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Is John Williams considered to be the best film music composer?


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I know that this topic have been beaten to death but anyways.

Honestly, I'm not very familiar with older scores, I mean earliest scores outside of the early Williams works like Jaws that I've listened were John Barry Bond scores.

 

And what about the later years, Williams is definitely unmatched. He have strong director-composer relationship with Spielberg, plus amount of the legendary themes that came from him is insane. He also was pretty good about the movie choices, and even his average score is still above all others.

I love every era of his action writing, since I'm blockbuster guy when it cames to the soundtracks. The way he handles leitmotifs is unmatched too, just look again on the SW, where every score feels like grand operatic event, this is especially true to the ROTS finale. When it cames to leitmotifs the only scores to match it IMO are LOTR and HTTYD trilogies. Schindler's List have played key role in my liking some softer scores, but this is still not my cup of tea a bit (this score is still brilliant and among the very best too) But like the movie itself, it is so heartbreaking that sometimes I'm really find hard to listen it in full. I've seen the movie only once, same reason.

 

Plus the fact that he scored so much franchise movies and established so many thematic material in them, I mean Jaws, Superman (Returns would be nothing and dull if it was everybody else except Ottman, he did so good, and I imagining sometimes about alternate universe, where Williams scored both Superman 2 Director's Cut and Returns), Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park, Home Alone, Harry Potter, damn.

 

Yeah, I know about Goldsmith and Horner, I like them, but Goldsmith scored pretty much not so big movies, Horner was much better in this case, but his self-plagiarism is kinda push away me a little. Fact here is that they did sometimes like a six movies in year and it all were pretty much meh. Horner in particular did 10 effing movies in 1993!

 

I also like Silvestri, but I know that some don't like him, since he never evolved in terms of sound, but his snare-ripping action writing wins me every day.

 

Elfman is my favourite too, but he has gone to mediocrity too quickly with some shiny moments, like Alice or Avengers 2. But Batman and Scissorhands are easily among very best of movie scores.

 

It's really sad that David Arnold pretty much dropped movie scoring, because honestly I prefer his Bond scores to the Barry's, I know this is some kind of controversy, but still. The Living Daylights is the blast, though, because Barry managed to very successfully revamp Bond sound and themes in that score are great, plus this sick beat over any action sequence.

 

Powell is clearly in the renaissance now, he clearly can made another one SW score and imagine if Gordy Haab will be scoring movies too, I know that he mostly emulate Williams, but still.

 

And I also like Ludwig Goransson but he done very little in comparison to others so we need to wait and see.

 

Brian Tyler also fine but he is more about combining RCP level of epicness with his much more melodic style.

 

They all have very fine works, but problem here that in the most cases with movie composers overall there is John Debney situation: maybe one (or very few) really great score (Cutthroat Island) and tons of mediocrity.

 

So am I wrong about JW? Maybe you can suggest some post-70's scores and composers that will change my opinion on this matter. But I doubt that there is another movie composer with the same quality level of Williams.

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15 minutes ago, Bespin said:

Where do we begin?

Any score from 20 century and earlier than 70's not by any composer above which will change my mind

Or it will be better if you suggest some composer with really strong set of works.

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6 minutes ago, Bespin said:

I was a long time John Williams fan, and since the last 5 years maybe, I started to discover other composers and to expand my score collection.

 

I started with the most obvious choices: John Barry, Danny Elfman, Eliott Goldenthal, Jerry Goldsmith, Bernard Herrmann, James Horner, James Newton Howard, Trevor Jones, Michael Kamen, Henry Mancini, Clint Mansell, Dario Mariannelli, Ennio Morricone, Thomas Newman, Rachel Portman, Nino Rota, Marc Shaiman, Howard Shore and Alan Silvestri.

 

But you know, I made the complete discography of just one movie composer...

 

And it was because it looked like a challenge to me... I had to understand the complexity of this discography, the impressive number of his collaborations with other artists or composers, the albums he recorded as a conductor too... I mean the career of this composer is just simply unbelievable...

 

Then, for me John Williams is not only responsible for the return of big hollywoodian romantic classical works in movies... but he's also the last of his kind. It's the Bach of our time. Like Bach, he digested all the music that came before him and then elevated it to a higher standard and never-heard-before mastery.

 

Yes, John Williams is the best film composer.

I completely agree with you. Original SW is kinda restarted movie music. And the fact that this man in his 90's and can write like 2 or 3 hours of original material is simply mindblowing. Hans Zimmer and his RCP hacks really can only dream about this.

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He's the Only Film Composer that has received the RPS Gold Medal, an award reserved for the serious classical musicians, composers, and conductors. 

 

He has conducted the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics. 

 

Heck, he's more than the greatest film composer ever. He's a great composer period. Of any medium. 

 

 

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12 hours ago, Sandor said:

I wrote this years ago:

 

I think history will remember John Williams as -by far- the greatest film music composer of all time.

 

Even if he wasn't, his most famous themes will endure and I think the best known composers are -for a larger public- so well known because of the familiarity with certain pieces. Like Mozart with Eine Kleine Nachtmuzik or Beethoven with Für Elise and his Fifth Symphony.

 

Of course Beethoven was much more than those works. But it is thát music that makes the first connection with new generations, even before they know his name or learn to speak for that matter. It's like an aural torch that passes from one generation to the next.

 

The six years olds in my school know Für Elise. They know the opening of the first movement from his Fifth Symphony. But when I ask them who composed those pieces they don't know. Then I tell them it's Beethoven and they all go: "I know that name! So that's Beethoven!". Perhaps some of them will discover his Missa Solemnis or his 3rd Symphony, but they heard his Fifth first, because it's so deeply imbedded in our culture. There is no way growing up and avoiding hearing 'Happy Birthday' or 'Silent Night' at one point. Everyone gets exposed to it and those melodies stick, at times much longer than the memory of the composers behind them.

 

The children at my school know nothing however about Shostakovich or Clara Schumann. Those composers will be discovered by a much smaller percentage of the next generations and I'm afraid that without that musical torch in a couple of hundred years they will be mostly forgotten, no matter how good and profound their work is.

 

I fear for Goldsmith as well. One of the greatest film score composers of all time will be remembered mostly in name, because Goldsmith doesn't have significant aural torches that will find recognition with the "common man" of the future. Our generation knows Rudy is a very good score, but the next generation will only read about it. They won't hear it; only if they go looking for it. Goldsmith doesn't have melodies and compositions (not yet anyway) that have become part of our cultural heritage, not even his Star Trek Theme which is universally known by our generation, but is not being transmitted to the next I'm afraid. Nothing that I could play in class will make the children go: "Oh, so that's Goldsmith!". I think for future generations composers like Jerry Goldsmith, Frans Waxman or Bernard Herrman -no matter how insanely good they were during their careers (don't get me wrong!)- will be discovered by film music enthusiasts and modern music analysists only. They will be read about a lot, more than they will be listened to.

 

And now John Williams…

 

This man has enough torches to ensure that people will remember him for generations to come! The six year olds in my school know the themes of Indiana Jones, Star Wars, The Imperial March, Harry Potter, Jaws, Superman, Jurassic Park, etc. Those themes have been integrated in our culture and are frequently used in theme parks, TV commercials, etc. People will hear his music, whether they like it or not. Williams is also very lucky that his music is attached to culturally iconic and important films and characters. Darth Vader, Superman, Indiana Jones and Harry Potter will be around much longer than Jack o' the Green or Rick O'Connell.

When Williams dies, people will become more and more aware of the amazing career he has had. That one man could be responsible for so many 'famous film tunes'. That one man could so successfully create the musical equivalent of iconic imagery like the characters of Darth Vader or Superman. He will become the hallmark for all film music and the ‘Michael Jackson’, ‘Beatles’ or ‘Elvis Presley’ of the genre, perhaps the only one. People will grow up and one way or another get in touch with the Star Wars Theme or The Raiders' March. People will continue to whistle the Superman March on the streets and the Jaws Theme will be hummed at every beach. And perhaps it's the interest in the originator of those melodies that will instill in some people a desire to discover Williams' Angela’s Ashes or JFK scores.

 

At least I hope so.

Can't even say anything about this. Simply so great that I have no words.

12 hours ago, jojoju2000 said:

He's the Only Film Composer that has received the RPS Gold Medal, an award reserved for the serious classical musicians, composers, and conductors. 

 

He has conducted the Vienna and Berlin Philharmonics. 

 

Heck, he's more than the greatest film composer ever. He's a great composer period. Of any medium. 

 

 

I'm pretty sure that you can find some purists which will say something like "ew he is a movie composer so it doesn't count" Dumb

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Hell, He's been honored by the Kennedy Center Honors, worked with Yo Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman, Anne Sophie Mutter, he has done music for the Olympics, President Barack Obama, Jessye Norman, Lang Lang, 

 

 

No other Film composer dead or alive maybe with the exception of Ennio Morricone ( Who himself was a master ). 

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With an objective point of view, Williams is clearly the best film composer ever for having raised on a upper level every movies he scored and written some of the most memorable themes of the history of cinema

WIth a subjective point of view, Williams is the best composer period.

 

 

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18 minutes ago, GerateWohl said:

For me the great thing about John Williams is, like @Jurassic Shark said it once, permanently something interesting is going on in the music. His film music is much more interesting musically than it needed to be for the movies.

 

That's a great quote! :up:

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JW is among the most bought, the most well-known, and most beloved of all composers who's ever lived - in any category.

Is he the greatest film composer?

No. Second greatest, maybe.

The accolade of "Greatest Film Composer Of All Time" belongs to Bernard Herrmann.

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2 hours ago, Naïve Old Fart said:

JW is among the most bought, the most well-known, and most beloved of all composers who's ever lived - in any category.

Is he the greatest film composer?

No. Second greatest, maybe.

The accolade of "Greatest Film Composer Of All Time" belongs to Bernard Herrmann.

Herrmann suffers from the same things as any other "old" composer: lack of works avaliable in digital, not that good sound quality and e.t.c.

And I think our good old Johnny Williams is easily beats him

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2 hours ago, GerateWohl said:

Let the brawl begin. 

What do you want me to say, dude?

"Oh, yeah, sure he is. I've been listening to his music for the last 46 years; I know he is. I cream my jeans every time I hear E.T."? Absolutely not! I have to be objective, about this. Time and time again, film composers reference their love for, and inspiration from, Herrmann. He's the template on which modern scoring is based. He is the The Beatles of film music, and that's what makes him the greatest. 

It doesn't change the fact that JW was, is, and always shall be, my favourite composer of any kind of music.

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12 minutes ago, Naïve Old Fart said:

What do you want me to say, dude?

"Oh, yeah, sure he is. I've been listening to his music for the last 46 years; I know he is. I cream my jeans every time I hear E.T."? Absolutely not! I have to be objective, about this. Time and time again, film composers reference their love for, and inspiration from, Herrmann. He's the template on which modern scoring is based. He is the The Beatles of film music, and that's what makes him the greatest. 

It doesn't change the fact that JW was, is, and always shall be, my favourite composer of any kind of music.

Maybe Herrmann was for film composers what Deep Thought was for computers. The second greatest ever which came before the greatest which then worked on formulating the one biggest question, that Herrmann already answered.

 

But anyway. I have no idea who is/was the greatest. As I said, I leave that to the experts. I could not even say, what makes a film composer the greatest. Level of invention? Commercial success? Ammount of Output? Individuality of style? Level of improvement on the films? Voting by film critics? Reputation in the classical music community?

I have no idea.

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1 hour ago, GerateWohl said:

I have no idea.

One word: influence.

 

 

1 hour ago, GerateWohl said:

Maybe Herrmann was for film composers what Deep Thought was for computers. The second greatest ever which came before the greatest which then worked on formulating the one biggest question, that Herrmann already answered.

You're going to get lynched, for this :lol:

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I don't really get what discussing whether JW is the greatest film music composer of all time (no), on a John Williams fan forum, achieves, apart from making everyone feel warm and fuzzy inside, and collectively pretend to hate Zimmer for a bit :P 

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10 hours ago, GerateWohl said:

For me the great thing about John Williams is, like @Jurassic Shark said it once, permanently something interesting is going on in the music. His film music is much more interesting musically than it needed to be for the movies.

 

That applies to most composers - the idea that the elements of praise mentioned in this thread only apply to Williams is just illogical nonsense. I've been listening to an audiobook score recently which blew me away with the detail it has given that it scores an audiobook.

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Well, here's what you wrote:

 

16 minutes ago, Richard Penna said:

 

That applies to most composers - the idea that the elements of praise mentioned in this thread only apply to Williams is just illogical nonsense. I've been listening to an audiobook score recently which blew me away with the detail it has given that it scores an audiobook.

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Ah I see what you mean. In this case it was merely the fact that it wasn't a film, TV or game score, but something far more obscure, that made me impressed by it.

 

But I'm talking more generally about the idea that only JW writes music that always has stuff 'going on'. That statement is very denigrating to other composers.

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9 hours ago, Richard Penna said:

But I'm talking more generally about the idea that only JW writes music that always has stuff 'going on'. That statement is very denigrating to other composers.

No. It isn't. If they would feel denigrated, I could only say, don't whine and write better music.

It is just a description about how I see it. And to be honest, your argument against it, that you are easily impressed emotionally by music of other composers (even obscure audio book scores) does not make me consider for the bit of a second that my point of view might be invalid.

I didn't say that there aren't other good composers. And there might be aspects of music that other people find more interesting that isn't really a main focus for Williams like sound colours, electronic beats whatever. But about what goes on in the music sheet there Williams is unbeaten. At least in my little world with my little pile up of knowledge about music. 

 

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I wonder what's with the more 'intellectual' film score enthusiasts that they will often leave out Williams in favor of Herrmann, Morricone, etc. ?

 

I have a suspicion that they see him as somehow less artistic and more a business man type of composer but I think that's very naive. 

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9 minutes ago, Remco said:

I wonder what's with the more 'intellectual' film score enthusiasts that they will often leave out Williams in favor of Herrmann, Morricone, etc. ?

 

They're probably feeling insecure about their own taste.

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1 hour ago, Remco said:

I wonder what's with the more 'intellectual' film score enthusiasts that they will often leave out Williams in favor of Herrmann, Morricone, etc. ?

Check their ages. It might be a conflict of generations, as witnessed in the erosion of Alex Ross' confidence of Herrmann's superiority that took place between the 1990s and 2020s.

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