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The New Yorker interview with John Williams

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12 minutes ago, BrotherSound said:


I wonder if @Falstaft knew about this already or not…

 

1 minute ago, Disco Stu said:

I assume Frank is too busy weeping on the floor to comment at the moment

Pardon my memory for such trivia :blush:, but I noticed that the author of this article wrote a book about Wagnerism, and just a couple days ago Falstaft mentioned a review of it by Rian Johnson. 

 

Coincidence, I THINK NOT Blank Template - Imgflip

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16 minutes ago, bollemanneke said:

I just started to read this, but why does everyone keep saying that JW's Star Wars output has never been rivaled? I mean, Barry and Bond?

Probably because of how loose Bond is in terms of continuity.

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Very interesting interview. However...

 

Quote

As Williams remembers it, Lucas had been entertaining the idea of using preëxisting classical works on the “Star Wars” soundtrack. [...] Lucas, through a representative, says that he never intended to use extant music in the film.

 

This is consistent with what Williams said back in 1977 for the liner notes, so we know its not his memory that's to fault.

 

Rather, its ol' man Lucas trying to rewrite history again. You'd think now that he's retired he'd give it a rest already.

 

Sigh...

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That last quote is brilliant. So eloquently nails the crisis of being a popular composer. 

 

There are some other neat quotes in there too!

 

Looks like Williams is a fan of Andrew Norman's work and has given him his blessings:

Quote

Early in Williams’s career, film composers received scant attention as creative figures. Now scholars like Lehman specialize in the field, and online fan sites chronicle minutiae. Williams is delighted by that attention, yet he wishes that concert composers also got their due. “I’ve heard a few pieces by a young American composer, Andrew Norman, who is very good,” he said. “Might there not be a bigger audience for his work, too? I would love to see that.” As it happens, the admiration is mutual: Norman has said that he first felt the pull of orchestral music while watching his family’s VHS copy of “Star Wars.”

 

And I had no idea that Williams and Milton Babbitt were in correspondence. Especially given Babbitt's dickish attitude towards music outside of school of modernism:

Quote

“How or why Milton had any interest in me whatever, I don’t know,” Williams said. “But I loved receiving his letters, in his tiny handwriting. He was very interested in Bernard Herrmann, and asked me questions about him. One time, I had written this little quartet, for the Messiaen combination of clarinet, violin, cello, and piano. Milton heard it because it was played at Obama’s Inauguration. He rang me up and said, ‘I liked the little thing you did.’ He was on another plane of thought. I have a book of his where he talks about ‘concatenations of aggregates.’ But the funny thing is that he originally wanted to be a songwriter. He wanted to compose musicals. We both adored Jerome Kern, and often spoke of this. He famously said that he’d rather have written one tune by Jerome Kern than the rest of his oeuvre. That was the world I came out of, too, so we had lots to talk about.”

 

 

It's also clear to me here that Williams seems to recognize more of himself in the concert world than the film world these days. But he seems to have made his peace with his fame and success and puts it so elegantly to words, even with the interviewer is fishing for silly romantic notions:

Quote

"It has been an extraordinary journey with these films, and with my entire career as well. The idea of becoming a professional film composer, never mind writing nine ‘Star Wars’ scores over forty years, was not a consciously sought-after goal. It simply happened. All of this, I have to say to you, has been the result of a beneficent randomness. Which often produces the best things in life.”

 

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The answer to the question of a want of audience for contemporary concert composers lies exactly in Babbitt's words. The audience, too, would rather have one tune by Jerome Kern. If Williams wrote like Varese, his position would likely be similar to Babbitt's.

 

We are all extremely lucky he didn't listen to Previn, and stayed in Hollywood instead.

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1 hour ago, bollemanneke said:

why does everyone keep saying that JW's Star Wars output has never been rivaled? I mean, Barry and Bond?

 

Bond is an anthology, and so the music doesn't get to function as this kind of grand tapestry that Williams Star Wars score or Shore's Middle Earth scores do. Those are the only two in the buisness of that scope, along with - in the world of opera - Wagner's work on the Ring cycle.

 

Other works on film series, by Zimmer et al (Pirates), Silvestri (Back to the Future, Avengers) and Williams himself (early Harry Potter) aren't as expansive or cohesive.

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Quote

I asked him whether he had any personal favorites among his Hollywood scores—especially the less renowned ones. He told me, “Years ago, I did a film called ‘Images’ for Robert Altman, and the score used all kinds of effects for piano, percussion, and strings. It had a debt to Varèse, whose music enormously interested me. If I had never written film scores, if I had proceeded writing concert music, it might have been in this vein. I think I would have enjoyed it. I might even have been fairly good at it. But my path didn’t go that way.”

 

A note to all the blockbuster-obsessed JW fans.

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Agree with the folks here who say this interview was more interesting than the usual fare we get. My only quibble was Ross parenthetically stating that Herrmann was America’s greatest film composer. I chalk that up to the journalistic reflex for wanting to come across as “objective“ in a piece that’s otherwise entirely flattering toward its subject.

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I took it more to be Alex Ross' opinion. He's a critic, he's allowed to have them, and he's written a lot about Hermann in the past.

 

Just want to add my congrats to Frank and Emilio!

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3 hours ago, Lewya said:

I wonder what changed in 20-some years from "certainly" to "perhaps" in regards to Herrmann being the greatest American film composer. 

Maybe he heard more Williams scores, more times, in more complete forms.

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17 minutes ago, Ludwig said:

One of the greatest things about Williams' film music is not just that it has an impressive complexity and richness and to it, but that it merges that complexity with an attractive simplicity (usually through the themes) - that allows the music to be accessible to just about anyone.

 

Amen!

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2 hours ago, Falstaft said:

 

I secretly hope he flipped to the page that contains the theme from TROS "The Speeder Chase" and thought to himself "oh good, at least there are a few people who have heard that one..."

 

Good one :)

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12 minutes ago, lairdo said:

Benjamin Britten and Mieczysław Weinberg have become fast favorites over the past year.

 

What are your favorite Britten pieces?  The ones I find myself returning to the most are the Spring Symphony and the Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings.  The former especially is easily my favorite of his entire catalog.

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23 hours ago, aviazn said:

I took it more to be Alex Ross' opinion. He's a critic, he's allowed to have them, and he's written a lot about Hermann in the past.

 

22 hours ago, Lewya said:

I don't see why Ross stating that Herrmann is the greatest American film composer is a problem. There are also other American film composers other than Herrmann who are also more imaginative/progressive than Williams and therefore for some better composers.

 

Sure, that is Ross opinion, but Herrmann was a true original and was often innovative in terms of how he treated the orchestra. Many thoughtful listeners would agree with him.

 

Ross has said that he is a "big fan" of Herrmann in the past and even wrote the liner notes to a Herrmann anthology back in the 1990s, where he stated that Herrmann was "certainly the greatest Hollywood film composer", then a decade or so later when he reviewed a concert of film music, he wrote that Herrmann was "probably the greatest American film composer", now it is apparently "perhaps the greatest American film composer" that he choose to use in the article. I wonder what changed in 20-some years from "certainly" to "perhaps" in regards to Herrmann being the greatest American film composer. 

I stand humbly corrected. I didn't realize that was Ross' long-held position on Herrmann. I guess it wouldn't hurt me to become more familiar with his scores, now that I think about it.

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This was such a nice article and interview with the Maestro. Even the title was great. The Force is indeed still strong with him.

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On 7/23/2020 at 6:41 AM, Disco Stu said:

 

What are your favorite Britten pieces?  The ones I find myself returning to the most are the Spring Symphony and the Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings.  The former especially is easily my favorite of his entire catalog.

 

Those are lovely.

 

4 Sea Interludes from Peter Grimes, Op. 33a is short but a wonderful experience. You don't need to know the opera to enjoy these.

The Violin Concerto is great. Lots of recordings of it too. (Love the timpani to start it too. Wonder if brother Williams has played that.)

 

I have seen Turn of the Screw (Seattle Opera) and Billy Budd (SF Opera) and enjoyed them both immensely. 

 

(I am also listening to a lot of Leonard Bernstein and Dmitri Shostakovich!)

 

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On 7/23/2020 at 6:41 AM, Disco Stu said:

 

What are your favorite Britten pieces?  The ones I find myself returning to the most are the Spring Symphony and the Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings.  The former especially is easily my favorite of his entire catalog.

His Violin Concerto is excellent as his Sinfonia da Requiem and the full opera of Peter Grimes (the Sea Interludes is great too but the opera is excellent).  But for me, his masterpiece is the War Requiem.  A fantastic work, one of the greatest of the 20th century. 

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JW absolutely visits this site.

Problem is, he puts everyone on IGNORE EXCEPT Mcgyver!😜

1 minute ago, bruce marshall said:

JW absolutely visits this site.

Problem is, he puts everyone on IGNORE EXCEPT Mcgyver!😜

 

 

Re: HERRMANN

The man INVENTED film music I.e. the concept of underscoring.

But, Jerry is the " greatest".

Along with Johnny!😊

 

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5 hours ago, lairdo said:

The Violin Concerto is great. Lots of recordings of it too. (Love the timpani to start it too. Wonder if brother Williams has played that.)


Pretty unlikely Don Williams has played it, unless it was as a student or early on in his career. The top studio players like Don are generally booked up enough they don’t have time for too many other opportunities. Clearly he’s got the chops for it, though!

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The Varése mention wasn't totally out of the left field, but i find it astounding just how much he had/has to submerge his fondness for abstract composition for his film works. 

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On 7/26/2020 at 8:48 AM, publicist said:

The Varése mention wasn't totally out of the left field, but i find it astounding just how much he had/has to submerge his fondness for abstract composition for his film works. 

 

It reminds Morricone's similar "double life" syndrome. But I think that both of them were so naturally inclined for melodic writing (at least judging by the sheer number of memorable themes they both produced over their film career) that it would have emerged nonetheless.

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