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John Williams and the Agony of Modern Music


Fabulin
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We live more the agony of cinema, than agony of music.

 

And bad films = less interesting film music.

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I’m not familiar with this book, although based on reviews I’ve just seen, it hasn’t aged well. But if Pleasants’ main argument is that composers aiming to write music relevant to a mass audience should write tuneful material, I absolutely agree.

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18 hours ago, Fabulin said:

"The executive glory of Western music is the symphony orchestra"---page 137

 

Based on all the possible instrument ensembles one can organize, like all the instruments of various ethnicities and new instruments and timbres being created, I'd say the symphony orchestra has become overrated. It's not like getting the common audience to appreciate Strauss or Sibelius or Schoenberg in their cryptic unmelodic composition. It seems that instrumentation unlocks endless opportunities for new types of expression, which anyone will be able to understand, like how some melodies only feel right if sung or have overtones of certain timbres, or have a diverse enough dynamic range that orchestras are too big and similar to simulate. Like how the mainstream can come to appreciate the orchestral music of John Williams as though it's this new form of human expression they hadn't realized before, the mainstream can easily adjust to endless spectra of expression through new aesthetic combinations. It's what jazz attempted that gave us many subgenres, and what other traditionalists have been doing all along, forging new paths for melody and harmony that weren't thought of before (because they couldn't be heard properly before.) The context and variation one can give one melody is almost endless, as it seems like a separate creation each time it's reworked into a new context. It's not the same as buying into previous cliches of how specific styles should sound and what melodies they evoke. It's instead fringing on all the unknown, keeping the universal principles of excellence that we know work. I think a lot of rare pop music with hidden influences (as anything widely appreciated is pop in it's own right) and new-age soundtrack music and vgmusic has begun exploring these deeper avenues of new melody writing. A LOT of this high-quality music isn't free, they've locked it away for purchase, which is what they do with anything truly good. And still, all classical instruments like strings and brass, have viable purpose within the bigger picture of craft.

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7 hours ago, Oomoog the Ecstatic said:

 

Based on all the possible instrument ensembles one can organize, like all the instruments of various ethnicities and new instruments and timbres being created, I'd say the symphony orchestra has become overrated. (...) And still, all classical instruments like strings and brass, have viable purpose within the bigger picture of craft.

I did not quote Pleasants on that because I necessarily agree, but because it's very close to what Williams has said in a few interviews. These are views from the 1950s and should be perceived as belonging to their time. Remember that at the time symphony orchestras or their abridged versions ruled the radio, the televison, cinema, all the pre-Elvis pop music, and a lot of big city dance music.

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