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Loert

Humour in Williams' music

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What has always interested me in music is how it can sometimes sound funny. It seems that certain combinations of notes can make the listener chuckle, or at least understand that the composer is poking fun at something, and/or not taking themselves too seriously. It's something that I find very refreshing in a piece of music and many composers in my "favourites" list are composers who display this kind of wit in their music.

 

Now, I think Williams is an example of a composer who knows how to convey humour through his music. Sometimes I'll be listening to a track of his and come across a short section which makes me go "Ha, that's kinda funny". I'm not necessarily talking about his more deliberate attempts at humour (e.g. "Stalling Around"), but short segments which, because of their contextual placement (or other reasons), come across as sounding witty.

 

A good example of what I mean would be something like the brass in "The Jango Fett Fight" at 1:21:

 

 

The way that the trumpet ascends, the instruments stop playing, and the trombones come down with the exact same rhythm, like a mirror image, makes me smile. :D 

 

Another example would be Indy's Very First Adventure, particularly the "missing bar" at 5:36:

 

 

I'm interested in knowing what your favourite funny JW moments are, in particular moments that are shorter and more tongue-in-cheek (this extends into JW's concert work as well).

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I've always felt that the very quick swelling of Anakin and Padmé's love theme during their first kiss before quickly fading when Padmé recoils to be a comedic moment. Not sure if it's meant to be comedic, but I interpret it as such.
 

 

Great thread, by the way.

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5 hours ago, mrbellamy said:

I love this topic! Though it is probably one of the most subjective things we could ever talk about, but I agree that it's one of my favorite qualities about Williams, or generally any artist I love.

 

I find Snowy's Theme to be one of his funniest actually. It has all these weird little idiosyncrasies to it. Favorite grin-inducing moments include that rapidly oscillating piano texture around 0:42-3, the bonkers solo at 1:20, the flutes/clarinets jumping in at 1:29, the basses around 1:37-39, the piano farting at 2:03-4ish. This piece doesn't get enough love around here, really, I think it's brilliant whimsy.

 

 

 

 

I adore Snowy's theme, it's an absolute charmer of a cue. I also love in how in one of Williams' alternate main titles for Tintin the orchestra hits are synchronized with the typing machine on screen

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Yeah that is a great little comedic march but I like how Williams manages to inject with something manic and almost violent in the way it suddenly grows in intesity towards the end, suggesting that the villains of the piece are not entirely about bumbling buffoonery.

 

All Indy scores contain great examples of musical wit and humour.

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11 hours ago, mrbellamy said:

I find Snowy's Theme to be one of his funniest actually. It has all these weird little idiosyncrasies to it. Favorite grin-inducing moments include that rapidly oscillating piano texture around 0:42-3, the bonkers solo at 1:20, the flutes/clarinets jumping in at 1:29, the basses around 1:37-39, the piano farting at 2:03-4ish. This piece doesn't get enough love around here, really, I think it's brilliant whimsy.

 

 

 

Oh man, I love Snowy's theme. :D Particularly the bits with the piano. Definitely one of JW's wittiest themes.

 

10 hours ago, Muad'Dib said:

A Whirl Through Academe - at 2:40 the little quote to Brahms

 

Yeah, it's quite funny how Williams plays with that melody. In general the action music in JW tends to have some humour attached to it. In Whirl Through Academe I also like the fast strings starting at about 1:40. It's like the strings have gone crazy, and the rest of the orchestra keeps trying to stop them but to no avail! "The Snake Pit" is also really witty.

 

Also this moment:

 

 

This is one of those cases where the music on its own wouldn't sound especially funny, but the big chord at 0:12 perfectly sums up that "oh shit" feeling, despite the fact it's a major chord (+ Indy's super-serious delivery of the "I think we've got a big problem" line). Oh yeah, and 1:34! :lol:

 

7 hours ago, Cerebral Cortex said:

I've always felt that the very quick swelling of Anakin and Padmé's love theme during their first kiss before quickly fading when Padmé recoils to be a comedic moment. Not sure if it's meant to be comedic, but I interpret it as such.
 

 

Great thread, by the way.

 

*bloop* :lol:

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The drunk music in E.T. made me laugh out loud the first time I heard it on album. I'm also a big fan of that cringeworthy penultimate chord in Aunt Marge's Waltz - so close to the traditional, expected ending...and yet so, soooooo far.

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9 hours ago, Cerebral Cortex said:

I've always felt that the very quick swelling of Anakin and Padmé's love theme during their first kiss before quickly fading when Padmé recoils to be a comedic moment. Not sure if it's meant to be comedic, but I interpret it as such.
 

 

Great thread, by the way.

 

Definitely meant to be comedic!

 

 

2 hours ago, loert said:

Also this moment:

 

 

This is one of those cases where the music on its own wouldn't sound especially funny, but the big chord at 0:12 perfectly sums up that "oh shit" feeling, despite the fact it's a major chord (+ Indy's super-serious delivery of the "I think we've got a big problem" line). Oh yeah, and 1:34! :lol:

 

Yes, all around!

Man, do I LOVE this score!

 

And film!  Love her delivery of "and I hate YOU" :lol:

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16 hours ago, loert said:

Now, I think Williams is an example of a composer who knows how to convey humour through his music. Sometimes I'll be listening to a track of his and come across a short section which makes me go "Ha, that's kinda funny". I'm not necessarily talking about his more deliberate attempts at humour (e.g. "Stalling Around"), but short segments which, because of their contextual placement (or other reasons), come across as sounding witty.

 

There's an awful lot of wit and humor in Williams' film music, imho. More often than not, I find myself grinning like a kid when a certain passage occurs. It can be for a variety of reasons--use of harmony, the subtlety of the orchestration or the deliberate fun he usually puts into his music. In this sense, he's very Mozart-ian, imho. It's difficult for me to find specific examples right now, I should think about it. Definitely The Witches of Eastwick comes to mind.

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7:20-7:29 in "Dream Country" always strikes me as slightly comedic somehow (and just plain awesome!). It's like Williams is teasing us -- it feels like it's time for the wild (and wonderful) winds to enter, but Williams says, "No, not yet," so the strings are just switching from note to note, passing the time (and increasing the anticipation, ultimately). And then finally it's time for the crazy winds to enter. 

 

I can't remember what was on screen at this point, but I've actually always thought that moment sounded kind of like Sophie or the BFG was trying to chase a dream but wasn't sure what direction to run (the teasing strings), and then finally they find the right course and sprint towards the dream (the rolling strings with wild winds). 

 

 

There's also this, another "teasing" moment:

 

 

Yet another teasing moment in that cue, and one that some have found quite frustrating, is when the rolling strings and crazy winds bit near the end of the cue (mentioned near the beginning of this post) just deflates rather than breaking out into a massive thematic statement. 

 

You think you're being funny, Johnny, depriving us of our big thematic statements? Shame on you! :P

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A tiny thing...

 

The woodwind from 3:49:

 

 

I love the way they pause at 3:53, only to return a second later (presumably to allow the players to catch their breath).

 

It reminds me of children who throw temper tantrums; they run around screaming but sometimes they'll stop suddenly if something catches their eye or they're distracted, only to resume their flailing a few seconds later. It's just a funny image which pops into my head when I hear that bit.

 

There are other witty moments in that track as well, such as the sudden "unwinding" at 3:34,  or the grotesque "oom-pah"s at 5:27. I admit I'm unfamiliar with the scene for which this music was written (though I remember watching it many years back), but I'm guessing the former instance underscores something falling or "failing" in the actual film. Oh yeah, and 2:46. And 2:50!

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5 hours ago, Hawmy said:

I was watching the Force Awakens earlier today and I thought the timpani roll when the falcon breaks through the trees on starkiller base was pretty funny.

 

 

@TownerFan mentioned that too a while back.

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Williams incorporates a bit of dry humor in the "Dursleys vs. Owls" montage in the first Potter film, as Harry peeks out to see Vernon drilling the mailslot shut.

He used some pizzicatos that were directed to play "non-espr [expressive]”; they're not making comment either way, so the humor of Vernon's silliness is more inferred than apparent.

 

In the extended edition for the second film, which contained a longer cut of the Dobby/cake scene, Williams used the same figure, albeit at a slower tempo.

 

 

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1 hour ago, Skelly said:

Williams incorporates a bit of dry humor in the "Dursleys vs. Owls" montage in the first Potter film, as Harry peeks out to see Vernon drilling the mailslot shut.

He used some pizzicatos that were directed to play "non-espr [expressive]”; they're not making comment either way, so the humor of Vernon's silliness is more inferred than apparent.

 

Williams uses pizzicato strings better than most film composers I can think of. It's often one of my least favorite accompaniment techniques because it's typically so blandly done for quirky purposes, but JW gives it a more appealing light touch for me. It's rarely the centerpiece of a cue -- though even stuff like "Flight from Peru" or "Chasing Scabbers" have enough frantic complexity to not just make it feel trite -- and with that HP cue, it just somehow conveys that very slight "raised eyebrows" humor. It doesn't really feel like mindless "plinky-plunking" to me but has those silences, some dynamic changes, accents, the triangle adds a little color. It's detailed, or more bluntly sounds like a human with taste wrote it....

 

I like his more coloristic uses of it as well, the way the basses will casually add to a big sweeping cue underneath, or how he uses plucked strings to double the horns and woodwinds with the Weasleys at the station. 

 

 

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On 9/5/2016 at 11:52 AM, mrbellamy said:

 

Williams uses pizzicato strings better than most film composers I can think of. It's often one of my least favorite accompaniment techniques because it's typically so blandly done for quirky purposes, but JW gives it a more appealing light touch for me. It's rarely the centerpiece of a cue -- though even stuff like "Flight from Peru" or "Chasing Scabbers" have enough frantic complexity to not just make it feel trite -- and with that HP cue, it just somehow conveys that very slight "raised eyebrows" humor. It doesn't really feel like mindless "plinky-plunking" to me but has those silences, some dynamic changes, accents, the triangle adds a little color. It's detailed, or more bluntly sounds like a human with taste wrote it....

 

I like his more coloristic uses of it as well, the way the basses will casually add to a big sweeping cue underneath, or how he uses plucked strings to double the horns and woodwinds with the Weasleys at the station. 

 

 

 

QFT. It's easy to write pizzicato passages that sound clichéd and overly cutesy, but Williams' attempts are sublime. (I especially love those weird ones, like in "Flight From Peru.")

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