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Eddie Karam on Williams


Skelly
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7 hours ago, Skelly said:

"You know, by the way, while I have you on the phone, I just got signed to do three 'Harry Potters', and I'd like you to come and join me to help me with with those."

 

I didn't know he signed for three pictures at once. I guess that made it easier to "get rid of him" for the fourth installment.

 

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7 hours ago, Skelly said:

we worked up to a point where I couldn't write anymore because he had ruined my hand.

 

Then he got fired and wasn't able to work ever again?

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2 hours ago, Jurassic Shark said:

I didn't know he signed for three pictures at once. I guess that made it easier to "get rid of him" for the fourth installment.

 

I didn't take that part literally; I thought Karam was just emphasizing how suddenly he earned Williams's trust on big projects. But you could be right; JW might have been attached to all three from the start.

 

1 hour ago, Jurassic Shark said:

Then he got fired and wasn't able to work ever again?

 

Karam's last movie with Williams was in 2011; he was 82 at the time. He was no doubt ready to retire then! Since then, Williams has just sent his sketches straight to the copyists.

I know he sounds sardonic up in the OP, but Karam made it clear in other parts that despite the crazy expectations and demands, working with the best in Hollywood has been a great experience.

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Wait, so Horner didn't actually scored the movies, he'd just write a few themes and then his orchestrators would do all the work of actually putting music to score scenes of the movie?

 

Geez, it's so sad to know that. It's like discovering your favorite super-hero faked all his battles. It's truly depressing to know that all that wonderful score that elevated the movie wasn't actually done by Horner, but rather by some guy who doesn't even have photos on the internet.

 

It sounds like the easiest job in the world, just giving blank pages and a few notes to the orchestrators and then let them do all the work. "Well, it's a sad scene so I want some sad piano and strings and maybe a dark performance of the hero's theme. Now, if you need me I'm gonna be in my bedroom relaxing and smoking some weed."

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Man, I didn't realize there was that level of ghostwriting in some of Horner's projects. I'm guessing he still did a fair amount of his own writing over the years; the scores he's credited for certainly have a distinct sound.

 

Regardless...yeah, it's always an interesting feeling when you find out that something was ghostwritten.

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Woah, slow down, guys! Are people still quick to call Horner a hack after all these decades? The movie Karam was probably talking about is "Troy", which Horner had only a few weeks to do from start to finish (Karam got orchestration credit). That's a very good reason to hire ghostwriters.

 

What Karam seems to be miffed about is that this wasn't a crappy movie-of-the-week he was ghosting on, but a real Hollywood picture with an A-list composer. On a project of that caliber he probably would have liked some real cue sheet credit.

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Look, Hollywood schedules can be crazy and they only have gotten crazier since the mid 90's. At the end of the day, it's a gig, and you gotta do what you gotta do to reach that deadline, with all the rewrites, meetings and such...

 

Morricone and Williams have, since a certain point in their carreer, been able to work as they pleased on the projects they pleased. The schedules on the SW sequel trilogy, as crazy and hectic as they were, were quite luxurious. I don't think any other current composer would have been able to get a deal like that and would have definetly have had to resort to some level of ghost-writing. 

 

Besides, this Horner info isn't anything new. We've known for years that he employed ghost-writers! I thought it was quite a well-known fact that Don Davis ghost wrote some material for We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story. (he also ghost-wrote, apparently, some material for Newman's Toy Story 3).

I think Horner sometimes handed cues he didn't care about to his orchestrators, because he didn't feel like it or to focus in the material he considered more substantial. 

 

From a moral standpoint, sure, the proper people should have credit. Wheter you consider it for better or worse, you gotta thank Zimmer for getting the "additional music by" credit on the screen to the people who worked on the gig. Until he started doing it, it was practically unheard of. 

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8 hours ago, Skelly said:

Karam's last movie with Williams was in 2011; he was 82 at the time. He was no doubt ready to retire then! Since then, Williams has just sent his sketches straight to the copyists.

 

Oh, I thought he was a young person when he mentioned working for JW getting in the way for his own career.

 

8 hours ago, Skelly said:

Since then, Williams has just sent his sketches straight to the copyists.

 

Pope is still available, isn't he?

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5 hours ago, Jurassic Shark said:

Pope is still available, isn't he?

 

Yeah; these days he works a lot with Alexandre Desplat -- and Junkie XL, of all people. But Williams's orchestrations have gotten so lean in the past decade that he doesn't really need to send it to a middleman before the copyists get it.

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8 hours ago, Skelly said:

 

Yeah; these days he works a lot with Alexandre Desplat -- and Junkie XL, of all people. But Williams's orchestrations have gotten so lean in the past decade that he doesn't really need to send it to a middleman before the copyists get it.


It’s a matter of the technology being improved since then, nothing to do with Williams’ orchestrations themselves.

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As I understood it, Finale is easier to use for full scores nowadays compared to earlier versions.


Btw, does someone know when, at jkms for instance, they moved from handwritten parts to using music notation software? Somewhere in the 90s?

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I get the impression Williams was just cutting out the middleman. That's not at all to diminish the swift and beautiful work of his orchestrators over the years; it's just that he had built up enough trust with Mark Graham and his team at JKMS to let them take on that piece, too. (Mark said in an interview for Finale's website that he'd been at all JW's sessions since 1998.) Before the switch, Williams had already been tending toward an even greater level of detail in his sketches than in previous decades, further reducing the amount of actual orchestration necessary.

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1 hour ago, Remco said:

As I understood it, Finale is easier to use for full scores nowadays compared to earlier versions.

 

They should have used Sibelius then.

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1 hour ago, Remco said:

Btw, does someone know when, at jkms for instance, they moved from handwritten parts to using music notation software? Somewhere in the 90s?


I’m not sure exactly when the shift occurred, but Home Alone had handwritten individual parts (the original parts are actually reused for the LTP) and The Phantom Menace had parts (but not full scores, with the sole exception of Anakin’s Theme) done on computers.

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On 17/10/2021 at 7:40 AM, Jurassic Shark said:

Pope is still available, isn't he?

 

Conrad orchestrated for JW until 2011 (I think Tintin was the very last he did for him). War Horse was all Eddie, and starting with Lincoln, JW turned sketches directly to Mark Graham and his team, as others said above. I think JW got Bill Ross on board to help out on the Disney Star Wars films, though.

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Don Davis probably ghostwrote a few cues for Horner as well. There's a cue in Balto where you can hear something similar to Buzz Lightyear's theme, and the first Toy Story, which Davis also orchestrated, would come out a few months later.

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5 hours ago, karelm said:

 

In the 1990's, you didn't have embedded parts.  So you had to create a full score that the conductor, composer, and engineers would use and a score for parts only that would be used to create the parts.  Now the full score used by the conductor can be used to extract the parts, you still have to do some manipulation but you don't need multiple versions which can get out of sync due to late edits...a real disaster in scoring sessions.  Imagine a player playing something in bar 41 but the conductor's score has that removed or given at a different spot, those types of errors are extremely costly and embarrassing as the music prep has to determine which is the right one and maybe look through versions to determine.  Additionally, old versions of Finale had a fatal flaw that they did not export to other versions which meant you had to get a new version each time they released a new version (yearly).  Otherwise Finale 2006 wouldn't be able to load or save Finale 2004 so you had to have both.  Over the years, this became a real mess and it was mind boggling why they did that other than they had little competition and could force an upgrade on their customers.  The benefit of Finale in the pro music prep shops came in keyboard shortcuts that could be tied into complex macros.  They would produce shareable shortcuts that everyone on the team would have access to such as page formatting, the amount of white space around a staff, fixing collisions with words and notes, etc.  All these things were painstaking and still time consuming but now are much faster to do.  The other huge time saver comes with editability.  If you produce a score on paper, it's impossible to "insert a measure" in the middle.  And sometimes you get these requests - very common in the composition phase but always happen late in complex scores too.  Now, there is more competition with Sibelius and Dorico that are faster and easier but don't have the richness of keystroke commands that Finale has.  

 

Thank gosh Finale has been backward compatible since version 2014.

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6 hours ago, Edmilson said:

Don Davis probably ghostwrote a few cues for Horner as well. There's a cue in Balto where you can hear something similar to Buzz Lightyear's theme, and the first Toy Story, which Davis also orchestrated, would come out a few months later.

 

Am I on your ignore list or what?!

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3 hours ago, Jurassic Shark said:

I don't understand why people stick with such antiquated software.

 

For me, Finale still gets the job done quicker and with more flexibility and advanced features than, say, Sibelius. (Haven't really tried Dorico yet, as intriguing as it looks.) Honestly, Finale feels like a PC mindset where Sibelius feels like a Mac. Either one can handle most things you could throw at it, but Finale feels a lot more natural to me (just like PCs do). Another person might be exactly the opposite way. But I wouldn't describe either as antiquated.

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4 hours ago, Muad'Dib said:

Am I on your ignore list or what?!

Sorry about that. Much like Dany from GoT, I kinda forgot about your post :mellow:

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4 hours ago, ocelot said:

That movie was Troy. They had around a week after Gabriel Yared was kicked off to score it and there wasn't any time for him to write all of it. It was mostly written by orchestrators including Conrad. He would just give them cues and he said to Conrad "write Horner".... And when Conrad said do you want to give me a theme or some cues to go by, he just allegedly replied, "No, you know what Horner sounds like" lol

 

 

Danger motif!

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Oh crap, I love the score for Troy, so to know that it was mostly ghost-written is  depressing AF.

 

I should stop entering this thread because every time I do I lose part of my will to live. 

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1 hour ago, Edmilson said:

Oh crap, I love the score for Troy, so to know that it was mostly ghost-written is  depressing AF.

 

I should stop entering this thread because every time I do I lose part of my will to live. 

Paging Milli Vanili.  

 

That being said, you know the music sounds the same whether Horner or ghost-writers wrote it.  

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On 16/10/2021 at 7:12 PM, Edmilson said:

Wait, so Horner didn't actually scored the movies, he'd just write a few themes and then his orchestrators would do all the work of actually putting music to score scenes of the movie?

 

Geez, it's so sad to know that. It's like discovering your favorite super-hero faked all his battles. It's truly depressing to know that all that wonderful score that elevated the movie wasn't actually done by Horner, but rather by some guy who doesn't even have photos on the internet.

 

It sounds like the easiest job in the world, just giving blank pages and a few notes to the orchestrators and then let them do all the work. "Well, it's a sad scene so I want some sad piano and strings and maybe a dark performance of the hero's theme. Now, if you need me I'm gonna be in my bedroom relaxing and smoking some weed."

We’re only hearing this out of one person. Why not wait until other people in the industry corroborate with Karam’s statement. Knocking a pedestal out of James Horner is hard work for an 80+ year old man to do by himself.

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10 hours ago, karelm said:

You shouldn't worry about it too much.  There is no doubt that Horner was a very skilled and talented composer.  There is also the reality of film scoring as a business.  Sometimes these collide.  It's not really that big a deal.  Think of it like any one of his great scores would probably sound different, perhaps even better, if he had no time constraints.  Because composers sometimes have awful deadlines, corners are cut.  It's not ideal, it's the reality of working in a business.  To think otherwise is to over-romanticize the business of film scoring.   


Of course you’re totally right but at the same time I value so much that with JW I can be sure that he is solely responsible for everything I hear, well, for about 99%. I suppose he’d just turn down the offer if he couldn’t do it in a week.

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The mostly written by orchestrators suggestion puts Horner's comment on Schweiger's podcast of accepting it to "see how much music I could write" in a somewhat different light. You'd never get the impression from that interview that anyone but him wrote it.

 

Ultimately if I like the music, it's not really relevant who actually wrote it. In fact, if you discover a ghostwriter, it opens up another composer to listen to, and that's only a good thing.

 

I'd assume a similar thing happened with Beltrami on I, Robot as he had a similarly insane deadline.

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My favorite James Newton Howard score (King Kong) has gotta be some very high percentage "ghost written" given the time constraints.  Of course JNH allowed at least Neely and Bacon to have the 'additional music by' credit, which Horner was not willing to do.  I can't help wondering how much more of King Kong was written by the people credited as just orchestrators though (like Conrad Pope)

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4 minutes ago, Disco Stu said:

My favorite James Newton Howard score (King Kong) has gotta be some very high percentage "ghost written" given the time constraints. 

 

Perhaps that's the reason it's your favourite...

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41 minutes ago, Disco Stu said:

My favorite James Newton Howard score (King Kong) has gotta be some very high percentage "ghost written" given the time constraints.  Of course JNH allowed at least Neely and Bacon to have the 'additional music by' credit, which Horner was not willing to do.  I can't help wondering how much more of King Kong was written by the people credited as just orchestrators though (like Conrad Pope)

 

IIRC the sheet music leak has the composer of each individual cue noted on top

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3 hours ago, Remco said:


Of course you’re totally right but at the same time I value so much that with JW I can be sure that he is solely responsible for everything I hear, well, for about 99%. I suppose he’d just turn down the offer if he couldn’t do it in a week.

 

You can also think of it as JW's level of detail is overkill hence, no real need for an orchestrator, you can just send it to the copyist.  He does have the luxury of dictating the schedule and that's just not how everyone works.  You don't see JW doing 7 films in one year like Goldsmith sometimes did or maybe not accepting a two week gig to deliver 3 hours of score.   I don't think anyone who worked with Horner, even as ghostwriter,  thought he couldn't do it, just that the pressures of the situation made it unfeasible.  It is also a slippery slope, especially with teams that have worked together for years and pro level talent like we're talking about here.  Sometimes the orchestrator suggests something beyond what is in the sketch and the composer might like it.  Then another cue, they'll do short hand and ask for "more flushing out".  Sometimes they'll simply get director's notes and have to do it and the composer will review it (eg: make it more intense).  Sometimes you get just a melody and chord symbols and will be told "make this huge".  From there, it's not a stretch to "make a variation of my theme that's more intense" and now you're sort of in the ghostwriting area but it's quite gray.  It's not unheard of for a ghost to hire a ghost too!

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On 17/10/2021 at 1:12 AM, Edmilson said:

Wait, so Horner didn't actually scored the movies, he'd just write a few themes and then his orchestrators would do all the work of actually putting music to score scenes of the movie?

 

And even with that he manages to copy his previous themes! hahaha

 

As far as I know, many composers work like that nowadays. They hire co-composers to do more than separate the music between the different instruments.

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