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Kings Row & Star Wars

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Kings Row & Star Wars

Postby peter hodgson » Fri Sep 01, 2006 9:06 pm

To say that the Williams' Star Wars intro music is related to Kings Row is almost tautologous....

However, I'd be interested to know if any charges of plagiarism were every made - were there any legal challenges ever? Or was it just seen as a "tribute" (the way Lloyd Webber's Phantom is a "tribute" to Puccini and others)? :roll:
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Plagiarism

Postby brendan g carroll » Sun Sep 03, 2006 12:07 pm

No charges were ever made because Mr Williams has freely admitted his debt to Korngold on many occasions & conducted his music in concert, and he was a good friend of George Korngold, who even produced albums with Charles Gerhardt of the film music (e.g. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, EMPIRE STRIKES BACK etc).

Actually, KINGS ROW provides a more direct model for SUPERMAN, all those arching 7ths. Moreover, the love theme from SUPERMAN is a direct steal of TOD UND VERKLAERUNG by Richard Strauss; only one note is different!! Check it out!
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Plagiarism

Postby peter hodgson » Mon Sep 04, 2006 1:39 pm

Perhaps the cheekiest "tribute" I have heard is Bernard Herrmann's Vertigo: Parsifal Grail Scene with bells on.
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Re: Plagiarism

Postby An Anonymous Musician » Wed Sep 20, 2006 9:30 pm

brendan g carroll wrote:No charges were ever made because Mr Williams has freely admitted his debt to Korngold on many occasions & conducted his music in concert, and he was a good friend of George Korngold, who even produced albums with Charles Gerhardt of the film music (e.g. CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, EMPIRE STRIKES BACK etc).

Actually, KINGS ROW provides a more direct model for SUPERMAN, all those arching 7ths. Moreover, the love theme from SUPERMAN is a direct steal of TOD UND VERKLAERUNG by Richard Strauss; only one note is different!! Check it out!

Isn't the figure at the end of the main subject (the one with the striking bitonal F maj/C maj 7 chord) of the Superman march nearly identical to a figure that appears in one of the variations on the main theme of Kings Row? It kind of appears in the title itself too, but the rhythm is much closer to being the same in the variation. If anyone wants to compare, listen to the cue in Kings Row entitled "Ice House." You'll know what I'm talking about the instant you hear it.

But the sort of modest plagiarism Williams has engaged in from time to time is nothing compared to that of some of the other well-known contemporary Hollywood composers. Have you ever heard the theme to James Horner's Willow? I think that someone who doesn't even know who Schumann is would know it was the Rhenish Symphony basically just sped up. I once pointed this out to someone who was gushing to me about that score, and he replied, "But it works!" If it works so well, just do like Stanley Kubrick did for 2001, but don't steal, and I refer to it specifically as "stealing" because it has to be deliberate; it's much too egregious to have just been a result of Schumann hovering around in the back of Horner's mind.

However, even with Horner, there's still a worse offender: The Official King of Kleptomania title has to go to Bill Conti. My goodness!! He plagiarizes so much that I've actually gotten physically ill hearing his strange corruptions of the great bastions of classical music. "His" score to The Right Stuff can be best described as a blend of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto and Jupiter from Holst's Planets if both pieces had been written by Bizarro Superman. It's crazy how some of these people can actually become "respected" in the film community.

All of this reminds me of that old Victor Borge routine where Borge claimed that all the music that could be written had already been, so all the new composers did was to take sheet music from various pieces and cut and paste parts of pages together. Hey, even Mozart lifted the Requiem's Kyrie from Handel, right?
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Postby An Anonymous Musician » Wed Sep 20, 2006 9:34 pm

Oh, and did everybody hear that Hans Zimmer is getting sued by the Holst estate?
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Postby Peter Timoney » Wed Sep 27, 2006 5:51 pm

Hiya

I don't think we should be getting too upset about borrowings from other works in film music. Borrowing has always happened and at one time it was not only blatant but acceptable. Large swathes of Handel are reworkings of melodies from many of his contemporaries and don't suffer for the reworking. Wagner was pilloried by Liszt's wife for being a thieving magpie in regards to her husbands work, and yet this material was only enhanced by its reworking. The Dresden Amen which runs through Parsifal is almost note for note a piece in Mendelssohn's Reformation symphony. Berlioz's Symphony Fantastique would be weaker for not having 'stolen' the melody of the Dies Arae.
Even in the film music of korngold I sense little moments here and there of other composers, especially Richard Strauss.(for example there is a very brief figure which appears a few times in Another Dawn which is straight out of the Sinfonia Domestica). The quote may be accidental or deliberate, but what does it matter. The film composers skill is in matching the correct music to the correct scene irrespective of whether it was wholly original material or not. The end effect should be the determining factor. Let the copyright lawyers flounder in their narrow worlds and let the artists fashion the world as they see fit. Let us also not become too puritan in these matters and accept that without borrowing of some degree being allowed Music may have to stagger into the crisis of constant renewal that a talent like Schoenberg suffered. Hoorah for Kings Row and Star Wars and their like, and down with the composers estates and their grubby lawyers.

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"Borrowing"

Postby peter hodgson » Thu Sep 28, 2006 2:37 pm

Whilst I'd agree with the twin principles that grubby lawyers=bad and that one piece of music may well be a development of or a reworking of another, the point is surely that a little openness is what is needed. For example, when Brahms was told that "the big tune" in his first symphony sounded a bit like Beethoven's Ninth, I believe he is reputed to have said (in German I assume), "Any bloody fool can see that".

My argument is that it would be nice for film composers such as X to at least admit they had been "strongly influenced" by a predecessor. To take another example, the downmarket DJs on Classic FM rave on about Williams and other film composers whilst being almost totally ignorant of people like Korngold, Rosza and Steiner who invented the genre. Thus the public rush out and buy Star Wars, Harry Potter et al and miss out on the good stuff!
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Postby Peter Timoney » Fri Sep 29, 2006 10:51 am

Hiya

Yes, that's true. I do get frustrated when you read lists of greatest soundtracks ever and what you find are nothing but well known popular songs with barely a hint of orchestra in them. I think in this classic FM era of 5 minute segments it will be difficult to play the best of Korngold, Rozsa et al in a meaningful way and, sadly, I believe they are responding to an audience who only respond to their favourite films and are not students of the art of film music. I hope that does not sound too depressing.

As fans of film music and its workings it would certainly be great to find out all the direct and indirect influences on our heroes, but I wonder if the ego of a creator would admit their sources so freely. I imagine his response would be that the finished work is of greater importance than the little fragmented nuts and bolts of musical quotations which support the whole. Sadly, I think only fans and anoraks (like myself) are interested in such discussions. I hope I am wrong and that a plague of openness breaks out, but I am too much of a dour and miserable scottish pessimist to expect the cause of the old film masters to be boosted by the classic FM generation, mainly as the general public tend these days to have a 3 minute attention span and a 2 dimensional sense of cultural history.

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Classic fm

Postby peter hodgson » Fri Sep 29, 2006 12:16 pm

Yes, much truth there.

However, whilst Classic fm is totally awful and banal to snobs such as we, it performs an educational function and a promotional one too. Two examples....

1. I heard a couple of pieces of music there, neither of which I knew, even though I have a pretty huge CD collection; both were utterly great and I have added them to my faves! They are Huapango by Moncayo and by Elevazione by Zipoli. Try them; the former is very much like The Little Train of the Caipura by Villa Lobos (but I think better!) and the latter is very Albinoni flavoured. So Classic FM can educate.

2. Constant promotion by Classic FM can make an obscure piece of music "popular"; a good example of this is "The Ashokan Farewell" by Jay Ungar. By constant promotion and playing this poorly played and very prosaic piece of sentimental trivia (although admittedly a haunting melody) has been in the station's top 20 "tunes" for several years. Likewise with so much film music including the TRULY DREADFUL John Williams music for Saving Private Ryan and Schindlers List.

Thus, if one really wants to see EWK become "popular", "well known" and widely acknowledged as a great composer, instead of being just the province of film music buffs and Korngold anoraks, vehicles like Classic fm are potentially valuable.

Regards

PH
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Postby An Anonymous Musician » Sun Oct 01, 2006 1:29 am

Peter Timoney wrote:Hoorah for Kings Row and Star Wars and their like, and down with the composers estates and their grubby lawyers.

Hi Peter

I completely agree with you that entirely doing away with the practice of borrowing will be more detrimental to the state of music than it will be helpful in maintaining the integrity of the composers who create the music, and the same thing applies, to speak about affairs more generally, to every kind of intellectual property and the culture to which it relates. Who is to say that because a particular idea was appropriated for a particular usage, it can't possibly have any other viable usages as well? Part of intellectual growth involves different people's minds cross-pollinating one another so to speak. Just as Newton said he achieved what he did in science because he "stood on the shoulders of giants," so too could any artist or thinker. As recommended further reading, the intellectual-property lawyer Lawrence Lessig has offered much insight into this phenomenon and how it is being fought to be stifled by wealthy corporations attempting to retain exclusive rights to their lucrative assets.

Given all that, I feel many instances of plagiarism committed by composers I have come across don’t express a sincere effort on the part of the borrower to use what they borrow in a way that enriches the musical culture in a manner otherwise not realizable. Many times, as in the case of Bill Conti, the plagiarist just ends up sounding lackadaisical and uncouth more than anything else, rather than achieving the desired result of breathing new life into old material. However, I do think John Williams has a gift for being able to reinvent the old often into something novel and fascinating. I wouldn’t, by any means, want the main themes to Star Wars or Superman to not exist just for the purpose of giving Korngold’s and Strauss’ legacies some vague sense of justice.
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Re: Kings Row & Star Wars

Postby BLee » Wed Jul 23, 2014 3:58 pm

But the sort of modest plagiarism Williams has engaged in from time to time is nothing compared to that of some of the other well-known contemporary Hollywood composers. Have you ever heard the theme to James Horner's Willow? I think that someone who doesn't even know who Schumann is would know it was the Rhenish Symphony basically just sped up. I once pointed this out to someone who was gushing to me about that score, and he replied, "But it works!" If it works so well, just do like Stanley Kubrick did for 2001, but don't steal, and I refer to it specifically as "stealing" because it has to be deliberate; it's much too egregious to have just been a result of Schumann hovering around in the back of Horner's mind.
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Re: Kings Row & Star Wars

Postby peter hodgson » Wed Jul 23, 2014 7:09 pm

I think there's a difference between admitting you have "been inspired by", "adapted" or "written in the style of" and just publishing something in the knowledge that 99% of listeners won't know it's plagiarism.
Another good example (in addition to Star Wars/King's Row is Phantom of the Opera and Fanciulla del West. I shan't even mention the similarity between the score for Vertigo (Herrmann) and the grail scene from Parsifal.
And I am sure there are dozens of others. The one the previous contributor has noted is a bit lost on me as I have neither heard nor even heard OF "Willow" by J.Horner. The score to Titanic was quite enough to ensure I would try to avoid anything with a Horner score.
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