Film Score Monthly
FSM HOME MESSAGE BOARD FSM CDs FSM ONLINE RESOURCES FUN STUFF ABOUT US  SEARCH FSM   
Search Terms: 
Search Within:   search tips 
You must log in or register to post.
  Go to page:    
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2004 - 12:20 AM   
 By:   JohnSWalsh   (Member)

Right off the bat--this is NOT a "Bash Williams" thread. If you just want to say "Williams sucks!" move on, please. (You can post what you want, I can't stop you, but I think this could be an interesting opportunity, so don't ruin it, okay?)

I've noticed here and there some folks disparaging certain composers all the time--Zimmer and Horner especially--but am curious about those who dislike Williams's music. He's not my favorite, but I admire so much of his music, and his immense talents. I understand why some don't like Horner and Zimmer, those folks have expressed their reasons (repetiton, similarity, overly-dense orchestrations)--understanding doesn't mean agreeing. Recently I've noticed some people dissing Williams, too, with no reasons given.

I've never read detailed explanations why some dislike Williams's music. I enjoy it, though not so much as I used to; he was the guy who first got me into film music, and I think his voice has been quite consistent since the mid-70's or so, and his latest works are still quite energetic and creative, to me.

So what I'm asking is for those who have reasons they dislike his music to post them. Is it his melodies, his construction, repetition, simialr films, etc.?

By posting more than just "I just hate that stuff" I think it might help those of us who like Williams (and those who are bigger fans than I) to see the reasoning behind those who dislike WIlliams's music.

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2004 - 1:03 AM   
 By:   Dan Hobgood   (Member)

Let me first say that I think Williams is a fabulous composer--without question one of my favorites.

Unfortunately, his application of music to film is, in general, not nearly as sensible as it should be--and, frustratingly, his diffusionist approach seems deliberately spiteful of the prior strides Goldsmith and Herrmann in particular made.

For further reference, I recommend that you read my essays "To Compose a Story," "Film Score Organization," and "Clarity in Composition," all available via this website's "Film Score Daily" article archive. These pieces were published in 2002.

DH

P.S: Despite your best intentions, John, and my own, I fear this thread will not remain civil for long....

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2004 - 1:11 AM   
 By:   JohnSWalsh   (Member)

"Unfortunately, his application of music to film is, in general, not nearly as sensible as it should be--and, frustratingly, his diffusionist approach seems deliberately spiteful of the prior strides Goldsmith and Herrmann in particular made.

DH
"


As you probably know from my posts over the years I'm not very articulate where music terminology is concerned. Could you give an example of this, and compare it to how Goldsmith or Herrmann would handle such a thing?

"P.S: Despite your best intentions, John, and my own, I fear this thread will not remain civil for long...."


I know. I can't say enough how I don't want that to happen, because dissecting one's feelings good or bad about a composer can help our (my) understanding. Folks like you and the others more musically facile on the list can help us understand!

What got me thinking this way were a couple of viewings of movies in which the thematic material seemed bizarrely out of place. Years ago I pointed out that Williams did this in Empire and it worked in that instance, but I was wondering if this is one of those things that annoyed others.

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2004 - 1:15 AM   
 By:   David Coscina   (Member)


Unfortunately, his application of music to film is, in general, not nearly as sensible as it should be--and, frustratingly, his diffusionist approach seems deliberately spiteful of the prior strides Goldsmith and Herrmann in particular made.



What are you talking about Dan? Do you honestly think Williams is consciously trying to conspire against the efforts of Goldmsith and Herrmann when it comes his approach toward scoring? I think Williams writes music based on his reactions to the film, as a viewer would. But this is all speculation when you get right down to it. I think your assertion is pretty silly.

what really bugs me about Williams is that he writes music that's technically too competant, involves chromatic modulations that would appear to be complex but marries them to memorable salient melodies, has too solid arranging chops where everything sounds as it should be...basically the guy irritates me because he's just too damned good.

Can you tell that was sarcasm?

Williams is brilliant and the only thing that can be held against him is that the mainstream populace knows and enjoys his music as much as intense film score fans. and for some reason I think this invalidates him as a composer to be respected in some circles, the idea being that you have to be misunderstood in your time to be a genius. Sorry but I don't buy that, at least in Williams' case.

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2004 - 1:31 AM   
 By:   JohnSWalsh   (Member)

"Williams is brilliant and the only thing that can be held against him is that the mainstream populace knows and enjoys his music as much as intense film score fans. and for some reason I think this invalidates him as a composer to be respected in some circles, the idea being that you have to be misunderstood in your time to be a genius. Sorry but I don't buy that, at least in Williams' case."


Just as I will get cranky if anyone does a "Williams sucks" post, I'm asking to keep this on the topic, just this once. wink It's not about why Williams critics are wrong--we'll get to that if we must once we know what their criticisms are. (As proof of my intentions, I won't even type my thoughts about what you say about Williams.)

Maybe you could start that thread--Why Williams Critics Are Wrong. It seems we get lOTS of posts with Williams praise, though.

But for now, I want a place where the critics can put down their reasoning so I can at least understand what they mean. Thanks.

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2004 - 1:50 AM   
 By:   Dan Hobgood   (Member)

As you probably know from my posts over the years I'm not very articulate where music terminology is concerned. Could you give an example of this, and compare it to how Goldsmith or Herrmann would handle such a thing?


Surely.

Contrast Goldsmith's score, say, for The Blue Max with any one of Williams' scores for the similar "Star Wars" films.

Goldsmith emphasized that Max was an integrated, organic whole by distinctly employing a theme-and-variation approach. Williams, meanwhile, effectively "segmented" the pictures he scored by applying one theme here, a totally different one there, etc.

If film scores weren't by definition supposed to complement, amplify, and illuminate the communication in the pictures to which they're wed, I guess it wouldn't matter. But since that is precisely why we have 'em....

DH

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2004 - 2:04 AM   
 By:   JohnSWalsh   (Member)

I see what you're saying, thanks for the explanation.

I don't agree that the motif method is illegitimate, but for the purposes of education, I will say that you're agreeing with my own assessment, which is that the motives are more (redundantly) ILLUSTRATIVE than descriptive as used in Star Wars. I mean, we see Luke; the music then "sees" Luke, too. If we keep hearing the person's music when the person appears, what is the point--to merely point up when the person is in control of the scene?

On the other hand, the theme and variations approach is more descriptive of the MOVIE'S thematic elements--this approach seems to be a more direct communication from the heart of the POINT the movie is trying to make.

I don't think only one approach is valid, but thanks for explaining your position, this is precisely what I'm asking for.

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2004 - 2:05 AM   
 By:   Dan Hobgood   (Member)

What are you talking about Dan? Do you honestly think Williams is consciously trying to conspire against the efforts of Goldmsith and Herrmann when it comes his approach toward scoring? I think Williams writes music based on his reactions to the film, as a viewer would. But this is all speculation when you get right down to it. I think your assertion is pretty silly.

Let me try to turn this around. Do you think it's possible Williams didn't know what his associates Goldsmith and Herrmann had accomplished dramatically? Do you think he, as a trained music student and professional, wasn't aware of the implications of different approaches?

I simply don't know how he couldn't have been aware of what he was doing--and that it constituted a step backwards, dramatically.

Dan

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2004 - 2:10 AM   
 By:   Dan Hobgood   (Member)

I don't think only one approach is valid, but thanks for explaining your position, this is precisely what I'm asking for.

Thanks for your reply, John. I just wanted to clarify something in relation to the above: I actually don't advocate theme-and-variation dogmatically, but contigently. Albeit rare, there are times when it wouldn't be appropriate. [Recall the intentionally episodic Twilight Zone: The Movie.]

What's so important to remember, methinks, is that a film score should complement the film to which it is wed. It's just that, overwhelmingly, given the nature of so many pictures, it is warranted for a composer to write a score in the fashion Goldsmith wrote The Blue Max.

Dan

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2004 - 2:16 AM   
 By:   JohnSWalsh   (Member)

I do think Williams's approach worked for Star Wars, and I think you have to take the post-modern intentions behind it into account. Lucas was making a pretty daring trick in that movie, one which the recent Sky Captain did not (which ius why for me SC failed)--he tried to make a "serial" movie with updated technology (what SC did), yet he included more "aware" characters like Solo. The score is actually a kind of parody, not only underlining the action, but being willfully blustery and obvious, as if winking at the audience while using those same tooks to get the audience INTO the movie. (SC is very uninvolving, its cliches simply retreads, and not kidded.)

I think the Wagnerian approach IS valid when making a SW or LOTR, but in both cases the compsers made some really outrageous departures from thematic consistency. Do they work? Well, sure, they work on a moment by moment basis. But I think without some strict adherence to musical construction you're going to have a mishappen and musically dishonest piece of music.

Do you think there are instances where the motif method is a better choice over the theme and variations approach? Examples?

 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2004 - 2:19 AM   
 By:   SchiffyM   (Member)

I simply don't know how he couldn't have been aware of what he was doing--and that it constituted a step backwards, dramatically.

Of course he knew, but I would emphatically disagree with your conclusion that a leitmotivic approach is somehow backwards. I find this plainly closed-minded, and odd, considering that both composers you cite used this approach in many films. For that matter, Williams didn't in such scores as "Presumed Innocent" (it's the first to come to mind).

But I have no desire to get into a lengthy debate about this, so I will end my comments in this topic here.





Probably.

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2004 - 2:26 AM   
 By:   Jesse Hopkins   (Member)

Contrast Goldsmith's score, say, for The Blue Max with any one of Williams' scores for the similar "Star Wars" films.

Goldsmith emphasized that Max was an integrated, organic whole by distinctly employing a theme-and-variation approach. Williams, meanwhile, effectively "segmented" the pictures he scored by applying one theme here, a totally different one there, etc.


Ah, but contrast Williams' score for "Seven Years in Tibet" with any of his "Star Wars" scores and you will have the same result. What this proves is versatility. I think you might agree that Williams' approach worked for Star Wars. Similar things could be said of "Midway" which contains only 2 themes.

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2004 - 2:27 AM   
 By:   Dan Hobgood   (Member)

Do you think there are instances where the motif method is a better choice over the theme and variations approach? Examples?

Offhand, I don't know. Suffice it to say, if a diffusionist approach with unrelated gestures [to be more specific] ever is better, it's extremely rare. Maybe The 'Burbs, perhaps, for striking comedic effect [mocking '50's serials, etc.]?

But even when it is warranted to have a dynamic thematic base, it seems to me as though it would be almost invariably preferable to link everything together [a la Goldsmith's The Mummy, for instance, in which the themes--while recognizable individually--all share a similar note progression].

Doesn't it just make more sense, ya know?

DH

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2004 - 2:34 AM   
 By:   Dan Hobgood   (Member)

Ah, but contrast Williams' score for "Seven Years in Tibet" with any of his "Star Wars" scores and you will have the same result. What this proves is versatility. I think you might agree that Williams' approach worked for Star Wars. Similar things could be said of "Midway" which contains only 2 themes.

The above reminds me of the theme of Malcolm's speech from Jurassic Park, ironically scored by JW. Sure, Williams could write a score such as Star Wars--or JP, too--but whether he actually should is another matter.

Time for me to go to bed! smile

DH

P.S: I adore Presumed Innocent, plus The Accidental Tourist, just to name a couple of splendidly conceived and executed Williams scores. smile

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2004 - 2:46 AM   
 By:   joan hue   (Member)

Dave Coscina raised a very interesting point that would make an interesting topic. He indicated that the "mainstream populace" enjoys Williams' music as much as film score lovers, and this in a way may be a curse. Being well-beloved by "mainstreamers" may in fact (and unfairly so) diminish the respect given to Williams from certain academia..concert hall composers. That's too bad. I think the same thing happened to Henry Mancini, an underrated composer associated too often with popular songs. They were excellent songs, and he knew how to tap into the emotional heart of a movie.

Too bad that mainstream popularity is always associated with mediocrity. (Sometimes deserved and sometimes not.)

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2004 - 2:59 AM   
 By:   Jesse Hopkins   (Member)

Poltergeist was guided by Spielberg, and was thus Goldsmith's most "Spielbergian" score (Twilight Zone is episodic). It uses the leitmotivic approach. I feel this is one of his strongest works.

Counter-culture tendencies do play a part in many Williams detractors. Perhaps it is the search for something "else" which drives some to reject leitmotif. It is always the goal of academics to find the next big thing in music. I find great joy as a composer in approaching different subjects with the leitmotif approach as well as the monochromatic approach. Music's main function in film is emotional. Therefore both approaches work equally well under different circumstances. But for a film as rich and varied as Star Wars, the Mummy "everything is related" approach simply would have dragged the film down.

 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2004 - 5:47 AM   
 By:   Jehannum   (Member)

There can be any number of reasons that someone may dislike or be indifferent to John Williams' music. This is a completely different thing from saying that JW's music is no good.

For me, scores like Star Wars, Indiana Jones, etc. simply don't reference the kind of classical music that I like (which is pre-Mozart or post-Beethoven).

Jerry Goldsmith's classical influences are more to my taste. I like to hear the sound of the 20th century in film music.

Personal to me is also the strength of the Williams/Spielberg connection. I don't like Spielberg's films, and I can't think of Williams without thinking of Spielberg.

I've recently become enamoured with John Williams' latest Harry Potter score because I like the folk music influence. Being a big Goldsmith fan, the relative lessening of thematic and orchestral unity is obvious to me, but here this is not a problem. I can listen to this score in the same way as an album of songs; each one is different and can be taken on its own merits.

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2004 - 7:01 AM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

First of all, I refuse to partake in the silly Goldsmith vs. Williams debate. Not only is it as old and tired as the Horner plagiarism bashing. It is also utterly pointless (unless you want to compare two different approaches to the artform without saying that one is better than the other)!

As far as the thread topic is concerned, we've had a couple of similiar ones over the years. Personally, I am a Williams completist (and so a huge fan) - for a number of reasons - yet I can perfectly recognize the occasional clunker on his resume (like JOHN GOLDFARB or HEARTBEEPS). So as not to lose all critical touch.

 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2004 - 7:45 AM   
 By:   WesllDeckers   (Member)

Do find Mr.Williams to be a bad composer? - NO.
Lesser than my favorite Mr.Goldsmith? - NO.
Do I love his music? - NO.

But yes at the same time. In particular, I like his concert works maybe more than some of his film works.
Star Wars, the Indiana Jones pictures, HP Azkaban, and Jaws (& 2) are mine favorites from his great body of work.

His music simply doesn't fully connect with me, as the music of Goldsmith, Barry or Broughton.
While often very interesting, I cannot fully connect with Alex North either... I love his works, though.

--------
The only thing that I don't like about many of Mr.Williams' scores, is in passages where he doesn't use any of his themes: these passages tend to sound the same as passages of the same kind in other movies. At least, for scores from the 90s...

 
 
 Posted:   Sep 28, 2004 - 8:39 AM   
 By:   Alexcremers   (Member)

At least Williams doesn't use Simmons drums in his classical scores. That should count for something!

 
You must log in or register to post.
  Go to page:    
© 2021 Film Score Monthly. All Rights Reserved...