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Sigh...I believe that anyone who is familiar with the film scores of Raksin, Waxman, Herrmann, Korngold, Alfred Newman, Leonard Bernstein ("On the Waterfront"), Goldsmith ("The Blue Max" in particular), Steiner, William Alwyn, Malcolm Arnold, Arnold Bax ("Oliver Twist"), & others of The Golden Age will see John Williams as a third-rate (& often derivative) composer of film music.
I do know the film score composers ("composers of incidental music for films," if you like) whom you mentioned, plus a few others I particularly like (Ennio Morricone, Nino Rota, Victor Young, Hans Zimmer, Paul Dessau, William Walton); but I by no means consider John Williams "third rate." And if there are discussions on this forum about composers whose work I don't personally care for, I don't trash them.
 

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The number of Academy Awards and Academy Award nominations is only a decent measure of the worth of the composers' (Williams and Mencken) scores. Williams would often get nominated and fail to "win", because the voters felt he'd had enough accolades, and it was time to let others have a chance. Same with the Academy splitting Best Score category; they felt that Mencken was getting "too many" wins, and, again, it was time to let others have a chance.
The Academy Awards are simply a measure of the consent about the quality of a work. You can freely decide if this measure has any relevance, but I think we should avoid to say that the judges don't really believe in their choices everytime that something that we don't personally enjoy so much get a nomination.

While I was listening to the score of "The Remains of the Day" I was thinking "The nomination must be an error", but then I read that there are persons who use it as an example of a good film score, which means that the nomination was not an error: I don't like it, but people like it. This is what the Academy Awards try to do: selecting the good artistic products in a democratic way. It's not real democracy, I know, because we can't vote. It's a pseudodemocracy, but it makes sense to restrict the vote to experts of cinema.


And one cannot make a fair comparison between the two composers . . . they have different career trajectories, different film score counts, have scored vastly different tytpes of films, and started their film careers in different decades.
It's possible to compare a symphonic film score in romantic style with an other film score in romantic style.

When I listen to the music of the list of composers I put in my previous post (Alan Menken, John Williams, James Horner, John Barry, Hans Zimmer, Ennio Morricone, Randy Newman, Thomas Newman, Howard Shore, Marc Isham, Patrick Doyle and many others...) I often enjoy it.
However, only one of them distinguish himself from the group to my ears. He's not John Williams, but Alan Menken.

All the composers of the group write nice melodies and orchestration, but there is something in which Alan Menken is better than other composers: dramatization. No one is better than Menken in squeezing simple themes until musical fireworks. Your hear a theme somewhere in the middle of the score and you say "beautiful melody". At the end, right before the closure, it typically write some developments which reprise the themes and he creates the best possible dramatization with them: the final fireworks.

It's not that that the other good composers are not able to dramatize. It's just that no one does it well like Menken. He has that kind of skills that many people look for in classical music composers.


I've not listened to all scores of John Williams, so maybe I simply still have to find examples of similar dramatization in his music. However, the point is that in the score of Alan Menken you can be sure that you will find it and this is why if I was a film director I would hire Alan Menken. I want to be sure that in strongest scenes of my films there are musical fireworks and with Menken the success is granted. How many film scores of John Williams do I have to listen before to hear comparable musical fireworks?
 

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馃ぃ Well he was only 10...give him a chance!
Alan Menken was already writing music at that age and he won a musical competition.
However he was not competing towards adults, but towards other kids. The judges said that that the quality of the music was above the average for a child.
I don't know if he was already able to write symphonic music at that age. If he wasn't, Mozart > Menken, but the competition is not between Menken and Mozart, but between Menken and other contemporary composers.
 

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馃ぃ Well he was only 10...give him a chance!
Yes, exactly. I did know that, and figured that others would be able to suss out that he would have been only 9 or 10 without me needing to point it out.

But it is a valid point to make that their musical output would be vastly different given the decade of their formative years, the film and TV culture when they each came "of age".

With John Williams being born in '32, he'd have been watching films as a kid and teen that were all released between 1939 and 1955. He'd have been a toddler during the Great Depression, and 9 years old when the American portion of WWII broke out after Pearl Harbor had been bombed.

So, Williams would have theoretically been watching films with scores by Steiner, Korngold, Stothart, Alfred Newman, Tiompkin, Victor Young, R贸sza, Waxman, and likely listening to Holst, Stravinsky, Debussey, as well as the Big Bands of the day.

His dad was a jazz drummer. Williams himself worked as a jazz pianist in the late 1950s

Contrast that with the formative years of Alan Mencken, born in 1949. In Popular music, he'd have heard the early days of Rock and Roll, but he'd have been seeing films in theaters with scores by Herrmann, Elmer Bernstein, Lionel Bernstein, Nino Rota, Alex North, and even Jerry Goldsmith. Sure, Waxman and Tiompkin were still scoring films, but their approaches had developed along with the films they were scoring. But in the early 60s, we saw the rise of film musicals, with scores from the likes of Richard Rodgers and Jule Styne. Henry Mancini, Maurice Jarre, Andr茅 Previn, Nelson Riddle, and John Barry were on the rise. Mencken would have been in his mid-teens when James Bond and The Beatles both hit it big in the US.

Mencken's dentist dad played boogie-woogie piano, and his mother was a dancer and actress. Mencken played guitar and piano, and allegedly dreamed of becoming the next Bob Dylan.

I guess my real point is that neither is "better" than the other.
 

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I guess my real point is that neither is "better" than the other.
Quite. Hans is a fan and didn't accept the proposition that Williams only had four rivals for the crown. I don't either, but I don't see a crown in the first place. I'll copy across here a post I made today in another thread that I think is relevant.
 

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[My post copied from the Danny Elfman thread]

I find the obsession with the two or three "top" film composers absurd: Williams and Goldsmith couldn't score every picture made in Hollywood and it seems unlikely that the dozens of directors busy making movies all had to "make do" with the other journeymen kicking around for scraps. It does raise the question - for those outside the industry - how composers are picked for most films.

It's interesting looking at the list of directors Elfman has worked with - a much greater variety than Williams in his later years*. I wonder if he will just do Burton when he's 90+?

Looking at Williams in his earlier years, it's remarkable that he was able to build the reputation he now has. He spent much time in TV while other composers writing for Hollywood were getting all the plaudits (eg Maurice Jarre, John Barry, Alex North. I guess he's just outlived them all - John Barry certainly, who was born the year after Williams).
 

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Sigh...I believe that anyone who is familiar with the film scores of Raksin, Waxman, Herrmann, Korngold, Alfred Newman, Leonard Bernstein ("On the Waterfront"), Goldsmith ("The Blue Max" in particular), Steiner, William Alwyn, Malcolm Arnold, Arnold Bax ("Oliver Twist"), & others of The Golden Age will see John Williams as a third-rate (& often derivative) composer of film music.
Hermann's "Vertigo" is quite derivative of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde. Nonetheless, it is a great score.

If "derivative" disqualified composers from serious consideration, the "canon" would look rather different.
 

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Thanks for this suggestion. I had forgotten all about this score. We tend to remember Williams as a melodic composer (as if writing a catchy tune is benath serious composers) but this score shows how Williams can turn a simple phrase (hardly a tune) and make it sound interesting for a long time because he is such a brilliant orchestrator. Does it downplay him as a composer? Did it work against Ravel being a brilliant orchestrator? Also, being melodic has been the strenght of symphonies like Dvorak麓s ninth or Tchaikovsky麓s sixth. Music is a many-layered thing and it can be enjoyed in many different ways. Music can be original, it can be technically challenging, it can be moody and elusive but it can also be straight-out melodic (as in "hummable"). That is the part of the music that you are most likely to take with you wherever you go. It is there with you in the traffic jam, it follows you when you are cleaning the house or doing the groceries. It is the part that lifts your mood when you need it. Not technical jargon. Some music can be philosophically interesting but it hardly lifts your mood, particularly when you feel isolated and have to dig inside for inspiration. What is so bad about writing tunes? It makes people feel better, makes them feel "brave" when they would be vulnerable? It makes the world a better place, doesn麓t it? John Williams is not my favourite film-composer but I sure am grateful for having many of his melodies in my arsenal when my mood needs a lift.

One of his scores that I happen to like quite a bit is the one he did for Catch Me If You Can, which he later arranged as a concerto for alto saxophone Escapades.

 

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I wonder, is the a compilation somewhere with John Williams麓s lesser known works? Beyond the blockbusters, if you like. Maybe there are little known tracks strewn across his career worth searching for or perhaps entire "under the radar" scores of noteworthy music.

I checked Spotify to see if anyone had made such a playlist and the nearest thing I found was "John Williams chill" and it seemed to avoid the big themes. It had a lot of "Memories of a Geisha", "Accidental Tourist" and "Lincoln" as well as tracks from all over the canon. I will will certainly check this one out.
 

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Thanks for this suggestion. I had forgotten all about this score. We tend to remember Williams as a melodic composer (as if writing a catchy tune is benath serious composers) but this score shows how Williams can turn a simple phrase (hardly a tune) and make it sound interesting for a long time because he is such a brilliant orchestrator. Does it downplay him as a composer? Did it work against Ravel being a brilliant orchestrator? Also, being melodic has been the strenght of symphonies like Dvorak麓s ninth or Tchaikovsky麓s sixth. Music is a many-layered thing and it can be enjoyed in many different ways. Music can be original, it can be technically challenging, it can be moody and elusive but it can also be straight-out melodic (as in "hummable"). That is the part of the music that you are most likely to take with you wherever you go. It is there with you in the traffic jam, it follows you when you are cleaning the house or doing the groceries. It is the part that lifts your mood when you need it. Not technical jargon. Some music can be philosophically interesting but it hardly lifts your mood, particularly when you feel isolated and have to dig inside for inspiration. What is so bad about writing tunes? It makes people feel better, makes them feel "brave" when they would be vulnerable? It makes the world a better place, doesn麓t it? John Williams is not my favourite film-composer but I sure am grateful for having many of his melodies in my arsenal when my mood needs a lift.
Of course there is nothing bad in melodies. We simply live in a strange era in which unhappy people reject the beauty for some strange reasons. I think that the purpose of the antimelodic trend of today is to keep away the masses from classical music, because if many people would listen to classical music the unhappy people couldn't say that they are special. For them classical music serves the purpose of showing their "high culture".
Infact, everytime that a contemporary composer write a melodic piece, a determined group of people inside the classical music world say that he's a crowd-pleaser and therefore not a serious artist. Their mindset is clear: if you make people smile, you are not a serious artist.

The question is: do we really have to care about this? I think no. In the classical period no one had similar ideas: they are clearily modern ideas. Since the classical period is the core of classical music (two of the most relevant composers are of that period and the other one is of the baroque period) I think we can take the philosophy of the classical period more seriously than the strange philosophy of today, which will kill classical music.


All that said, I agree with you. It's clear that John Williams et al have replaced the composers of abstract classical music: they are more relevant for the modern society. The reason is quite simple: the people who want to smile (and most people want to smile with music, not torturing themslves to look like people of high culture who don't follow the masses) listen to their music because they don't follow the strange philosophy of the modern classical music.
 

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It's clear that John Williams et al have replaced the composers of abstract classical music: they are more relevant for the modern society. The reason is quite simple: the people who want to smile (and most people want to smile with music, not torturing themslves to look like people of high culture who don't follow the masses) listen to their music because they don't follow the strange philosophy of the modern classical music.
That is an incredibly sweeping and reductive statement which is not at all true for many classical music listeners, myself included. I seek out new classical music everyday, and find music which I consider engaging and often beautiful.

I do this because I am interested in new classical music, along with many other genres. I am not trying to "look like people of high culture" - which is an dismissive straw man of your own creation.

Most film music is not something I find interesting. In fact, much of it is some of the least interesting music available. Hip-hop or pop or rock, are more rewarding, and to my ears, more creative.
 

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That is an incredibly sweeping and reductive statement which is not at all true for many classical music listeners, myself included. I seek out new classical music everyday, and find music which I consider engaging and often beautiful.

I do this because I am interested in new classical music, along with many other genres. I am not trying to "look like people of high culture" - which is an dismissive straw man of your own creation.

Most film music is not something I find interesting. In fact, much of it is some of the least interesting music available. Hip-hop or pop or rock, are more rewarding, and to my ears, more creative.

It's simply called "generalization". Weren't you that you wrote a post in which you said that Classic FM represents the average audience of classical music more than Talkclassical? Look at the charts of the Classic FM Hall of Fame: in the first positions you will often find modern music along with older music. The older music is usually abstract classical music, while the modern music is usually from soundtracks.

However I was not speaking about people who have a concious passion for classical music. I was speaking about people in general. I don't have scientific datas that confirm that the average listener of music prefer symphonic film music more than the modern classical music inside of the large antimelodic trend, but if you want we can do a 100 dollars bet about the results of a poll inside a general forum for music.

After all, if it wasn't true that most people prefer film music, the people who use classical music to show their "high culture" couldn't say that they are special because they listen to music that most people reject.
 

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It's simply called "generalization". Weren't you that you wrote a post in which you said that Classic FM represents the average audience of classical music more than Talkclassical?
No, I don't think I was the one who "wrote a post in which you said that Classic FM represents the average audience of classical music more than Talkclassical?" I don't know anything about Classic FM other than seeing a list they came up with, which (like all similar lists) has limited importance.

Look at the charts of the Classic FM Hall of Fame: in the first positions you will often find modern music along with older music. The older music is usually abastract classical music, while the modern music is usually from film scores.
I don't place any importance on music charts of any genre.

However I was not speaking about people who have a concious passion for classical music. I was speaking about people in general. I don't have scientific datas that confirm that the average listener of music prefer symphonic film music more than the modern classical music inside of the large antimelodic trend, but if you want we can do a 100 dollars bet about the results of a poll inside a general forum for music.
Why do you think you can speak for "people in general." It is the singular aspect of your posts which undermines whatever point you are trying to communicate.
 

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Most film music is not something I find interesting. In fact, much of it is some of the least interesting music available. Hip-hop or pop or rock, are more rewarding, and to my ears, more creative.
Film music is not mutually exclusive with hip-hop, pop or rock.

I think that in the list of "The best of Eltohn John " you can easily find "Circle of Life" and "Can you feel the love tonight". Two pieces composed for the Lion King.




In the "standards" of pop there is a song originally written for Top Gun: "Take my Breath Away".



Eminem wrote his best song, "Lose Yourself", for a film score.




The problem is that composers who write symphonic, abstract music for films are not compared with pop stars, but with saints of music like Mozart, Beethoven and Bach. Their task is harder.
 

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I mentioned the film score to E.T. before. I am in awe, guys, after listening to it once again. So many great tunes. The track "Over the Moon" for example, is a nice little minature that shows Williams麓s orchestration skills as well as being compact and full of ideas. But the score麓s finale "Adventure on Earth" (15 minutes long) is simply bursting with ideas before the grand theme kicks in (at seven minutes) before bowing out gently. Not many pieces of music manage to convey the awe beneath the constellations as beautifully as this one, travelling from emotion to emotion, so humbly. His orchestration skills are striking, being both bold and magnificent, tender and subtle. He goes from hacking at the melody on the off-beat with the entire violin section to the tenderest of cosmic nostalgia. The music is all over the place without ever losing focus. Easily my favourite Williams track of all time.
 

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Film music is not mutually exclusive with hip-hop, pop or rock.
Yes, films do use pop music, but I thought your were mainly talking about newly composed scores. My favorite soundtracks are for films like Cold Mountain and O Brother Where Art Thou - which are made up of songs. But we don't need films for this kind of music.

The problem is that composers who write symphonic, abstract music for films are not compared with pop stars, but with saints of music like Mozart, Beethoven and Bach. .
The only person I see wishing to equate film music with classical music is you on this forum.
 
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