Jump to content

Johnny's Mystery Chords


Sharkissimo
 Share

Recommended Posts

13 hours ago, Ludwig said:

 

In all, I would call this another composite chord (or mixed polychord, if you like). What's most interesting to me though is not what to call the chord, but that it is drawn from the octatonic materials of the preceding music in the cue. It's not drawn from "out of the air" as a randomly dissonant chord or from a standardized way of writing stinger chords, but from the musical ideas already in the cue. This is what I love about Williams' film music - once some of the basic ideas are established, it seems to grow largely out of itself.

 

I would just add that I think there is a significant relation between the preceeding Jaws motif in the cellos (E-F) and the sustained string chord at the top. E-F suggests to me E as the tonal center (it is a bit ambiguous though), and I see the top A# as just a basic tritone relation (i.e. E -> A#), which in this case sounds like a musical "wince". The tritone jump itself creates the "something's wrong" effect, whereas the massive leap in register (along with the orchestral stab), adds to the "wince" effect. Now, the high E/A# dyad (along with the B, though that's more for sonority's sake I think) emphasises the tritone sound, to sustain the tension - if it were just the A# for example, it would be more unresolved, like a scene change. I hope that makes sense! Mistook the top D G C# in the strings for B E A#. Maybe I should mock up with B E A# to see if my grandiose theory makes any sense... :sarcasm:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

4 minutes ago, Loert said:

I would just add that I think there is a significant relation between the preceeding Jaws motif in the cellos (E-F) and the sustained string chord at the top. E-F suggests to me E as the tonal center (it is a bit ambiguous though), and I see the top A# as just a basic tritone relation (i.e. E -> A#), which in this case sounds like a musical "wince". The tritone jump itself creates the "something's wrong" effect, whereas the massive leap in register (along with the orchestral stab), adds to the "wince" effect. Now, the high E/A# dyad (along with the B, though that's more for sonority's sake I think) emphasises the tritone sound, to sustain the tension - if it were just the A# for example, it would be more unresolved, like a scene change. I hope that makes sense!

 

Cool! You mean the Bb atop the strings and harp? That would make sense to pack a wallop between outer voices as well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Even so, there's something to be said for the tritones outlined in some of the instrumental groups - the piano and harps outline tritones in their outer voices, perhaps adding to the "noise" effect. And even with the E you mention, while I don't show what comes before, that tuba run starts from a Bb and ends on the very prominent E - another tritone. So thanks for (inadvertently!) pointing out the tritones!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

55 minutes ago, Ludwig said:

 

You could be right, but I'm not entirely sure about D in the 2nd violins because that would mean having a non-polychord note there. I'm thinking Williams probably saves the D for the sustained chord only. It's just the score is so hard to read, a splotch could be a note or nothing at all!

 

Since we're talking about splotches, what is that notated under the first violin chord?

 

The splotch under the first violins looks to me as the dynamical marking "pp" enclosed in a rectangle. I read the same in the splotch under the three piccolos. Although the recorded chord seems not "pp" to me... maybe "ff"? Who knows!

 

By the way, you might want to transpose one octave up the chord in your table: they are piccolos, not flutes, so they play at the same pitches as the violins. "Piccolos" appears written in the splotches before the bar with that chord, and it's confirmed in the staves' headings in the next page.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

9 minutes ago, Ludwig said:

Even so, there's something to be said for the tritones outlined in some of the instrumental groups - the piano and harps outline tritones in their outer voices, perhaps adding to the "noise" effect. And even with the E you mention, while I don't show what comes before, that tuba run starts from a Bb and ends on the very prominent E - another tritone. So thanks for (inadvertently!) pointing out the tritones!

 

Perhaps it was JW's instinct to reach out to the tritones. It isn't clearly audible but I guess it does have some effect.

 

And btw I would revise what I said about the upper string chord to make it a purely scary sonority outside of the harmonic "landscape", though I think you've pointed that out already. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

11 minutes ago, Score said:

By the way, you might want to transpose one octave up the chord in your table: they are piccolos, not flutes, so they play at the same pitches as the violins. "Piccolos" appears written in the splotches before the bar with that chord, and it's confirmed in the staves' headings in the next page.

 

Indeed! I've also revised the harp to include the D# you suggested (though I left it out of the total chord because it's the same as the Eb). So here we are:

 

Jaws_01_-_The_First_Victim_Chrissie_s_De

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Loert said:

 

Perhaps it was JW's instinct to reach out to the tritones. It isn't clearly audible but I guess it does have some effect.

 

And btw I would revise what I said about the upper string chord to make it a purely scary sonority outside of the harmonic "landscape", though I think you've pointed that out already. :)

 

2 hours ago, Ludwig said:

Even so, there's something to be said for the tritones outlined in some of the instrumental groups - the piano and harps outline tritones in their outer voices, perhaps adding to the "noise" effect. And even with the E you mention, while I don't show what comes before, that tuba run starts from a Bb and ends on the very prominent E - another tritone. So thanks for (inadvertently!) pointing out the tritones!

 

 

Tritones are definitely essential in the whole score, both melodically and harmonically. Already in the Main Title cue, the solo tuba plays a melody which is full of tritones (Eb - G - Db, F - A - Eb) etcetera. The "Jaws chords" played by the strings over the ostinato (borrowed from Stravinsky) include several tritones in harmonic way. The alternation of Eb triads and A triads at the beginning of the cue and in other moments is again a tritone moment. So, it's a unifying element that tritones appear in many different incarnations throughout the whole score, like in the high strings + piccolos chord here, or several times in the initial short chord played by the other instruments. 

 

Actually, the whole chord of minor seventh appears everywhere, not just the tritone. And the chords of Eb7 (Eb - G - Bb - Db) and A7 (A - C# - E - G), whose fundamentals are separated by a tritone, have an interesting specular property: the third of one chord (G or C# = Db, respectively) is the seventh of the other one. This allows superpositions and alternations that conserve a sense of familiarity, because some notes are in common. 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ludwig, I can't make out a G# anywhere in that chord. Are you sure you've transcribed it correctly?

 

Here's my interpretation of the almost indecipherable scan. I've broken it further into the general instrumental voices to clear up some of the confusion.

 

FzQ5DZo.png

 

In the Spencer orchestrated score on the 2nd violin's staff to the immediate left of the 4/4, is the indication 'unis' (abbreviation for unison). That would mean the 10 players are united on a single note, rather than a dyad (in which case it it would of course be 'non divis' or 'divis' as in the 1sts).

 

It's worth mentioning that the tuba in the recording is blasting out a B natural (?!), not the E as written.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

30 minutes ago, Blanche Hudson said:

Ludwig, I can't make out a G# anywhere in that chord. Are you sure you've transcribed it correctly?

 

I agree, there is no G#. Perhaps, he read it in the first harp, because the sharp is a bit lower than it should. However, with respect to your interpretation, I am not sure about a couple of things. The first harp, in my opinion, has C# in the left hand (not D#), because the head of the note seems to end before the fourth line, while the right hand could also be read as as G - A# (the # in front of the A having being misinterpreted as being in front of G). However, it could also be, as you read, a single C# note (so what I read as the head of G would actually be the first ledger line above the staff).

 

30 minutes ago, Blanche Hudson said:

Here's my interpretation of the almost indecipherable scan. I've broken it further into the general instrumental voices to clear up some of the confusion.

 

FzQ5DZo.png

 

In the Spencer orchestrated score on the 2nd violin's staff to the immediate left of the 4/4, is the indication 'unis' (abbreviation for unison). That would mean the 10 players are united on a single note, rather than a dyad (in which case it it would of course be 'non divis' or 'divis' as in the 1sts).

 

I am not completely sure that "unis." is always used here to mean "all together on a single note", although this would be the literal meaning. Could it be that Spencer uses it in the place of the more correct "non divisi", just to cancel the "divisi" which applied to the previous bars? The reason why I am puzzled is that it really seems to me that there is a notehead there at D. I also have to say that, if it were a dyad to be played by all 2nd violins together, there should be a rectangular bracket enclosing the two noteheads, which does not appear here.  

 

 

30 minutes ago, Blanche Hudson said:

It's worth mentioning that the tuba in the recording is blasting out a B natural (?!), not the E as written.

 

Yes! 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

34 minutes ago, Score said:

I agree, there is no G#. Perhaps, he read it in the first harp, because the sharp is a bit lower than it should. However, with respect to your interpretation, I am not sure about a couple of things. The first harp, in my opinion, has C# in the left hand (not D#), because the head of the note seems to end before the fourth line, while the right hand could also be read as as G - A# (the # in front of the A having being misinterpreted as being in front of G).

 

That could all be true, but it would be very uncharacteristic of Williams for the harp to introduce a lone G4, A#4 and C#5 to the sonic field, when every other instrument is doubled in pairs (piano + trombones, 1st violins + piccolos etc.). Williams (unlike Morricone whose music embodies more of a chamber aesthetic) is an orchestral doubler, and that tendency became even more marked in later years with the advancements in sample-based synthesis and MIDI in the late 80s, when two synthesizers become a permanent fixture in his writing.

 

34 minutes ago, Score said:

I am not completely sure that "unis." is always used here to mean "all together on a single note", although this would be the literal meaning. Could it be that Spencer uses it in the place of the more correct "non divisi", just to cancel the "divisi" which applied to the previous bars? The reason why I am puzzled is that it really seems to me that there is a notehead there at D. I also have to say that, if it were a dyad to be played by all 2nd violins together, there should be a rectangular bracket enclosing the two noteheads, which does not appear here. 

 

My inference here comes from attempting to step into Williams's shoes and knowing something about his compositional habits. Once again, a lone minor 6th dyad not carried over into the portamento as A5(or Bb5)-F#6 is highly unusual for him. It's also not particularly idiomatic for the instrument, as it would be more convenient to hold the double stop. I think it's just another ink dot. I mean, take a lot of the upper right corner of the page around the number 6... any one of those could easily look like a notehead if dropped at the right point in the stave.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

2 hours ago, Blanche Hudson said:

It's worth mentioning that the tuba in the recording is blasting out a B natural (?!), not the E as written.

 

Oh yeah...the only note I can make out in the recording!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And then there's the re-arrangment/re-recording Williams for the original 1975 album. This time the tuba reaches D, and there's an additional rolled chord in the harps that includes F#5-G#5-B5-F#6-A#6.

 

https://youtube/0HlEujm5Qdc?t=29

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

7 hours ago, Blanche Hudson said:

Ludwig, I can't make out a G# anywhere in that chord. Are you sure you've transcribed it correctly?

 

Ha! Not in the least. I'm glad you offered this alternative reading because I couldn't make sense of a G#. I didn't think of reading the splotch as a leger line, but the C# does make plenty more sense. Then all the short notes in the chord derive from the (C,C#) octatonic scale, except that he doesn't use the C.

 

The tuba's B-natural that you insightfully point out in the recording then jars against the whole octatonic sonority. Maybe it was a podium change that was called for to make that prominent tuba note stand out more, so that the overall effect we get is a "noise chord" for a frightening sound, an "out-of-place" high tuba note that punctuates the texture like the shark's bite, and a sustained chord on top that depicts the freezing up Chrissie experiences as she desperately wonders what just happened.

 

This is why this one reason why this is one of my favorite Williams cues - with but a single chord, it manages to capture several onscreen events at the same time, translated into purely musical terms.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

12 hours ago, Blanche Hudson said:

 

That could all be true, but it would be very uncharacteristic of Williams for the harp to introduce a lone G4, A#4 and C#5 to the sonic field, when every other instrument is doubled in pairs (piano + trombones, 1st violins + piccolos etc.). Williams (unlike Morricone whose music embodies more of a chamber aesthetic) is an orchestral doubler, and that tendency became even more marked in later years with the advancements in sample-based synthesis and MIDI in the late 80s, when two synthesizers become a permanent fixture in his writing.

 

I agree with this, it is also consistent with my own experience with JW's scores. Moreover, if one looks at the score at a larger distance, that thing seems more and more a ledger line, and not the G notehead. So, I think your reading of the upper staff of the 1st harp is right (C# with two ledger lines, 8ve harmonic). But I mantain that the lower staff of the same harp is written as a C# in the third space from the bottom (look also at the vertical position of the sharp). Perhaps it has a 8ve harmonic circle on the top as well, below the accent symbol?.

 

 

Quote

 

My inference here comes from attempting to step into Williams's shoes and knowing something about his compositional habits. Once again, a lone minor 6th dyad not carried over into the portamento as A5(or Bb5)-F#6 is highly unusual for him. It's also not particularly idiomatic for the instrument, as it would be more convenient to hold the double stop. I think it's just another ink dot. I mean, take a lot of the upper right corner of the page around the number 6... any one of those could easily look like a notehead if dropped at the right point in the stave.

 

Yes, but reducing from a dyad to a single note makes some sense here in view of the diminuendo. They would play a dyad "forte", then they leave the lower string and gliss up to F# on the higher string, while reducing the volume to "pp". As far as I know it is playable (although I'm not a violinist). So, in this case I am not sure, and I cannot make it out from the recording.

 

This reminds me of something that I read recently, that in the third movement of Beethoven's 5th symphony there was at one point "something" in the manuscript, in the cello part, that had been interpreted as a quarter rest in the first edition, and propagated this way in all editions for almost two centuries. Then, while preparing a very recent new edition, the manuscript was examined with more care and it turns out it was an Eb! And it also makes perfect sense within that passage!

 

 

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, Blanche Hudson said:

Keeping the Jaws theme, have we ever looked at the iconic dolly zoom chords?

 

I don't think we have - good call! First, a couple of points on the transcription. I'm fairly certain that the second chord has C#-D rather than C-Db, and although the first violas appear to have Gb on the attack of this chord, the next bar shows a leger line that it's tied to, so I think it's probably Ab rather than Gb. Lastly, I would probably regard the C in the first chord as D for two reasons: it looks closer to being centered on the D-line rather than the C-space below it, and the interval to the next note (if we assume Ab) is a tritone with D but a minor 6th with C. In these two chords, the only part to move up more than a 5th is the first violin. With these minor changes, I would probably write the progression as follows:

 

Jaws_01_-_The_Empty_Raft_dolly-zoom_chor

 

As for how to analyze them, it could probably go a few ways. What I'm leaning towards right now is an octatonic reading that is enhanced by non-scale tones. In the analysis above, I've notated which octatonic scale I hear as the basis of each chord. The stem-down notes are those notes in the chord that are not part of the octatonic scale in question. The notes in parentheses are in the scale but not used in the chord.

 

One appealing aspect of this view to me is that, in both chords, the lowest note is not part of the scale, so it jars against it in an audible way (i.e., it's not buried in inner voices). But notice that this analysis places the inner-voice C in the second chord outside the octatonic scale, so it's a monkey-wrench in the analytical gears. Then again, we have talked about inexact uses of systematic materials in Williams' atonal writing before, so maybe it's not so strange here.

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.