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New Podcast! The Baton: A John Williams Musical Journey


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Happy New Year to my fellow JWFan members! I am embarking on a new venture that I know will appeal to all of you. I am the host of the podcast “The Baton: A John Williams Musical Journey.” The po

Update: The podcast is available on iTunes and Spotify. It is also on the Podbean app, so there are plenty of places for you to hear the show and subscribe. Next episode online Wednesday!

John Williams was performing with the Houston Symphony in the fall of 1983. I was unable to go to the concert, but I knew one of the trombonists and had a heads up on the rehearsal. I waited outside t

This score is one of the many Williams scores that don’t get enough love, similar to many of his other 1990s scores. Lots of subtle but beautiful writing. The lack of a hummable theme that sticks in your head in no way detracts from this score.

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11 hours ago, bollemanneke said:

Once again, your Stepmom episode is completely changing my opinion on the score for the better.

Thank you so much! That was my goal. Well, mostly to get people to forget the drama surrounding the replacement and at least give the score a chance.

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@Trumpeteer So I decided to listen to your Seven Years in Tibet episode, it being one of my favourite dark horse Williams scores, and would like to offer some feedback if I may.

 

Firstly, I quite enjoyed this episode. Unfortunately, I am very far behind on your podcast - I've been listening to the episodes for some of my favourite scores when I can, and would like to take a look like at some of the hidden gems from the early years eventually. 

 

One comment I'd make is that I felt that focusing on the score as heard in the film is very limiting here, as you point out quite well. It's a real pity that so very much of this score went completely unused, and that what was used was drowned under SFX and dialogue after some considerable edits. I acknowledge that it is important to view the music in context and that this has been the focus of your show for the most part, however, in this case I would have liked to have heard you perhaps go a little deeper into the album material, as it is a phenomenal presentation regardless of its treatment. 

 

Also, you supposed that Williams' might have read Harrer's biography or at least been aware of his story in order to be interested in the project. I'd be curious to find out what indeed was the reason, whether it be that or something else. Intriguing. 

 

I think what grabs me so much about this score is it's subtle efficiency. It's never overstated, and it's equally reliant on it's main theme/ideas as it is athematic material (tense effects of Peter's Rescue, percussion in The Invasion, Eastern influences spread throughout, the classically influenced first half of Regaining a Son, etc.). It also just hits all the right moods and settings for me- classic sweeping theme, that deep, mournful string writing a la the Prequels (see Leaving Ingrid), and a variety of orchestral techniques and contemporary choices (the cultural aspect) that provide ample flavour to the environment.

 

All in all, I applaud your work and find your presentation to be very listener-friendly and informative. Keep it up! :):up:

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12 hours ago, The Illustrious Jerry said:

@Trumpeteer So I decided to listen to your Seven Years in Tibet episode, it being one of my favourite dark horse Williams scores, and would like to offer some feedback if I may.

 

Firstly, I quite enjoyed this episode. Unfortunately, I am very far behind on your podcast - I've been listening to the episodes for some of my favourite scores when I can, and would like to take a look like at some of the hidden gems from the early years eventually. 

 

One comment I'd make is that I felt that focusing on the score as heard in the film is very limiting here, as you point out quite well. It's a real pity that so very much of this score went completely unused, and that what was used was drowned under SFX and dialogue after some considerable edits. I acknowledge that it is important to view the music in context and that this has been the focus of your show for the most part, however, in this case I would have liked to have heard you perhaps go a little deeper into the album material, as it is a phenomenal presentation regardless of its treatment. 

 

Also, you supposed that Williams' might have read Harrer's biography or at least been aware of his story in order to be interested in the project. I'd be curious to find out what indeed was the reason, whether it be that or something else. Intriguing. 

 

I think what grabs me so much about this score is it's subtle efficiency. It's never overstated, and it's equally reliant on it's main theme/ideas as it is athematic material (tense effects of Peter's Rescue, percussion in The Invasion, Eastern influences spread throughout, the classically influenced first half of Regaining a Son, etc.). It also just hits all the right moods and settings for me- classic sweeping theme, that deep, mournful string writing a la the Prequels (see Leaving Ingrid), and a variety of orchestral techniques and contemporary choices (the cultural aspect) that provide ample flavour to the environment.

 

All in all, I applaud your work and find your presentation to be very listener-friendly and informative. Keep it up! :):up:

Thank you so much for all the feedback. It means a lot.

 

An earlier draft of the script pretty much focused on the soundtrack more than the film version. But, I was essentially playing music without talking about it because I had little to no context for that music. I didn't want it to be an episode where I just play music -- even big fans of the music like you would get bored. So, I kept the focus on the film score and went with that.

 

I wish I could have found any quotes from Williams regarding reading the novel beforehand but nothing came up in my research.

 

I hope you will go back and catch up on other episodes. Imagine this podcast as a biographical novel. Would you skip over chapters in a novel? 

 

One more thing:

 

My podcast is one of 17 on the shortlist for Best Music Podcast for the annual Podcast Awards. Please consider voting for my show before July 31 to get it on the final list of 10 nominees.

 

Nominate "The Baton" for Best Music Podcast

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On 7/2/2020 at 5:22 AM, The Illustrious Jerry said:

@Trumpeteer So I decided to listen to your Seven Years in Tibet episode, it being one of my favourite dark horse Williams scores, and would like to offer some feedback if I may.

 

Firstly, I quite enjoyed this episode. Unfortunately, I am very far behind on your podcast - I've been listening to the episodes for some of my favourite scores when I can, and would like to take a look like at some of the hidden gems from the early years eventually. 

 

One comment I'd make is that I felt that focusing on the score as heard in the film is very limiting here, as you point out quite well. It's a real pity that so very much of this score went completely unused, and that what was used was drowned under SFX and dialogue after some considerable edits. I acknowledge that it is important to view the music in context and that this has been the focus of your show for the most part, however, in this case I would have liked to have heard you perhaps go a little deeper into the album material, as it is a phenomenal presentation regardless of its treatment. 

 

Also, you supposed that Williams' might have read Harrer's biography or at least been aware of his story in order to be interested in the project. I'd be curious to find out what indeed was the reason, whether it be that or something else. Intriguing. 

 

I think what grabs me so much about this score is it's subtle efficiency. It's never overstated, and it's equally reliant on it's main theme/ideas as it is athematic material (tense effects of Peter's Rescue, percussion in The Invasion, Eastern influences spread throughout, the classically influenced first half of Regaining a Son, etc.). It also just hits all the right moods and settings for me- classic sweeping theme, that deep, mournful string writing a la the Prequels (see Leaving Ingrid), and a variety of orchestral techniques and contemporary choices (the cultural aspect) that provide ample flavour to the environment.

 

All in all, I applaud your work and find your presentation to be very listener-friendly and informative. Keep it up! :):up:

If you listen to the score really attentively in the film, you'll realize a lot of the material from the album can in fact be found in the movie but Williams has really carefully constructed the album in a way that the relatively short cues from unrelated parts of the film flow together musically very seamlessly which makes identifying them in the movie that much harder. Also the fact that it is mixed so low makes it hard to spot all the music.

 

In this regard the CD reminds me of Angela's Ashes which also had many short cues, but despite this Williams managed to create a coherent album which is actually longer than the actual film score by augmenting the score cues with several concert arrangements. The film score of Seven Years in Tibet is about 50 minutes+ long (minus the Tibetan source music) and the album is 65 minutes long with about 56 minutes of original score if you don't count the  2 minutes of Tibetan chants and the 7 minute reprised end credits suite, so the album certainly contains some additional unused and alternate material to beef up the listening experience. Many of Williams' cues were entirely replaced by Tibetan chants and source music or just silence in the film but can be heard on the OST. Also soundtrack albums are locked well in advance of the release of the film so later revisions, which clearly were made, didn't make it on to the commercial disc. And thus despite the CD being longer than the actual score in the film, there are of course several film cues that were left off the album.

 

As an example of the editing done for the album, Leaving Ingrid track on the CD opens with the version used in the film with the Regret/Sorrow theme on deep strings after which an alternate piano/cello passage ushers in a huge soaring version of the main theme, then followed by another solo cello variation on the Regret idea and some prominently featured ostinati figures that appear throughout the score. The last passage might not belong in the actual Leaving Ingrid cue which is about 2;35 long VS the album track which runs for 3:43. This opening 2:35 of the track might be Williams' original version of the cue. Then you have the second half of the film version of Leaving Ingrid edited into the middle of the CD track Approaching the Summit which itself opens with an alternate take that starts with Regret/Sorrow motif for the start of the cue and then the film version of the ending of the cue with the theme variation for flute, piano and cello, running from 2:19-4:38. Approaching the Summit itself contains music from 4 different cues none of which chronologically follow each other in the film.

 

Another example is Peter's Rescue which contains three different cues again from three different points in the film. It opens with the actual Peter's Rescue which went unused in the film and would have probably underscored Peter (David Thewlis) falling down a cliff face and rescued by Harrer (0:00-1:13) early in the film, continues with Escaping the Bandits (1:14-2:05) from halfway through the score and finishes with The Tibetan Defeat (2:05-end) from the scene where the Tibetan forces are massacred by the Chinese invasion forces.

 

And the whole album is pretty much built the same way with smaller cues combined into lengthier tracks. And it has to be handed to Williams that he really knows how to build his albums and Seven Years in Tibet is a great example of that (but in full honesty you have to admit he has had his weaker album assemblies too).

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13 hours ago, Trumpeteer said:

An earlier draft of the script pretty much focused on the soundtrack more than the film version. But, I was essentially playing music without talking about it because I had little to no context for that music. I didn't want it to be an episode where I just play music -- even big fans of the music like you would get bored. So, I kept the focus on the film score and went with that.

Yeah, I completely understand your reasoning. That context is essential to keeping up the conversation so it makes perfect sense. 

 

13 hours ago, Trumpeteer said:

I hope you will go back and catch up on other episodes. Imagine this podcast as a biographical novel. Would you skip over chapters in a novel? 

Oh for sure. Your show has been on my radar for a while and I've only just recently found the time to really dig into it. I'll circle back to the beginning this week and share any thoughts/comments/compliments I may have as I go. I'll look into these Podcast Awards too.Thanks for your great work!

 

13 hours ago, Incanus said:

...

 

And the whole album is pretty much built the same way with smaller cues combined into lengthier tracks. And it has to be handed to Williams that he really knows how to build his albums and Seven Years in Tibet is a great example of that (but in full honesty you have to admit he has had his weaker album assemblies too).

Wow, phenomenal post, Inky! Really helps to further my understanding of how the album was constructed, etc. Thank you so much!

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On 7/3/2020 at 2:00 AM, bollemanneke said:

I can't wait to find out who the Phantom Menace guest will be. Would it be too much to hope for Maxine Kwok Adams from the LSO in the future?

How on Earth did you guess Maxine? That was a superb guess. Glad you liked hearing her talk about performing the score.

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I just hoped it would be her because I had enjoyed hearing her speak during that 2018 RAH concert. Also forgot to mention I really loved all the questions you asked her. Every time I wanted you to ask something, you did exactly that. Great interview.

 

EDIT: Listening to Phanton Menace now. Totally agree that the emperor's theme in the opening cues is an incredibly stupid choice, but never ever realised it was hidden in the celebration fanfare.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Listening to HP1 now and loving it. What a great episode for a great score. HP was such a big part of my childhood that it's safe to say I'm twice as excited about this podcast now that it begins to cover those scores.

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9 hours ago, bollemanneke said:

Listening to HP1 now and loving it. What a great episode for a great score. HP was such a big part of my childhood that it's safe to say I'm twice as excited about this podcast now that it begins to cover those scores.

As great as it was for me to have the original Star Wars trilogy play a big role in my childhood, I would be just as excited to have been a kid for the Harry Potter films. Well, maybe the first three. I hope I can deliver on your increased excitement for the remaining episodes.

 

Also, I'm glad I helped you discover the Emperor's theme in the finale of The Phantom Menace. I bet lots of people didn't discover that at first. I only did because I was paying attention to the music to discover if it would be like "The Throne Room" from "Star Wars" since the visuals were pretty much the same.

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A few observations:

Gryffindor theme: for me, this is the Hogwarts theme since it's first heard when Hagrid gives Harry his letter (unused in the movie). And as you say, it appears at the end of the flying lesson, but again, I think this was JW telling us, this is Hogwarts, it'll be all right. (Also, you forgot to let that track finish playing and therefore the Gryffindor/Hogwarts theme isn't heard.) And when that theme appears in Quidditch Match, again, I think it's more of a 'see how amazing Hogwarts is!' thing.

Magic theme: I really love that you give it this name. Some insist on calling it the flying theme, but your title makes so much more sense, especially considering its use in HP2.

Friendship theme: Again, what a good title. I believe Mike Matessino calls it Harry's theme, not sure which one I prefer.

Harry's theme: I actually really like that title too. I had doubts until I realised it played when Ron sacrifices himself for Harry during the chess match. I always thought that theme rendition was unnecessary and annoying until today.

JK Rowling: The correct pronunciation of the o is like the one in 'bowling'. I really hate to point this one out, but I've heard too many fans moan and groan about people mispronouncing it to ignore it.

End credits suite:

- Some people have actually claimed the Stone's theme is hidden in there too, played by the horns when the celesta plays the magic theme for the very first time.

- Why does the ending of the suite in this episode have the PAL speed-up form the European DVD?

I kind of wish you had found time to include excerpts from the Christmas and troll scenes, but fully understand one can't get eveyrthing.

 

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8 minutes ago, bollemanneke said:

Gryffindor theme: for me, this is the Hogwarts theme since it's first heard when Hagrid gives Harry his letter (unused in the movie). And as you say, it appears at the end of the flying lesson, but again, I think this was JW telling us, this is Hogwarts, it'll be all right. (Also, you forgot to let that track finish playing and therefore the Gryffindor/Hogwarts theme isn't heard.) And when that theme appears in Quidditch Match, again, I think it's more of a 'see how amazing Hogwarts is!' thing.

Yeah, the Suite part's titled Hogwarts Forever and everything: I think as it is written in the score, it was totally intended to be a general Hogwarts theme, but as the score was edited in the movie, more specifically general bits like when Harry opens his letter or the statement over the establishing shots in Lonely First Night got shaved off or replaced, so as it is in the movie it does feel more like a Gryffindor theme.

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Music, like other art forms, is very subjective, even what we want to call various pieces. Whether it's called the Hogwarts theme or the Gryffindor theme, it's still a great musical statement.

 

I put in that version of the end credits because I didn't want to use the soundtrack version. I should have taken the music from my US DVD, but I made this decision in a split second, and figured the end credits was on YouTube, which would save time over re-connecting my DVD player to my laptop. The music did seem to run a bit faster.

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1 minute ago, Trumpeteer said:

Hi, all! My podcast has been nominated for "Best Music Podcast" for the 2020 Podcast Awards! This is an exciting moment for this little show that started as a hobby and now has thousands of listeners on five continents.

 

Check out the list at Podcastawards.com


Congrats!  Well deserved. I betcha it was that Temple of Doom episode that put you over the top! ;) 

Routing for you! 

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7 hours ago, Trumpeteer said:

Hi, all! My podcast has been nominated for "Best Music Podcast" for the 2020 Podcast Awards! This is an exciting moment for this little show that started as a hobby and now has thousands of listeners on five continents.

 

Check out the list at Podcastawards.com

 

Congrats! How do I vote?

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14 hours ago, bollemanneke said:

Great episode again. Had no idea Across the Stars was written first and then incorporated into the score.

 

It's probably for the better. I don't think that JW would have written such a great love theme if he had seen those cheesy scenes first 😀 They are less than uninspiring.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Williams couldn't score the entire movie using his normal process due to his commitments to Catch Me If You Can, so he wrote as much as he could and Williams Ross adapted JW compositions to fit the scenes that JW never wrote anything for (or scenes that changed after the cut JW scored, etc)... and conducted the orchestra / ran the recording sessions

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But what music qualifies for those two categories (music JW never wrote or music that had to be adapted?) I seem to recall all the leaked sheets were handwritten and that they were complete apart from tracked cues, so do you mean Ross only "wrote" cues that only consisted of HP1 music, say Entering The Diary? Or was Ross involved in, say, Eat Slugs because it reprises Norbert from HP1 too?

 

And when we refer to music that was changed after JW was done, do you mean Ross had to oversee micro-edits? I never knew JW had to approve those.

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I think Ross was involved in some way with every single cue

 

As a completely hypothetical example let's say JW wrote 8M3 Fawkes Delivers The Hat that fit the edit of the scene that he was given, then Columbus re-edits the footage and one shot is now 2 seconds long instead of 5.  Ross would make an adjustment so the cue still fits the final cut, they wouldn't bother JW with something like that; they'd let him to continue to write brilliant new music for other scenes instead

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This is a very cool podcast series. Very engaging and enjoyable.
 

On 8/8/2020 at 5:57 PM, Trumpeteer said:

Hi, all! My podcast has been nominated for "Best Music Podcast" for the 2020 Podcast Awards! This is an exciting moment for this little show that started as a hobby and now has thousands of listeners on five continents.

 

Check out the list at Podcastawards.com

 

Congratulations.

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On 9/4/2020 at 3:34 AM, bollemanneke said:

Yeah, I'm only halfway through, but my goodness, what an episode.

I'm honored that you liked the episode so much that you felt the need to press pause and post this. Thank you.

 

Dan Higgins was so wonderful to talk to, and I am glad I decided to reach out to him.

 

On 8/30/2020 at 1:27 AM, Mr. Breathmask said:

I enjoyed the HP2 episode as usual, but no love for more of the original material? I love The Flying Car, the spider stuff and the big cue for the Basilisk fight at the end. These always remind me that there's still half an original John Williams score in there and it's pretty damn good.

Yes, I should have focused more on the original stuff.

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Great HP3 episode! Just a few remarks, can't resist:

The first Window to the Past cue is not played by an oboe, but a clarinet. And it's technically not the first time that theme is used.

The opening of the Knight Bus features a clarinet, not a bassoon.

The shawm… I take it you used the Art of the Score podcast portion?

And speaking of which, that's the only cue not available on the LLL set.

No love for A Winter's Spell, Honeydukes or the Leaky Cauldron/Three Broomsticks pub music?

Can't wait for The Terminal.

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6 hours ago, bollemanneke said:

The first Window to the Past cue is not played by an oboe, but a clarinet.


Ah, sorry, that's my mistake! While looking at the written score, I saw an "oboe solo" in the 4M3+4 cue, and didn't check the melody more closely. It's playing something entirely else. I am not even sure what, because I can't quite hear it in the recording.
 

6 hours ago, bollemanneke said:

And it's technically not the first time that theme is used.


Isn't the parents' portrait scene the first time it's heard?

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4M3+4 Enter Winter was either never recorded, or got recorded then was not included in the archives WB sent to Mike to make the box set from.


The film and LLL CD uses 4M3+4 New Woods Walk and Birds Flight

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I don't know, really. I have this rule that I no longer do composer specials on living composers, in the faint hope I'll get an interview (we already have 'double' Silvestri and Elfman episodes, for example), but in the case of Williams, the prospect of an interview is so slim that I might just as well do it.

 

But I guess it's mostly being swamped with lots of other things.

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On 9/10/2020 at 10:47 PM, Thor said:

I don't know, really. I have this rule that I no longer do composer specials on living composers, in the faint hope I'll get an interview (we already have 'double' Silvestri and Elfman episodes, for example), but in the case of Williams, the prospect of an interview is so slim that I might just as well do it.

 

But I guess it's mostly being swamped with lots of other things.

 

So basically, you're waiting for John Williams to die? That's morbid, dude.

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