Is John Williams **really** the greatest composer?

Discussion in 'Star Wars And Film Music' started by jamesdrax, Feb 21, 2001.

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  1. JJDF413 Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Aug 24, 2001
    star 1
  2. Happy Ninja Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 20, 2000
    star 6
    IMO, I would say that there is no "greatest" composer; even if you could say that Williams is the greatest, he has had some below par scores!

    John Williams:
    Influential? Yes!
    Brillant? Yes!
    The Greatest EVER?: Woah, let's not get ahead of ourselves!

    You see, over the last 3 or 4 centuries, there have been MANY composers, who have done work, far more acclaimed to greatness than what Williams has done. Beethoven, Mozart, Bach, for example.

    Modern composers? Yeah, I would agree that he would be one of the best contemporary composers, but not the greatest, simply because there are many people who have had equally good success with their music, so the accolaid could not be claimed by one man.

    Plus, if you were to go to someone in the street and say, "Have you ever heard of Beethoven?" 99% of the time, you would get a yes response, without having to actually hear a piece of music to jog your memory. If you ask the same question about John Williams, I seriously doubt the percentage would get above 50% - Although if you were to play the theme to Jaws, Indy, SW, they would recignise that, but not the person who did it.
  3. yodaman Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 26, 1999
    star 5
    I think John Williams is the best current film composer. We also have to remember that Aaron Copland dabbled in film music and he may just be the greatest American composer period, though Gershwin ain't no slouch.
  4. DarthHamSup Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Aug 8, 2001
    I think that John Williams is the greatest "film music" composer. One cannot compare him to the great composers such as Bach, Beethoven and Haydns. For their works have been unparalleled and of a lot greater magnitude. but John Williams is definitely the master this music genre.
  5. JWK Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 18, 2000
    star 4
    He really is one of the greatest of all time. IMO he is the greatest of alll time.
  6. dstar Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Aug 16, 2001
    Mara- we're breaking the rules of structure, but that doesn't make it bad.

    I think John Williams is probably the best living composer definetly.
  7. IronParrot Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Aug 2, 1999
    star 5
    First of all, let me begin by saying that qualitative judgments of "best" or "greatest" really shouldn't be applied to the arts, especially without justification.

    But we all do it anyway. :p

    But you simply cannot compare film scores based on the music alone. You can only compare them based on how well the score supplements, enhances and transcends the film itself.

    I admire John Williams for his thematic composition and his fanfarish use of the grand Wagnerian leitmotif tradition characteristic of the escapist Neo-Romanticism represented in many of the films he has scored (Star Wars in particular), which has unfortunately gone a little downhill over time. Now his scores are just "very good" to "great", but not necessarily "CLASSIC".

    This is for the same reason I admire Max Steiner for his sweeping developments of simple thematic ideas through texturally vibrant legato harmonies of strings, as in the pastoral feel of the Old South in Gone With The Wind, the noir suspense of The Big Sleep, or the wartime nostalgia in the immortal rejuvenation of the song "As Time Goes By" in Casablanca.

    ... or Maurice Jarre's versatility in being capable of capturing the epic environments and moods of films such as David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia (my favourite non-Williams score) and Doctor Zhivago.

    ... or Nino Rota's lyrical solo violin melodies that have only been equaled by Williams' Schindler's List, notably those of The Godfather and Romeo And Juliet.

    You know why John Williams and Steven Spielberg are such a consistently perfect match? Because their works, musical and visual respectively, are of the same stylistic paradigms. They even extend themselves in the same way - stark departures from the classic Spielbergian style of light-and-sound spectacle such as Schindler's List are matched by the appropriate moods created by Williams.

    I think there's three reasons why John Williams is as big of a name as he is in film scoring.

    1) So many of his themes are just so memorable.
    2) His music is contextually appropriate to the respective films.
    3) His scores are consistently good.

    (I'd also add after point #3: "as opposed to Michael Kamen, Jerry Goldsmith, Hans Zimmer, Ennio Morricone, and Alan Silvestri, among others.")

    Does that answer the question?
  8. BobaFrank Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Jul 17, 2001
    star 5
    As far as film goes "YES HE IS THE GREATEST."
    James Horner and Danny Elfman are very good as well but JW is the best in film. His film credits alone make him the best but add in all of the Oscars he's won and there is no compitetion. The greatest ever though I doubt it because I can't tell you anything he has done outside of film which I hear is alot.

    I take that back he did the Olypic Fanfare song that is so popular which wasn't apart of film but I can't remember anything else.
  9. DarthSkeptical Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 19, 2001
    star 3
    The fact that JW's name appears on promotional literature with the same prominence as the director and and actors, as it does on the SW1 poster and trailers, indicates the level of power and respect the man commands. It's not just that his individual compositions are great. His work has advanced the importance of his entire craft. Before him, crediting the composer in the theatrical poster might have been a union rule, but the marketing department did it with all the enthusiasm of noting who the cinematographer was. ANH proved how a score could actually attract audiences. My father still sees movies based only on the fact that JW is the composer, in the same way that people go to a Harrison Ford movie solely because Harrison Ford is in it. Indeed, I would guess that if you took a scientifically accurate poll of average moviegoers, more of them would be able to name the composer of the Star Wars music than Titanic, Horner may be bridging this gap swiftly, but if he ever does, it will be because JW paved the way.

    That's what makes Williams the greatest film composer of all time.

    [Discussions about the actual quality of his compositions are secondary to this point because, of course, we don't have alternate scores of SW composed by other people, with which to compare him. It would be fascinating to see how Horner or Arnold or Goldsmith might re-score Star Wars. Because this will never happen, it's therefore essentially unknowable who is the best composer, based solely on quality of work.]
  10. Jeremyguy Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 11, 1998
    star 4
    Has Williams done any non-film music?
  11. Happy Ninja Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 20, 2000
    star 6
    I think he did the music for the opening/closing ceremony at the '84 Olympics, plus he did the Olympics theme for NBC.

    I know he has done some other TV work as well, one piece was for a series that Speilberg produced (was it called Amazing Stories, or somehting).

    I don't know, my memory fails me! :)
  12. Jeremyguy Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 11, 1998
    star 4
    Has he released any "art" music - music composed/recorded for its own sake and not as part of a movie or TV show or something?
  13. Krash RSA Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Oct 11, 2000
    star 5
    It is not fair to lable someone of our era as being one of "the greats" in anything; because we don't know how their accomplishments will stand the test of time. Look at some of the greatest names in music history; Mozart, Coltrain, The Beatles (I did that chronologically on purpose) they all are considered great even after they are no longer releasing new works.
    What this rant has to do with JW is that while he is my favorite musician, I can't speak for the entire world of music (past/present/future). It is up to future generations to rank his greatness. If my kid listens to "Binary-Sunset" and dreams about what's out there(like I do) then it's safe to call JW "the greatest composer".
  14. FriendshipDevil Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Aug 30, 2001
    He is the second greatest after Bernard Hermann (or whatever) from the Hitchcock films. Not even ST has had a theme song as good as SW's.
  15. yodaman Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Feb 26, 1999
    star 5
    Bernard Hermann is good. I especially like North by Northwest{/i] theme, though Pyscho is obviously awesome too.
  16. emupiett Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Oct 1, 2000
    star 1
  17. dehrian Manager Emeritus

    Member Since:
    Mar 18, 1999
    star 6
    JW just seems to us like the best of all time because he's in our time. We're prejudiced toward him. I love his work, but I wouldn't even say he's the best film composer of all time. The most consistent composer working in film today, yes.

    The best composers of all time would include Beethoven, Mozart, Rachmaninov, Bach, Dvorak, Tchaichovsky, Strauss (Sr.), among others. I love JW, but there's no way I'd ever put him on a list with those fellows.
  18. OmicronV Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Sep 21, 2001
    John Williams is a great composer,even thought others may have their oppinions, i'd say he's the best.
  19. Miz Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Mar 11, 2001
    star 2
    I think JW is more talented than classical composers because he creates music that must translate to quickly changing events onscreen, but it is so great it stands alone as 'good music'. Classical composers thought of an emotion or theme and did some big, long and often repetetive piece for it. And they all emulatd the same thing, God, nature, marches etc. You can't compose a film score twice! Each of his love/action/evil themes are original and sporadic in their own way.
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