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Will there ever be another Bach/Beethoven? Will the siren call of Hollywood money dilute the talent pool, thereby eliminating that possibility?

Does anyone even want to be Bach/Beethoven? (Or even Gershwin, for that matter).

Pure compositional greatness largely divorced from 'soundtrack necessities' (like total time, bombast, cliche, etc)...orchestral music with structural power and beauty...classical formalism filled with real musical surprise and wonderment...is this all just a thing of the past?

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As we've argued in the past, I don't consider JW great but only as a film composer, just great as a composer. But in any case I haven't chosen him as a mentor; there are many composers, film and otherwise, that inspire me. My favourite single soundtrack probably isn't a Williams at all. I'm studying Williams scores for orchestration because they are by chance readily if illegally available, not because they're the only scores I admire. That, coupled with my regular spirited defense of Williams, has probably led to your mentor assumption. Nope! I take what I can from him, as I do with many composers (that you would probably also disparage.)



Lawrence Aurich said:

A few weeks ago I would have said it is great to choose a mentor, but why John Williams?  Certainly there are better composers.  But now I realize that if you are intending to write for film there is no better example of a great film composer than John Williams. Undoubtedly there will be better film composers, but he is the first great film composer.
 
Dave Dexter said:

film.

And even if the scene you're scoring is the one where Supreme Leader Andjdsdfjklnss orders the attack on the Fggjgooo homeworld and everyone farts and gets their dick out, that doesn't mean the music cannot have power or cannot exist divorced; just as music written for ballet, opera and stage can and does exist entirely independent of the original context.

The argument is just tarted-up elitism, but then this is a composer forum and I should long ago have ceased being surprised.

I always consider Prokofiev to be one of the top film composers. John Williams is sensational but Prokofiev's  influence on Williams seems evident. Here is Battle on the Ice from the Eisenstein film Alexander Nevsky.   

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFRTsfBFpSo   

Awesome stuff. Not that it matters to the music, but I wouldn't call someone a film composer unless that was the majority of their work. I'd place him as a composer who among many other endeavours scored a handful of films - there'd be more sense in calling him a "ballet composer" or "opera composer" as he's composed for a greater number of both.

Fredrick zinos said:

I always consider Prokofiev to be one of the top film composers. John Williams is sensational but Prokofiev's  influence on Williams seems evident. Here is Battle on the Ice from the Eisenstein film Alexander Nevsky.   

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFRTsfBFpSo   

Williams has been influenced by a few of the greats, Prokofiev sure, but the score for ET in particular, was influenced by Howard Hansons Romantic Symphony, especially the last tremendous cue. I think Williams also called Herman the father of modern film scoring.
BTW Dave, what is your favourite score?...mine might be Gladiator.

Hmm. I'll give you three because it's tough. This is in terms more of listening in isolation rather than how they well they function as scores, which are often two different things. My favourite single cue might not come from these scores.

How To Train Your Dragon - John Powell. I recall that first viewing as nigh-on transformative.
Independence Day - David Arnold. - ALL OF THE FANFARES
Braveheart - James Horner. Long before I was a composer I just thought it was beautiful.

But obviously there could be far more. There's many films I love the music to but never got round to finding the soundtrack. I rewatched Gladiator recently and it's a great score, I just find it tainted by his more recent approach and work. That was one I listened to a lot, like Braveheart, long before getting into composing. I had a lot of fun with Zimmer's Pirates of the Caribbean II score as well, I should try that again and see how I feel.

It's interesting to go back to old favourites with new knowledge. I listened to this on repeat for months after seeing it in the cinema and only recently realised John Powell was involved, which makes a lot of sense.

So if your favourite score could be Gladiator, do you have a favourite cue?

Mike Hewer said:

Williams has been influenced by a few of the greats, Prokofiev sure, but the score for ET in particular, was influenced by Howard Hansons Romantic Symphony, especially the last tremendous cue. I think Williams also called Herman the father of modern film scoring.
BTW Dave, what is your favourite score?...mine might be Gladiator.

Just based on volume of work and notoriety, not necessarily based on quality.

Mike Hewer said:

" John Williams. Undoubtedly there will be better film composers, but he is the first great film composer."

Poor old Bernard Herman, Dimitri Tiompkin and Mr. Korngold. Etc. etc....

Dave,

I don't know where to start.....even Gladiator could de-throned if I think about it.

Erm, the last cue in ET obviously.

In recent years, a few cues in Prometheus, some cues in the Bourne series, the noir-ish theme in Nocturnal Animals (although it is over used imo), the music to The Arrival works well throughout.  Far too many, going right back to Mancini in Charade and even further back to Raskin with the theme to Laura. Herman, Vertigo, Cape Fear (that gorgeous minor 9th chord!) , oh God I can't continue this as I'd be typing all day..:-)

I've not seen Braveheart nor How to train your Dragon, but the calibre of Powell and Doyle is not in doubt. Shame about Powells' wife dying in those circumstances. The Antz cue is fun, was that Elfman? another great. 

Malcom Arnold too, old school but a genius in the concert world too (including 9 symphonies and 17 concertos Lawrence). He did a lot of David Leans films like Bridge on the River Kwai, so much so that session musos in those days called him "Master of the Leans' music".

I'd no idea Powell's wife died recently, that's tragic. I knew he'd had a couple of years out from scoring, maybe it was linked to an ongoing illness. Antz was Powell and Harry Gregson-Williams (another great) and yes, Elfman is another inspiration. Love his off-kilter chords and crystalline sensibility.

Will have to find time to check those others you've mentioned. Adventures on Earth is definitely one of my top single pieces - in fact whatever the top spot is, it's almost certainly a Williams theme. That said, I'm not sure if you've seen Rogue One or what your thoughts are on it, but I loved it and a part of that was Giacchino's score. I felt he did an amazing job at retaining the Williams feel but infusing his own themes and style - the music from the climax of the film might too be at my top spot.

The culmination of the theme at 3.24 that's been reprised throughout rivals JW's best moments, for me at least, though that's partly due to what's happening onscreen at the time.


Mike Hewer said:

Dave,

I don't know where to start.....even Gladiator could de-throned if I think about it.

Not seen Rogue One yet, waiting for the DVD, but that link is very nice. Lovely key change at 2.51. It's funny you know, when I heard first heard Giacchinos' score to Star Trek notably the new theme, I was so disappointed in it, (I was still into Goldsmiths' theme, you know the one in 12/8) then on second hearing, I began to feel its emotional power and am now sold on it completely.

Me thinks we are both sci-fi fans and so I should mention Silvestri in Predator and Contact and Horner for Aliens and Avatar.

JW for Close Encounters and War of the Worlds, etc. etc. etc.

 

That's funny - I liked his new Trek theme from the start, but I have no real loyalty to the franchise so that might not be a surprise. One of my minor criticisms of his Rogue score is that it occasionally starts to sound like his Trek music, especially in his more classically influenced string-heavy moments. The same thing happened with his Rogue main theme (I'm not spoiling much by saying it starts unlike a classic Star Wars film, but it does have a title screen) - I thought it was so unfitting and disappointing. Three viewings later and I now think it absolutely fits the spirit of the rebels and the film.

Agh, so many soundtracks to check out! John Debney did a pretty great orchestral horror/sci fi soundtrack to the more recent Predators. He's one of those composers, like David Arnold, that I think are a gift to stirring, dense, old-school adventure soundtracks but seemed to get a bit relegated after a few amazing early career moments. What I really mean is that they're very successful but aren't doing exactly what I want them to.

If you can stand another link, there's a lot of "forgotten" Williams - I watched Minority Report recently and had no idea he was involved until this moment, practically an aural signature. https://youtu.be/5kE7iNxQO6Y?t=6m1s

Yeah, great. He is so versatile.

You mentioned Pirates of the Caribbean, let us not forget JW's score to Hook, how swashbuckling do you wanna get?

I'm sure I read somewhere that JW was Mancinis' pianist in the 50's or 60's.

I agree about Debney and Arnold (who used to work out of Air Studios, perhaps he still does! I met him there). As we speak more and more come to mind, the opening credit music to Signs by James Newton Howard is devilishly exciting and although not sci-fi, the haunting themes to Basic Instinct and Medicine Man by Goldsmith spring to mind. I and a friend met Goldsmith recording Medicine Man and were allowed into the control room to follow the score. However, the most interesting thing about that day, apart from seeing how he integrated synths seamlessly into the orchestral sound (are you curious?) was meeting Arthur Morton. Google him and you'll see what I mean, he sat between us with the score and answered any questions we threw at him.

 

I've never heard more swashbuckling than Debney's Cutthroat Island! JNH's Waterworld is similarly mad. I've tried listening through Hook but as I recall, though it obviously had that JW sparkle, it sounded to me like lots of rejected bits and pieces from his better-known work. Maybe I need to watch it again to absorb it better, not seen it since childhood.

I'm always curious. There's not much on Morton but I'm assuming he was Goldsmith's orchestrator, in addition to composer in his own right? That must have been a pretty special day. I don't know much of JG even though I've watched a fair few of his films - whole swathes of scores and composers passed me by before I started really paying attention - but I loved The Mummy, wanted that soundtrack for christmas at the time. I think Silvestri actually topped him for Mummy Returns.

Mike Hewer said:

Yeah, great. He is so versatile.

You mentioned Pirates of the Caribbean, let us not forget JW's score to Hook, how swashbuckling do you wanna get?

I'm sure I read somewhere that JW was Mancinis' pianist in the 50's or 60's.

I agree about Debney and Arnold (who used to work out of Air Studios, perhaps he still does! I met him there). As we speak more and more come to mind, the opening credit music to Signs by James Newton Howard is devilishly exciting and although not sci-fi, the haunting themes to Basic Instinct and Medicine Man by Goldsmith spring to mind. I and a friend met Goldsmith recording Medicine Man and were allowed into the control room to follow the score. However, the most interesting thing about that day, apart from seeing how he integrated synths seamlessly into the orchestral sound (are you curious?) was meeting Arthur Morton. Google him and you'll see what I mean, he sat between us with the score and answered any questions we threw at him.

 

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