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Topic: Film Scores - Are you listening to who you think you are?

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  1. #1

    Film Scores - Are you listening to who you think you are?

    Hi Everyone - brand new user - I will be posting plenty of questions in the near future, no doubt, but for now the film score thread caught my eye:

    Maybe what follows is common knowledge but, if it isn't, it might throw some fresh light on some of the choices on that thread...

    Ghostwriters: When film composers become very famous (sort of John Williams famous), it is quite common for them to pass hefty chunks of the composition of new film scores onto other people who are known as ghostwriters. These people are not acknowledged on the credits of the film but they are paid extremely well. For example, the English composer Edward Gregson composed notable chunks of Superman IV, including the climax of the film... John Williams gets the credit.

    Don't get me wrong, John Williams is quite possibly the greatest western film composer of them all (although Prokofiev was so great that it hardly seems fair), but his own level input into his more recent film credits is certainly questionable. For all of you who picked Harry Potter - yes he wrote the tune, but as far as I am aware he didn't orchestrate it, and most of the filler music was written by other people. It seems sad that it is very difficult to find out exactly who did write this music - since it would be nice to give them the plaudits they deserve. I only know this because I studied with Gregson a little at college.

    So, my question is this; does anybody else have examples of ghost writing? Is it as common as I have been led to believe that it is and, if it is, is there anything wrong with it?

    Cheers guys - Alastair

  2. #2

    Re: Film Scores - Are you listening to who you think you are?

    Actually, Superman IV has music listed as being by Alexander Courage.
    I have no idea where you get Harry Gregson as being listed on that film. And John willimas has absolutely no credit other than "themes by".

    Same goes for Superman III, which has music by Ken Thorne based on "themes by John Williams".

    And again, the same goes for Jaws III, with themes by Williams, re-arranged by another composer.

    Please don't come here with baseless accusations under the pretence of "discussion".

    John Williams orchestrates in incredible detail ALL of his filmscores. He composes in a highly detailed condensed score, leaving his "orchestrators" (those who actually prepare the orchestal materials) very little to do.

    I have NO idea where you are getting these almost libelous comments about Maestro Williams. If this "Gregson" you name (who by the way is not listed anywhere on IMDB) has been feeding you these opinions, then he merits legal action for slander.

  3. #3

    Re: Film Scores - Are you listening to who you think you are?

    Quote Originally Posted by qccowboy
    Actually, Superman IV has music listed as being by Alexander Courage.
    I have no idea where you get Harry Gregson as being listed on that film. And John willimas has absolutely no credit other than "themes by".

    Same goes for Superman III, which has music by Ken Thorne based on "themes by John Williams".

    And again, the same goes for Jaws III, with themes by Williams, re-arranged by another composer.

    Please don't come here with baseless accusations under the pretence of "discussion".

    John Williams orchestrates in incredible detail ALL of his filmscores. He composes in a highly detailed condensed score, leaving his "orchestrators" (those who actually prepare the orchestal materials) very little to do.

    I have NO idea where you are getting these almost libelous comments about Maestro Williams. If this "Gregson" you name (who by the way is not listed anywhere on IMDB) has been feeding you these opinions, then he merits legal action for slander.
    Too right. JW was the worst example you could have picked to make this point. It is something that goes on to varying degrees, but not with John Williams. He uses orchestrators, but not ghost writers. And his short scores are very complete.

  4. #4
    Senior Member rpearl's Avatar
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    Re: Film Scores - Are you listening to who you think you are?

    To what extent to the orchestrators contribute. I have seen this in a number of film score recordings - composed by X; orchestrated by Y. Does Y really orchestrate, or "merely" finish out what has been 90% done by the composer.

    Just curious, as often the orchestral color is as meritorious as the musical material itself.
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  5. #5

    Re: Film Scores - Are you listening to who you think you are?

    orchestrators are basically glorified copyists. (generally)

    a film composer will write a "condensed" score, normally a sort of orchestral short-hand that includes the larger part of the actual orchestral intention. the orchestrator/copyist from that will create the full score.

    John WIlliams is a terrible example of the composer - orchestrator relationship. His "short-hand" scores are so incredibly detailed that the orchestrator is left with nothing much more than simply recopying that music onto full orchestral manuscript paper.

    Sometimes, a composer will be so rushed that underscore sections will be only barely sketched out (ie: harmony and melody) and the orchestrator, who generally has a pre-existing relationship with the composer, will expand from tehre. Always under the ever vigilant eye of the composer.

    I fellow student from my time at Université de Montréal went to L.A. to study film scoring, where he ended up being an asistant to Christopher Young and I believe he orchestrated a short passage from The Core.

    The orchestrator has a considerably shorter leash than the OP of this thread would have you believe.

  6. #6

    Re: Film Scores - Are you listening to who you think you are?

    Just wondering...

    As affirmed by qccowboy, a search on the internet turned up no link between the composer Edward Gregson and the films scored by John Williams. I'm sure that there must be a reason why the originator of this thread made the statement that he did the music for Superman IV... Maybe Alastair meant some other composer or film? Just curious about the reasons behind this statement, which I'm sure were not invented, maybe just blurred/changed a little. Edward Gregson is a respected composer, as of course is John Williams, and I don't see a "motive" for slander.

    EDIT: I can think of one example of "ghost-writing"! James-Newton Howard and his score for "The Sixth Sense". A he he he he...

  7. #7
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    Re: Film Scores - Are you listening to who you think you are?

    Ghostwriting of course is abundant in Hollywood. Part of the job however is to not talk about it.

  8. #8

    Re: Film Scores - Are you listening to who you think you are?

    I apologise:

    1. I should certainly have done some more homework on who wrote the music to the later Superman Movies.

    2. I had absolutely no intention of creating anything libelous or disparaging towards John Williams. As I did say, he is a great composer.

    3. I also had no desire to bring the name of Edward Gregson into disrepute.

    4. I was told this story whilst at Music College a few years back - if time has blurred my memory in any way regarding Gregson's statement to me then I take full responsibility for that error.

    5. For a first post on a new forum - I don't think I quite created the first impression I was hoping for...

    For all my ill informed comments above regarding specific composers and films, I believe the questions at the end of the post still stand. In response to GCC Cowboy and Nick J, you wouldn't find Gregson's name linked anywhere because he was a ghost writer and, as I said, the film's 'main' composer, is listed on the credits, whilst the ghost writer is paid.

    Part of the job is to keep it quiet
    : Fair enough - then perhaps it's time I laid this to rest.

  9. #9

    Re: Film Scores - Are you listening to who you think you are?

    actually, IMDB usually lists everyone who worked on a film, including uncredited people. for example, if you look up Mark Jablonsky (the new Transformers film) you will notice that he worked uncredited on a LOT of films.

  10. #10

    Re: Film Scores - Are you listening to who you think you are?

    John Williams is pretty economical with his themes. The theme for the Close Encounters music consisted of precisely five notes. The theme for the Jaws music -- two notes!
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