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What do you consider to be Williams “darkest” score?


WampaRat
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Listening to the LLL A.I. Score recently and thought, “Man. There is some pretty gloomy, bleak, and unsettling music in this one.” The whole score
(Like the film) leaves me feeling quite melancholy. While it’s a fantastic score with moments of awe and tenderness, I personally find it to be one of Williams darkest scores. 
 

What do you consider to be JWs darkest score (not just cue!) *overall? Is it the overt evil of Temple of Doom? The horrific real world tragedy of Schindler’s list? The constant anxiety of War of the Worlds? The slowburn madness of Presumed Innocent? Sleepers? Munich?


I’ll leave the definition of “dark” up to you;)

 

 

*I realize  what makes Williams a great composer is that he never scores a film with just one “color.” There are cues of beauty within a primarily dark score. 

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Minority Report and especially War of the World.

 

And yes Munich.

 

I don't listen to them very often because they really give me anxiety.

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IMAGES....although perhaps more 'unsettling' than 'dark'.

 

SLEEPERS is one of the darkest Williams scores, and definitely contains some of the darkest "real life" scenes he's scored. But there are plenty of other candidates -- MUNICH, ROSEWOOD, SCHINDLER'S LIST, the Oliver Stones.

 

And although a rather different animal, there's a different kind of 'dark' he does well in more fantastical settings, be it CLOSE ENCOUNTERS (the abduction scene), the INDYs and STAR WARSes, even HARRY POTTER (that Dementor cue) etc.

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War of the Worlds is probably the more anxious score he composed, closely followed by Minority Report and A.I. but I personnaly find that Revenge of the Sith is the darker score he wrote.

It has brutal, vicious and stressful moments like none of the other, switching from one to another a disturbing ease

 

Images is on the other hand the most disturbing score without a doubt

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1 hour ago, Thor said:

IMAGES....although perhaps more 'unsettling' than 'dark'.

 

SLEEPERS is one of the darkest Williams scores, and definitely contains some of the darkest "real life" scenes he's scored. But there are plenty of other candidates -- MUNICH, ROSEWOOD, SCHINDLER'S LIST, the Oliver Stones.

 

And although a rather different animal, there's a different kind of 'dark' he does well in more fantastical settings, be it CLOSE ENCOUNTERS (the abduction scene), the INDYs and STAR WARSes, even HARRY POTTER (that Dementor cue) etc.

Yeah I thought about this after my initial post.

He seems to have two distinct “dark modes.” One is the more fantastical type of darkness used in HP, or Indy, Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Close Encounters etc. The other is for more real-world type darkness found in Munich, Sleepers, Presumed Innocent etc. Tends to be more sparse and minimal(?) for lack of a better word.

 

Which makes something like Minority Report or A.I an interesting crossroads of those two different styles I’d say.

 

The darkness of Schindler’s List is something of an outlier. For as horrific as the film can be, the score itself-while tragic and heart-rending, is written in a more romantic style. The only real dark cue to me would be the Auschwitz track. Most of the truly dark and disturbing things in the film are left unscored. I’d be curious if someone listened to this score without any context if they would consider it a very dark score at all?

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Of the ones I have (which isn't many, as JW's darker/textural side isn't for me), it's either Minority or WotW.

 

The latter deals with destruction on a massive level, but the former deals with a rather dark hypothetical moral issue, and carries the painful baggage of Anderton's loss. On a whim I'd probably go for the latter as aliens always make things more disturbing.

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He doesn't really have any scores that are entirely dark from moment 1 to the end.


But the scores that have a lot of darkness, I guess maybe War of the Worlds would be my pick?

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Black Sunday is quite dark too.

 

I would not qualify "Sleepers" as dark (the majority of people here don't even know the subject of the movie), it's a really good thriller score, like Presumed Innocent.

 

 

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Aside from the fact that there are various possible definitions of "dark", as has been pointed out - I also think it's a matter of context. For example, taking just the darkest cues of POA and TFA and comparing them to stuff like Images or WOTW, they probably wouldn't be particularly notable. But within the context of their scores, in direct contrast with the other surrounding material, I do think they're among Williams's darkest moments, and it's one reason why I like these scores so much.

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Presumed Innocent takes the title of darkest for me. I agree there are so many ways to interpret the word and so many scores it could be applied to. 
 

WotW is what first came to mind, but I’d really call it most violent. 

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Dark? Depends on what it means...

 

Except for the ones already mentioned here, maybe the dissonant, terrifying, gutwrenching moments of JFK.

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I remember somehow we had a discussion around that last year and someone quoted an interview of Williams about that Revenge of the Sith might be the darkest Star Wars movie, but from the music point of view he rather tried to focus of compassion for the lost soul and the tragic instead of the darkness.

 

Like the most here I would vote as well for WotW and Sleepers and Munich.

What has not been mentioned yet is that I find Williams score for the first time tunnel episode quite dark as well.

There is also hardly any light at the end of the (time) tunnel.

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16 minutes ago, GerateWohl said:

What has not been mentioned yet is that I find Williams score for the first time tunnel episode quite dark as well.

There is also hardly any light at the end of the (time) tunnel.

 

Well, it figures. Here you go to the trouble of creating a time machine, able to discover all the mysteries and glories of the past.....and you end up on the deck of the bloody Titanic! 

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9 hours ago, PokeDocMatt said:

WotW is what first came to mind, but I’d really call it most violent. 

 

Musically violent is an excellent way to describe WOTW, yes.

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Probably Revenge of the Sith. I have a lot of gaps in my JW knowledge, but I assume War of the Worlds is darker, I just haven't gotten around to listening to it or watching the movie yet.

 

I'm surprised Azkaban is listed at all here. While yes, the Dementor cue and a few cues like it here and there are very gloomy, I personally find Chamber of Secrets to be far more dark of a score overall. Yes there's a lot more moments of levity, and themes in a Major key unlike Azkaban, but Chamber has a far more consistent, and frequent dark and gloomy atmosphere to the music.

 

Yes it never gets as dark as the few cues in Azkaban but most of the third movie's music doesn't sound like the Dementor music or the opening of "Secrets of the Castle". Hell, even Sirius or Pettigrew's themes don't have anywhere near the atmosphere the 3-note motif or the Chamber themes have. The entirety of "Meeting Tom Riddle" is far more creepy to me than anything from Prisoner. 

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Interestingly, I find some of his concert works darker than his film scores, though admittedly, I associated atonal with dark, even though that is not always the case.  I think of Nixon, but that is more tragic than dark.  WotW is close, but I would go with intense more than dark, Images has its own thing going on--deranged more than dark.  Even RotS "Dark Deeds" is operatic and elements of a lament more than dark. He has not scored a movie that is consistently dark (not that this is a bad thing).  The Carousel in the Fury for cue, though.  

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As far as my Williams knowledge goes, I'd say "Revenge of the Sith". Good chunks of that score are hella intense and/or give me the feels.

 

"Temple of Doom" has some dark and scary cues, but is not as dark a score overall imo.

 

I haven't seen WOTW or heard the score. Maybe I should?

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"Epilogue" from The Fury has to be one of the most intensely dark and dispairing pieces Williams has ever written. It's one of my all time favourites of his. But as it's not technically from the film, I guess it doesn't count. Also, "For Gillian" is so light and fluffy it changes the mood of the work as a whole.

 

I'll also go with War of the Worlds. It's almost wall-to-wall bleak, as even its more hopeful moments are plaintive and understated.

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My vote would be for Presumed Innocent. Not only does it have a consistently morose tone (unlike The Fury, Dracula), it ends on an unmitigatedly bleak note (unlike War of the Worlds, Sleepers, Nixon). The competition is Munich, which has a certain tragically ennobling quality that's not quite dark to my ears, and Images which, which is just a bit more ~weird~ than it is dark.

 

The last cue might be Williams's simultaneously darkest and most understated. Virtuosic dramatic underscoring here...

 

Also, maybe not unrelated, but the string passage starting at 4:07 is the most Herrmann-esque music in all of JW's output, don't you think?

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1 hour ago, Docteur Qui said:

I'll also go with War of the Worlds. It's almost wall-to-wall bleak, as even its more hopeful moments are plaintive and understated.

 

I love the Epilogue from WOTW more than the equivalent from The Fury. Not only dripping with atmosphere but insanely bleak.

 

I wouldn't complain if Williams spent the rest of his days just writing Epilogues! They seem to bring out a latent musical darkness within him.

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On 14/01/2022 at 2:58 AM, Tom said:

Interestingly, I find some of his concert works darker than his film scores, though admittedly, I associated atonal with dark, even though that is not always the case.  

In the video documentary of Across the Stars Anne-Sophie Mutter said how scary she found the Dracula piece she was playing. There I thought, if you imagine Markings, the concert piece that Williams wrote for her, to be film music, it would probably be much more scary, as it is full of those dissonaces and intervals, that are usually used in horror scores.

 

3 minutes ago, Kasey Kockroach said:

Does it matter how dark his scores can get? I can see them just fine!

For this thread it matters.

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I didn't say they did. It was merely a thought I had reading through everyone's choices. A lot of people seem to jump for his more abrasive, non-melodic scores as choices, so this thought occurred to me and I thought it would be worth discussing.

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All the mentioned scores are full of melodies. But they contain certain intervals and are underlaid by harmonies that are in many music tradition connotated with darkness or negative feelings like fear or horror. And they are often comparably simple.

But I would not call any of the mentioned scores unmelodic.

 

The score for Tenet is unmelodic.

 

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Main theme starts at 1:12 on the piano sounding synth.  Whether you like it or not is a different story but you can’t say it literally isn’t a melody.

 

 

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1 hour ago, WampaRat said:

Always thought that cue sounded like Thomas Newman’s “Floor Washing” cue from Oscar and Lucinda. Perhaps a little temp track bled through? 
 

(Cant seem to find that track on YouTube otherwise I’d post it. But it’s pretty similar- JWs is just a bit slower…)

It’s very close to that track (although I think Newman’s version is lighter and more interesting to be honest) but it definitely feels like temp bleed.

 

As to the original question I’d have to jump on the War of the Worlds bandwagon. It has an unremitting bleakness and intensity that even his other darker scores don’t quite match. 

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