I’m sitting here watching a 2 hour special on Biography about the making of Star Wars, and I am wondering how musical scores like what Williams made for the movie will be looked at in the future. Will someone in 2110 be driving to work in their hovercraft listening to Interglobal Public Radio listening to the Star Wars soundtrack the way we listen to the work of 17th and 18th century composers? Will it hold up over time?
I often wonder how the things we do will be viewed in the future- will people a hundred years from now look back on the way we treat homosexuals (DOMA, DADT, etc.) the same way that you and I look back on women’s suffrage- sort of a stunned disbelief at the way women were treated (and still are in some countries).
a hundred years from now, we’ll be living in matrix-like virtual worlds, having sufficiently damaged the biosphere that life in what we now know as phenomenal reality will no longer be viable. given the possibilities of customized virtualities, we’ll probably all be able to live in our own little version of heaven.
dunno if we’ll still like the theme to star wars, though. depends on how much of our mid-brain and endocrine systems remain a part of the calculus, i guess.
that’s my guess, anyway.
In a hundred years footage of the GOP will look like Birth of a Nation.
One small quibble, John. I may be able to vote, but I still had a boss a decade ago who told me I didn’t get a raise because I lived with my boyfriend with a good paying job and didn’t have kids, so I didn’t really “need” it. And we still have an awful lot of people working 24/7 to control my uterus. So things change, but some things never change.
Then there is this tribute (original by moosebutter):
@rob!: Despite its racism, Birth of a Nation had some artistic value and plenty of innovation. The GOP does not possess any of that, unless you see them as performance artists.
I have grown fond of saying that people have been doing stupid things for as long as they’ve been writing shit down. Whether it’s homosexuals or women or whatevs, we’re doing something stupid now and will be in 100 years, too.
@geg6: My mother had the same experience; her starting salary in the 1970s as a librarian at a major museum was shockingly low, and part of the justification was that her husband was in the US Navy so the family income was pretty good, and besides, health care was free for them.
@geg6: I know this is not (totally) related (or is it?) but your comment made me free associate right into my father’s letter to me before he died informing me that instead of splitting his estate 50/50, he was gonna do 60/40 in favor of my younger brother. “Because he has a wife and four kids and Laura just has Laura.”
ie, I “didn’t need it” as much.
Christ. Had he told me years ago I’d get more money for entering into a nightmare marriage or two and popping out a few kids I could not afford I would’ve certainly made some different decisions.
Ha. (And I made out fine and don’t begrudge my brother anything. It just struck me as “funny”. In that “bitter funny” way.)
A hundred years from now, barring catastrophe, the most barbaric and inhuman institution from today will be the private health insurance industry. People will regard that the way we regard the institution of slavery.
You heard it here first.
(And no, John, no one will listen to the music of John Williams the way we listen to Beethoven or Mozart. Williams’ work is fine for what it is, but what it is is an assemblage of received ideas, cliches, emotional cues, and other auditory props to create a “mood.” Any more than people who care about painting consider Leroy Neimann (remember him?) as being “one of the Impressionists.”)
To address the point about music, I suspect that the soundtrack to Star Wars (the first movie) will hold up quite well. As an orchestral work performed by the London Philharmoic, it’s quite good.
The Grand Panjandrum
John it won’t make one damn bit of difference. We ain’t gonna make it that far and the Mayans have nothing to do with it.
And EVERYONE knows the numbers never lie.
I don’t think it will take a hundred years. I don’t think it will take fifty, honestly.
licensed to kill time
Re: Star Wars music
I remember taking my 5 year old to see Star Wars when it first came out. It was at one of those huge theaters with plush seats and a gigantic curved screen (the ones that don’t exist much anymore). The scene on Luke’s home planet with the two suns just blew us away. The music was awe-inspiring and the whole audience came out doing the “Dunh dah dah DA, dunh dah DAH, dunh da dah DA, dunh da DAH DAH DAH!!!”
Really! People singing it and kids going nuts, leaping around and waving imaginary light sabers. It was incredible for its time. I think you had to have been there and know how scarce any kind of decent scifi films were then to appreciate the impact.
(also, I may be mixing up the Star Wars theme and the Indiana Jones theme, I do that a lot. But you know what I mean.)
I think in a hundred years people will look back on the era from roughly Reagan to ten years from now and wonder “WTF were they thinking?”
I think you nailed it dead-on with civil rights, not so much with Williams’ Star Wars score.
Williams is a perfect pairing for Spielberg. He has a great ear for what musical themes stir the emotions the director is trying to evoke, but he’s not particularly innovative or creative, and is, at times, a complete hack.
Listening to his scores without the corresponding visual context quickly turns into a scavenger hunt for which pieces he’s stealing from rather than leading to any appreciation for individual vision or talent.
In a hundred years, people will think of music as something to listen to and enjoy, not as proof of superior taste and sophistication.
Everyone’ll still give Phish fans shit though, because, I mean, c’mon.
They will look back on this time the same way we look back on Gutenberg’s time.
There were how many books? They cost what? And before that it was all hand-written by monks?
Already people in their twenties act like I grew up in a mud hut because in my childhood, we had three channels and maybe a crazy UHF one for monster movies and local commercials. When we called the grandparents long distance it was so expensive we had a egg timer by the phone. When I was a teenager, there was Pong.
We are already seeing a vast difference.
Linkmeister @8: I could have understood if it happened to me in the 1970s since that was when the women’s movement was just buolding steam. My experience was in 1998, fergawdsake. I was making all of $15k. As an instructor and education specialist at a community college. Ridiculous. Laura w. @9: My dad was totally adoring of his girls. We sisters were left more in my parents’ will because we had not sponged off of them, had completed our educations, and been generally what they defined as successes (which didn’t necessarily mean marriage or children). The boys of the family were deadbeats. Don’t understand why, since we all grew up in the same family. My dad was ahead of his time and social class. They didn’t have a ton of money, but did ok for a family in which the main wage earner was a steelworker and was composed of 6 kids. We girls each got a nice little check.
licensed @ 13
Re the Indiana Jones theme: More than a little of it reminds me of a song that used to play on the radio (in Balto., MD) in the early or mid-Sixties called “Confidence!” Sung by a vocal group like the Ray Coniff Singers or whatever. If memory serves, it went:
What’s the diff’rence
Between a dimple and a pimple?
I keep waiting to hear someone point out the similarities (read: I keep waiting to hear that someone sued Williams over it), but never do.
Okay, I’m in moderation and I have no idea why. FYWP.
Or am I thinking of an old Kent cigarette ad? I’m so confused!
To a something
It’s a something something something
To a something
It’s a something something something
To a something
It’s a something something something
To a smoker
It’s a Kent!
“I often wonder how the things we do will be viewed in the future….”
You have adopted the sensibilities of a progressive. The transformation is complete.
calling all toasters
@Thoroughly Pizzled: I’m sure rob! is counting on Spike Jonze making a Palin biopic.
John Cole @ Top:
I kind of doubt it, largely because I expect the music from our era that will hold up longest is its pop/”folk” music. People 100 years in the future will probably listen to The Beatles, Talking Heads, Jay-Z, et. al., the way we still listen to early jazz and r&r, or Greensleeves if you want an earlier comparison.
Some of our long form music will hold up, but it’s more likely to be from avant-gardists like Phillip Glass than than people reworking centuries old motifs and styles.
Yes, most likely. God, I hope so anyway.
The Republic of Stupidity
And what about God’s Own…Thomas Kinkade, Painter of Light™ ? Uh? What about him?
It looks like that today.
People who pile into the family car of history and immediately start asking “Are we there yet?” every 5 mins.
I don’t know about Williams. but in a hundred years people will probably still be listening to Karl Husa’s Music for Czechoslovakia, 1968, which was a major “source of inspiration” for the Star Wars score.
FTW! Put it in the Lexicon!
licensed to kill time
John, your post also made me think of that crappy Stallone movie where in the future they are all listening to old ad jingles as “golden oldies” on the radio. It’s the one with the unexplained “wipe your ass with 3 seashells” bit…
In a world gone mad we will all be listening to “hold the pickles hold the lettuce” and Billy Mays will be considered a classic Shakespearean caliber actor.
It’s really cringe-inducing to watch such clear talent be put to such embarrassing uses. And kind of mean to publicize it. Poor kid.
If the global temperature is 8 degrees hotter, I have a feeling future generations will not look back on us kindly.
Sorry, John, but in 100 years, all the trials and tribulations of the GLBT community and the music of Star Wars will not be considered at all by humanity. The ones who are left are going to wonder what the fuck we were thinking by ignoring what the planet is telling us, and continuing to pump metric tons of carbon into the air while we held raging debates over flag pins and Caribou Barbie’s political skills.
Unless, of course, they are all dead by then.
@geg6: Well now, see! You made me remember that my dad put me through a four-year UC college system and paid not only all associated tuition/books but also paid for my housing, food and utilities (pot, booze, qualudes, concerts) all those years. My brother did not care to go to college. I had the absolute luxury of not having to work in college because he wanted me to be able to focus and do well. (However, he drew the line at grad school. Couldn’t get him to re-up for another two years.)
So quit yer bitchin’, LauraW.
Hell no. In 2110 they will be reading old John Cole posts and saying who the fuck was this mad man? And they’ll wonder how it was that his cat weighed more than his dog.
@gnomedad: I second the motion! All in favor?
A few hundred years from now the most studied visual arts of our era will be advertisements. A top TV commercial has more content per minute and costs more per minute then even the most expensive feature film.
Many people think that the Old Master painters were painting ‘art’. Nope, they were mainly painting advertisements. Religious paintings served to sell religious stories to a largely illiterate audience, while portraits of famous (or wanna be important) people were advertisements for their importance.
In 1998, my husband and I worked for the same software company (not public, and not planning on going public, lots of government contracts). I was told that because he’d received whatever percentage of raise (something piddly like 3%), that was why I’d only be getting 1.5%. I was flabbergasted, and didn’t even know how to respond to that sort of logic by people who were renowned for their cheapness but never had seemed sexist in any way at all.
Knowing how much it probably killed them to do so, when I left (nearly doubling my salary), I took great, Great solace that they had to hire two tech writers (with benefits) to replace me. They could have kept me for cheaper than that–I liked the work and the coders. I just wanted to be able to buy a house.
Bruce (formerly Steve S.)
The easiest way to answer that is to ask if we listen to film scores from 60-80 years ago. The answer is to some extent yes but not the same way we listen to the best composers of previous centuries.
Not if the genetic dystopia comes to pass and no gay babies are born.
@geg6 and LauraW:
Back in the late ’60s or early ’70s, a prof I know was a grad student at Brown. She was the only woman in a grad class taught by the President (either of Pembroke, the women’s college, or the university, don’t remember which). Their seminar was held at the president’s home, and tea was served…
By her. She couldn’t sit down at the seminar table and participate until she’d served all the male students and the prof tea.
Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think.
Enjoy yourself, while you’re still in the pink.
The years go by, as quickly as a wink.
Enjoy yourself, Enjoy yourself,
It’s later than you think.
After May 21, 2011 things may all be different.
Sometimes I think HuffPo just likes articles for that WTF? reader response.
This. The change in Cole will be the topic of PhD dissertations for years to come. Tunch will have his own category.
About J Williams: speaking as a composer who’s made my living writing music for the last thirty years, I agree with other commenters. He’s just fine (and better than HIS successors, like Horner and Elfman) but borrowed much from those who went before (listen to Brahms Piano Concertos, Elgar, etc.)
What will last from the ’60’s: Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Hendrix, perhaps Beatles…. since that time no music will be remembered, but probably some video games (though I have no idea which.)
@Mr. Wonderful: “Williams’ work is fine for what it is, but what it is is an assemblage of received ideas, cliches, emotional cues, and other auditory props to create a “mood.””
Don’t know much about the history of classical music, do you?
@geg6 and Betsy,
I worked at a company until 2006 where tI was told that in the mid 1970’s at the annual Board of Directors meeting the higher ranking women in the company dressed up in waitress’ outfit and served the all-male BOD. I thought the two women who told me this were making it up until they showed me pictures. One of them was the head of an Underwriting unit in the company at the time (she almost certainly would have been fired or demoted if she had refused).
It was considered an “honor”.
You know, I study the history of this shit for a living, and yet I still manage to be shocked every now and then. This was one of those times.
They’ll be listening to Chinese golden oldies and gays will have been bred out of existence and worshiped as gods by small cults in catacombs in Western Ireland. In 2210, however, there will be a gay restoration project in the world capitol of Uganda and Williams will have been banned as devil music.
@The Grand Panjandrum:
Kroyst JAY-zuz, as my old man used to say. If I were a monolithic anti-religious oligarchy, I would be happy to let a million nutball Campings bloom, spending their precious time & money to spew exactly this sort of claptrap over the airwaves. With friends like this, montheism doesn’t need (any more) enemies.
Quaker in a Basement
Perhaps. But the good news is, Stevie Nicks will finally be forgotten.
Yes. And they’ll look at marijuana prohibition the way we look at the insanity of 1920s prohibition.
The Grand Panjandrum
@Anne Laurie: If indeed their is a god, she must have one hell of a sense of humor.
The rights of women to vote in the U.S. were recognized in 1920; I think it’s interesting that there are women still alive today who were affected by the 19th Amendment as adults. (Of course, some of them, being African American, had to wait significantly longer to vote, in practice.)
A lot of the sexism on Mad Men is based on true stories–true stories of the contemporary women on the show’s writing staff.
Yes it will hold up.
There will be no future.
By 2030 or so, we’ll be pretty much doomed.
Depends on whether or not the Air Force-led, Evangelical-organized, Second Civil War is successful or not. If it is, our grandchildren will be dodging Predators so they can listen to subversive music scores from anti-Christian movies like Star Wars.
If we stop ’em before they break out of Colorado Springs then the theme from Star Wars will be just one of the thousands of songs available from their brain-machine interfaces.
Creating a great film score is far more complex than you seem to suggest. With forty-five Oscar nominations, I’d say Williams has mastered most every tool in the composer’s kit.
I guess the now iconic two notes was pretty much your standard shark music of the time. And any old needle drop theme would have probably become synonymous with Superman in the public mind, being such a fresh character and all.
I remember how thinking how pedestrian Barry Sanders would have looked, had he played without an offensive line.
Suppose in 1969 you had asked the same type of question about 40 years in the future? Would today be what you’d have come up with, even remotely? Back the question up to 1909 and?
How many recognized Hendrix in ’69 as an enduring influence? Or, Vietnam as a model? Or RMN? Or?
If I make 2053 I’ll be 100 and I’d hesitate to guess 2010 or maybe more relevantly -2012.
Women in Finland were able to vote before women in the US. It must have been a shock for Finnish women to immigrate here & find out becoming an American citizen lost them the right to vote.
It’s blows my mind to remember that until the 1965 Supreme court decision Griswold v. Connecticut, married couples couldn’t legally get birth control.
@bemused: Hey, in Switzerland women couldn’t vote nationally until the 1971.
That I did not know. What the hell was the hold up there?
Bill E Pilgrim
Have to back you up on this one.
John Williams writes music that sounds like 19th century composers. I mean it’s okay for Hollywood movie scores I guess, very commercial, but there’s nothing interesting, striking, or even up-to-date about it musically.
People like Phillip Glass will be looked back on that way perhaps. John Cage definitely. Not John Williams.
I can’t think of any film music writer who will be, really. There’s a guy named Mark Isham who does some really interesting movie scores, and is a great trumpet player too, he was in one of my favorite bands for a while (Rubisa Patrol). But his compositions for movies won’t be remembered as anything particularly important, musically-speaking, many years in the future.
@bemused: To the Swiss, incrementalism is considered to be dangerously rapid change.
Plus, all the reactionary paternalism of Old-World Europe.
Y’know, the stuff they left out of Epcot.
We’ll all be hanging out in Carousel watching people trying to get Renewed. Those of us less than 30 anyway…
They’ll be listening to the News and Top 4 Hits! on whatever Translucent Channel station owns all of the media in their district. The receiver will be imbedded in their head with no way of shutting it off.
Bill E Pilgrim
@bemused: Just a very traditional place.
Women didn’t get the vote in France until 1944.
Here’s a whole list:
Wow. South Africa = 1994. Yikes.
Epcot. Very funny.
@Bill E Pilgrim:
Wow. Sometimes it’s good to know that the good old USA isn’t the only place so resistant to progress.
My grandfather was every bit as proud of his granddaughters’ academic accomplishments as his grandsons’. I was never aware of any difference in treatment. I was shocked, years after he died, to find out that back in the 1960’s, he refused to send my aunt, his daughter, to the same speed-reading course to which he sent my dad and uncle to help them prepare for college. He also wouldn’t pay for her to go to a private college or university (his sons all attended private) because he considered sending women to college a waste of money. They were just going to get married, after all. And so she attended community college and then left to get married. Because she had never been given the idea there might be any other options.
My granddad clearly changed a lot in 20 years; I love him for that. And I think that, even though we’re still trying, we’re so much farther along than we were in 1970, or 1990. If you’d told me in 1990 that any states would have legalized gay marriage- or that three of our last four Sec.s of State would be women I don’t know that I would have believed it.
Oh, one more thing before the Sandmen get me, as a civil engineer, I apologize for Camping. WTF is it with my profession and crackpot religious ideas? ref Pharyngula.
I’m more suprised that we let these bitches push us around and pretty much run shit.
Maybe in the year 2110, people will look back to the Great Male Revolt of 2034 as the turning point when men realized that they were being played and decided that letting women run civilization into the ground maybe wasn’t the best thing after all.
(kidding, folks… kidding)
Tunch doesn’t fit into a category.
Seriously. Tunch LITERALLY cannot fit into a category.
Bill E Pilgrim
Conversation in 2034:
“Oh look, men are revolting”
“So what else is new?”
@Michael D.: Yes, he is living large.
@Bill E Pilgrim: Touche.
Mr. Wonderful (@9),
Since your temperate and unexceptionable comments about William’s merits as a composer seem not to have been well received, I just wanted to express solidarity: everything you said is spot on. I’m not surprised that people like Williams, but I am surprised that some of them seem to think that liking him commits one to thinking that he is for the ages. I see that Bill E Pilgrim has seconded you. Don’t know whether their work is for the ages, but would suggest that, if one is looking for film music that is more original, more compelling both as music and in the context of the films for which it was written, Bernard Hermann and Ennio Morricone have it all over Williams. And looking back to what from the perspective of 2110 will not seem to be all that long before Star Wars, people like Harold Arlen, Irving Berlin, the Gershwin brothers, Harry Warren, Schwartz and Dietz and Cole Porter wrote terrific music for films (or shows that were made into films) that has already lasted from 50 to 80 years and shows every sign of continuing to do so.
@Bill E Pilgrim:
Speaking of Bernard Hermann, when is the last time you watched North By Northwest? There is a sequence in it for which the music not only “prefigures” Philip Glass, but sounds exactly like something I’ve heard by Glass. Of course, if Glass watched the movie and the score caught his ear and his imagination, that’s great. That’s how it works.
And, of course, Nino Rota.
Bill E Pilgrim
@J: Good points. I knew there were film people I couldn’t think of, I was drawing a blank.
The difference is that someone like say Gershwin was actually creating music of his time, not just rehashing styles from a hundred years or more earlier. It was music that was noteworthy in itself also, not just relative to a movie.
Actually for a good example of someone who will be remembered for film scores, if not as a great composer, there’s Maurice Jarre, that theme for Lawrence of Arabia was great.
A bit OT. But yesterday watched the annual New Year’s concert from Vienna, with lots of Strauss’ waltzes.
(Julie Andrews hosted. No Walter Cronkite. Sigh)
According to wikipedia, the waltz , “Shocking many when it was first introduced, the waltz became fashionable in Vienna around the 1780s, spreading to many other countries in the years to follow. It became fashionable in Britain during the Regency period, though the entry in the Oxford English Dictionary shows that it was considered “riotous and indecent” as late as 1825. ”
And these days, if people even know what it is, would consider it laughingly quaint and old fashioned.
So who knows how music will fare?
Tho I don’t know if William’s is a good example. From Superman to Star Wars, he’s pretty much one-note bombastic.
I do listen to a lot of sound tracks. My favorite composer, right now, is Shaun Davey.
Mr Wonderful & Bill E Pilgrim,
Bet that’s right about North by Northwest. Nino Rota & Maurice Jarre are fine composers. I think there is also something to be said for Sakamoto (Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, The Last Emperor) & Jerry Goldsmith (though, come to think of it, the only score I can remember is Chinatown).
Bill E Pilgrim
@J: Jerry Goldsmith is great. Papillion, Patton, so many more.
Actually you want to hear a great movie score, check this out:
What about songwriters though? Does that “too derivative — I hope people will listen to the originals instead of to him” apply to Sondheim? To Bob Dylan?
Bill E Pilgrim
Uhm, not true. Cole Porter wrote entire scores for both Broadway shows and movies, that contained many songs, but he wrote the whole score.
Certainly not true of Bernard Hermann and Ennio Morricone but maybe you weren’t including them in “the composers you mention” line, I don’t know.
So, Phillip Glass is a fraud, but John Williams will be remembered as a great composer?
Oookay. Time for bed I think, on that note. No pun intended but there it is.
on the other hand, can anybody whistle any of the music from avatar?
also, your question pre-supposes the human race will be here in 100. what are you, a global warming denialist?
@geg6 / 4:31 pm
Late to the thread, but I assume by now you have figured out that you used the word spe cia li st” which is the same trigger as “soci al I st.”
I don’t imagine Williams will go the distance because I like his music less the more I listen to it. All its’ virtues, such as they are, are right on the surface. There’s nothing beneath, and consequently it doesn’t much reward a repeat listening.
With music that’s still popular after a century, I find that I either don’t like it at all, or I like it more the more I listen to it.
He’s a Salieri. He’s a competent artist, writing music that’s well-matched to the audience of the day, and he’ll be popular during his lifetime. But if he’s remembered at all later, it’ll be because of his connection to other artists with a more durable legacy.
From Star Wars to E.T. to Indiana Jones, my line about JW’s music has always been: “Hey! John Williams just composed a new title!”
@efgoldman: )ou worked in classical music radio? Me too! Two NPR stations (one in Florida, one in Michigan) as classical DJ, announcer, cultural affairs producer, music librarian, music director, you name it. Great ride!
You already are…William’s score for Star Wars in nothing more than retread Wagner…he is the king of sampling in Hollywood.
I tend to agree that in a hundred years whoever is left will be living as they did in the 16th century and John Williams will be if anything a dimly remembered name. As will Mozart, Beethoven, Shakespeare, and Mark Twain.
As to where he (Williams) stands today, I guess I’m biased since I worked with him for 12 years and found him a gentleman and an excellent musician (and I have worked with every conductor you ever heard of, from Leonard Bernstein on down). He himself tending to regard the Star Wars scores as somewhat formulaic, and I agree…but the movies themselves are comic books with live actors, and a sophisticated score would have been out of place. (The most intelligent sci-fi in mass media has been Star Trek, at its best —-TNG, I think, with DS9 close.)
I think John Willams’ best score, both as a musical construction and a fit to the movie, is “Close Encounters”…after all one of the themes of the movie is a theme! (D-E-C-C-G). IF you listen closely at the end of the movie you will here 2 minutes of new music that John wrote for a revised ending which we (the Boston Pops) recorded, and if you hear any notes from the piano that is me.
Talk about a pro! John dashed off that bit in about four days, between Pops rehearsals and concerts, because they couldn’t find enough out-takes from the original recording sessions to fit the new film material.
Finally, I got a good laugh from the fellow who referred to Philip Glass as “modern”. I think Glass is a fraud that is to serious music as GWB was to serious governance. A series of major triads, some snippets of themes that sound like they were lifted from Wagner’s discard pile, repeated endlessly. (RW, BTW, stole shamelessly from every predecessor and contemporary… as most great creators have done, but put his stamp on every phrase and really only took from the best. “Originality” is almost impossible when we all use the same 12 pitches, and much over-rated IMHO. It’s not how different, it’s how good if is that matters. Difference for difference sake is about as likely to produce a better result than a random mutation will produce an improved animal. )
We (the Boston Symphony) played a fifty minute “symphony” of Glass at the end of which I was ready to start shouting “Heil” and march on Stockbridge. People like it, I think, because if is “modern” but sounds familiar…like slogans hammered over and over in the technique that we know so well from Fox News and Joseph Goebbels. The musical equivalent of fascism. Glass would give an arm and a testicle to have been able to come up with, say, the Harry Potter theme, evoking the atmosphere of the film perfectly.
But then, I’ve only been a musician for 65 of my 70 years and so must be an elitist. Happy New Year, everybody!
I think that, 100 years from now, everyone will be strapped into chairs, with headsets on, “playing” the “game” Better Than Life.
To the anti-Glass people here:
I’m not a passionate advocate, but is it possible that he is to music what people like Rothko and Still and Newman and Reinhardt and (even more extremely) Malevitch are to painting? Either you buy abstraction, and “fields,” or you don’t. That’s what Glass and Reich are to me. Maybe a little goes a long way, but I get the sense in them that the background becomes the foreground and the “narrative” of theme and variation is subsumed into something more general and atmospheric. For better or worse.
Maybe I am a dupe for liking Glass. I don’t claim the sophistication to grok the music theory that shows his work to be shallow. But it does not take much sophistication to find Williams rousing but dull, a contemporary Sousa. There seems to be a lot more going on in any of the better Beatles tunes than in all of Williams soundtracks.
As for Glass, it seems like suitable music for our times: anxious, nervous, and rather emotionally deadened, while wrestling with a nostalgia that seems very much relevant to our emotional lives yet contrary to the good taste of the moment. Arch and corny at the same time. I find it very satisfying in a perverse way, and really have a soft spot for it.
Bill E Pilgrim
Wow. I love the number of people complaining about “music snobs” and “let the people decide” and then listing their musical credentials to prove that their opinion that a composer like Philip Glass is a “fraud” is somehow authoritative.
So all those other composers who also studied theory and composition (and did it well, in their case) who think of Glass as such an important composer must be frauds too, along with musicologists, but we’re saved because someone who “studied composition”, and/or worked in the field, is here to blow the whistle.
Yes, and modern art is just a bunch of splashes of paint and squares and rectangles.
Being critical is one thing, disliking a style is one thing, but this is an entirely other thing altogether.
Yeah, I’m not a big fan of Jackson Pollock, either.
It depends on who writes the history boo…, err, websites and whether or not our robot overlords permit us to to download them into our brain harddrive. “Intel Inside” will take on a whole new meaning.
Regarding sound tracks that might survive the test of time, I consider the “Lord of the Rings” music to be a prime candidate.
There is only one pronciple of aesthetics that I think is beyond dispute: you can’r argue about taste. That is, you can, but nothing you say can “prove” anything or expect to change anyone’s taste. That applies to me too…I have no desire to be “authoritative” and just gave my background as a way of, hopefully, stirring up some thought and maybe reconsideration.
FYI, I like Jackson Pollack very much, and in general prefer abstract art to anything representational except a number of French and Russians of the turn of the last century. But my point is that in fact Glass is anything but “abstract” (except that all “absolute” music is…what else can it be?) but depends on a sort of collage of “found” objects (like soup-cans, maybe…I’ve always had suspicions about Warhol, too) that are familiar and unchallenging. If it expresses “modern anxiety” and emotional flatness, well, that’s not what I go to music for. I can get that by walking around the corner in Jersey City, or watching MTV for 5 minutes. Again I apologize for being an old fart here (I really am one, so what can I do? I know, STFU!) but I want art to be better than the real world and that’s why I do it myself, for myself and anyone else who happens to want to listen. For me music should be an experience of some sort of transcendence, neither a background to something else or a reflection of an all-too ugly reality.
Part of the sound track for “The Truman Show” was by Glass. I didn’t know that when I saw the picture, but at that moment that segment began I started to get really annoyed at what I heard. Same thing when I heard some Glass on the car radio without knowing what it was. So it isn’t prejudice but I real visceral reaction…something like when Lou Dobbs used to come on the TV. And you can’t argue about visceral reactions either, just have them.
I agree that the track to LOTR is a masterpiece, and owes its success to a very Wagnerian approach. J Williams success is due to the way his stuff fits the movies so well…although some excerpted things work quite well in concert (try e. g. “Cowboys Overture” …which is cut from a large piece of Copland — something JW would be the first to tell you.) John also writes straight concert music, and what I have heard is quite good. Whether any if it will last….
The question of what will last a hundred (or even 25) years is for the future to tell. IMHO, it’s not worth spending much time on. Some very voluble composers spent a lot of time ranting about the “music of the future”…I’m more concerned with the music of the present.