funny moment with an Entertainment Tonight host or something who was doing an interview, maybe with JJ around Force Awakens, and she just straight up hummed the Chopin in reference to the Imperial March lol

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  • 5 weeks later...

This reminds me of something from that Williams sound-world of Home Alone/Harry Potter whimsy/magic, but I can't quite pin down in my memory a specific cue.  It might just remind me of that sound in general.

 

8:15

 

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2 hours ago, Stu said:

This reminds me of something from that Williams sound-world of Home Alone/Harry Potter whimsy/magic, but I can't quite pin down in my memory a specific cue.  It might just remind me of that sound in general.

 

8:15

 

 

Perhaps a little bit like this:

 

or this:

 

or maybe this:

 

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11 hours ago, enderdrag64 said:

I can't ever listen to the Daggerfall theme without hearing Across the Stars:

 

 

This case is a bit complicated. Across the Stars come from  Hook Theme. It's fun to imagine that Williams is a player of The Elder Scrolls...or maybe Spielberg. You know, Williams came to Spielberg's house to visit him and Steven is playing the game. 

 

We all had friends who wouldn't let us play, just to watch. So Johnny looks over Steven's shoulder and thinks: „This tune is awesome. Maybe I could "borrow it" sometime. To reassure people in the new millennium that I'm still a genius.“ (Devilish laugh)

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