John Williams Star Wars?


(Above: Composer John Williams with C3-PO from the film Star Wars, Ludwig Van Beethoven looks ominously on)

Listening to John Williams’ fantastic score for the ‘Star Wars’ franchise, one of the most amazing features of the score is his Wagnerian use of Leit motif to represent the different characters, including the ‘Force’. But, how many of these themes and musical motives have their origins in earlier examples of descriptive music? Well, one of the most obvious sources of inspiration is English composer Gustav Holst’s suite ‘The Planets’ written between 1914-16, this work has influenced a number of film composers and has certainly been on many a film directors first cut of a movie. The movement that has come under most scrutiny is ‘Mars’ the bringer of war, which despite it’s ‘Alien’ 5/4 time signature depicting an Army marching, contains dark, percussive string Ostinato writing, Where the players are asked to use the wood of their bows (Col Legno), alongside snarling lower brass, giving way to unison fanfare figures seemingly adopted by the whole orchestra. Stirring, dramatic Music worthy of any Sci-fi film written today.

Move forward 42 years to 1958 and we have English composer Leighton Lucas’s score from the Film ‘Ice cold in Alex’, the influence of Holst’s ‘Mars’ is very obvious here:

Of course, if you listen to that opening ‘Prelude’ from ‘Ice cold in Alex’ then you will all be recognising where John Williams had his inspiration from for the opening battle scene from ‘Star Wars, a new hope’ also, some of you may have picked out the tell tale perfect fourth/fifth intervals so familiar in Williams’ themes at 1.05 in the last video clip, perhaps Superman will fly in and put an end to World War two, before the end of the film.

Finally, just to remind ourselves of what this blog post is all about, here is the opening scene of ‘Star Wars’ Episode IV ‘A new hope’ music by Gustav Holst, I mean John Williams, Sorry…..


John Williams ‘Lincoln’ soundtrack news

The soundtrack for ‘Lincoln’ is due to be released on November 6th this year featuring the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and chorus, conducted by the composer. It looks as if there will be featured instrumentalists within the tracks, most notably: Piano, Horn, Trumpet, Clarinet and Bassoon. It will also be interesting to note how and where he uses the ‘chorus’, will it have the same dramatic effect as in ‘the Phantom Menace’ in the dual of fates’? I doubt it, but you never know!

The track listing is as follows:

01. The People’s House (3:41)
02. The Purpose Of The Amendment (3:06)
03. Getting Out The Vote (2:48)
04. The American Process (3:56)
05. The Blue And Grey (2:59)
06. “With Malice Toward None” (1:50)
07. Call To Muster And Battle Cry Of Freedom (2:17)
08. The Southern Delegation And The Dream (4:43)
09. Father And Son (1:42)
10. The Race To The House (2:41)
11. Equality Under The Law (3:11)
12. Freedom’s Call (6:06)
13. Elegy (2:34)
14. Remembering Willie (1:51)
15. Appomattox, April 9, 1865 (2:36)
16. The Peterson House And Finale (11:00)
17. “With Malice Toward None” (Piano Solo) (1:31)

One to look forward to! Keep up to date on John Williams news at http://www.jwfan.com/


World Soundtrack Academy ‘Public Choice Award’ Vote now!

An opportunity to vote for your favourite film score:

The World Soundtrack Academy was launched in 2001 as part of the Ghent Film Festival. Last year’s winner of the ‘public choice award’ was 127 Hours, A. R. Rahman whereas the academy’s award went to ‘The Social Network’. So it just goes to show that the ‘public choice award’ is worth doing.

All soundtrack and film music fans worldwide are asked to cast their vote for what they consider the best soundtrack of the past 12 months (for any film released between 1 JULY, 2011 and 30 JUNE, 2012). The soundtrack that gets the highest number of votes will receive the Public Choice Award. Only one vote is allowed per person. The voting procedure is monitored by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The voting period is set from 2012-07-01 to 2012-09-15


How to vote:

  • Find your soundtrack below by either searching your favourite movie or composer, either by browsing through the full list of nominated titles for 2011-2012.
  • Proceed by selecting “Vote” next to the title of your preference.
  • Finish by filling out your personal info into the form to validate your vote

Click here to get started

Who will you vote for? I’d love to know!


Marvin Hamlisch 1944 – 2012

Very sad news today reaching us about the death of Marvin Hamlisch at the age of 68. A very talented composer, Hamlisch is well known for his film scores, stage musicals and popular songs. He was also a prolific conductor and pianist and all round entertainer.

Hamlisch is probably best known for his film scores to ‘The way we were’, ‘The Sting’ and ‘The Spy who loved me’ and the stage musical, later film: ‘A Chorus line’.

He certainly brought James Bond into the 1970’s with this ‘disco’ influenced track:

His mastery of melody and mood are demonstrated in his 1982 Oscar nominated score for ‘Sophie’s choice’:

Finally, showcasing his talent for songwriting, the Oscar winning song ‘The way we were’:

This great tunesmith will be greatly missed by the Music world


War Horse (2011) John Williams

John Williams’s Oscar nominated score could not be more contrasting to his other nominated score this year, ‘The Adventures of Tintin’, both are directed by Steven Spielberg who has been collaborating with Williams since 1972:
“John certainly has the most considerable impact because his music immediately bypasses the brain and goes straight to your heart. That’s the way he’s always been… an amazing talent”.
The score itself is Williams at his most expressive, at moments pastoral like in his score ‘Far and away’, and grand as in ‘Born on the fourth of July’. Whilst it lacks the obvious melodies and leit motif of his Sci-fi scores the moods created are stunning.
The soundtrack CD to the film begins with ‘Dartmoor 1912’ a pastoral track that evokes the English countryside through the use of a solo pentatonic flute melody which is then answered by lush strings moving in parallel chords, we are in Vaughan williams territory here, most notably ‘the lark ascending’. This mood is soon changed with a ‘Celtic’ sounding melody on the clarinet which is then further developed by woodwind with agitated strings and brass accompaniment in a driving rhythm. The quirky rhythms then sound Coplandesque (Appalachian spring), a colourful and exuberant start to the score. Here’s what it sounds like:
The second track ‘The auction’, shows Williams’s resourcefulness in melodic material and colourful orchestration, another ‘pentatonic’ melody is used this time over a repeated pedal note to create the monotony of the auction process. The third track ‘Bringing Joey home’ shows Williams’s use of humour with the jumpy rhythm in the lower strings, this is played inbetween statements of the ‘pentatonic’ idea. Other highlights in the score include ‘Death of topham’, ‘No man’s land’ and ‘Remembering Emilie’ including this piano solo:
The usual trademarks are included in this Williams score: the use of Soaring French Horn melodies over lush string accompaniment and high string melodies with French horn counter melodies, there is also some quirky woodwind writing at times, reminding me of ewoks and the like. All in all, an excellent score, and wonderful to hear a purely ‘orchestral’ soundtrack.

Three film scores I’m looking forward to hearing over the next 12 months

It maybe the child in me, but quite simply:

‘Skyfall’ by Thomas Newman

How will Thomas Newman take over the Bond music franchise from David Arnold and the John Barry influence? Will he use the Monty Norman material?

‘The Hobbit’ by Howard Shore

Will we have a return of any of the themes from the LOTR trilogy ‘Concerning Hobbits’?

‘Man of Steel’ by Hans Zimmer

Superman without John Williams…or will we get to hear ‘that’ theme?!

Which film scores are you looking forward to hearing and why?


‘The Artist’ (2011) Ludovic Bource

The award winning score for ‘The Artist’ by Ludovic Bource, performed by the Brussels Philharmonic is a tremendous homage to the ‘Golden Age’ of Cinema. Bource’s mastery of pastiche is everywhere to be found in this eclectic score, starting with the cue ‘1927 Russian affair’ which evokes the early adventurous scores of Erich Wolfgang Korngold, it’s tongue placed firmly in it’s cheek at times, you almost expect Errol Flynn to appear. The music does have a serious side too, ‘Ghosts from the past’  strongly resembles Bernard Herrmann in style with it’s tremelando strings and descending brass (Cape Fear anyone?). Perhaps the most striking numbers in the score are the ones that sound like they have been written for a Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers film, starting with the theme written for the male lead ‘George Valentin’:

I couldn’t help but think of the charming ‘Walking the dog’ or ‘Promenade’ sequence from ‘Shall we dance’, the melody is in no way similar but the mood of the piece reminds me of it, again showing how appropriate Bource’s score is.

In any film that is ‘Silent’,  the composer has an even bigger and important role in helping communicate the meaning of the story and French composer Bource more than delivers, as his Golden Globe, BAFTA and Academy award testify with this fine wonderfully orchestrated score.

Finally, in a homage to 1930’s ‘Swing’ (sing, sing, sing?): “A happy ending” ! :

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