Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt
swashbuckler332

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Tonal Vocabulary



This was the first disc that I created
when I upgraded to using printable CDs.

John Williams. In keeping with the style of music that he has become best known for, his very name has a traditional sound to it. Star Wars cemented his mastery of a method of film scoring in the public mindset - a leitmotif technique that is harmonically related most to the 19th century Romantic music (often with Classical or Baroque style flourishes) - and this is what his career is most associated with, whether it be the aforementioned Star Wars, Superman or Harry Potter franchises. But Williams is a very versatile composer, and his career includes many other approaches, from the combination of a piano and string orchestra with exotic sounds created by percussionist Stomu Yamash'ta for Images, or intense and modernistic Sleepers.

There is a lot of trust between Steven Spielberg and Williams since the latter won an Oscar for Jaws - their first collaboration - in 1975, and with the exception of The Color Purple, Williams has scored every one of Spielberg's projects as a director since. Spielberg generally lets Williams do his thing, assuming (more often than not correctly) that whatever Williams comes up with would be better than any alternative. This relationship allows for Williams to explore more varied methods of composition; indeed, his scores for Spielberg all share a certain musical sophistication that has become rare in Hollywood, land of the zillionth Media Ventures clone score and temp track love. There is a certain amount of irony here; while this method has been streamlined over the three decades since,in many ways, the current trend towards more conservative methods of film scoring can be traced back to the impact that Williams' Star Wars had. In the wake of that film, the Romantic idiom became de riguer for all adventure and science fiction.

Of course, Star Wars is not science fiction, it is fantasy, and Williams provided a score accordingly. The genre of science fiction, however, has often yielded some of the most interesting film scores, from Dimitri Tiomkin's The Thing, Bernard Herrmann's The Day the Earth Stood Still or any number of the genre scores that Jerry Goldsmith created, including Planet of the Apes, The Illustrated Man, Star Trek: The Motion Picture and Capricorn One. The need to illustrate the otherworldy causes composers to become more experimental with regards to harmonics and orchestration. It is therefore fitting that much of the most unusual of Williams' scores would be written for Spielberg's science fiction films, a genre the director first approached with Close Encounters of the Third Kind in 1977, and has returned to time and again.



15 Tracks (81:29)

1. THE CONVERSATION 1:47
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

2.
ROUGE CITY 2:38
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

3.
"SEAN" BY AGATHA 2:59
Minority Report (2002)

4.
AT HOME 5:30
E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial (1982)

5.
ESCAPE FROM THE CITY 3:35
War of the Worlds (2005)

6.
DEVIL'S TOWER, WYOMING 5:00
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

7.
REPLICAS 4:19
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

8.
FAREWELL 3:28
E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial (1982)

9.
REFUGEE STATUS 3:43
War of the Worlds (2005)

10.
VISIONS OF ANNE LIVELY 3:16
Minority Report (2002)
Vocal by DEBORAH DIETRICH

11.
WATCH THE SKIES 9:34
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

12.
THE SEPARATION OF THE FAMILY 1:50
War of the Worlds (2005)

13.
ADVENTURE ON EARTH 15:00
E.T. - The Extra Terrestrial (1982)

14.
STORED MEMORIES and MONICA'S THEME 10:14
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
Vocal by BARBARA BONNEY

15.
RESOLUTION and END TITLE 7:28
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Interpolates "When You Wish Upon a Star"
Written by LEIGH HARLINE and NED WASHINGTON


Music Composed and Conducted by
JOHN WILLIAMS
Orchestrations by
HERBERT W. SPENCER, JOHN NUEFELD, ALEXANDER COURAGE,
CONRAD POPE, EDDIE KARAM and ANGELA MORLEY

Engineered by
SHAWN MURPHY, JOHN NEAL, SUE McLEAN,
LYLE BURBRIDGE and BRUCE BOTNICK



The album opens with what may be Williams' most iconic piece of music for science fiction (again, Star Wars is most decidedly not sci-fi). The five-note motif from Close Encounters of the Third Kind has ingrained itself upon the American pop culture scene. The selection here (taken from "Wild Signals," the Arista expanded remaster, despite the title, which comes from the Arista LP and subsequent Varèse Sarabande CD) is from the attempt at communication between the government and the Mothership towards the end of the film. The infamous five-note motif is the human overture to peace, and as the track progresses, the message is taken up by the aliens as well. One of the most interesting aspects of the score is hearing how the two voices "teach" each other to communicate, until by the end of the included selection they are in accord. This was actually one of my last additions to the album; while I had been playing around with including it, it wasn't until I decided to conclude the album with "Resolution and End Title" (once again, the original Arista/Varèse title; the remaster titles it "'Bye'/End Credits: The Special Edition"); this final piece is, in fact, the only appearance of any music from the Varèse CD, as the Arista remaster bridges this cue with its predecessor. I actually re-created the edit heard in the film and the Arista album from the "Resolution" to "End Title" (marked by an index marker on this disc), but the edit I made is somewhat cleaner than was possible in 1977; it is only a fleeting moment at the very beginning of the track, but the remaster pairs this cue with "The Visitors" via a crossfade, forcing me to include the only piece of music - the opening of "Resolution" - from the Varèse disc. "Devil's Tower, Wyoming" is a track that was edited by myself and consists of a suite of the material connected to Roy (Richard Dreyfuss) and Gillian (Melinda Dillon) discovering the location of the strange form that has been rattling around in their brains. The title track, "Watch the Skies" (the title is a line from the film and one of the chapter stops on the Criterion laserdisc of the film, which is the only home video edition of the original theatrical version) is one of my edits I happen to be most proud of, a suite summing up the final 35 minutes of the film as the aliens land by Devil's Tower that almost recalls Alex North. This spectacular piece is one of the ones I would like to point at as being proof that music need not be consonant or even tonal to be beautiful.

The dark (and very muddled) A.I. Artificial Intelligence was scored by Williams in 2001; lehah has said that it is the most recent Williams score worthy of the monicker "masterpiece." This is apparent in the opening of "Rouge City," which presents Williams' main theme for the film, while the second portion of the track is a different setting for the theme heard in "The Mecha World," which appeared on my Vistas: Alien Landscapes compilation. While Spielberg gives Williams major kudos in the liner notes for the emotional content of the A.I. score, one finds upon closer listening that the score actually keeps itself quite aloof from the characters (who are, admittedly, automatons). "Replicas" contains disturbing choral passages, while "Stored Memories and Monica's Theme" reflect not only the main character's (Haley Joel Osment) devotion to his mother figure, but her mental instability as well. Minority Report was a more stimulating reflection on future society, with precognition a major theme (shades of Frank Herbert). The score is represented here by "'Sean' by Agatha" and "Visions of Anne Lively," both of which showcase Williams' gift for both melody and mood - both feature tense introductions, but with tender finales. War of the Worlds was more of an action powerhouse, which is represented here by the angry "Escape from the City." The more emotional aspects of the story were given dark but wrenching accompaniement in the fugal "Refugee Status" and the piano-driven "The Separation of the Family."

Williams' Oscar-winning score from E.T. is represented here by three tracks, the introspective "At Home," which actually serves as a mini-suite of the primary thematic material from the film. My original intention was to include "E.T. and Me" from the album re-recording of the score, but I found that between "At Home" and "Farewell," I had covered the building blocks of that track more efficiently. "Farewell"( titled "E.T. is Alive" on the MCA SACD remaster) revisits the intimate main theme for E.T. and Elliot (Henry Thomas) in a very touching arrangment, but picks up the tone once Elliot realizes that E.T. is not dead. "Adventures on Earth," while titled as the original MCA LP was, is also from the MCA SACD remaster; this piece is one of the most exciting bits of chase scoring ever composed. It is also one of the most effective chases ever put on film, and owes a lot to the score (Spielberg actually cut the film around the score). While it certainly references - one might even say rips off - Howard Hanson's second symphony, it is impossible to deny the technical and emotional achievement of Williams' score. This was originally going to close off this album until I found that it was anticlimactic after the peaceful "Resolution and End Title" from Close Encounters; I therefore made it the beginning of the last act of the album rather than finishing it off. Close Encounters finishes off the album with the same motif that it started with, now re-arranged for orchestra and choir - and including a pretty excerpt from Leigh Harline and Ned Washington's "When You Wish Upon a Star," which plays a semi-prominent role in the film.


JOHN WILLIAMS and STEVEN SPIELBERG


A good portion of these notes were written while one the airplane going to Florida last Thursday!
Tags: film music, john williams, my mixes
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