Sunday, April 30, 2017

Introducing My New Column "Composing Greatness"

John Williams
After some delay, I am proud to announce my next weekly series. Following the wrap-up of Best Song, I had trouble deciding what topic could be prolific enough to warrant a continual series. Well, there's plenty of room to suggest that the only smart answer is John Williams. Over the course of his career, he has been nominated 50 times to date. That's a lot of music, which doesn't seem like such a problem for a composer who probably has the most recognizable body of work in film history. So join me as I chronicle his career from nomination one to the present day in a series that I am calling "Composing Greatness," which will be starting next Sunday. Click below to read more about this column.

In all honesty, I didn't rally know what to do next following the conclusion of Best Song. I loved the column so much, but there were limited ways to explore music without dedicating a considerable amount of time to research and listening to music that I frankly didn't care for. I considered Best Score with the Best Original Scores winners, but felt that it would be overkill when I got to stretches of more classical score that I cannot fully appreciate. With all of this said, I turned to the one man who probably would hold my interest: John Williams.

I admit that I am not an obsessive on the composer's work. Don't take this as a knock, as he really does his work on an enviable and higher level than most. However, I cannot really tell you what all he was nominated for, even if he has one of the highest nominations count by any living person. That is why I'm setting out to familiarize myself with each and every one of his nominations. Most of them are scores, but some are songs. My goal is to find what makes his work special as well as determine which scores are masterpieces, underrated gems, and inessential fluff. 

In organizing this structure, I have come to one conclusion: I will be going weekly by movie title. While this is largely inconsequential, I realized how silly it would be to do two weeks on movies like Sabrina (1995) or Home Alone. With that said, I will be doubling up on some weeks, so this won't quite be as long as the nomination sheet. For the sake of clarity, here's how the weeks will preferably play out:

1. Valley of the Dolls - 1967 (Best Music, Scoring of Music, Adaptation or Treatment)
2. Goodbye, Mr. Chips - 1969 (Best Music, Score of a Musial Picture (Original or Adaptation))
3. The Reivers - 1969 (Best Music, Original Score for a Motion Picture (Not Musical))
4. Fiddler on the Roof - 1971 (Best Music, Scoring Adaptation and Original Song Score)
5. The Poseidon Adventure - 1972 (Best Music, Original Dramatic Score)
6. Images - 1972 (Best Music, Original Dramatic Score)
7. Tom Sawyer - 1973 (Best Music, Score Original Song Score and/or Adaptation)
8. Ciderella Liberty - 1973
-A. Best Original Song ("Nice to Be Around")
-B. Best Original Dramatic Score
9. The Towering Inferno - 1974 (Best Music, Original Dramatic Score)
10. Jaws - 1975 (Best Music, Original Dramatic Score)
11. Close Encounters of the Third Kind - 1977 (Best Music, Original Score)
12. Star Wars - 1977 (Best Music, Original Score)
13. Superman - 1978 (Best Music, Original Score)
14. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back - 1980 (Best Music, Original Score)
15. Raiders of the Lost Ark - 1981 (Best Music, Original Score)
16. Yes, Giorgio - 1982 (Best Original Song)
17. E.T. the Extra Terrestrial - 1982 (Best Music, Original Score)
18. Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi - 1983 (Best Music, Original Score)
19. The River - 1984 (Best Music, Original Score)
20. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom - 1984 (Best Music, Original Score)
21. The Witches of Eastwick - 1987 (Best Music, Original Score)
22. Empire of the Sun - 1987 (Best Music, Original Score)
23. The Accidental Tourist - 1988 (Best Music, Original Score)
24. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade - 1989 (Best Music, Original Score)
25. Born on the Fourth of July - 1989 (Best Music, Original Score)
26. Home Alone - 1990
-A. Best Original Song ("Somewhere in My Memory"
-B. Best Music, Original Score
27. JFK - 1991 (Best Music, Original Score)
28. Hook - 1991 (Best Original Song - "When You're Alone"
29. Schindler's List - 1993 (Best Music, Original Score)
30. Nixon - 1995 (Best Music, Original Dramatic Score)
31. Sabrrina - 1995
-A. Best Original Song ("Moonlight")
-B. Best Original Musical or Comedy Score
32. Sleepers - 1996 (Best Music, Original Dramatic Score)
33. Amistad - 1997 (Best Music, Original Dramatic Score)
34. Saving Private Ryan - 1998 (Best Music, Original Dramatic Score)
35. Angela's Ashes - 2000 (Best Music, Original Score)
36. The Patriot -2000 (Best Music, Original Score)
37. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - 2001 (Best Music, Original Score)
38. A.I.: Artificial Intelligence - 2001 (Best Music, Original Score)
39. Catch Me If You Can - 2002 (Best Music, Original Score)
40. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - 2004 (Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score)
41. Munich - 2005 (Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score)
42. Memoirs of a Geisha -2005 (Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score)
43. War Horse - 2011 (Best Achievement in Music Writen for Motion Pictures, Original Score)
44. The Adventures of Tintin - 2011 (Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score)
45. Lincoln - 2012 (Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score)
46. The Book Thief - 2013 (Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score)
47. Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens - 2015 (Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Original Score)

This list will of course expand provided that Williams receives more nominations. Considering that some of these films' scores are difficult to access, I will do my best to stick to the track list on the scores as they are sold in digital album formats. My hope is that I can find the majority of this music in a way that is accessible to audiences, specifically YouTube, and share it that way. I know that using the limited format without context may dampen the appeal of certain nominations, but I do believe that Williams' work stands on its own enough to work as its own pop hit.

From there, I will attempt to break down each score nomination into a "Best Theme" category. This is the music that is often associated with the definitive part of the movie. From there, I will break it down into other, less complicated categories based on Best Song and Best Winner. I'm sure this will be fun, especially when it comes to differentiating between all of Steven Spielberg's many iconic hits. 

I don't have any set plans beyond John Williams at this point, but I do intend to make Composing Greatness as a retrospective column for every composer who has a lengthy nomination record. I do hope that in later columns that I can do artists like Thomas Newman and Alexandre Desplat to better understand their style. For now, I will start with the master and see where things take me. I look forward to starting this journey and hopefully come out more informed on what makes music composing so great. See you next week for the first in what I hope will be a fruitful journey.

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