John Williams: An Inspiration Essay

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There has been much debate over the years about the originality of

film music. On the one side there are the purists, who cry foul at the piecing together of

classical segments simply because the film composer doesn’t have the time or the

originality. On the other side there are the film score gurus, who insist that the composers

were merely inspired by the earlier music and used the idea to write their own compositions. One

composer in particular that has come under condemnation from the purists is John Williams. He has been accused of “borrowing” from composers as well-known as Dvorak(New World

Symphony) and as obscure as Erich Wolfgang Korngold (kings row theme). The

underlying debate, however, is not
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After the spotting has been completed the composer has two to three months to complete a “rough cut” that fits reasonably with the discussed moods of the film. Even with the help of recent midi computer technology, the time line puts an extensive amount of pressure on the composer. Several composers, including Hans Zimmer, have described the pressure as terrifying, “I was just living in fear…We were battling the system”(Bond 21). Unfortunately, this pressure leads to methods of composition that are normally avoided and rejected by composers. It is not uncommon for the composer to draw from the temp score to form the rough cut or even the final working score. This leads to the common phrase, “haven’t I heard that before?”. The simple answer is, yes! Many of the temp score themes find their way into the actual score with slight alterations that distinguish one from the other. Even when the composer tries to create an original score there will still be lingering traces of the temp score present that a careful ear will pick up. After learning of the temp score method, I realized there might be more to the similarities between John William’s scores and others than first meets the eye. I decided to try to find out more about the temp scores used in the making of the Star Wars saga. Not surprisingly I came upon some of the songs that are reportedly related to the score. These included pieces of
Wagner’s Ring Cycle, Korngold’s Kings Row, and Dvorak’s Ninth
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