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“You have to know how to read it”: John Williams's sketch scores and the role of the orchestrator
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Musicology and Performance Studies, Musicology.
2014 (English)Conference paper, Abstract (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

John Williams is known for his complete and detailed sketch scores. “If you look at it carefully,” stated Williams’s longtime orchestrator Herbert Spencer, “all the information is there.” Why then does Williams use an orchestrator, and not just a copyist? According to film composer and orchestrator Conrad Pope the reason is that Williams “can write in shorthand and go quite quickly”: “In other words, it’s all there but it’s like a secretary’s shorthand. You have to know how to read it.”

This paper will analyze samples from Williams’s sketch scores to show how they are organized, and how his “shorthand” works. Furthermore, using examples from Family Plot (1976), Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005) and Memoirs of a Geisha (2005), a comparison will be made between Williams’s sketches and the full orchestral scores in order to illustrate the kind of contributions made by orchestrators Herbert Spencer, Eddie Karam and Conrad Pope. For instance, as Pope points out, a single line with the designation “tutti woodwinds” tell him that he has to write a piccolo part up an octave and put the bassoon down an octave, or more generally that “this is John’s tutti woodwinds Jurassic Park-style.”

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Keyword [en]
film music, John Williams, orchestration
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Research subject
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-114905OAI: diva2:795104
Music and the Moving Image IX, New York University, May 30-June 1, 2014
Available from: 2015-03-13 Created: 2015-03-13 Last updated: 2015-12-21Bibliographically approved

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ReferencesLink to record
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