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Comments about the soundtrack for Superman (John Williams)

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Too Many Themes!
• Posted by: tim   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Wednesday, June 11, 2003, at 9:25 p.m.
• IP Address:

How does Williams do it? He uses no less than 6 important themes in the movie. He has the main theme (1) built upon the one and five degrees of the scale. He has the love theme (2). There is the Krypton theme (3) which could be argued as a variation of the march theme. The krypton theme has a minor variation. Then there is the kryptonite theme (4) which uses the idea of the fifths and then moves a half step above and incorporates the whole step "su-perman" motif. Not quite as important is the Home theme (5) used nearer to the beginning of the movie. And then the villains' theme (6), which sounds strikingly similar in tone to the ewok's theme (which is a ripoff of the march from love of three oranges). Not to mention the minor themes which permeate the score. He has a rhythmic military motif similar to the one in close encounters. He uses a melodic phrase for baby's trip to earth. He constructs jonathans' death in much the same way. Same goes for the golden gate bridge cue. And et cetera. This is nothing new with Williams. He likes to use melodic phrases to develop his cues. He may not use a major theme from the score but it's a basis on which to write. Plus it makes for a memorable cue both in the movie and on the cd and compositional it helps to anchor the music. Take any movie by Williams and he'll have a sort of "throw-away" theme. Although his "throw-away" themes are great in their own right. This started to develop after jaws and continues in movies like raiders, et, jurassic, schindler, and up to harry potter. How the hell can one man be so prolific and create so many widely varying themes? Easy, well, sort of. His themes, if you listen very carefully, are based on small melodic fragment. He uses the interval of a fifth NUMEROUS times to create themes. And he uses the 1,2,3 scale degrees to a large extent and 3,4,5 (usually in that order) with minor variation. He is also fond of the major/minor 6th leap. And then there's the rhythm invention which is where the true genius of Williams lies. His cues are constructed with a very strick rhythmic sense to them, a pulse which drives the music. Rhythm tends to come first and then all the pieces fall together. Think about that next time you listen to a score by williams. Listen for those things. It's not a bad thing, it's just his melodic compositional style. But they're there and it's something to study and, above all, appreciate.

Comments in this Thread:     Expand >>
  •   Too Many Themes!  (4679 views)    We're Here
       tim - Wednesday, June 11, 2003, at 9:25 p.m.

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