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John Williams' Magnum Opus


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7 hours ago, TGP said:

 

You have indeed been rather rude lately, more than usual.  Why just a few posts above you were quite dismissive of Karol simply because he hasn't heard a score you like.  It shouldn't surprise you that it brings people down a bit - and if I were indeed genuinely depressed, would complaining about its effect on forum atmosphere (or liking such a post to continue a petty personal vendetta, as Jurassic Shark has done) be a humane and sensitive way to react to that?  Seems quite cruel and reprehensible actually.

Perhaps you are wearing your feelings on your sleave. I can't help you with that. Im not bothered that you didn't like my comments to Karol. He can rectify his gap by going to youtube. I hope he gives it a listen.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcQxb9u2XV0

 

 

6 hours ago, Jay said:

 

Yes!

 

We should all feel comfortable sharing our own opinions of music, but there's no reason to look down on others for not liking the same music you do, or not having heard all the same music you have.

I really dont give care what you think but you know that. You get pissy whenever my thought processes do not agree with the majority. I am not here to coddle fence sitters or what I think as weak opinions

 

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I think it's beautiful, actually, to see John Williams continue these films: not only did he establish this work almost half a century ago, but there's something almost comforting seeing these new con

75-84!  Temple of Doom is an action masterpiece!

This is not completely correct. Wagner's compositional procedure was quite complex and went through many stages, from preliminary sketches to the finished full score. Even if some very partial sketche

6 hours ago, TGP said:

 

You have indeed been rather rude lately, more than usual.  Why just a few posts above you were quite dismissive of Karol simply because he hasn't heard a score you like.  It shouldn't surprise you that it brings people down a bit - and if I were indeed genuinely depressed, would complaining about its effect on forum atmosphere (or liking such a post to continue a petty personal vendetta, as Jurassic Shark has done) be a humane and sensitive way to react to that?  Seems quite cruel and reprehensible actually.

 

5 hours ago, Jay said:

 

Yes!

 

We should all feel comfortable sharing our own opinions of music, but there's no reason to look down on others for not liking the same music you do, or not having heard all the same music you have.

 

What a bunch of whining milquetoast nonsense!

TGP complaining about other people's rudeness is the funniest thing I've read all week, and Leblanc butting in after yet another few weeks of not moderating anything is rather hysterical.

 

 

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Same with me, I did not get the FSM edition of The Towering Inferno before it went OOP so I don't own it at all; I am hopefully a re-issue happens one day so I can own it!

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5 minutes ago, crocodile said:

@JoeinAR I know The Towering Inferno score from the film but never had a chance to hear it on album. It's not exactly easy to find that one these days. Hopefully there will be a reissue of some sort.

 

Karol

At least youve seen the film. 

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32 minutes ago, Richard said:

Robert Vaughan

 

I’m guessing you don’t have this issue in the UK but Vaughan was so ubiquitous here in local ambulance chaser law office commercials for the last 25 years of his life that I just can’t take him seriously as an actor when he turns up.  Too distracting.

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On 6/27/2018 at 10:43 AM, Chen G. said:

 

Another advantage of Star Wars is that it does not overplay any of its themes the way Empire Strikes Back does the Imperial March. I believe it appears over 35 times in a two-hour composition. That’s nuts.

 

Don't take this the wrong way, but you sound like Joseph II complaining about "too many notes". 

 

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53 minutes ago, Nick1066 said:

 

Don't take this the wrong way, but you sound like Joseph II complaining about "too many notes". 

 

 

Eh, I can understand the sentiment, from a more layperson's perspective. I remember my sister complaining back in high school that the Imperial March shows up way too much and gets annoying, and she's not really into movie scores. (I also had a roommate complain that the ending of Lincoln when he's surveying a battlefield is cliched because it had "sad piano").

 

I've always thought that the Imperial March was excellently woven into overall frame of the score, and features some truly fantastic variations of it, which of course is a Williams specialty. Empire Strikes Back is by no means an "idee fixee" score, ss some way wish to claim.

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The Imperial March shows up precisely the amount times it needs to. No more, on less.  There are a lot of scores which are guilty of dipping into the same thematic well too many times (the James Bond theme comes to mind), but the Imperial March isn't one of them.

 

That particular score frankly is one of a handful that is quite simply above criticism. On this issue there can be no debate!

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9 hours ago, Disco Stu said:

 

I’m guessing you don’t have this issue in the UK but Vaughan was so ubiquitous here in local ambulance chaser law office commercials for the last 25 years of his life that I just can’t take him seriously as an actor when he turns up.  Too distracting.

 

That's a shame, because he's a good actor.

The last major thing he did was a rather nifty TV show, called HUSTLE (or, as you guys know it, HU$TLE). Check it out.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I think his magnum opus is the entire Star Wars saga. It's really all one big score that's been divided into parts. Don't shout at me; I'm standing by this opinion! For instance, many would probably say that the Ring cycle is Wagner's magnum opus. Those operas were released years apart from each other, but they're really continuations of each other. So we should be able to say with confidence that the Star Wars saga (or cycle, if you want to be Wagnerian) is indeed Williams' magnum opus.

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On 7/25/2018 at 7:10 PM, Mitth'raw'nuorodo said:

I think his magnum opus is the entire Star Wars saga. It's really all one big score that's been divided into parts. Don't shout at me; I'm standing by this opinion! For instance, many would probably say that the Ring cycle is Wagner's magnum opus. Those operas were released years apart from each other, but they're really continuations of each other. 

 

I'm down with calling it Williams' magnum opus, in the sense that its his most rich body of work. But I hesitate to call it a single piece in multiple parts.

 

Wagner finished the pieces apart but worked on all of them concurrently. If memory serves me well, he wrote them from Götterdämmerung and back. Hell, he only got the idea to write Das Rheingold after he had an outline of the other three and realized he needed a prelude of sorts. As a result, his work is much more unified than Williams, unfortunately.

 

If you look at Williams scores in the order of the narrative (i.e. starting with The Phantom Menace and going forward, and lets even insert "Adventures of Han" before "A New Hope", for that matter) and try to make sense of the thematic progression, there are a few too many continuity "ticks" to overlook. Some of those are due to large time gaps between trilogies, some due to Williams (and Lucas) making it up as they go along, and some "just 'cause".

 

For instance, he embeds the Imperial March into Anakin's theme only for the former to be all but abandoned at the end of the first score, he continues to the develop the march but then discontinues its use for the entirety of the "fourth" score and "replaces" it with a shorter motif, itself never to appear again. He writes a theme for the Droids - the only characters appearing across all nine films - and only really uses it in the fifth entry. He writes specific themes for climactic duels and for funeral scenes in the first three scores which make no appearance for similar scenes in the later scores; several themes undergo a major change in association, as well: the Rebel Fanfare turns into a Millennium Falcon theme, The Force theme turns "into" Ben's theme and back, he writes a suite (Adventures of Han) for one of the most prevalent characters in the series for it to not appear in any of the actual scores.

 

He also changes the sound itself: the "first" three scores are more percussion and choir heavy, use more rhythmic material and shorter motives, they're orchestrated differently;  the "next" three scores function more like musicals, with long-lined themes, and even compositions for standalone setpieces (such as the Asteroid Field) merit this song-like melodic structure, before Williams returns to a sound more like the "first" three pieces, only more dialed back for some reason. There's a notable change of orchestra and recording studio along the way, he changes the choral ensemble multiple times, the overall size of the ensemble varies greatly between entries, the deployment of synth and special instruments is not consistent across all eight scores, the mix is different, etc..

 

There's also the issue, inherent to the nature of the sequel trilogy's conception, in which Williams' work reaches its climax (in Return of the Jedi), only to begin anew for The Force Awakens going forward. Watch Williams' "Star Wars: A Musical Journey" and try to figure out how the sequel trilogy will fit in there. Hint: it can't.

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2 hours ago, Chen G. said:

He also changes the sound itself: the "first" three scores are more percussion and choir heavy, use more rhythmic material and shorter motives, they're orchestrated differently;  the "next" three scores function more like musicals, with long-lined themes, and even compositions for standalone setpieces (such as the Asteroid Field) merit this song-like melodic structure, before Williams returns to a sound more like the "first" three pieces, only more dialed back for some reason. There's a notable change of orchestra and recording studio along the way, he changes the choral ensemble multiple times, the overall size of the ensemble varies greatly between entries, the deployment of synth and special instruments is not consistent across all eight scores, the mix is different, etc..

 

That's fair. There are a whole lot of inconsistencies, but I think there are enough consistencies to unite them. And thanks for the articulation of what differs the prequel scores from the orig trig scores! I've always wanted to articulate what's different but never quite known how to separate them.

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4 hours ago, Chen G. said:

 

I'm down with calling it Williams' magnum opus, in the sense that its his most rich body of work. But I hesitate to call it a single piece in multiple parts.

 

Wagner finished the pieces apart but worked on all of them concurrently. If memory serves me well, he wrote them from Götterdämmerung and back. Hell, he only got the idea to write Das Rheingold after he had an outline of the other three and realized he needed a prelude of sorts. As a result, his work is much more unified than Williams, unfortunately.

 

If you look at Williams scores in the order of the narrative (i.e. starting with The Phantom Menace and going forward, and lets even insert "Adventures of Han" before "A New Hope", for that matter) and try to make sense of the thematic progression, there are a few too many continuity "ticks" to overlook. Some of those are due to large time gaps between trilogies, some due to Williams (and Lucas) making it up as they go along, and some "just 'cause".

 

For instance, he embeds the Imperial March into Anakin's theme only for the former to be all but abandoned at the end of the first score, he continues to the develop the march but then discontinues its use for the entirety of the "fourth" score and "replaces" it with a shorter motif, itself never to appear again. He writes a theme for the Droids - the only characters appearing across all nine films - and only really uses it in the fifth entry. He writes specific themes for climactic duels and for funeral scenes in the first three scores which make no appearance for similar scenes in the later scores; several themes undergo a major change in association, as well: the Rebel Fanfare turns into a Millennium Falcon theme, The Force theme turns "into" Ben's theme and back, he writes a suite (Adventures of Han) for one of the most prevalent characters in the series for it to not appear in any of the actual scores.

 

He also changes the sound itself: the "first" three scores are more percussion and choir heavy, use more rhythmic material and shorter motives, they're orchestrated differently;  the "next" three scores function more like musicals, with long-lined themes, and even compositions for standalone setpieces (such as the Asteroid Field) merit this song-like melodic structure, before Williams returns to a sound more like the "first" three pieces, only more dialed back for some reason. There's a notable change of orchestra and recording studio along the way, he changes the choral ensemble multiple times, the overall size of the ensemble varies greatly between entries, the deployment of synth and special instruments is not consistent across all eight scores, the mix is different, etc..

 

There's also the issue, inherent to the nature of the sequel trilogy's conception, in which Williams' work reaches its climax (in Return of the Jedi), only to begin anew for The Force Awakens going forward. Watch Williams' "Star Wars: A Musical Journey" and try to figure out how the sequel trilogy will fit in there. Hint: it can't.

 

Good points.  Also, with Wagner's Ring you have a single story line told across multiple operas.  That's just not the case with Star Wars because A New Hope was the only film intended to be made so had a very operatic conclusion.  Then Return of the Jedi was to be final chapter.  Then Revenge of the Sith was to be the final story Lucas would tell.  Then the story continues with the latest trilogy.  In each case you have too many different story tellers putting their hand into the pot making it somewhat difficult to have a single unified thread throughout. It is more of a mythos with stories than a single story.  More like Cthulhu universe with various characters and stories inhabiting that world than Wagner's Ring.

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1 hour ago, Score said:

And to be honest, I really do perceive very significant stylistic differences between Rheingold and Gotterdammerung, which were the product of both the general evolution of music and orchestras, and Wagner's own researches. It should not be forgotten that, in the "break" between the two parts of Siegfried, he wrote (among other things) Tristan und Isolde, a work that marked a huge change in his conception of harmony. And indeed, Gotterdammerung sounds very different from Rheingold (melodies of some recurring leitmotiven apart). Even the last act of Siegfried sounds very different from the first two (and closer to the general atmosphere of Gotterdammerung, which was in fact composed almost at the same time). In my eyes, this is not a defect: evolution happens in art, mirroring the evolution of the artist's life. On a different scale, Williams' own stylistic evolution in the SW saga reflected the change of style in the movies.

 

True, but its still much, much more unified than Williams' Star Wars. That's certainly not to say that Williams' work doesn't have some unifying sense to it. After all, I was to one to put it up as Williams' magnum opus in this thread. But to call it "one work"...

 

At the very least, Wagner had outlined the story of his operas (being both the composer and librettist) such that even if his music underwent stylistic changes, the basic structure of the drama was always in his mind. Williams famously doesn't even read scripts, and even if he did - George Lucas was flying just as blind as Williams was, making up each film as he went along and letting other writers (Kasdan, Brackett) and directors have the reigns in shaping the story, eventually reliquishing it alltogether to Disney, which also didn't entrust this trilogy to any one writer or director.

 

Even in the prequel trilogy, where Lucas was the sole creative force and had at least some of the broad strokes in his mind from the beginning, it seems that Williams never really bothered to ask him as to what turns the story will take next. For instance, regarding the scoring of Anakin and Padme's relationship, Williams said:

 

Quote

I don’t know what George is writing for the finale, but I’m hoping that this kind of star-crossed lovers theme[...]will be something that can be revisited and developed further in the finale. We’ll see when we’re able to look at what George is preparing.1

 

And about Duel of the Fates, he said:

 

Quote

In the choral piece in The Phantom Menace; when George heard it he said: "Ah! That's the theme of the last film." I'm not sure what he means. 2 

 

Even if Williams knew where the story was headed, I doubt he would have bothered to foreshadow themes that are to come (nodding to themes from existing scores in the prequels notwithstanding). That's just not how he works.

 

Also, I just find the comparison of the two works kind of unwarranted. Outside of Revenge of the Sith, I'm not a fan of calling these scores "operatic". I had an epiphany of sorts when I read an interview with Williams regarding The Last Jedi where he said that the Star Wars scores are musicals. In my eyes, that's a much more apt parallel than opera or even a symphony.

______________________________

https://www.filmscoremonthly.com/backissues/viewissue.cfm?issueID=74

https://youtu.be/lUZmf68rzU8?t=141

 

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5 hours ago, Chen G. said:

 I'm not a fan of calling these scores "operatic".

 

You can tell Williams that since he said: "As far as I know, that’s a unique opportunity. It would be like writing an opera, and then writing six more based on the same kind of material and the same story ... over the course of 40 years.”

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16 hours ago, Chen G. said:

At the very least, Wagner had outlined the story of his operas (being both the composer and librettist) such that even if his music underwent stylistic changes, the basic structure of the drama was always in his mind.

 

Yes, but if we consider purely the musical aspect (because it's the only thing that we can compare to Williams' Star Wars, if we really want to), it's not like Wagner planned everything from the beginning and then, in over 20 years, just fixed the details and orchestrated the sketches. He surely changed many things from his initial concept, at least because while he was developing the Tetralogy his musical language underwent a significant evolution. The composition process was very far from being a linear one, and this seems to me quite audible in the result. Which is a masterpiece anyway: I personally prefer it as it is, with respect to what would have been, say, a full Tetralogy of scores in the exact same vein as the Rheingold. So, I don't really value "unity of language" necessarily as a plus, especially in works of such huge scale.

 

16 hours ago, Chen G. said:

 

Also, I just find the comparison of the two works kind of unwarranted. Outside of Revenge of the Sith, I'm not a fan of calling these scores "operatic". I had an epiphany of sorts when I read an interview with Williams regarding The Last Jedi where he said that the Star Wars scores are musicals. In my eyes, that's a much more apt parallel than opera or even a symphony.

 

 

I have always considered film scores (the good ones) to be more a prosecution of the tradition of both incidental music and symphonic poems, I agree that comparison with operas is not completely suitable. However, a leitmotivic structure such as what Williams used (and Shore in LOTR) gives a result that might be close to what Wagner would have done if he had to write film scores, so I guess that is why people want to compare works like SW and LOTR with the Tetralogy.

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First, I must preface that I hold it to be downright impossible and undesirable to look at film scores from a "purely musical aspect." In that sense, film scores are very much like opera, being that the music was written with and for certain imagery. The two are not substitutes of each other - they augment and complete each other.

 

Now, with Wagner, you can make the argument that the evolution of sound was motivated by the evolution of the story. With Star Wars, the same argument would be considerably more shaky. Part of the issue is that Williams wrote a trilogy, then wrote a trilogy preceding that, and then another one set after his first trilogy. Wagner did not do that.

 

Not to mention that Star Wars is getting fairly longer than the Ring cycle ever was: If I recall correctly, its within the ballpark of 15 hours. Williams' body of work is pushing twenty. Naturely, the more drawn out the work is, the more egregious continuity issues will appear to be.

 

Shore's case is considerably different. His scores merit comparisons to Wagner not only on the level of the leitmotivic structure (which, in both works, is considerably more expansive and complex than in Star Wars) but also on the level of the use of voices which gives it a very operatic flavour inded. Within the Star Wars body of work, only Revenge of the Sith feels operatic in that specific regard.

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The classical film score was born out of the European operatic tradition, particularly Wagner, with a good dose of Straussian programmatic influence.  Williams very much continues the classical film score approach, so it is not wrong to think of his works as "operatic" in nature.  

In counterpoint, I find Goldsmith's and Horner's approaches to be much more balletic in nature.

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4 hours ago, Chen G. said:

Now, with Wagner, you can make the argument that the evolution of sound was motivated by the evolution of the story.

 

I think it's more likely that the evolution of sound was motivated by the fact that, 20 years later, any artist would write differently from how he was writing 20 years before.

 

 

4 hours ago, Chen G. said:

Shore's case is considerably different. His scores merit comparisons to Wagner not only on the level of the leitmotivic structure (which, in both works, is considerably more expansive and complex than in Star Wars) but also on the level of the use of voices which gives it a very operatic flavour inded. Within the Star Wars body of work, only Revenge of the Sith feels operatic in that specific regard.

 

I don't agree that the use of voices makes Shore's work more operatic. In opera, the singing voices tell the verbal part of the story, and the music is conceived with this in mind; in the movie, the actors tell the verbal part of the story, and the music is the score. The fact that there is a beautiful use of the choir and of some solo voices, and a few short songs are sung diegetically by the characters, does not mean that the choir and the voices themselves are telling the story. It's just a different medium. 

 

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  • 1 month later...
25 minutes ago, Fabulin said:

If there were two music CDs worth fighting for even at the streets of a falling Constantinople, they would contain The Empire Strikes Back. Not as clumsy or random as it's only real competitor—the temp-track heavy Star Wars—and within the saga, a long time before the master would finally get tired of it all in 2002, after a renaissance of TPM (pun intended).It is a refined score, very mature in sound.

 

The moment one hears Leia's Theme, then a storm as Han walks out and the Han & The Princess Theme starts playing... 

The Hoth theme, especially right before the battle, with tubas like the biblical 7 Trumpets 

The Imperial March

Asteroid Field

When Yoda's Theme can be heard sounding with childlike innocence and playfulness around The Cloud City

The drama in the freezing chamber

The bottleneck buildup during the escape from Cloud City resolved in the greatest musical payoff of them all:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YjGa5Vj7B7I&feature=youtu.be&t=1m1s

The only time in the saga a certain fragment of the title fanfare is played outisde of the main title... here as a serene trumpet solo...

Among many others. If I were to mention all of them, I should entertain you with an oration as long as The Empire Strikes Back itself (to paraphrase Vivien Leigh's Oscar speech)

 

Instead: the ESB score prompted me some time ago to think of a certain way of assessing the density of greatness in compositions. First, let us set the musical sensor to "John Williams at the peak of his career", which is reasonably in the 80s; then, let us divide the score into equal intervals of such length that a great musical moment is present in all of them. Then, let us count these intervals: for The ESB, the number is easily over 240 in the two-hour long score. Every 30 seconds we get something wonderful. The Lord of The Rings concert contains maybe 120. E.T., Jurassic Park, Philosopher's Stone and so on would result in two-digit numbers. If someone doesn't like the possible bugs of "2 minutes of silence among 2 hours of greatness reduces by two or by four", then we can always give each score two or three Millionaire-style "Lifelines" that we take out of consideration. The total supremacy of ESB score still will stand.

 

P.S. The fact that so many comments choose some weird other score as the best one remind me of the 53rd oscars. 🙄

P.P.S. And as for John Williams wanting to be remembered for E.T... it is more about a "civil" warmth of the film resonating with his personality better than his "not very memorable" Star Wars scores. John Williams is just not an "Asteroid field" personality. Do you notice the trend that the most personal works of the great artists are very rarely greater than their magna opera?

 

 

 

 

 

I cannot wait to read @TGP 's opinion on this definition of greatness :lol:

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1 hour ago, Fabulin said:

Instead: the ESB score prompted me some time ago to think of a certain way of assessing the density of greatness in compositions. First, let us set the musical sensor to "John Williams at the peak of his career", which is reasonably in the 80s; then, let us divide the score into equal intervals of such length that a great musical moment is present in all of them. Then, let us count these intervals: for The ESB, the number is easily over 240 in the two-hour long score. Every 30 seconds we get something wonderful. The Lord of The Rings concert contains maybe 120. E.T., Jurassic Park, Philosopher's Stone and so on would result in two-digit numbers. If someone doesn't like the possible bugs of "2 minutes of silence among 2 hours of greatness reduces by two or by four", then we can always give each score two or three Millionaire-style "Lifelines" that we take out of consideration. The total supremacy of ESB score still will stand.

 

You forgot to mention ToD, whose density-greatness-score is in the 1000s at least.

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I'll not argue with that.  Really though between the lengthy posts on greatness and threads for ranking your 17 favorite 15 second long cue sections, I realize that it was years ago that I had my fill of such discussions and even then it was a chore.  If I happen to see old posts of mine I cringe at the intellectual masturbation going on in some.  Made all the worse because little of it is original.  Listen to Leonard Bernstein and John Corigliano talk for a few minutes, or to anyone else who's ever heard them or my other sources on matters musical and technical, and the second hand nature of my "wisdom" as imparted to JWFan is laid bare.  I tell you, one of my strangest experiences was hearing some of my "own" thoughts shared here echoed back to me by a young composer who didn't realize I was their source until I owned up to it.  I pray I've not damaged too many minds.

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