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Topic: J.W. not a good composer?

  1. #1

    Unhappy J.W. not a good composer?

    I have been listening and kind of analysing some of J.W. known scores and it strikes me that they are all kind of amatourish. Harmonic progressions are often very simple (even when he obviously tries to be "modern") and when J.W. tries to flex his counterpoint muscle it seems to give away. His music has often these features:

    * fast scale runs (and often plain runs, so it's not as interesting as it could be)
    * slow motion in the middle voices, meaning that the chord is just held in the strings until next chord appears. Kind of boring!
    * parallels 5th often used, and then not as an orchestration tool but more as a voice-leading. Now, parallels are ok but I find too much use of them (specially when not used as a orchestration tool) rather distracting. And often it sounded quite clumbsy.
    * Snare drums often has the same cliché rhythm in many pieces.
    * Bass is often static and relative uninteresting.

    Overall, his music sometimes appears as being rushed out and rather clumbsy than a something which could be called masterpiece. Compared to the classical masters J.W. would get 2 out of 10 in composition but little more in orchestration - maybe 3 in orchestration.

    I was kind of disappointed because I thought that J.W. where better than I discovered today.

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  2. #2

    Re: J.W. not a good composer?

    J.W.? John Wayne?
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  3. #3

    Re: J.W. not a good composer?

    Quote Originally Posted by wes37
    J.W.? John Wayne?
    Hehehhe... nope, unfortunatly J.W. means John Williams.

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  4. #4

    Re: J.W. not a good composer?

    You just have to listen to his music to know he's a great composer! It's senseless to equate "complicated" with "good". Besides you're likely referring to his film music which written for a very specific purpose and which is extremely well crafted for that purpose.

    Yet you make a good point that some of his music is quite simple, but I find there's often a certain "magical quality" that few others can imitate. Same story with songwriter Diane Warren, not complicated songs by any means but many of them have that indescribable quality that makes them great songs.

  5. #5

    Re: J.W. not a good composer?

    Given the crazy deadlines on films today, I'm not surprised that you found these shortcomings. If you were to pay him a commission (for a large sum) that specified great music, and a long schedule, I'm sure he could blow your socks off.


  6. #6

    Re: J.W. not a good composer?

    You may have some points to make. I would love to look through some of John William's scores but have not purchased any. I am fairly familiar with his music, having heard star wars, Harry Potter and several others.

    He strikes me as a skilled composer.

    Among the things he has that I don't have is experience, experience, expierience.... and likely has considerable resources to him to hear his music and edit his music. And being successful, he has time to write and edit and work out his music to his liking.

    So he writes considerable music, tailored music, at times complex music with what appears to be self confidence.

    I just wish that I had the experience, resources and time to write.

    I know that one can purchase his scores. If I recall, they were a bit expensive.


  7. #7

    Re: J.W. not a good composer?

    Wow, three posts in just a few minutes.


  8. #8

    Re: J.W. not a good composer?

    Well, it's subjective, isn't it?

    However, part of the reason some of it may seem so basic and cliched might be answered in the "good to be unoriginal?" thread. For example, I'm sure he's busy beyond all reason, with little time to spare (though I'm sure he's also rich beyond all reason. My, how I'd love inherit that kind of money). Also, he's so critically acclaimed, so many people enjoy his music, he must have some system working nicely for him.
    Sean Patrick Hannifin
    My MP3s | My Melody Generator | my album
    "serious music" ... as if the rest of us are just kidding

  9. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    between this place and that place

    Re: J.W. not a good composer?

    naa this is the sillest thing I have seen here, and I have seen it on other composer forums. John Williams is a genius at being able to create a theme that fit's perfect for that movie or scene he is writing it for, generally now I guess there are like 5 or 4 orchestraters for a film for those themes to do the orchestra arrangements. But really being able to compose some amazing score and make a theme that fits a scene is sort of two different things. Isn't film music mostly sort of Underscore style anywayz? Do you see yourself being able to come up with themes that fit everytime? Also Arrangements are what I think make great film composers and there is that Hollywood Cliche Arrangement style. It will be the audience that decides on if a person is a good composer and so far there are no complaints
    I had to reply to this because I had the same way of thought you did about film scores in General, comparing different composers of differnt cutlures etc. Then it just came to me that no it is insane talant to be able to come up with the music to fit what your writing for so perfectly and satisfy the directors needs for the film. Film Scoring is talant in it's self
    There is even a few books on the talant known as film scoring. Not the same as just wriiting a classical or jazz score on your own. you can't compare the two, film scoring and composing your own music.

  10. #10

    Re: J.W. not a good composer?

    As a film composer, Williams has his own little cliches that he uses to put together good scores in a short time. He admits this.

    Is he a good composer? Hell yes. Analyze his serious works. Check out his Violin Concerto, Bassoon Piece (I believe it is called "Seven Sacred Trees"), and Flute Concerto. He is well trained and very creative. He just accepts film music for what it is... pop music. It has to appeal to the masses except when he scores more artsy flicks.

    JW started as a pianist and copyist for the NBC Symphony under Toscanini and worked his way up. He does sneak in some atonal and more artsy music in his scores. Try to analyze some of the in-between music instead of main themes.

    Williams is recently becoming highly regarded among the academic community because of his serious music. He may be well on his way to being another Copland if he keeps his output of serious music up. It just depends on how many movies Spielberg keeps making.

    As a film composer, no one comes close. He has passed all of the early greats like Herrmann. He adopted Copland's use of more modern harmony (hence the parallel fifths) and Wagner's leit motif (the theme for different characters). He has been nominated for 43 Oscars. No actor, director, or anyone else even comes close.

    I am sure that JW would rather composers and musicologists look at something other than the main themes. He really finds ways to sneak art music into the pop culture and that is nice.
    Jess Hendricks
    DMA Student and Teaching Asst in Music Theory/ Composition at the University of Miami
    Personal Website

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