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Why was/is Williams' music considered 'outdated'?

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Even when interviewed by Previn, Williams said that he used "a 19th century orchestra" in Star Wars, that the music he wrote was an anchor for old-fashioned melodies speaking to feelings etc.

 

But then one hears a minute after a minute of these scores of his, and if they sound inspired by something, if they sound like a next step further from something, it's clearly ffrom 20th century music of the type that was rather fresh when he was a child and a student. In other words: he sounds like a composer from his generation would logically be expected to sound, building on the blocks of composers mostly from the two immediate generations before him.

 

Stravinsky, Prokofiev, R. Strauss, RVW and other British 20th century composers, Enescu, Hindemith, Ligeti, Dutilleux, not to mention the Hollywood branch (Waxman, Herrmann, Rózsa, Korngold, Goldsmith)...

 

of course with some Beethoven, Wagner, Bruckner, Tchaikovsky, maybe even Mendelssohn, Verdi here and there, but these 19th century gentlemen's idiom constitutes less than 10% of his work, even in the most "old fashioned" of scores.

 

So I don't really understand what seems to be the problem. He was always a composer of his times, and doing great!

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26 minutes ago, Tom said:

Can you cite reputable people who are on record saying his music is outdated?  

I do not save or remember the sources of judgements I consider false, like the "nothing new", "boring", and "thief" rhetorics. The only trace of such calumny is my memory of sorrowful encounters with it. Have you never read such statements?

 

I don't know who is supposed to be "reputable" and who is not, but I do remember unflattering comments by Morricone and Brian Eno for example.

 

9 minutes ago, Tom said:

"old-fashioned" is descriptive; "out-dated" is pejorative.  I have never heard even his biggest critics say his music is outdated. 

"old-fashioned" is pejorative too. I've never seen it used as a compliment, so pardon me if I consider them synonyms.

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8 minutes ago, First TROS March Accolyte said:

I do not save or remember the sources of judgements I consider false, like the "nothing new", "boring", and "thief" rhetorics. The only trace of such calumny is my memory of sorrowful encounters with it. Have you never read such statements?

Yes, I hear the "JW is a hack" argument all the time, but I have never heard the outdated part.   Perhaps its out there.  At the end of the day, people are always going to just say it is up to each person's opinion whether the music is good or bad (bad as outdated in this case) in any evaluative sense.  So, I never see the point in engaging in argumentation on it.  

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I'd classify his sound as mostly 20th century, which is not outdated at all, as it really works with all sorts of films, both older and modern. When Williams used the words "19th century orchestra", I think that was just a hyperbole. Sure, his orchestrations and musical styles have undoubtedly been influenced by 18th and 19th century composers, but his music feels more at home with the 20th century composers you've mentioned.

I am not sure if we have a 21st century classical style that we could call truly state-of-the-art. I'd think that people like Johan de Meij are developing it, but it hasn't matured yet, there's no unified consensus on what it should be. That sort of stuff is best left for retrospective analyses of the future.

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3 hours ago, Tydirium said:

The thing that really makes Williams stand out from a lot of other composers, imo, and which makes him feel like this logical "next step" you speak of, is his perfect synthesis of the jazz and classical harmonies and styles. Atonality went away from tonality, but jazz delved further into tonality, venturing into uncharted areas and introducing new ideas of harmonization. It'd be like if Beethoven or Brahms discovered a bunch of new chords, and continued to write melodic, tonally logical music—but now harmonized with a bunch of major 7th chords underneath.

You put things excellently. 

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22 hours ago, TheUlyssesian said:

He doesn't have as many fart trombones in his scores as Hans Zimmer.

Haha, you put that really down-to-earth. I was just going to say, as a read all your thoughtful and insightful contributions, that the simple answer why John Williams is not en vogue any more (in the film world; as we know now he arrived at Musikverein ;)), is the following:

 

We (?) moved on to the Zimmer age of functional, team-produced, synthetic film music.

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On 1/23/2020 at 2:04 PM, Tom said:

Yes, I hear the "JW is a hack" argument all the time, but I have never heard the outdated part.   Perhaps its out there.  At the end of the day, people are always going to just say it is up to each person's opinion whether the music is good or bad (bad as outdated in this case) in any evaluative sense.  So, I never see the point in engaging in argumentation on it.  

 

I've heard outdated sort of through proxy. A lot of people I talk to about film music nowadays, and I'm talking casual listeners here, seem to prefer the, what I call, "Mood and Tone" scores. They lack big and powerful melodies, but excel in providing a general mood and tone for the scene. This is really really the way things are going more recently.

 

About 10 years ago if you asked me at the end of the year what film scores I loved, I'd have a decent sized list, but since then, the list keeps dwindling in size. Like, don't get me wrong, there's plenty of recent scores that have come out that I like and enjoy listening to. I don't love them though or connect with them as deeply. As much as some people seem to dislike Giacchino around here, his Trek scores still had great melody, themes, and motifs, and I connect with them greatly, but even he has sort of fallen off a bit for me. 

 

So I guess for most people I talk to, in person, consistently, he's sort of...out of style? Which is sort of like saying he's outdated. I mean I worked as editor on a commercial recently and had Back to the Future in the temp score and it was called "distracting" and I was asked to move towards a more atmospheric and general approach. It wasn't the main melody or anything that would be considered to recognizable, that wasn't the reason. That being said, it was the right call, but I can't help but feel that more and more people are finding themes and melody or even just lush orchestration to be "distracting". It seems in some movies now, the dialog is the "melody" and the film score in a bunch of chords in the background or a repeating ostinato or a very sparse melody. 

 

Let's see. Recently, I've liked Stranger Things 3, Mr. Robot, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Dark Crystal (Netflix), Knives Out, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, The Dragon Prince, etc. just to name a few recents in my iTunes purchases. I like them, particularly Dragon Prince out of that bunch. I listen to them, but the last time I really remember a film score having a HUGE impact on me in the theater was 2015 in The Force Awakens. The scene with the cue "The Resistance" So good. I got goosebumps the first time I saw that and even a few rewatches after.

 

I personally want more moments like that in films, where the themes help drive the story and can make GREAT moments like that and really make you feel something. It still happens. I mean we've gotten Star Wars films, How to Train Your Dragon, Good Omens has a great theme, etc. etc. but it's becoming more rare in my opinion. It's not gone, but it's starting to dwindle I feel. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to sound alarmist or make it seem like I think all film music is garbage now or something, but there is certainly a shift happening.

 

So after that long-winded expelling of thoughts...I think when melody, motifs, themes, etc start being considered "distracting" is also the same time that Williams becomes more and more "outdated" to most people. As someone who's composed a couple projects, short films, theatre productions, etc. I always aspire to create themes and motifs for characters and ideas, but feel like I need to lean more atmospheric and general to get selected or have my work used.

 

Idk man. Interesting topic though.

 

22 hours ago, Martinland said:

We (?) moved on to the Zimmer age of functional, team-produced, synthetic film music.

 

Haha. Yes I feel like Zimmer has been one of the driving forces to what I mentioned above. Don't get me wrong, I listen to and like some of his recent music. It's (in some cases) fun to listen to. I'm a sucker for fun "techy" music (for example Escape from the Ship from Man of Steel or tracks from Inception) but I don't really connect with his stuff over the last several years. I enjoy it, but it doesn't make me feel the way I described that I want more film music to make me feel. With a few exceptions, Zimmer's music certainly isn't "distracting" in most of the projects he does.

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1 hour ago, TSMefford said:

(...) A lot of people I talk to about film music nowadays, and I'm talking casual listeners here, seem to prefer the, what I call, "Mood and Tone" scores. They lack big and powerful melodies, but excel in providing a general mood and tone for the scene.

(...) more and more people are finding themes and melody or even just lush orchestration to be "distracting".

(...) lean more atmospheric and general to get selected or have my work used.

I'm especially bewildered by this. 

 

Williams is a master of mood and tone, in addition to his other skills. How can his music be lacking in that department in comparison to monotonous, soulless chords that lack detail and uniqueness? Isn't a lack of distinguishing detail the opposite of tone-setting? Whenever some sort of "ambience" or "mood setting" is being praised, I recall all these wonderful underscore moments in the music of Williams', Herrmann's, or Goldsmith's, and cannot find a way towards understanding of what these statements even mean to mean.

 

Melodies being "distracting" is also completely beyond my comprehension. Ever since the ancient times melody has been a common language of humanity, something universal and psychologically obvious. People finding melodies "distracting" reminds me of someone posting on another forum how his family members from Africa don't think Beethoven's Ode To Joy qualifies as music. "Alle Menschen werden Brüder" indeed...

 

But maybe the root is not in the psychology of music at all... maybe it's more in line with the sadly fashionable psychological / physiological self-molding as a follow-up to being "not hip enough" to fall entirely into the grasp of commercial brainwashing or whatever it is propagating. In other words, people hypnotize themselves with music that is fashionable until their brains get (at least temporarily) deformed by it like a body part of a member of some forsaken tribe.

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26 minutes ago, First TROS March Accolyte said:

I'm especially bewildered by this. 

 

I'm bewildered by it all too. Some of the most powerful moments in cinema for me personally are accompanied by amazing renditions of themes that are established, then grow throughout the film, and by the big moment they MEAN something. I mean this moment here for example, would not do what it does without the powerful theme statement, and even if it was there, it still wouldn't work as well unless you use and establish that theme throughout.

 

 

Because we've heard it used so well throughout the series, when we get here, to this point, it MEANS something. It hits you, because of the music. Because the music and that melody mean something to the viewer by now.

 

I don't know why people are moving away from this type of scoring, I mean viewer-wise. I almost get the sense from some people that having themes and strong melodies are not only distracting, but sometimes even cheesy? If that makes sense? I don't know. I am as baffled as you seem to be by it.

 

 

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33 minutes ago, TSMefford said:

I don't know why people are moving away from this type of scoring, I mean viewer-wise. I almost get the sense from some people that having themes and strong melodies are not only distracting, but sometimes even cheesy? If that makes sense? I don't know. I am as baffled as you seem to be by it.

A colleague of mine said once in an art museum that he finds lanscape paintings to be cheesy. [picture beautiful late 19th century romantic paintings] He said he much prefers wacky modern painting. After I told him about an international psychological study that determined how human beings universally prefer images of "looking downward onto a green plane devoid of dangers and preferably with some water or animals", he shrugged. Said it's not pretty to him nonetheless---cheesy and boring instead.

 

At some point, where evidence of universal human preferances and a common language is rejected, one cannot help but conclude some measure of insanity.

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John Williams is a part of old Hollywood. And hollywood has outsized itself for years now. There will be people who would label him and his art as OLD BORING. 

 

It's not John Williams who's outdated. It's music. Music is always outdated. We're merely caught in big changes in the media industry. Changes that probably disgust most of us. Media itself is not what it was 10 years ago. Theme park movies are now art to A LOT of people and most of theme probably believes that music stayed mostly the same until Rock saved the day. The language of music is changing and everyone including John Williams is adapting. Music is also corporate yet free! What an interesting dichotomy. And the song form has taken over the industry. 

 

The real reason music is declining and outdated? It gives people no power or fortune. It can't bring people to the moon and it's "not fun." It's a language, a religion. Music, especially what most people call classical, is a part of an old social construct that no longer exists for a lot people. Aside from the rich, who wants to go to a fancy concert hall just for a concert when I can stay at home and savor the weird but crazy hot sexual tension between Kylo Ren and Rey Palpatine? 

 

If the existing power structure of this world does not involve musicians and music, music itself will always be outdated, classical, jazzy, dissonant, popular, sexy, repetitive and dull. Music is a changing language but classical music is a declining religion. I'd like to think that John Williams isn't a part of all that. He serves powerful players like Disney, and those players always survive. He attaches great music to great power structures and therefore his music will last. Just look at how enduringly "popular" Micky Mouse is. 

 

The sad reality is that music can no longer define itself. It no longer has power. In this century, music must serve power. Whoever turns music into power wins this game. To make things worse, music is religious. It's old propaganda. Who wants propaganda when there is free will?

 

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First TROS March Accolyte , if my post made you sad, I'm crying with you. :crymore: 

 

I was "exposed" to the “Allegro con brio” of Beethoven's 5th when I was 3. It fucked my brain so hard that it gave me depression. I have to thank John Williams for bringing me out of that hell. As I grew older, I realized Beethoven had become some kind of a god for some musicians. That realization made me really sad. What may have been liberating is now part of some structure or system. And it gave me depression. :crymore:

 

Here's a message of hope. Music can evolve. It's already piercing through cultures and religions and inspiring powerful minds. It can hint at a better, liberalized future. It's still one of the few languages in the world that can truly group people from different continents together on a deep and visceral level. It can become the spiritual structure of this world if people work together, let go of their egos and build something that serves humanity. 

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John Williams is the greatest living or dead film music composer. Who cares when some tard is disrespectful of the enormous talent that is JW. John's legacy is the emotion he evokes in us all.

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On 2/20/2020 at 10:44 PM, JoeinAR said:

great lest living

Jwfan will be so lost without JW.

 

On 2/20/2020 at 10:44 PM, JoeinAR said:

some tard

:thumbup: zimmer??? :D

 

I personally can't imagine film without John Williams. If there's one person who's constantly reinventing film, it's John Williams. Film was ephemeral, now it's so much more. Can't wait for Indy 5! 

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