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James Horner vs. Bernard Herrmann
Last post Sat, Mar 03 2018 by William, 101 replies.
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Posted on Sun, Dec 03 2017 03:51
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 4979

I was recently watching Star Trek II - a great film -  but which has James Horner as a substitute for Jerry Goldsmith who did the first Star Trek movie and who created one of the greatest all-time film scores.  James Horner is the single most extreme plagiarist I have ever encountered among film composers.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, just Google "James Horner Plagiarisms." 

But that is not how I came to realize his stealing - I went to movies and heard them!  I was in a theater watching the lousy "Sorceresses" which was an early low budget score and suddenly noticed - "what the hell?  That is Shostakovich's Fifth second movement!"  No credit.  And then late at night on TV the Main Title for "C.H.U.D." - another early score of his.  Charles Ives "Unanswered Question" slightly changed in orchestration and screwed up a little tonally.  Or going to the theater and watching "Willow" and thinking, "Wait a minute - that is Robert Schumann's 3rd Symphony First Movement Main Theme with some added brass fanfares.  Or most ridiculously of all - "Aliens" which actually steals at the end everything from John Williams Death Star approach from the first Star Wars.  How could anyone actually do that?  A film score stolen from a film score?  WTF?

This is a great film composer? This is normal for film composing?  Just rip off uncredited every goddamn classical or even film composer you can get your grubby mitts on and then laugh all the way to the bank?  That is what he did on those scores, and many others. It is sickening, worse it is disgusting.  

So I was feeling this while watching Star Trek II again and wondering how I would feel, and I realized - yes, he is a fucking incredible plagiarist and yet his stolen themes, stolen motifs, stolen orchestrations are perfectly suited to the film.  In other words, he had a knack for exactly what would work for a scene - but he stole almost every musical idea in order to fulfil that scoring.  

So is that what you people want to do?  You want to follow in his glorious footsteps?  

No one has to.   There is a composer whose music is totally original, absolutely unmistakeable as his own and so perfectly suited to each and every film he ever scored that there is not one - one!  - I have ever heard that was not perfect as film music.  Bernard Herrmann.  Just a perfect as anything the ridiculously overpaid Horner ever did.  (Even though Herrmann made a lot of money it is true.)   And even though the music is perfect for each scene, each film he scored, it is also ORIGINAL MUSIC.  Not stolen from classical composers because the film scoring composer thinks he can get away with it because "the audience will never know" - Horner's approach.  

Posted on Sun, Dec 03 2017 15:33
by Jos Wylin
Joined on Mon, Dec 03 2012, Flanders, Belgium, Posts 509

Hi William,

I understand your point of view here, although I'm not at all familiar with film scoring and the ins and outs of it. As far as I can have an opinion on this topic, I know that certain films are based upon classical music (A Clockwork Orange,...) But I suppose the composer and the producer have been so honest to mention that in the credits. What you mean is the total absence of record of the true composer(s). Sometimes I use classical fragments in my works too (Pierlala has a short quote of Auber's opera "La muette de Portici", because that's an essential step in the history of my country. A particular aria was even the direct cause for the independency.) Of course I mention it in the description of the composition. I reworked the fragment to make it fit into the context and to connect it to the rest. No plagiarism this way. The main theme is a folk tune, used as a base for further elaboration. No plagiarism again. Both themes are duty free (public domain) and can be inserted freely. Of course they must be mentioned in the perspective of intellectual honesty and correctness.
Stealing somebody else's compositions to one's own benifit is a deplorible practice and far from being authentic or honest. That a composer lowers himself to do so is despicable, but that the film company or the producer accept that, is absolutely horrible. They simply must have unscrupously turned a blind eye to let this happen!

Jos

http://www.joswyl.be
compositions and sampling exercises
Posted on Sun, Dec 03 2017 15:52
by agitato
Joined on Mon, Jun 22 2015, Posts 299

Thanks William for starting this thread. 

I used to detest Horner and his music somehow but I dont want to be too nasty to him given he is not alive, and had a very sad demise.

To me Horner and Hermann are like night and day. They shouldnt even be compared. The other day I was hearing Hermann's Symphony no 1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VT_KmqNVueA&t=1361s So masterful.

Hermann is one of the truly great masters of 20th century classical music, not just film scores.

To your point about plagiarism by Horner, you know the common retort of his fans will be...they will say that everyone copies and even Williams stole from Holst for Star wars. What they do not realize is that Williams never took the raw themes, but masterfully crafted a new score that was inspired by The Planets.

Another composer I really like is Goldsmith..although probably not a great symphonist like Hermann, Goldsmith was so innovative and original.

Anand

Anand Kumar
Posted on Sun, Dec 03 2017 16:21
by agitato
Joined on Mon, Jun 22 2015, Posts 299

Funny ... I just started listening to Willow soundtrack, and within a second I couldn't help but notice similarity with the opening of Rachmaninoff's 1st symphony:

williow - horner (note the theme played by the trumpet around 34 seconds)

Rachmaninoff - symphony 1

Willow is a good score, its just that the similarities with other music are bothersome.

Anand Kumar
Posted on Sun, Dec 03 2017 16:41
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 4979

The Willow soundtrack is transparently stolen - listen to Schumann's 3rd Symphony 1st movement. It is not just a similarity it is consciously copied.  That is what is disturbing.  

I have heard people say that John Williams stole this or that, but there is a HUGE difference - his main themes were completely original and totally identifiable as his own music.  There is no classical composer who created Star Wars or Indiana Jones or Schindler's List or Superman melodies  and then John Williams just disgusied them - those are pure John Williams and his own very original style.  Even though I know - his music occasionally will stray into another composer's realm such as a section here or there that sounds like Rite of Spring, Richard STrauss, what have you.  But those are sections of development, not the entire basis of the most important themes of the score.  Also John Williams is a great conductor and scholar of music, and knows and loves all the great composers so cannot help being inspired by them.  But the difference between that similarity and Horner's conniving, unscrupulous thievery is immense and I find it maddening when people say "Oh everybody steals..." There is no comparison. 

You're right about Herrmann being not just one of the great film composers but a great composer of any form.  Also Goldsmith is a unique and original composer - one instantly knows it is Goldsmith just as much as Herrmann.   

by the way - another example of Horner theft that kept on jabbing at me watching Star Trek II - the "Kahn" motif.  It is lifted from Prokofieff's famous film score for Eisenstein's ALexander Nevsky and keeps on returning every time Kahn appears!    

Posted on Sun, Dec 03 2017 17:18
by mw design
Joined on Thu, Dec 05 2013, Cologne, Posts 176
Posted on Sun, Dec 03 2017 17:31
by mh-7635
Joined on Wed, Aug 04 2004, Posts 162

Guys,

Take a step back here with a little perspective...

 Horner might well have had to try and oust a temp track that had been sitting with a particular scene for perhaps weeks. Director, producer and editor would have been used to the temp music and anything different would be noticed and have a hard time in revision. I'm not saying he did not copy closely details in existing tracks, because sometimes, that is part and parcel of the circumstances involved in scoring and is more often done on the insistence of a director and not always a conscious or even preferred choice on the composers part.

Just saying to give a little balance here.....

Posted on Sun, Dec 03 2017 21:37
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 4979

The problem with that is there is a uniformity to the stealing, repeated over and over, and a direct copying that is thinly disguised. For example the Shostakovich was lifted directly with orchestration intact.  But anyway I was only thinking about this because of watching Star Trek II, not that it is hugely significant.  It is annoying mainly, because he was so highly paid and famous.  That is disturbing when there are better composers who don't make much money and who don't lift things whole cloth from others.    

Posted on Mon, Dec 04 2017 00:23
by Errikos
Joined on Tue, Jun 12 2007, Posts 1005

Yeah, this temp track problem is a haunting one in film soundtracks... However, as William says, the great composer does conform to the director's instructions but makes the temp music his own. Great examples include Jarre's Lawrence of Arabia (Born Free imposed temp track) and Goldsmith's Star Trek I (the whole of Star Wars as a temp track was "politely" imposed, as if anybody could imitate that...).

I must say, one of my very favourite soundtracks is The Secret of NIMH from Goldsmith. One would be illiterate not to see that Debussy was tempd all over that film, but somehow Goldsmith wove his language around it (more or less...), for a uniquely atmospheric soundtrack.

Incidentally -and that's funny- I consider Star Trek II and Aliens Horner's strongest soundtracks (from all Horner films I know), along with Cocoon and Brainstorm. I generally don't like the man's music, and no, I haven't seen Titanic (on principle).

If you can't notate/MIDI it yourself, it's NOT your music!

In these modern days to be vulgar, illiterate, common and vicious, seems to give a man a marvelous infinity of rights that his honest fathers never dreamed of. - Oscar Wilde
Posted on Mon, Dec 04 2017 01:36
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 4979

"one of my very favourite soundtracks is The Secret of NIMH from Goldsmith. One would be illiterate not to see that Debussy was tempd all over that film, but somehow Goldsmith wove his language around it " - Errikos

That is the real question - how a composer creates his own music to score the scene.  Horner uses someone else's music and then calls it his own by sticking in some layered fanfares or altered orchestration. 

I was thinking about what Bernard Herrmann would say to a producer who gave him a temp track.  It would not be repeatable here without an instant thread shutdown. 

I would add to this - Herrmanns' music WAS the temp track as well as the final score.  There was no temp track with Herrmann.    There was no music or his music.   That is the polite way of putting it.  

Posted on Mon, Dec 04 2017 01:47
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 4979

I am going farther to say that all film composers now use Herrmann as their temp track even though they won't admit it.  How can you do something beyond "Psycho" for mental disease?  it can't be done.  How can you create something more Romantic than Vertigo "Theme d'amour" ?   How can you create more fantastical music than the skeleton fight from "Seventh Voyage of Sinbad' with its cacophony of xylophones and percussion?  Or the absolutely insane music he wrote for dePalma's "Sisters" using analog synths with orchestra?  Or the delirious excess of "Obsession" with choir, pipe organ, orchestra accompanying a very mediocre film and dwarfing it artistically.  And the list from Herrmann goes on - just find one of his scores and you will discover incredible experimentation with orchestration, development and musical form  - he is one of the greatest composers of modern times, not just film,  and people are only right now realizing it. 

Posted on Mon, Dec 04 2017 03:43
by agitato
Joined on Mon, Jun 22 2015, Posts 299

Originally Posted by: Errikos Go to Quoted Post

Yeah, this temp track problem is a haunting one in film soundtracks... However, as William says, the great composer does conform to the director's instructions but makes the temp music his own. Great examples include Jarre's Lawrence of Arabia (Born Free imposed temp track) and Goldsmith's Star Trek I (the whole of Star Wars as a temp track was "politely" imposed, as if anybody could imitate that...).

Wow I didnt know that Goldsmith was given Star Wars as a temp track and then later created music like Star Trek. Now that is something incredible and inspiring. How do you make a 'come back' after given the colossal filmscore like Star wars, and that too create another amazing peice of sci-fi score that sounds good and different!

comparing with tennis. Its like being down 2 sets playing against Federer and later coming back to equalize (I wouldnt say win becaiuse I respect both Goldsmith and JW equally although I consider JW is the greater of the two).

very very inspiring to know that composers like these existed. And Hermann too of course. This thread has reignited my interest in Hermann and hope to listen to more of his scores.

Anand Kumar
Posted on Mon, Dec 04 2017 07:46
by mw design
Joined on Thu, Dec 05 2013, Cologne, Posts 176

If this were a serious Thread about the Topic of "Plagiatism" then you should be sure, that you checked all of the informations on the Topic available.

just One John Williams Analysis http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtRU8cMp0Nk

Posted on Mon, Dec 04 2017 08:30
by mh-7635
Joined on Wed, Aug 04 2004, Posts 162

Interesting Markus, but I my opinion, Williams does just about enough to take the music away from the proposed original inspirations, but It does seem clear that in some cases though he might have had existing music in mind prior to composition, be that through a temp or from his knowledge of the repertoire. I have always noticed a similarity in places between his last cue in ET and Hansons' Romantic Symphony too, but I find the Jaws/Dvorak comparison a little too tenuous in the link above.

I take Williams (Bills') point about plagiarism, but am not prepared to outright imply that Horner did it purposely or as a matter of course. In my pro work, I have often lost work because of a refusal to get close to a temp and do understand the pressure involved, especially when it is your living. Having said that, sometimes I did get the job and often that was because I incorporated the spirit and emotion of the temp in a different and yet similar guise. At Horners' level, I can certainly appreciate the pressure he must have been under to deliver with tight deadlines and coersive pressure from the powers in control. He was in trouble from the Britten estate I believe for his shameful rip of the Sanctus in Brittens' War Requiem' in 'Troy', which dropped my jaw to the floor upon first hearing, but then again (although this is no excuse really for such blatancy is it?) he only had a few weeks (2 I think) to do the whole score as the original commissioned (and recorded) score was dropped.

I still do not think Horner is the villian here, although admittedly Bills' examples are compelling - I prefer to share the crime out amongst media ethics (or rather lack thereof) and practice as well as the participants willing to partake in such.

Posted on Mon, Dec 04 2017 15:13
by mw design
Joined on Thu, Dec 05 2013, Cologne, Posts 176

reminds me on alot of Williams Scores. Superman and Star Wars included. And If I listen not only to the melodic similarities but also view the structure of this Piece. i would named this John Williams, but its a Korngold Piece.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJwa9mX0bxA

Posted on Mon, Dec 04 2017 15:29
by agitato
Joined on Mon, Jun 22 2015, Posts 299

Well, you can find examples of passages from every composer that resembles another. I know exact phrases of Mozart that are from Vivaldi, and Beethoven from Haydn, Dvorak from Mendelssohn....and so on... But we know that these composers are greater than this small snippets that they may have take or were inspired by.... So with John Williams ... We cant equate him to Horner just because they both lifted from other pieces...JW is a far greater composer and craftsman with prodigous output of film and concert music. There is simply no comparison. I can't recall one melody or concert work of Horner.

Anand

Anand Kumar
Posted on Mon, Dec 04 2017 23:51
by Errikos
Joined on Tue, Jun 12 2007, Posts 1005

Originally Posted by: mw design Go to Quoted Post

reminds me on alot of Williams Scores. Superman and Star Wars included. And If I listen not only to the melodic similarities but also view the structure of this Piece. i would named this John Williams, but its a Korngold Piece.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJwa9mX0bxA

It is very interesting how much this sounds like John Williams. Three quarters of the main Star Wars theme is in the first couple of minutes, but what are Williams' themes other than arpeggios and some passing notes... That is not where his strengths lie. There are differences, Williams has more energy, more polyphony, more brass, more bravura, different generation altogether, but it is rather close!

E.T. sounds a lot like Prokofiev-lite to me (except for the theme - Prokofiev could write tunes), but the point is Williams has been the best symphonic writer in Hollywood for decades, he doesn't have Goldsmith's range in that J.G. composed magnificent soundtracks in most genres, whereas Williams -although way above average at worst- is slightly more limited (or picks his films less avariciously), but unsurpassed in his areas of strength.

You know who in my mind is most original and his symphonic writing doesn't sound like anybody before him? No, not Herrmann. 

Hans!

So, what does this mean?

If you can't notate/MIDI it yourself, it's NOT your music!

In these modern days to be vulgar, illiterate, common and vicious, seems to give a man a marvelous infinity of rights that his honest fathers never dreamed of. - Oscar Wilde
Posted on Tue, Dec 05 2017 00:34
by William
Joined on Sun, Nov 24 2002, USA, Posts 4979

mw design -

John Williams' scores are not carbon copies like Horner's, with whole sections simply lifted out like a print from a press - they are influenced by other composers.    If you don't see the difference, then forget it. I can't help you.  You must be a Horner fan and don't mind total thievery and outright plagiarism to create the main themes of his scores.   But the fact is Williams has a style of his own that is cohesive and original even though it is very tonal and therefore has to be similar to previous composers.    Also as agitato stated - if you want to you can find pieces by any composer - INCLUDING BEETHOVEN, MOZART AND HAYDN  - that sound the same as someone else when taken out of context.  There is a total profound difference between these two and if you don't see it - we have nothing in common and nothing to discuss.   

Posted on Tue, Dec 05 2017 07:37
by mw design
Joined on Thu, Dec 05 2013, Cologne, Posts 176

William

You want to find Excuses now that because of a different Name its ok to use Sounds from other Composers, this reveals a different Story your telling here ! 

Another Thing is a Composer want to leave their own Footprints, Have You ever heard a Composer saying I want to be rememberd because I put my Footprints into other Footprints ?

Think about that Idea !

Posted on Tue, Dec 05 2017 08:04
by mw design
Joined on Thu, Dec 05 2013, Cologne, Posts 176

Im now out of this discussion, cheers

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