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Which are the last 2 John Williams scores that you personally consider to be "masterpieces"?


Josh500
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Tough choice, but I'd say... 

 

2004: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

2005: Memoirs of a Geisha 

 

There are some real highlights that came thereafter (War Horse, The Adventures of Tintin, The Force Awakens), but I wouldn't exactly call them masterpieces.

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So you want us to think of all the scores he's written that we personally consider masterpieces, but then only list the two that were most recently released?

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A.I. and AZKABAN for me. The only two post-millennium scores of his I would use the 'masterpiece' tag on, even if I love pretty much everything he did up untill 2005.

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2 minutes ago, Jay said:

So you want us to think of all the scores he's written that we personally consider masterpieces, but then only list the two that were most recently released?

 

Maybe you didn't understand the question? 

 

 

2 minutes ago, Thor said:

A.I. and AZKABAN for me. The only two post-millennium scores of his I would use the 'masterpiece' tag on, even if I love pretty much everything he did up untill 2005.

 

Yes. That's actually what came to my mind first... but then I relented and included Memoirs in my list of masterpieces too. I mean this score is just so underrated (unlike the movie, which wasn't bad at all but nothing outstanding)! 

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27 minutes ago, Josh500 said:

Maybe you didn't understand the question? 

 

Exactly right, yes, which is why I asked for clarification

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19 minutes ago, Aenae said:

Nixon was the most recent Williams score that I really liked. 

 

I like Nixon, don't get me wrong. But I wouldn't exactly consider it to be outstanding among all of John Williams's works in any way. What makes it so special for you? 

 

19 minutes ago, Jay said:

 

Exactly right, yes, which is why I asked for clarification

 

Well, you don't have to think of all the JW scores (we all know E.T., Jaws, Star Wars, and Raiders of the Lost Ark are masterpieces!), but only his most recent works. Think back, so to speak. And name the 2 scores that you personally consider masterpieces.... 

 

 

13 minutes ago, MrJosh said:

A.I. and Harry Potter 1. 2001, what a magical year it was. 

 

Indeed! 

 

The only year even more magical was arguably 1993.... :)

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7 minutes ago, Josh500 said:

The only year even more magical was arguably 1993.... :)

1977, 2002 and 2005 were pretty great years for Williams as well.

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45 minutes ago, Josh500 said:

I like Nixon, don't get me wrong. But I wouldn't exactly consider it to be outstanding among all of John Williams's works in any way. What makes it so special for you? 

For me Nixon might even be Williams's best ever work as a whole. Close Encounters is the only other challenger I can think of. But I tend to not like the first half of the CE3K score that much, only the second half of the score is really good and where things start going. 

 

I think I favor Nixon as a totality as a soundtrack. CE3K has the highest peaks of any Williams score in its best few cues, there is no doubt about that, but as an whole score album from start to finish, I gravitate toward Nixon more.

 

For me, most of Williams's other scores tend to be flawed in some major way, which makes me appreaciate them less (which is also why I don't consider any of his works to be a masterpiece; a masterpiece for me must be something truly special and legendary).

 

Nixon as a whole just works and I can't think of any obvious big flaws that it has, unlike most of Williams's other scores, I have also always liked its darkness too, that it eschews his usual brassy, extroverted pomp for a more subdued approach - many other JW scores are way too optimistic for my taste. Nixon was also more progressive than many other JW scores too and as I said, it didn't have any big flaws in it that i'm able to detect at least. I enjoy Nixon as a whole, whereas CE3K I for most part only revisit my favorite few cues.

 

So I really like Nixon and will continue to regard it as JW's most underrated score.

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What does constitute a masterpiece? Is it what I enjoy the most or perhaps what is objectively the most significant work? I always assumed that in order for something to be labelled as "masterpiece" you need an element of surprise and experimentation that sets it aside from the usual, however well crafted, output. From that perspective, the last time Williams has really pushed himself artistically would be around 2005. Everything after that is just very enjoyable and well-crafted extension of his existing style and tropes. 

 

So I'd say probably A.I. and Geisha. Azkaban too although it doesn't feel as cohesive. 

 

Karol

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13 hours ago, crocodile said:

What does constitute a masterpiece? Is it what I enjoy the most or perhaps what is objectively the most significant work? I always assumed that in order for something to be labelled as "masterpiece" you need an element of surprise and experimentation that sets it aside from the usual, however well crafted, output. 

 

That's why I intentionally included the word "personally" in my original question. Everybody has their own definition of "masterpiece." Whatever you consider it to be, it is - for you personally! 

 

13 hours ago, Aenae said:

For me Nixon might even be Williams's best ever work as a whole. Close Encounters is the only other challenger I can think of. But I tend to not like the first half of the CE3K score that much, only the second half of the score is really good and where things start going. 

 

I think I favor Nixon as a totality as a soundtrack. CE3K has the highest peaks of any Williams score in its best few cues, there is no doubt about that, but as an whole score album from start to finish, I gravitate toward Nixon more.

 

For me, most of Williams's other scores tend to be flawed in some major way, which makes me appreaciate them less (which is also why I don't consider any of his works to be a masterpiece; a masterpiece for me must be something truly special and legendary).

 

Nixon as a whole just works and I can't think of any obvious big flaws that it has, unlike most of Williams's other scores, I have also always liked its darkness too, that is eschews his usual brassy, extroverted pomp for a more subdued approach - many other JW scores are way too optimistic for my taste. Nixon was also more progressive than many other JW scores too and as I said, it didn't have any big flaws in it that i'm able to detect at least. I enjoy Nixon as a whole, whereas CE3K I for most part only revisit my favorite few cues.

 

So I really like Nixon and will continue to regard it as JW's most underrated score.

 

I couldn't disagree with you more when you say most of Williams's scores are flawed in some major way, but you have an interesting view on Nixon. It's not my all-time favourite score, but it sure is an interesting, eccentric, somewhat disturbingly haunting one! In that way, I guess it can be considered special. 

 

 

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Star Wars 8 and 9

 

11 minutes ago, crocodile said:

II always assumed that in order for something to be labelled as "masterpiece" you need an element of surprise and experimentation that sets it aside from the usual, however well crafted, output.

 

Then you would not consider the violin concertos by Beethoven or Brahms as masterpieces? The last 3 string quartets by Mozart? Bruckners 7th Symphony? Bartoks concerto for orchestra? etc. etc. They are absolutely great, but I do not find very much surprise or experimentation in them, compared to earlier works. Just pure musical genius. 

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It's an interesting thing. Because I always associated the word "masterpiece" with status. Something prestigious and perceived as superior, rightly or not. That is why "personal masterpiece" doesn't really work for me as it strips the word off its weight meaning. People seem to label masterpieces virtually everything they like and that doesn't seem to say much. Or perhaps it is just me. 

 

In other words it's about rarity. And, yeah, snobbery. 

 

Karol

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I do think the scores I listed are masterful.  War Horse too for that matter.

I don't think a masterpiece has to be shocking or out of the ordinary or breaking new ground.  Beethoven's late quartets are masterpieces for that reason.  Bach's Mass in B Minor is not.  But it is still a masterpiece, a culmination, Bach showing off his powers in a titanic way, powers he showed off plenty of times before.

 

I do understand, however, the urge to use the word masterpiece to denote something truly spectacular.  The passage of time and the collected opinion of others is often needed to discern this.  Even then, there is dispute.  Some folks even find Beethoven's 9th not worthy of masterpiece status.

 

I think CE3K, ET, Schindler's List and probably Star Wars are pretty universal JW masterpieces.

After that, it is subjective.  I'd add TESB (which I find superior to SW), Empire of the Sun, A.I., Lincoln and maybe Jane Eyre right off the bat.  

Also, I'd still maintain The Book Thief is a masterpiece, but I understand that's not quite a universal opinion.  

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Potter 1 and War Horse.

 

The first Potter has an atmosphere, thematic richness and technical feel that the others just can't match.

 

War Horse isn't a score I listen to these days, but again, its thematic richness and orchestration sets it towering above most of his other scores.

 

I think in both cases that JW was particularly inspired by the films - in Potter's case it was a fresh concept, and we know he loves English music and would've found WH quite something as a canvas.

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4 hours ago, Aenae said:

To be honest, I don't consider any of his scores to be a masterpiece. I think there are only a few dozen masterpiece scores in film music history.

 

This is an interesting statement because a few dozen would seem like a small number but it is kind of a lot when it excludes John Williams entirely. 

 

I agree with croc that I always have trouble with the masterpiece thing because it feels like a very academic exercise. I also think that masterpieces can be flawed, which feels like it should be an oxymoron but I don't think anything is beyond intelligent criticism and it's usually when something seems to transcend its perceived weaknesses that it becomes an acknowledged masterpiece. I believe there is an element of consensus to the term at its most valuable. 

 

I think for myself, Azkaban and War Horse are the last two that really hit a special sweet spot where they just have an abundance of riches and the kind of variety, overt emotionality and lyricism, the way certain cues build drama, things I love to hear most in a John Williams score. 

 

However for some reason I have the sense that Memoirs of a Geisha and Star Wars: The Force Awakens are perhaps the most recent two that will overall be considered "essential" in his canon. I mean this just gets into a whole other area of film score vs OST vs C&C vs etc etc etc but the Suite From The Force Awakens in particular kind of feels to me like the most recent "piece" that strongly represents John Williams is a "master." I guess that's the argument I would go with.

 

There's a lot to pick apart in TFA, honestly, but the suite is just like a little jewel of its own that he carved out and presented, something I feel like I can admire and be like, hey, wow, a real master made that one. I've enjoyed what he's done since, just as a fan, but I suppose that suite is my current standard for his late mastery, if that makes sense. It's different than declaring something perfect or quintessential and rather just showing my highest respect to an example of someone's great craft and artistry, since I consider it self-evident that John Williams is a master pretty much throughout all his work, whether or not he's making masterpieces. 

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JW has 11 scores on the AFI 250 best scores list.

 

Star Wars

Superman

E.T.

Jaws

CE3K

The Cowboys 

Raiders of the lost ark

Schindler's List

Witches of Eastwick

Harry Potter 1

A.I.

 

On their "25" best scores list, JW is the most represented composer, with these three:

 

Star Wars (#1)

Jaws (#6)

E.T. (#14)

 

As a proud X, my personal one is E.T. of course, followed by Star Wars.

 

Now, the two latest masterpieces...

 

HPSS and The Force Awakens.

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13 hours ago, crocodile said:

It's an interesting thing. Because I always associated the word "masterpiece" with status. Something prestigious and perceived as superior, rightly or not. That is why "personal masterpiece" doesn't really work for me as it strips the word off its weight meaning. People seem to label masterpieces virtually everything they like and that doesn't seem to say much. Or perhaps it is just me. 

 

You're contradicting yourself in this single pararaph. You're telling us that you have always associated "masterpiece" with status, something prestigious, etc. - but that's your personal opinion. That's not the official definition of the word "masterpiece." 

 

Anyway, I might consider The Phantom Menace to be a masterpiece (I actually do), while you might not. Does that make it a masterpiece, then? For me, yes, for others, no. In the end, what it boils down to is that it's all about personal taste and opinion. Oh, and the word "masterpiece" here can be considered a synonym for "what I consider to be outstandingly great, superb, and magnificent"! 

 

10 hours ago, Bespin said:

JW has 11 scores on the AFI 250 best scores list.

 

Star Wars

Superman

E.T.

Jaws

CE3K

The Cowboys 

Raiders of the lost ark

Schindler's List

Witches of Eastwick

Harry Potter 1

A.I.

 

The Cowboys and The Witches of Eastwick

 

I wonder why these 2 were included. 

 

13 hours ago, SteveMc said:

  Also, I'd still maintain The Book Thief is a masterpiece, but I understand that's not quite a universal opinion.  

 

What makes this one of all John Williams scores so special for you? I like it, but I haven't delved very deeply into it yet, I'm afraid. I like the opening (the fluttering piano piece), a few incidental cues in between ("Max Lives"!), and the touching, emotional piano piece that plays toward the end... But that's pretty much it. 

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19 hours ago, Thor said:

A.I. and AZKABAN for me. The only two post-millennium scores of his I would use the 'masterpiece' tag on, even if I love pretty much everything he did up untill 2005.

Yep, those two for me, too. If I didn't try to apply that term only for what I consider the very very best, it could be Munich and War Horse maybe.

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21 minutes ago, Brundlefly said:

Yep, those two for me, too.

 

Wow. Between this and your comment that ALIEN 'cannot be overrated' in the other thread, we've agreed TWICE in one day. That's a pretty good track record right there. ;)

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A lot of overthinking in this thread :)

 

But I view 'masterpiece' in this context to be scores that, taken within JW's body of work, strike individuals as particularly inspired, opening up debate as to why person A thinks Score A is a masterpiece, but person B doesn't.

 

Of course, a more casual JW fan like myself will be harder to please, hence why I felt that nothing he's done since 2011 strikes me as a masterpiece.

 

More dedicated fans will find more to like, although I think it's easy to fall ino the 'trap' of well of course he's John Williams, so basically his last score was a masterpiece.

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5 hours ago, Josh500 said:

 

The Cowboys and The Witches of Eastwick?

 

Their list stops in 2005 (that's why I created all my recent polls... to try to have a hint about what would have been the AFI list, including post-2005 scores!) :P

 

Then The Witches of Eastwick is REALLY an underrated score, loved by many people in the business. I don't remember exactly who, but a well known composer already publicly said it's his favourite John Williams score ever.

 

The Cowboys, because it's an early example of a full romantic score of style Americana, a true achievement for the Meastro in 1972! Again, totally underrated.

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3 hours ago, Thor said:

Wow. Between this and your comment that ALIEN 'cannot be overrated' in the other thread, we've agreed TWICE in one day. That's a pretty good track record right there. ;)

As long as we keep talking about Alien, Jurassic Park, Chinatown etc. and don't start talking about Prometheus, Titanic, L.A. Confidential etc. ;)

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55 minutes ago, Will said:

I think virtually all his scores are masterpieces, so... :lol:

And thats a real problem. When that attitude takes hold it makes masterpiece mesningless.

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1 hour ago, JoeinAR said:

And thats a real problem. When that attitude takes hold it makes masterpiece mesningless.

It depends if the criteria are relative to the person's own works, to others, and/or some principles of the craft itself.  Now, not all of Williams's works are masterpieces, but based on the latter two criteria, I would say an usually high number are.  

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11 hours ago, Josh500 said:

What makes this one of all John Williams scores so special for you? I like it, but I haven't delved very deeply into it yet, I'm afraid. I like the opening (the fluttering piano piece), a few incidental cues in between ("Max Lives"!), and the touching, emotional piano piece that plays toward the end... But that's pretty much it. 

Part of it might be that, when I first got into JW in 2014, it was his newest score.  So, my appreciation might be tinged with that subjective background.

 

But, objectively, I think that is is a wonderful chamber score, each cue having this quiet emotion and sadness.  They feel like little musical jewels.  For a composer known for bombast and broad strokes, it vividly shows how subtle his voice really is.  It also is a fantastic example of JWs leitmotif approach.      

The harmonic language also impresses me.   I listened to a lot of classical in my teens, so a lot of my takes on film scoring is rooted in that, and The Book Thief really fits into those sensibilities.  

 

 

 

 

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3 hours ago, JoeinAR said:

And thats a real problem. When that attitude takes hold it makes masterpiece mesningless.

 

Not really - my list of masterpieces actually isn't all that long! (particularly as to recent scores) It's just that most of my list is JW scores. 

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3 hours ago, JoeinAR said:

And thats a real problem. When that attitude takes hold it makes masterpiece mesningless.

HM. Maybe the term "masterpiece" is particularly overrated. I would say, John Williams is a master of his craft and hardly any other living and active fulfills such high standards with each of his recent scores. Therefore, I would subscribe that each of his works from the past 30 years is a masterpiece, which just means for me a work fulfilling highest standards of film music composition. 

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John Williams is a God among men but not everything is gold. He always produces hi level I music as a craft but not everything rises to the level of art. 

 

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17 minutes ago, JoeinAR said:

... but not everything rises to the level of art. 

 

Why not? If you consider all those people around us calling themselves artists claiming that all their creative output is some kind of art, how could you think, that any of the music written by John Williams is not art? What's art music then, contemporary art music, and why is Williams' music not art? 

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Art is subjective. I personnaly don't think that I'm able to decide what is art and what is not so I'll say that everything is art as long as the people who makes it decide to call it this way and then I'll see if I like it or not.

Art isn't always good I think

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