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John Williams, "March of the Villains"

PostPosted: Fri May 23, 2014 8:29 pm
by saintdufus
"The March of the Villains" was the theme John Williams composed as the leitmotif for Lex Luthor and his bumbling henchman Otis in the 1978 film Superman.

I naively thought this composition would be relatively easy to figure out, failing to take into account the legions of 32nd-note runs (a Williams hallmark), which I had to decipher note-for-note, pausing and rewinding the recording hundreds (if not thousands) of times. To say nothing of some very complicated and intricate John Williams tricks and devices, the like of which I had not yet encountered: these took me some time to finally "crack".

But after about nine days of work, I completed the piece. A Herculean task for me--my most challenging movie theme replication to date--but highly rewarding, and replete with useful lessons. I feel my orchestration skills have gone up a few notches as a result of this project, though I am beginning to appreciate the gulf that lies between orchestration and composition. (I may be able to figure out John Williams themes, but composing them is another story.)

Thanks for listening. Comments welcome. ... e-villains

Re: John Williams, "March of the Villains"

PostPosted: Sat May 24, 2014 12:05 am
by idiotSavant
What an amazing amount of effort you've put into this piece! I guess there is no score available? Or you just enjoy this kind of masochism? :D

Re: John Williams, "March of the Villains"

PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2014 1:48 am
by saintdufus
Hi Michael, thanks for your comment. :)

"Masochism" is an interesting word--of course you're being facetious, but there's also a grain of truth in it: it's very labor-intensive, painstaking work to go through a complex piece like this and extract each individual note.

But it's a labor of love, somewhat akin to attempting to reproduce a master painting. If I can get reasonably close to what the master did, I feel a sense of pride and accomplishment, which boosts my self-esteem.

More than that: these film score transcriptions I've been doing are sort of an informal autodidactic crash course in composing for me. I didn't have the benefit of music school, so I'm trying to learn from mimicking great masters like John Williams, Alan Silvestri, Bill Conti, etc. These "masochistic" exercises are my way of learning from the great maestros.

As for whether film scores are available: I'm not sure. At first I sought out John Williams scores to study, but after a few false starts I heard (in a composing community) that they're not commercially available. At that point I gave up the search and decided instead to try and replicate his work by ear.

Are you aware of a way to get film scores?

Re: John Williams, "March of the Villains"

PostPosted: Mon May 26, 2014 11:33 am
by idiotSavant
I'm not aware of sources for Williams scores. I'm sure you've tried the online sources. A quick search returned this, with a lot of WIlliams scores but not the one you transcribed:

I do understand what you're trying to accomplish and I was being facetious, of course. I'm pretty much on a parallel path in terms of learning. I've never had formal music training either. In my case, I'm currently trying to understand the mastering, mixing and sound processing end of it using reference recordings and Notion and VSL instruments as a tool for learning. I've dabbled in composition as well, but for now I'm happy reproducing orchestral works that I've always admired. I plan on exploring composition at a later date.

I'm amazed though that you can pick out the individual parts of a complex orchestral recording and analyze it and then reproduce it. My ears aren't that discerning!

It seems that for both of us Notion is a very effective tool. Personally speaking, I would never be where I am without it.

Re: John Williams, "March of the Villains"

PostPosted: Wed May 28, 2014 4:19 am
by saintdufus
Michael, I'm surprised to learn you've had no formal music training. Having explored your website with interest, I took it for granted you had. I'm glad to know I was wrong, as I admire your work and am heartened to hear you are self-taught.

Thank you for your kind words. When you work so hard on something--something niche and obscure that few others are into--it's especially nice to find those few cherished people who are able to appreciate it. ;)

Of course you are much more skilled at using Notion than I am (I'm still learning how to use it), but I agree with you that it is a great tool. I like it much better than Finale. My composing life has really been resurrected by this wonderful program.

Thanks for posting those film score links. Indeed I did find those too, but wasn't sure I could trust them, as they seem incomplete to me (and also because of a negative comment I read in a forum). I would like to find out for sure, but they are a tad pricy to purchase sight unseen. (If anyone reading this happens to know, please let me know.)

Anyway, thanks again Michael: I appreciate your kind interest in my work. :)

Re: John Williams, "March of the Villains"

PostPosted: Thu May 29, 2014 11:18 pm
by idiotSavant
Thank you Saint. Hats off to Notion!