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How many hours of music has John Williams written?


Ali Rahmjoo
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Do we have an estimation?

 

Considering his 112 scores for feature-length movies, his TV scores, concerti, and miscellaneous other pieces, my own estimate is somewhere around 200 hours.

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You wonder how long it would take you to listen to all the material JW recorded?

Estimated from my FLAC folder of John Williams which contains all of my CDs and LP rips... 

 

Almost 13 days.

 

So over 300 hours of music.

 

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Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Williams_discography

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It's very hard to figure out an exact number, without deciding on some parameters up front.

 

For example, if he writes a 4 minute cue, then later writes a 1 minute insert that replaces a 30 second section because the picture changed, has he written 5 minutes of music (the original 4 minute cue and the 1 minute insert), or 8 1/2 minutes (the original 4 minute version and the new 4 1/2 minute version).

 

When talking about writing, you'd probably want to say 5 minutes, because that's what he wrote.  But your audio files would contain 8 1/2 minutes, the 4 1/2 minute version in the main program and the 4 minute original version in the bonus tracks.  So you can't use lengths on assembled albums to tell you how much he wrote.

 

With many of his newer scores that have never had a sheet music or recording session leak, it can be impossible to know what's an insert, what's a revision, what was the original, how much got replaced, etc.  For many scores new or old, there could be music he wrote and recorded that was not on the OST album or in the film, so we have no idea about it or how long it might be.

 

And beyond that, there's the subject of overlays.  If he writes a 4 minute cue, and then later the director asks if he can add a chorus to it, so he writes 1 minute of chorus that gets mixed into the original audio file, has he written 4 minutes of music, or has he written 5 minutes of music?  Probably 5, but if the film and all CD editions have the chorus mixed over and we've never had access to the original version that didn't have chorus, how would we even know that the chorus was a later idea and not part of the original composition?

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Also, what about measures that simply direct the orchestrator or copyist to duplicate material from another measure/cue/score?

 

Consider, too, that not everything he's written has been recorded. We're talking unrecorded early versions of cues, yes, but also music he wrote simply for the sake of writing. He's mentioned in interviews his practice of writing music even between projects.

 

With all that in mind, my estimation is...a lot.

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Right, like does that final bit of the Azkaban end credits (on the LLL album) increase his amount of minutes of music written?  Or is it considered a pure re-recording of a HP1 composition so doesn't increase the total?

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My personal C&C catalogue (with a single version of each cue, and including only official releases) is currently about 110 hours. Bonus tracks (again, only from official releases) total about 17-18 hours of additional material (avoiding exact duplicates on expanded reissues), but I have no idea how much of these are major/minor alternates or completely recomposed cues. So, at most, about 130 hours of officially released music. How much more music could be released on future expansions? Who knows? But looking at the shrinking list of non-expanded scores, definitely not another 100 hours!

 

Meanwhile, if you count only one version of each of his original concert works (excluding the many film score arrangements and suites), there's about 12-13 hours (including 6 hours of concertos). Sure, he reworked many of them multiple times, but the Cello concerto remains the Cello concerto no matter how many times JW revises it!

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Thanks for the replies.

I was wondering how prolific JW is compared to the other great composers of the past.

Let's put it this way: how many CDs would it take to construct a (hypothetical) John Williams: Complete Edition box set? By comparing the number of CDs included in similar box sets for other composers and taking into account the number of each one's active years, it'd be possible, I believe, to produce a rough productivity metric.

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