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Why has John Williams remained viable ?


jojoju2000
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No kidding; I was reading another post in the General Discussion forum on this website, and one of the posts was talking about how Composers like Danny Elfman, David Arnold, Alan Silvestri, have not written for a mainstream film  in years, or have had their film picks dried up, or their musical palate have stagnated. Meanwhile, Hans Zimmer and his group; have completely taken over the film music world often to our detriment. The Older Composers such as Jerry Goldsmith, Ennio Morricone, and John Barry have passed away.  And YET, John Williams remains literally the Composing King. He remained economically, musically, and even culturally viable, even as newer blockbusters have taken over.  What  makes him so viable ? Iconic ? 

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Let's see, he scored 10 films in this past decade. 5 of those are Spielberg: long-standing friendship and collaboration. 3 of those are Star Wars: because he scored all the Episodes and Disney knew better than to not ask him back. That leaves Dear Basketball, a passionate personal short film, and Book Thief, based on a book JW liked, but I don't know the exact backstory.

 

So 80% of his recent film output was based on long preestablished patterns. If those two wouldn't be here and he'd have to look for work, he may well stagnate just as much as those others mentioned.

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He remains viable because of a certain demographic of audience and filmmakers who still appreciate music that can stand up outside the film it was written for. Once those filmmakers have moved on then he won't be viable for new cinema, but that's Hollywood's fault, not his.

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1 hour ago, Holko said:

Let's see, he scored 10 films in this past decade. 5 of those are Spielberg: long-standing friendship and collaboration. 3 of those are Star Wars: because he scored all the Episodes and Disney knew better than to not ask him back. That leaves Dear Basketball, a passionate personal short film, and Book Thief, based on a book JW liked, but I don't know the exact backstory.

 

So 80% of his recent film output was based on long preestablished patterns. If those two wouldn't be here and he'd have to look for work, he may well stagnate just as much as those others mentioned.

I guess his semi retirement from 2005 onwards, preserved his reputation and " prestige " if that's the right way to say it.  Also, he has created more classical  pieces in the last 10 years or so.

37 minutes ago, scoreman36 said:

He remains viable because of a certain demographic of audience and filmmakers who still appreciate music that can stand up outside the film it was written for. Once those filmmakers have moved on then he won't be viable for new cinema, but that's Hollywood's fault, not his.

Williams is 88 going on 89 this year, once he goes onto the other life... that's it....

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12 minutes ago, bruce marshall said:

Every new member here lists numerous orchestral scores as favorites.

There will  always will be an audience

 

Yeah, it's just a question of how big an audience.

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2 hours ago, karelm said:

Star Wars.  A saga spanning40+ years with him as the original composer didn't hurt.  Practically no one else in history can claim the same.  In addition, he's a composer who through his discipline, technique, and talent writes the book on compositional devices that would be adhered to by generations to come.  I can't tell you how many professional composers who are 50 years or younger site him as an influence.  Not just composers but performers too throughout orchestral ranks.  I posted a few interviews with professional musicians here who cited him as inspiration to them as kids.  There is a bit of a trifecta you don't get with almost anyone else.  The talent and inspiration for composers, performers, and audiences.  Also his longevity, attitude, and professionalism are exemplary.   In contrast, Horner, Herrmann or Goldsmith, excellent composers who influenced many composers, were not great people.  How shall I put this...for various reasons, they lacked social graces.  In contrast, JW is practically universally adored without a diva bone in his body.  He is a very, very rare person...talent, professionalism, discipline, technique, longevity.  Many great composers have two or maybe three of these but JW has all of these. 

You make some very good points there.  I would also like to add that his work as Conductor of the Boston Pops has made him more visible in the eyes of the Public.  

16 minutes ago, Datameister said:

 

Yeah, it's just a question of how big an audience.

We can perhaps answer this question a few years from now; when and if Williams passes away. Are people going to remember him for Star Wars, ET, so on and so forth ?  

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Look at the ages of the people joining here.

Most born long after SW...ET...SUPE.  JP

Home video and the plethora of score reissues bodes well for a thriving art.

Just now, bruce marshall said:

Look at the ages of the people joining here.

Most born long after SW...ET...SUPE.  JP

Home video and the plethora of score reissues bodes well for a thriving art.

Rosza still has a substantial fan base.

Herrmann will always be popular.

JW will too!

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1 minute ago, bruce marshall said:

Look at the ages of the people joining here.

Most born long after SW...ET...SUPE.  JP

Home video and the plethora of score reissues bodes well for a thriving art.

Rosza still has a substantial fan base.

Herrmann will always be popular.

JW will too!

Also in addition to his music, Williams's work as a Conductor I think has ingrained himself into wider American and maybe even World Culture as well. The Boston Pops, Olympics, TV News Themes, Concerts with people ranging from Seth Mcfarlane to Yo Yo Ma, 

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11 hours ago, Datameister said:

I would argue that the last thing Williams wrote that truly embedded itself in the public consciousness was Hedwig's theme, and that was 20 years ago. I don't say that to denigrate his work since then, but I do think it's a mistake to imagine that his works of the 21st century are at the forefront of most people's minds.

I thought, the last theme embedded in public conciousness was Rey's Theme.

Anyway, when we talk about public conciousness we are talking about hit singles, themes. And still I think, that is just 30% of the outstanding quality of Williams music.

And let's face it. The time when movies relied on music to make the illusion tengible is over. My favourite example is, see the hunting scene in the 60s Planet of the Apes movie without the music and you see a ridiculous scene. The illusion falls apart. The new PotA movies don't rely on that anymore with their advanced technology. 

And before home cinema and early DVD or streaming releases OSTs were probably the best way to revisit a movie.

All that isn't necessary anymore. The movies don't depend on the music anymore. Therefore the era is over, I am afraid.

 

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5 hours ago, GerateWohl said:

I thought, the last theme embedded in public conciousness was Rey's Theme.

Anyway, when we talk about public conciousness we are talking about hit singles, themes. And still I think, that is just 30% of the outstanding quality of Williams music.

And let's face it. The time when movies relied on music to make the illusion tengible is over. My favourite example is, see the hunting scene in the 60s Planet of the Apes movie without the music and you see a ridiculous scene. The illusion falls apart. The new PotA movies don't rely on that anymore with their advanced technology. 

And before home cinema and early DVD or streaming releases OSTs were probably the best way to revisit a movie.

All that isn't necessary anymore. The movies don't depend on the music anymore. Therefore the era is over, I am afraid.

 

 

I could be way off on this, but I don't feel like Rey's theme is as widely remembered. I'd wager that if you asked a bunch of people to hum some music from Harry Potter, at least 90% of those who've seen the early films would give decent renditions of Hedwig's theme. You'd probably even get that response from a decent percentage of people with less exposure to the franchise. Try the same experiment with Rey's theme, and I think the results would be very, very different.

 

To be clear, I do NOT think this is the sole measure of a film composer's worth, or even the most important one. It's not really a measure of the quality of the writing, either; it has a lot to do with the way it's featured in the film. But when we're talking about the iconic nature of the man and his music, I think it's a mistake to look to the last 15-20 years. For all the wonderful writing he's done in that time, I don't see anything that's widely iconic in the vein of the shark theme or the Imperial March or Hedwig's theme.

 

And that's the general public's loss, because the man continues to write compelling, interesting, effective scores in his unique musical voice!

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29 minutes ago, Datameister said:

 

I could be way off on this, but I don't feel like Rey's theme is as widely remembered. I'd wager that if you asked a bunch of people to hum some music from Harry Potter, at least 90% of those who've seen the early films would give decent renditions of Hedwig's theme. You'd probably even get that response from a decent percentage of people with less exposure to the franchise. Try the same experiment with Rey's theme, and I think the results would be very, very different.

 

To be clear, I do NOT think this is the sole measure of a film composer's worth, or even the most important one. It's not really a measure of the quality of the writing, either; it has a lot to do with the way it's featured in the film. But when we're talking about the iconic nature of the man and his music, I think it's a mistake to look to the last 15-20 years. For all the wonderful writing he's done in that time, I don't see anything that's widely iconic in the vein of the shark theme or the Imperial March or Hedwig's theme.

 

And that's the general public's loss, because the man continues to write compelling, interesting, effective scores in his unique musical voice!

I think, we are more or less in the same page. What I tried to is, that in the past 15-20 years it was not the role of a motion picture score to be iconic. The picture don't leave enough room for iconic music. Or to put it the other way around, name me any iconic score from any composer from the last 15-20 years.

 

So, I am convinced, that this is not a matter of Williams' capabilities but of movies requiring such kind of music. 

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41 minutes ago, GerateWohl said:

I think, we are more or less in the same page. What I tried to is, that in the past 15-20 years it was not the role of a motion picture score to be iconic. The picture don't leave enough room for iconic music. Or to put it the other way around, name me any iconic score from any composer from the last 15-20 years.

 

So, I am convinced, that this is not a matter of Williams' capabilities but of movies requiring such kind of music. 

 

I think that's a big part of it, yeah. I do think Williams has naturally tended toward a less earwormy style in the last decade or two, but there's just generally been a big trend away from film music that draws attention to itself. We recently watched the LOTR trilogy for the first time in years, and I was struck by just how much the music was allowed to take center stage. I enjoy that approach a lot, at least for certain types of films, but a lot of filmmakers seem to feel differently right now.

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19 hours ago, karelm said:

Star Wars.  A saga spanning40+ years with him as the original composer didn't hurt.  Practically no one else in history can claim the same.  In addition, he's a composer who through his discipline, technique, and talent writes the book on compositional devices that would be adhered to by generations to come.  I can't tell you how many professional composers who are 50 years or younger site him as an influence.  Not just composers but performers too throughout orchestral ranks.  I posted a few interviews with professional musicians here who cited him as inspiration to them as kids.  There is a bit of a trifecta you don't get with almost anyone else.  The talent and inspiration for composers, performers, and audiences.  Also his longevity, attitude, and professionalism are exemplary.   In contrast, Horner, Herrmann or Goldsmith, excellent composers who influenced many composers, were not great people.  How shall I put this...for various reasons, they lacked social graces.  In contrast, JW is practically universally adored without a diva bone in his body.  He is a very, very rare person...talent, professionalism, discipline, technique, longevity.  Many great composers have two or maybe three of these but JW has all of these. 

This...or, in other words: he's John. Fucking. Williams.

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I think but for Spielberg and Star Wars, he wouldn't quite have been much in demand.

 

He's expensive and he will deliver a very old fashioned score - essentially a score that is definitely meant to stand out be heard, not blend into the soundscape.

 

I really do wonder what will he score next? The next Spielberg after West Side Story? We don't even know what that is.

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16 minutes ago, TheUlyssesian said:

I really do wonder what will he score next? The next Spielberg after West Side Story? We don't even know what that is.

Let's hope something will come up. It would suck to later read in a biography that Williams has not scored anything after TROS because nobody wanted him anymore.

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16 hours ago, Bayesian said:

I suspect that plenty of producers and directors would give their left nut to have JW score their film, all else equal. But there’s a unique confluence of factors that make this rather unlikely anymore, including the sense that JW is unavailable to anyone not named Spielberg and the fact that he only writes scores his way (a way that’s out of step with Hollywood filmmaking today). 
 

The nice thing about the current state of things with JW is that it seems he’s setting the terms of his relationship (or detachment) with Hollywood. If his last film score ends up being TROS, there honestly could not be a more fitting, high profile swan song to Hollywood. Whether he scores Indy 5 or not won’t change that fact. He has obvious first right of refusal on that project, so if he ends up not doing it, it’s because he declined. And if he does do it, it makes a lovely epilogue score to an unmatched, unsurpassable career.

 

 

This. Hollywood these days will often tell composers - why don't you write me a couple of suits and I will put them in. Even Zimmer works this way a lot of the times. "Just write me something that plays in the background of an action sequence."

 

JW is going to have none of that. He will actually score the scene. Actually score the beats, sync the music and son on. He ain't gonna do some suite shit.

 

And frankly most young directors have no experience or patience with that. They edit until it is pencil down. They are used to slapping on library music in the background etc. They don't really have a sense of structure or rhythm.

 

So they will find working with JW overwhelming. They would be like what now - this theme can only play when this character is on screen? Why? I love this song? Can I just put it here as well, no one will notice come on? Do people even listen to themes? Ha! And don't worry no one's gonna hear it anyways, look at this cool sound FX I got going on.

 

JW will give that young director a look. And the young director would die a little inside.

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Scores like A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back aren't "cool and trendy" anymore. Hollywood these days prefer scores like Tenet and Dunkirk: incessant, aggressive, electronic, brash, etc. 

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 2/1/2021 at 4:40 AM, TheUlyssesian said:

I think but for Spielberg and Star Wars, he wouldn't quite have been much in demand.

 

He's expensive and he will deliver a very old fashioned score - essentially a score that is definitely meant to stand out be heard, not blend into the soundscape.

 

I really do wonder what will he score next? The next Spielberg after West Side Story? We don't even know what that is.

 

Guys, I said this but we now have the truth from an established industry titan as well. And I would call Junkie that. He's very much "in" right now, working with the top directors on the top mainstream films and he's definitely in the meetings and shortlists for almost any big movies being made these days.

 

Which is to say, he knows his shit, he knows what the directors today are looking for and while I might not like his music, I like his personality and he says it straight.

 

And here what he says here at 1:39:26

 

He's very complimentary of JW but says no director today wants what JW is selling. The big thematic symphonic scores, nobody wants that. Even PJ and Cameron for their recent projects seem to be moving away.  

 

 

In short, no JW is not viable today. And but for Spielberg and Kathy Kennedy, he would be retired from film scoring.

 

That is the sad truth.

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Holkenborg's candor is appreciated and very interesting though.  Not many composers around these days speak so honestly like Horner used to.

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1 hour ago, TheUlyssesian said:

That is the sad truth.

And that is why I am not interested in most of the film scores that are created today. 

It seems like when you are interested in art painting and people say, oh, then you should have a look at the front of my house, the color has been refreshed last week. Probably you like that, too.

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It is interesting to hear Holkenborg’s take on this, but wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that executive producers no longer want what JW sells? Because what he sells is a beautiful score borne of a filmmaking process that resists endless recutting and reshooting and the input of dozens of chefs in the same kitchen?

 

Plenty of movies in the present day would benefit from articulate, melodic scores, and many composers still strive to deliver that to varying degrees of success (like JNH, DE, JP...). These younger composers (younger than JW at any rate) are probably just more willing to abide today’s ADHD manner of moviemaking. 

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After watching the video I checked out one of Holkenborg's JL cues on YouTube... The only thing worse than the music are the comments like "Holkenborg and HanZ are the best composers in movie history" and "we don't need Elfman's classic trumpet sound". Geez, I want to punch every single one of them in the face :angry:

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2 hours ago, Bayesian said:

It is interesting to hear Holkenborg’s take on this, but wouldn’t it be more accurate to say that executive producers no longer want what JW sells? Because what he sells is a beautiful score borne of a filmmaking process that resists endless recutting and reshooting and the input of dozens of chefs in the same kitchen?

 

Plenty of movies in the present day would benefit from articulate, melodic scores, and many composers still strive to deliver that to varying degrees of success (like JNH, DE, JP...). These younger composers (younger than JW at any rate) are probably just more willing to abide today’s ADHD manner of moviemaking. 

 

That too.

 

Today's present tense film-making doesn't allow for that. 

 

Young film-maker is not going to wait for 6 months to get the film score to do the final edit.

 

It also comes down to trash taste. Young film-makers raised on a diet of awful music library videos on youtube might think that is what "background music" is supposed to be. 

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1 hour ago, TheUlyssesian said:

 

That too.

 

Today's present tense film-making doesn't allow for that. 

 

Young film-maker is not going to wait for 6 months to get the film score to do the final edit.

 

It also comes down to trash taste. Young film-makers raised on a diet of awful music library videos on youtube might think that is what "background music" is supposed to be. 

I mean there is Damien Chazelle.....  he directed La La Land ....

 

 

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The symphonic/orchestral score "says" too much in the more rapidly changing film world. There's more of a shift towards both realism and minimalism these days that leaves little room for the theatrical nature of a film score to be anything more than a supporting act in the background. Also, there's a disturbing tendency to return to letting source (pop music) take precedence over the actual score these days that also further restricts the presence of a score and the freedom of the composer to write something that has a voice.

 

Whilst I admire Holkenborg's candor and his clear appreciation for the old composers, I can't help but feel as if his mish-mash Zimmerian scores are like the after-images of a film score that are applied to the films like a drop 'n drag library for the sake of having more noise. 

 

I think we're in the dying days of the traditional film score, but I think there's some hope especially when I see in all corners of the internet, and in life, a fondness and nostalgia for composers like Williams that the spirit of the symphonic orchestral score will be revived in some way or form.

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2 hours ago, Arpy said:

The symphonic/orchestral score "says" too much in the more rapidly changing film world. There's more of a shift towards both realism and minimalism these days that leaves little room for the theatrical nature of a film score to be anything more than a supporting act in the background. Also, there's a disturbing tendency to return to letting source (pop music) take precedence over the actual score these days that also further restricts the presence of a score and the freedom of the composer to write something that has a voice.

 

Whilst I admire Holkenborg's candor and his clear appreciation for the old composers, I can't help but feel as if his mish-mash Zimmerian scores are like the after-images of a film score that are applied to the films like a drop 'n drag library for the sake of having more noise. 

 

I think we're in the dying days of the traditional film score, but I think there's some hope especially when I see in all corners of the internet, and in life, a fondness and nostalgia for composers like Williams that the spirit of the symphonic orchestral score will be revived in some way or form.

On one hand I completely subscribe to what you say. On the other hand from time to time you hear modern adventourous scores like the MCU scores for example where I think sometimes, Williams would have done a much better job here. Or look for example at the Harry Potter sequels. And look at the recent non-Star Wars scores of Williams. In these movies it doesn't sound old fashioned at all to me. Just... good.

Also when I listen to the (sorry to say) crappy kindergarden score for The Mandalorian. The canvas is often there, but ...

I also see a lot of prejudices and lame excuses here.

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I'm not sure that the problem is that much down to producers not wanting traditional orchestral music - there's still loads of it about. I think the anti-orchestral sense comes from a certain group of producers/directors who have decided they're the next Nolan, and want whatever Zimmer's next available clone is doing at the moment.

 

But I do think that what producers/directors want is immediate, high quality demos so they know exactly what they're getting long before the recording stage. As I believe we heard from Cuaron, JW simply can't do that - he'll play a few melodies on the piano and then see you at the recording stage weeks later.

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4 hours ago, Richard Penna said:

 

But I do think that what producers/directors want is immediate, high quality demos so they know exactly what they're getting long before the recording stage. As I believe we heard from Cuaron, JW simply can't do that - he'll play a few melodies on the piano and then see you at the recording stage weeks later.

 

That's true, but he could find a way around that limitation, if he really wanted. I mean, Williams works with orchestrators... who presumably know how to use computers. They could create the demos, while Williams continues working wih pencil and paper. 

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Howard Shore had those crude midi demos made before recording, it's not unreasonable to think some of Williams' stuff has been demoed too (didn't The Book Thief have demos IIRC?).

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Nowhere in the score fan universe will you find a more reactionary hive than JWFAN.

😎

" I don't want anything

      New.

Just the tried and true.

Don't you?"

     - anon

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In the whole music fan universe from pop over rock to classical music it is more or less the same. If you are a fan of the work of one particular artist, why would you not regret the dissapearence of his or her style and art tradition in the music business? If I like one particlar pop group for whatever reason, why do I need to be open to all the other pop groups and like what they do as well? Why can't I say, I don't like them because they don't fulfill the quality criteria that I set for my tast, that apply to my favourite artist and to most others not.

The reasons why I like one artist more than others shouldn't matter? I don't get what is reactionary about that.

I agree, for journalists of course apply other criteria. They have to be much more open and widely interested. They have to sell their soul to the Zeitgeist to a certain degree. But me as a normal fan, I can be just a fan.

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Why?!

Because a living art form evolves and changes.

If you don't accept that fact you will be disappointed.

Of course, you could always become an opera or symphony patron, and then you will NEVER have to listen to ANYTHING new.

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20210225_221555.jpgI find it odd that many fans here constantly complain that there's " nothing original" coming out of Hollywood; it's all" sequels and remakes".

But, when it comes to.music, you want the same thing over and over.

I'm not a big fan of most new stuff part of being a fan is exploring new music

 

2 minutes ago, Jurassic Shark said:

You're certainly a worn-out record, Bruce. ;)

You should hear some of the lps I've been spinning....pops and clicks and skips😞

My OUTLAW JOSEY WALES is practically unplayable. And there's no CD on the horizon.😥

On 2/27/2021 at 6:25 PM, TheUlyssesian said:

 

 

It also comes down to trash taste. Young film-makers raised on a diet of awful music library videos on youtube might think that is what "background music" is supposed to be. 

That's a load of crap!

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