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Best percussion piece by John Williams


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While on a road trip recently, I managed to hear in the confines of my car the two best percussion cues written by John Williams. While both are not completely percussion, the bulk of the piece depends largely on one or more percussion instruments.

"The Chess Game" from "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." Great drums. Great xylophone. Perfect complimentary instrumentations.

"Escape from Naboo" from "The Phantom Menace." The xylophones are played at its most frenzied. I love tapping along with the beat.

A distant third would be "The Temple of Doom" from .... oh, geez. I forgot the name of the film. ROTFLMAO Anyway, the drums there are fantastic but aren't as prominent as the vocals until the end.

Now, offer up your favorite JW percussion cues. As you can probably guess, I'm on a percussion kick right now and want to hear more!

Jeff -- who would love to play the xylophone on a John Williams score

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I love the military-style percussion in "Hymn to the Fallen" and the JFK theme.

And I think it's already been eluded to, but the delicious cymbal action in "The Land Race" from Far and Away just about makes my heart explode...in a good way.

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"Escape from Naboo" from "The Phantom Menace." The xylophones are played at its most frenzied. I love tapping along with the beat.

The best cue from the score IMO, and the only action cue from the prequels that comes close to "Tie Fighter Attack" or "The Asteroid Field" quality.

A pity it's so short.

Stefancos- who loves the big percussion intro to the Slave Childrens crusade part in the TOD end credits.

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I also really like the mad xylophones in "Escape from Naboo," which I believe is also repeated during the podrace sequence, but that's a repeated cue I can live with because it kicks ass.

I also love the snares in "Standing By" in Star Wars (yea, it was recut as the first part of The Battle of Yavin for the SE set).

"Belly of the Steel Beast" from The Last Crusade's another cue with good percussion....and the absolute best piccolo performance in any Williams piece I've heard yet!

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If you want to talk complexity, there is only one for me. Zam the Assasin. I have no clue what he s doing in half of it. Very complex and incredibly masterful. All the others you mentioned have great elements, but they are all easy to decifer. This one though just hits it out of the ball park.

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1) The drums in Jurassic Park Gate (and then the JP fanfare played above it, wow!)

2) The snare drums in JFK: The Prologue

3) The snare drums in The Imperial March

4) The snare drums in The Droid Battle

5) The snare drums in The Olympic Spirit.

6) The snare drums in Theme from The Patriot.

7) The snare drums in The Land Race

8) The snare drums in Eye to Eye

9) The snare drums in Midway March

10)The drums and tomtoms in The Forrest Battle

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You are absolutely right Mark, Star Wars ANH's timpani is fantastic, especially the alternate Main Title where it has a more prominent mix, and the Ben's Death/Tie-Fighter Attack cue also :mrgreen: The Sand People percussion is of course wonderful too!

Desert Chase from Raiders, and the T-Rex Finale are also highlights for me, along with those that have already been mentioned.

-Tim.

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All the military style snare drum stuff is not that complicated and not even very percussion like. It's just ordinary military patterns. The other stuff is what is great. The complex rhythmic patterns that Williams is a master of, those are the stuff that you go WOW to. Or at least what I go WOW to as a composer.

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All the military style snare drum stuff is not that complicated and not even very percussion like.  It's just ordinary military patterns.  The other stuff is what is great.  The complex rhythmic patterns that Williams is a master of, those are the stuff that you go WOW to.  Or at least what I go WOW to as a composer.

You mean like Images or the Airplane Fight from Raiders rhythmic structure? I always thought Goldsmith was a great practitioner of the complex rhythmic pattern come to think of it

-Tim

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You are absolutely right Mark, Star Wars ANH's timpani is fantastic, especially the alternate Main Title where it has a more prominent mix, and the Ben's Death/Tie-Fighter Attack cue also  :) The Sand People percussion is of course wonderful too!

this might be a small detail,but the tympani really stands out in the trademark music at the very beginning of the end credits(luke's theme-rebel fanfare-luke's theme).It's very pulsing.Compare it with the re-recordings for the other movies(or any re-recording).

K.M.

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Ocelot!! :)

Your comments on the percussion for "Zam the Assassin" are right on. "The Chess Game" does come in second. But on "Zam", each percussion solo evolves...there is no repetive pattern. There is always an extra note here, take away a note there. Then there are 3-4 percussionist..each doing something different! Sometimes the snare drums will do the same thing, but Williams always switches something around. Then to add some more complication, he does all this in odd meters!

Absolutely no one in the film score buisness writes percussion lines like Williams...NO ONE! Everyone else just does big, large, loud repetive lines.

Jamesyboy - the residnet JWfan percussionist/drummer.

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All the military style snare drum stuff is not that complicated and not even very percussion like.  It's just ordinary military patterns.  The other stuff is what is great.  The complex rhythmic patterns that Williams is a master of, those are the stuff that you go WOW to.  Or at least what I go WOW to as a composer.

I happen to like "ordinary military patterns". ;-) Btw, JFK is definitely not "ordinary", that was new at that time.

But of course IC what you mean, namely percussion instruments as part of the instrumentation. There are too many examples of this in JW music to list them. Noteworthy however is Asteroid Field I think, since the first statement of the main theme is only in the percussion (at 0:21).

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Great Williams percussion cues:Visitor in San Diego and The Raptor's Appear from The Lost World,

Zam the Assassin from the Episode II, as well as The Arena sport good percussion,

the Chess Game from HPPS,

Temple of Doom has great percussive track all over it e.g. the drums when Indy sees the shrine of Kali on the way to Pankot Palace, the Ceremony and the Cliff confrontation scene.

Spyders from Minority Report (movie version has better drums).

In Episode I e.g. the Droideka sequence in the Beginning has great frenzied snare music but all the good percussion sequences are too numerous to mention. In the film the drums are varied from ethnic drums to war drums (Williams actually gave a list of all the different kinds of drums to the chief percussionist of LSO and left it to him to supply them. It cost 6000£ to rent them all :thumbup: .)

Duelling the Basilisk from HPCS has powerful percussion.

Patriot has great timpani&snare collaboration for the Redcoats on the farm and facing the British lines.

In Sleepers the Football match has good drums though they may be synthezised.

I have noticed Williams does percussion music more often today (out of demand) than before.

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The Lost World is undoubtably the best percussion album of Williams'. My favourites have to be The Raptors Appear and Visitor in San Diego (the final stretch of course - sounds brilliant every time). These tracks make me want to own bongos (hopefully getting some for Christmas!). I wish Jurassic Park's action cues were as interesting and diverse as these.

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I'm going with "Redcoats at the Farm" from The Patriot. When I first got the CD, I performed that on anything that gave a low-pitch beat.

I like the percussion from "Spiders" (that was spliced into the end of "Anderton's Great Escape" in the film). Sounds kinda like the outside of the timpani or playing bongos with drumsticks. I'm not sure exactly. Simple, but somehow effective and nice.

Personally, though, I rather like the piano in Angela's Ashes and the celesta in "To Manhattan" from AI and, of course, Harry.

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I'm going with the entire "Chess Game" but particularly the fantastic crescendo at the end. Also the low piano strokes in "The Battle of Hoth" and the extemely satisfying timpani blasts in the finale of "Rebel Fleet/End Credits" in ESB.

"The Raptor Attack" and "T-Rex Rescue and Finale" also come to mind.

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It's not a whole cue, but I love the way he uses percussion in Spyders, when Anderton is in the bathtub and spyders search the room. In a way, that percussion almost enhanced the silence, if that makes sense.

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Drummers' Salute (JFK) is not Williams but it's one hell of an amazing percussive track, and those French horns (which are Williams) are without any doubt the best sounding I've ever heard. Who recorded this, BTW? Wait a minute...looking for CD now...found it...damn booklet...Alrighty then! Armin Steiner! My hero.

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Alex Cremers

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Drummers' Salute (JFK) is not Williams but it's one hell of an amazing percussive track, and those French horns (which are Williams) are without any doubt the best sounding I've ever heard. Who recorded this, BTW? Wait a minute...looking for CD now...found it...damn booklet...Alrighty then! Armin Steiner! My hero.

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Alex Cremers

Fantastic piece. I'm still dying to know who's idea it was to use it, since it's unheard of for Williams to use someone else's piece in a score, even though he incorporated his own theme into it.

It's used perfectly in the movie- it really gets your heart pounding.

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Yes, you're right. It has a great effect in the movie. Maybe I should get that DVD after all.

I did a Google search for The Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. There's not much to be found. On Amazon you can buy several CDs. It's all bagpipe music except for one which is trumpet(!). I was hoping they did a military percussion album but I couldn't find anything. I think I would dig a CD with drums like "Drummer's Salute".

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Alex Cremers

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