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Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
John Williams

Orchestrated by:
John Neufeld

Hollywood Records

Release Date:
December 19th, 1995

Also See:
Born on the Fourth of July
Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
Saving Private Ryan

Audio Clips:
2. The White House Gate (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

4. The Ellsberg Break-in (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

10. The Miami Convention, 1968 (0:32):
WMA (211K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

13. The Farewell Scene (0:29):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

Regular U.S. release.

  Nominated for an Academy Award.


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Sales Rank: 61583

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Buy it... if you want a troubled, and eerie preview of the music that would form the basis of much of John Williams' constructs for the Sith in the Star Wars prequel scores.

Avoid it... if the darkness of Williams' scores for the mid-to-late 90's (and the electronic dissonance occasionally employed in those scores) doesn't suit your desire for easily digestible music from the maestro.

Nixon: (John Williams) While his continued attempts to bring political docu-dramas of highly superior quality to the big screen has been admired by all, Oliver Stone's marketability began to lose steam with the studios by the time Nixon failed to draw audience interest. Though of extreme merit in its visuals and research, Nixon's detailing of the life of the just-deceased president ran too long and confused too many audience members to be as effectively engrossing as Born on the Fourth of July and JFK. Constant shifts in time, with flashbacks within flashbacks, caused the narrative of the film to lose viewers unfamiliar with all the specifics of Nixon's presidency. On a technical level, however, Stone succeeding in providing the outstanding ensemble cast performances with a sense of realism at each time shown, and John Williams' score represents itself quite well among these elements. The maestro was undergoing a transformation in his career. After spending 1994 on the concert circuit and relishing the grand success of Jurassic Park and Schindler's List from the previous year, Williams would use Nixon to introduce fans to the darker side of his writing. Successive scores for Sleepers, Jurassic Park: The Lost World, Seven Years in Tibet, Rosewood, and other films would be decisively gloomier and absent the usual pomp of upbeat concert arrangements that had become customary in the previous decades. In the case of Nixon, the shadowy turns were an obvious and necessary choice, for even the best moments of the president's life story were driven by questionable intentions and motivations. Even in the moments of victory for Nixon, the concept of corruption and power were evident, and Williams explored his own recollections of the era of Nixon's downfall to mould the music for the film. The resulting alternation between dominant minor-key bombast and electronically-driven dissonance makes the Nixon score an interesting study in parts, but ultimately a failure on album.

Much like the score for JFK, the Nixon product would offer two or three outstanding moments and be littered with incongruous ideas during the rest of its duration. The common thread connecting these ideas in Nixon, of course, is an uncomfortable sense of angst. When you look back at the score ten years later, a very interesting new light is shed on its contents. There is, without a doubt, that no score between 1983 and 1999 foreshadowed the style of the Star Wars prequel scores better than Nixon, with a significant carry-over of brass layering, percussion employment, and even thematic progressions that would form a substantial part of the basis for the Sith-related music in those Star Wars prequels. The title theme for Nixon is a cousin of Williams' "Imperial March," introducing the theme with a similarly chopping rhythm, sharing the opening three harsh trumpet notes on key, and utilizing the same minor key structures throughout the theme's duration. This theme is given two major performances; first, the concert piece used for the music over Nixon's last full-length trailer opens the album presents the theme with an electronic rhythm that yields to an ambitious string rhythm with frantic high range brass blasts over the theme's interlude. The second use of the theme is in the film's most triumphant cue, "Miami Convention, 1968," and it'll be difficult to find any cue (outside the strange similarities in James Horner's The Legend of Zorro train cue) that reeks more of Star Wars action style than these three minutes. As John Williams explains about Nixon, however, the score balances turbulence with nobility, and whereas the Sith-inspired title theme represents the former, Williams provides a performance of the triumphant victory theme bracketing the opening suite and unleashing it in full during "The Farewell Scene." Still disturbing in its slightly atonal nature, this more heartbreaking theme lacks the ambition of the title theme and its twisted sense of nobility gives even it a sense of Sith-like quality. Its own glassy, cold performances strip away any Americana style that the score hints at during the cues for Nixon's childhood.

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A variant on the second theme is performed on trumpet by Tim Morrison in "Growing Up in Whittier," with the crystal-clear performances and a slightly rollicking rhythm underneath on strings offering the score's only sense of hope. The remainder of the score for Nixon is plagued by difficulties relating to its bleak outlook and intentionally troubling electronic dissonance. Highlights include the "Main Title" and "Miami Convention, 1968," which both feature crescendos for the full ensemble very reminiscent of scenes of wonderment in the two Jurassic Park scores, especially with the chime and timpani-banging crescendo during the main titles and White House approach. An entirely separate motif is constructed for Nixon's meeting with Mao, and in the 3-minute cue for that scene, the ominous string progressions of this theme are both hopeful and guarded; it's a superior, though not spectacular singular moment in the score. The drawbacks of the score are all of the remaining cues, most of which rumble with dissonant bass effects. Williams described using these bass elements as a subliminal reference to napalm bombs exploding in the distance, giving the listener an additional sense that something about the scene isn't quite right. The "Ellsberg Break-In and Watergate" cue attempts to capture the same rhythmic chaos so effectively churned up in JFK, but instead lacks the instrumental clarity or precise employment of electronic rhythms necessary to cause anything other than irritation with the listener. Just as JFK employed dissonant bass synthetics to wash out the end of many of its thematic performances, Nixon repeats and amplifies this use, sometimes incorporating the same effect for several minutes underneath the rumbling orchestral fragments of motifs and rhythms. Intelligent references, such as the longing trumpet reprise in "Losing a Brother," make Nixon an accomplished score, but it is never an entirely listenable one. The tumultuous stylings of the score take a toll on the listener, and while the music is finely crafted in parts, the opening suite and "Miami Convention" cues leave the only significantly lasting impression. Price Hunt: CD or Download

    Music as Written for Film: ***
    Music as Heard on Album: **
    Overall: **

Bias Check:For John Williams reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.74 (in 69 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.59 (in 338,223 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 2.81 Stars
Smart Average: 2.86 Stars*
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 47:23

• 1. The 1960's: The Turbulent Years (5:01)
• 2. Main Title... The White House Gate (4:15)
• 3. Growing Up in Whittier (2:40)
• 4. The Ellsberg Break-in and Watergate (2:40)
• 5. Love Field: Dallas, November 1963 (4:51)
• 6. Losing a Brother (3:17)
• 7. The Battle Hymn of the Republic - traditional adaptation (1:03)
• 8. Making a Comeback (2:20)
• 9. Track 2 and the Bay of Pigs (4:46)
• 10. The Miami Convention, 1968 (3:18)
• 11. The Meeting with Mao (3:09)
• 12. "I Am That Sacrifice" (4:49)
• 13. The Farewell Scene (5:00)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert does not contain the usual notes by John Williams or the director, but the CD is "Enhanced" with CD-ROM features that may not work on systems ten years after its release. On a Mac with OS 10.x, the individual MOV files containing the interviews with Stone and Williams can be viewed in the CD-ROM's file directories. The content of the interview with Williams is somewhat interesting, though he was definitely having a "bad hair day."

  All artwork and sound clips from Nixon are Copyright © 1995, Hollywood Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 9/24/96 and last updated 5/13/07. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1996-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.