Jerry Goldmsith & John Williams Action Music Tips

Discussion in 'Composition, Orchestration & Technique' started by ed buller, Nov 5, 2018.

  1. ed buller

    ed buller Senior Member

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    Both used Pitch sets a lot in the seventies to generate very tense and edgy drama.

    JW:



    JG:




    as used by Bartok




    Lesson:



    Best Ed
     
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  2. DANIELE

    DANIELE Active Member

    I don't undersand well what Pitch Set is? Could someone explain it to me?
     
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  3. Murphy

    Murphy New Member

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  4. Nick Batzdorf

    Nick Batzdorf Moderator

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    If I were visiting from Mars and someone told me that Stravinsky and Bartok used an absurd system like that, I'd tell them they were nuts and go on to the next planet.
     
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  5. OP
    OP
    ed buller

    ed buller Senior Member

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    you doubt it ?

    best

    e
     
  6. Nick Batzdorf

    Nick Batzdorf Moderator

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    Oh, I'm an Earthling through and through. I don't doubt it for one minute.

    :)
     
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  7. OP
    OP
    ed buller

    ed buller Senior Member

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    A pitch set is just a fancy name for a small collection of pitches. These are expressed by no's representing all the pitches in an octave so 1 to 11 .They are expressed that way as it's the intervals that are important NOT the actual pitches. So 0,1,3, is a popular pitch set. JW uses this a lot. If we make 0=middle C then 1 would be C# and 3 would be D#. Pitch sets can be transposed and we STILL use the same numbers !....so it's just the intervals that are important.


    We can play a pitch set any way we want. It's NOT a tone row, It is JUST a reservoir of pitches for use. We can use two or more simultaneously . In the Bartok example above after the drums (20:11) you'll hear the pitch set played Downwards then Upwards , rotating around 0. The real pitches are A,G#,F,G#...then A,Bb,C#Bb...we express this as a pitch set [0,1,4] You will here it come in again transposed as a harmony...then again and again....In fact this section is pretty much ALL 0,1,4

    best ed
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2019
  8. Nick Batzdorf

    Nick Batzdorf Moderator

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    So is the continuation of the scale that usually implies - half step up, whole, half, whole... It's a diminished half boson emergent schwarzchild radius scale.
     
  9. OP
    OP
    ed buller

    ed buller Senior Member

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    with dihedral baffling to the 9nth power !

    best

    ed
     
  10. DANIELE

    DANIELE Active Member

    Thank you for the explanation, I think I understood this, I still don't understand well the movement for using this technique.

    I should choose a tonic and then "rotate" around it, am I right? So there's should be always the tonic in the pitch set or should I move diatonically or maybe chromatically?
     
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  11. OP
    OP
    ed buller

    ed buller Senior Member

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    If by "Tonic" you mean the lowest not of the set then use. You have to always find what's called the prime form of a set to make sure you have the lowest note.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Set_theory_(music)

    good explanation






    in this video The composer first creates his pitch sets. You can see that the second one contains notes from the first. The first is also the first tetrachord of an Octatonic scale !

    So with this material he finds all sorts of things . First look for Triads as they help establish harmony .
    He gets three. Then he also looks for harmonic flavor. Again it's this restricted Harmony that is such an important part of the sound.

    That's how you create such a strong mood.


    best

    ed
     
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  12. JohnG

    JohnG Senior Member

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    You can even think of modes as pitch sets, since they sometimes create major or minor chords in unexpected places.

    I use them all the time -- octatonic, phrygian -- whatever. They help create some element of the unexpected while still feeling cohesive.


    ...including some of the most hideous samples I've heard in some time.

    Still fun, theoretically, but yikes!
     
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  13. jbuhler

    jbuhler Senior Member

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    The idea is one of identity conditions. What you want to do is be able to say that these two collections of pitches are identical, or one is a subset of the other, or that they share some measure of resemblance. But you also want to abstract this relation from any set of pitches, much as all major chords resemble each (regardless of their root or inversion) and all minor chords resemble each other, etc. (except major and minor are ironically the same pc-set [0,3,7]).

    The identity of the PC-set for two motives or chords tells us that they are equivalent or inversionally equivalent. Trichords are a convenient way of taking apart non-tonal music, but you have to be careful because there are only 12 unique ones, so using them as the primary unit of analysis tends to make it seem like all music is highly unified. But the relaxed identity conditions, which are indifferent to pitch order and presume octave equivalence, is really responsible for this impression of unity. I find it useful but limited as an analytical tool, since it tends to make identities out of things that don't seem that related on the one hand but enforce differences that often seem less than salient.
     
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  14. JohnG

    JohnG Senior Member

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    I agree. I prefer Hanson's pmnsdt analysis. Even though it has some of the same issues, chords with the same characteristics sound more coherent to me.

    Warning: there is a lot of pretentious rubbish about this (and other) "modern" theories. If you ignore the pedantic stuff, it's easy to use.

    How?

    suppose you just created a passage of four or eight bars that you love but doesn't have traditional chord progressions with 5th relations or triads or something. How do you write "more of that but different?" Hanson's chord analysis can help -- quickly and with relatively limited pain and suffering.
     
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  15. tonaliszt

    tonaliszt Active Member

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    My Favorite film cue using pitch sets. A-Bb-E-F. The whole opening is just those notes - amazing!

     
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  16. The Darris

    The Darris Senior Member

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    Look, I'm that guy who's totally into the most tonal cheesy music possible as well as the most atonally pretentious stuff out there. The biggest thing I learned in my formal music education was that tone sets or 12-tone 'rows' (etc) basically act no differently than writing in specific modes or keys. You are basically creating a scale which acts as your key and how you move within that is very similar to any other piece of music. You develop a functioning rhythm and pattern within those notes and go from there. How you modulate or move around within that frame work is limitless, much like working in a regular key-signature. You can simply choose to stay in that key or borrow chords from other keys and float around the tonic, etc. It's honestly no different. The biggest thing I can hear in these examples are that despite the lack of pitches the composers are using, they all keep a basic form of rhythmic/melodic structure that gives the listener something to grab onto and stay connected to the music's flow. It's basically just repetition and modulation that keeps it interesting. They do all of that as well as supporting the film's sequence it's attached to.

    It's fun to analyze pieces like these as well as the more traditional early 20th Century music and those that developed out of the 2nd Viennese School but I find it very difficult to effectively follow those "rules" when writing to picture. I let my education influence me but I try not to get caught up in trying to follow a tradition. That's just me though.

    Cheers,

    Chris
     
  17. Craig Duke

    Craig Duke Member

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    The following description is from another video by Frans Absil starting here: Worth a listen.

    upload_2019-1-13_16-28-26.png

    I use his Pitch Class Set tool to generate the sets for the first two measures above. Tool: https://www.fransabsil.nl/htm/toneset.htm If you want to play with pitch class sets, there's no reason, at first, to learn how to make the transformations by hand/brain (addition and subtraction, a few other conversions, based on a few simple rules -- still a PITA).

    The tools shows two sets in one view. It allows you to alter each set using transposition (you know), inversion (mirrored across an axis of the root "0"), and complement (a set of all the pitches the set it compliments doesn't have -- probably a better way to say that). Between the two pitch circles, the tool also shows, in another circle, the common tones between the sets.

    1. Choose Pitch Class Set 6-33 in the tool (per the example). 6 is the number of pitches in the set. 33 is a number Alan Forte used to describe this particular set in his book. I still have my copy from 19XX, a long time ago.

    2. The tool shows 6-33 including intervals 1 4 3 2 4 1, where the left to tight position indicates the interval count starting with m2, M2, m3, ... tri-tone. (see tool picture). The set contains: 1 m2, 4 M2, 3 m3 etc. Compositionally, this is a starting point for choice.

    3. Measure 1: In the score, he shows the set as "I5" which means invert the original set and transpose it up 5 half steps. You can set PC Set 1 in the tool to I-5 of 6-33 using the transpose up/down buttons and inversion button. Note how the display shows the root is now at F and State as "I" for inversion. The pitch circle shows the pitches for I-5.

    4. The pitch content of measure two is "O6." "O" meaning the original set and "6" meaning transposed up 6 half steps. So, for PC Set 2 in the tool, hit up transpose button 6 times.

    5 Again, the pitch wheel in the middle shows common tones between the two.

    6. The remaining measures of his example alternate between transposed inversions and transposed originals. I believe he repeats each group three times in the audio with different orchestrations for each. Other versions in the video play with different voice leading approaches on the same group of sets.

    Anyway, its a useful tool.
    upload_2019-1-13_16-36-32.png
     

    Attached Files:

  18. OP
    OP
    ed buller

    ed buller Senior Member

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    Oh The Magic of Fred Steiner !.....Wonderful composer. This episodes music ended up all over Star Trek with good reason. Fabulous music

    best

    e
     
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  19. leogardini

    leogardini Senior Member

    Maybe is it completely escaping from my mind but I have spent a considerable amount of time analysing and applying John Williams action cue techniques and I never identified any sort of pitch class in his music.
    If someone have noticed this technique in any part of his music please point it to me but simply stating that he uses such technique just because of some kind of similarities in dissonance makes no sense to me.
     
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  20. mikeh-375

    mikeh-375 Active Member

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    I can't answer definitively Leo, but judging by works like JW's cello concerto, he has a solid grip on his language as one would expect from a master and I'm betting that includes pitch class sets if he felt the need. One wonders about his harmonic procedures for something like Close Encounters.
     
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