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Key Signature Relationships


carlborg
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I was wondering whether anyone has looked into the the key relationships, if any, between successive cues or maybe a predominant key or tonal center across an entire score by JW. Do you think this is an important consideration when JW writes a score?

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8 hours ago, carlborg said:

Do you think this is an important consideration when JW writes a score?

 

I do not think so, I believe JW thinks in other terms. Maybe the score that comes closest to that concept is Schindler's List (several pieces are in D minor, A minor, G minor - but there are also parts in C minor, F minor, G# minor, E minor...), and one can find several important cues of HP3 being in D minor, but most of the large scores have a variety of modulations that seems to go against the idea of a tonal center. I think he just goes every time to the key that sounds right for that scene (or to "no key"). However, I have not made any systematic study, and maybe others know better. 

 

A composer who, instead, applied the idea of tonal centers to whole scores was Ennio Morricone. The score of "Mission", for example, is mostly in the keys of D major and G major, with few cues in the close areas of A minor (Ave Maria Guarani) and B minor (Te Deum Guarani, Carlotta). The score of "Once Upon a Time in America" is mostly in E major (main theme, Deborah's Theme) and E minor (Childhood Poverty, Cockeye's Song), with Amapola having sections in E major and A major. But of course, his approach to film scoring was very different from JW's.   

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Key relationships to majors will have the same descriptors as their relative minors, just with yin and yang manifestations. So there are 12 base descriptors, when combining the (static) tonal center with the (dynamic) harmony leading to the new inclusion, thinking in both static and dynamic compositional terms making 144 potential dual descriptors. Say that you switch the half-step difference of the tonal center relationship with that of the leading harmony, conveying the leading harmony as the tonal center instead so it's the dynamic figure in question, now you have the same 2 relationships with their static and dynamic features switched, so you can think about succession in more unconventional perspectives. Then there is harmony in the rhythm of downbeat and upbeat, which can be considered another duality of yin and yang: the object and the subject, and this dichotomy can lead to rules of counterpoint and melody. I've written some books on each of these descriptors and their connection to metaphysics.

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10 hours ago, carlborg said:

I was wondering whether anyone has looked into the the key relationships, if any, between successive cues or maybe a predominant key or tonal center across an entire score by JW. Do you think this is an important consideration when JW writes a score?

 

I remember that JW said in a interview that key relationships throughout the score is something he keeps in mind for longer scores like Star Wars. I don't remember which interview it was, @Falstaft probably does.

 

30 minutes ago, Oomoog the Ecstatic said:

I've written some books on each of these descriptors and their connection to metaphysics.

 

Links, please.

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1 hour ago, Jurassic Shark said:

 

I remember that JW said in a interview that key relationships throughout the score is something he keeps in mind for longer scores like Star Wars. I don't remember which interview it was, @Falstaft probably does.

 

 

 

I am not sure that it was about "key relationships", perhaps it was about "stylistic relationships"?

 

As an example, in the score of Star Wars you have the main theme sounding in Bb major in the main title, then the next cue that has the tonal center on Bb is "Here They Come" (if we exclude the very ending of "Destruction of Alderaan" and the very ending of "The Death Star"), then there is a brief statement of the main theme in Bb during the final battle cue. And, unless I'm forgetting something, that's about it for Bb, so I would not call that a tonal center for the whole score, and I cannot think of another one. The other instances of the main theme occur in keys such as D flat major, E flat major, D major, G major. The Force theme occurs in keys as diverse as G minor, C# minor, F minor, Bb minor, Eb minor, A minor. One could argue that the Force theme in F minor in the "Throne Room" calls back to the same theme in the same key occurring when Ben says "Use the Force, Luke" during the battle, or that the end of both the battle and the "Throne Room" in D flat major call back to the first statement of Luke's theme during the movie, which is also in D flat major, but I do not think these are major connections.    

 

 

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7 minutes ago, Jurassic Shark said:

I'm talking about JW being aware of the need to vary the key throughtout the score for his long scores.

 

Ok, then this is surely consistent with what he does, e.g., in the SW scores. In this sense, I think it is correct to state that most of JW's scores have no single tonal center, because he continuously change keys.  

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1 hour ago, Jurassic Shark said:

I'm talking about JW being aware of the need to vary the key throughtout the score for his long scores.

Interesting...I always assumed it would make sense to keep to related keys to give the entire thing a more coherent aspect.

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I don't think there is a long term key signature tonal direction but maybe within the cue he'll do something like that, like the cue begins ambiguously in one key and reaches a climax in a related key by the end of the cue, he did mention that in interviews as an intentional dramatic devise. 

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3 hours ago, carlborg said:

Interesting...I always assumed it would make sense to keep to related keys to give the entire thing a more coherent aspect.

 

I don't find that to be at all the case with Williams. He moves freely between tonal centers, even within many (or even most) individual cues. I don't know how much of his decision-making on this is purely instinctual, but I assume it's the lion's share. He's also very conscious of the different instruments' ranges. Consider the main "Journey to the Island" fanfare in Jurassic Park as an example. Most of the big statements are in Bb, with the last one being a whole step higher in C. These are right in the sweet spot where the trumpets can hit that melody's highest note and sound brilliant but not shrill.

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Great stuff, @Falstaft, as always. :up:

 

For the OP - looking outside Williams' work, one series to examine would be the Pirates of the Caribbean scores. There's a fairly strong preference for Dm in the first one and it carries over into the others to varying degrees. This writing is obviously very different from Williams in a lot of other, more important ways, but it does also provide some good reference for what a score can feel like when it favors one key. (IMO, it adds a small amount of monotony to the albums, but I don't think it really affects the films.) I'm sure there are other examples out there but that's the one that comes to mind for me.

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2 hours ago, Falstaft said:

There's a small but pretty rigorous literature on this issue in film music more generally, if you're interested. Check out Neumeyer, Cochran, Rodman, and if you want to get your hands really dirty, my own work. Right now, the most interesting and sustained research into key relations in film music is Motazedian, though she hasn't dealt with Williams yet, to my knowledge.

Thank you for the insight! Will make sure to check out the articles you mentioned.

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