Ugh! This is completely off topic but I just watched the Rebecca Black video on YouTube, you know the one where some random teenage girl is singing like a car alarm about a day of the week, complete with explanations of the subsequent days that follow. Christ! If you’re not convinced our nations creative culture has hit rock bottom then just go take a peek at the video for “Friday.” My wife summed it up best in saying that that production was the outcome of children being coddled and told that everything they do is “awesome” and “special.” Sorry kids sometimes you just can’t sing, no matter how much you dial up the autotune. We can’t all be star athletes either. Hard work and perseverance are a major part of achieving what we want out of life, but sometimes a measure of talent is needed to actually make those dreams a reality. Play to your strengths.
Ah but why waste my breath right? I mean that music video is awful, but it already has over a million views. Sure many, like myself, have watched it simply to see how bad it is but that notion is lost on our commercialized culture. A million views means a lot of eyes have seen this train wreck and when there’s an inevitable follow up there will be an immediate viewership response which means there can be some profit to be made on this shit. I really don’t hold anything against the young lady herself, at best she has been misguided, at worst she’s a bit delusional. But I don’t see it as having much to do with her. Someone with some film equipment noticed her genuine desire to be a star (talent aside) and the dollar signs started floating down from the heavens as the plans were set into motion to make her the next Justin Beiber/Disney-esque pop star. There is so little class left in our culture. Sigh.
I could go on and on ranting, but that wasn’t actually what I wanted to write about today. I came here with the intention of talking about my love for composer John Williams. However after seeing that video this morning it just put me in a foul, pessimistic mood so I had to piss and moan a bit. Anywho, on to John Williams. Now there’s a classy dude. I would not hesitate to place John Williams among the ranks of Mozart and Beethoven. Traditional classical music scholars might scoff at the idea that a mere movie composer, who writes scores for films, would even be considered equal to the great symphonic masters of history. But I say, really what’s the difference? John Williams has written traditional symphonies, not many, but he has a few under his belt. He is though of course most known for his memorable and moving film scores, which often complete the movies they are a part of. Imagine Jaws without its soundtrack. Not only the famous tensely menacing theme of the shark but also the incidental sections which highlight the adventure of the open water really add quite a bit to that movie. Without that music Jaws would seem rather flat and somewhat dull. It is impossible to separate the music from the action. Now think about Mozart, Wagner, and Mendelssohn many of their best known works come from their operas and theatrical pieces. The movies of their day. I’ll grant you that in some cases these masters had a much larger role in the stories that were being portrayed on stage, but it was all about the music telling those stories, evoking the emotions and tensions that were being played out on stage.
Fact: I have seen John Williams in concert more times than any other band/musician.
Let me just say that I do like to think of myself as having a rather eclectic taste in music, I don’t only listen to symphonic and classical music. I can appreciate pretty much all music and have it represented in some form or another on my ipod. With the exception of modern country music, that shits awful. Though even that has a few exceptions I suppose. I realize that the only musical discussions on my blog currently are this, and a post about Handel. I just think it’s important to understand the history of music, and appreciate the diversity of classical music that is out there. There are some exciting and cool works to listen to, it’s not all chamber music and lullabies for your developing toddler.
Now back to John Williams. I have said for a long time that I believe the great film composers are the true legacy of classical music and the great composers of the past. John Williams, Henry Mancini, Howard Shore, even Danny Elfman all draw on the past as well as adding something new to the sound of symphonic music. I would love to hear more works from these and other modern movie composers played along with the Bizet and Verdi pieces that are played on NPR and elsewhere.
My fandom of John Williams and my overall appreciation of movie scores, began in 1993 at the tender age of twelve. At that time I had very little knowledge of such subjects. One weekend my dad told me he was taking me to a movie, we were going to see Jurassic Park. As I sat in the theater watching the awesome scenery and effects of that movie one thing struck me which had never occurred to me about a movie before. The music. It was an “ah ha!” moment for me that has really effected my movie going experience to this day. I remember exactly which scene it was that caught my attention, it was towards the beginning of the movie just before they reach the island, as the group is soaring over the ocean in a helicopter on their approach to Jurassic Park. The music is perfectly timed with a cut, so that the music shoots up suddenly to sweep the viewer up and soar them along to this tropical location. It is a memorable tune that had me paying attention to the rest of the music in the movie, but not distracting me at all from what was happening as people were getting chased and bitten in half by dinosaurs, in fact it enhanced that experience. As the credits rolled I made sure to pay attention and see who had written that crazy awesome score. John Williams, a name that would send me investigating all his other work.
Jurassic Park, both the movie and the book, changed my life.
Back in modern times, the wife and I watched Jurassic Park again recently and I was reminded just how perfectly John Williams’ score weaves the action together as well as highlights the slower more emotional scenes. I would argue that his work on Jurassic Park is his finest in terms of punctuating a movie, in doing the most heavy lifting to create suspense, and in establishing an overall sense of wonder. As a kid I was obsessed with Jurassic Park and the soundtrack was actually the first CD I ever bought. (Yeah I’m awesome.) Through some searching I soon realized that John Williams was the man behind the music of my favorite movies of all time, Star Wars. From there I discovered that John Williams was the sound of Jaws, Indiana Jones, and pretty much every Steven Spielberg movie ever. I was hooked for life, and the rest is history.
Frequent collaborators, John Williams and Steven Spielberg.
This blog has kind of gotten off track, I had a whole comparison ready to go between the Magic Flute and the ET soundtrack, but I’ve gone on too long at this point. I have more or less just lectured about my love for John Williams. I guess if I had to sum up this blog it would be to encourage any parents out there, or hip aunts and uncles, etc. to go out and purchase some John Williams music for some of the kids in your family. Chances are they already like some of the movies he’s been a part of, so it is an easy in. Start your kids off with something like the Star Wars soundtracks. Their enjoyment of something familiar might encourage an interest in classical works, and the intricacies of large orchestral pieces. That interest might than be translated into other music, be it classical or rock and roll or hip hop. If kids have a good understanding of different sounds, and the building blocks of music they might be able to cultivate a genuine interest in music, instead of a desire for fame through music. Maybe John Williams can even help our future generations avoid being bamboozled into making terrible musical decisions, like taking part in obnoxious music videos about random words.
That is all!
John Williams has been as equally important to these movies as the actors and directors.