Why did John Williams not score all of the Harry Potter movies?

Discussion in 'Soundtracks Discussion' started by erica-grace, Dec 5, 2018.

  1. erica-grace

    erica-grace Senior Member

    Sep 7, 2015
    He scored the first three, maybe four? Does anyone know why he did not do the rest? Scheduling conflicts? Maybe he just didnt want to do anymore of them? I find it impossible to imagine that the studio wanted to get someone else.
  2. Sears Poncho

    Sears Poncho Active Member

    Apr 23, 2017
    I don't think he scored even #2, regardless of his name being on it. Far inferior to 1. Obviously there were lots of orchestrators for all the movies.

    I am playing all 8(?) of them, they do them with the movie being shown and the orchestra is live. We've done the first 2 so far, I think #3 is in Feb. Violin part is like a Wagner opera. It's seriously difficult and really long. The movies are pretty much constant music. I don't think one guy could actually do it all. Compared to other scores, it's 4x the music and 8x times the notes. The Quiddich (sp?) match in #1 is about as difficult as anything I've ever played: Wagner, Richard Strauss, Bartok etc. It's brutal and goes on forever. I think simple logistics and the time schedule of putting the movies out while the kids were still youngish had a lot to do with it.
  3. miket

    miket Team Dany

    May 17, 2016
    New York
    I'm pretty sure that's not accurate. I was just reading something about this since the three Williams scores got a big release from La-La Land.

    William Ross did some adaptation of material on the second movie because Williams had issues with his back, or something like that, but it wasn't anything more than adaptation. Fitting things to cuts, that kind of stuff.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2018
    NoamL likes this.
  4. whiskers

    whiskers Perpetual student

    Sep 5, 2018
    I presumed change of directors. You were right with scheduling conflicts for some, I think:

    Per wikipedia:

    paularthur likes this.
  5. Symfoniq

    Symfoniq Active Member

    May 8, 2013
    I was at a “Music of Harry Potter” symphony concert last month, at which the conductor (who is quite the Williams fan) states that Williams didn’t do Harry Potter 4 due to a scheduling conflict with Memoirs of a Geisha, which he’d wanted to score since reading the book.
  6. Sears Poncho

    Sears Poncho Active Member

    Apr 23, 2017
    I think this could be another topic in itself: what a composer does do and doesn't do for a movie of this length. The first fiddle part to one of the HP films was 138 pages long! I've done a lot of music from his various movies, did the first Star Wars movie in concert. HP is on an entirely different level. I know that many orchestrators are listed in the credits, I'd love to know exactly what they were "given" to work with.

    I really don't know, I'd be curious. No composer could write something of that magnitude in that amount of time without some serious assistance. Wagner had quite a few orchestrators working for him, often students of his. And maybe for #2, Williams was ailing etc and not quite himself, because the quality difference between 1 and 2 is really noticeable.
  7. miket

    miket Team Dany

    May 17, 2016
    New York
    It is possible to see what Williams gives his orchestrators, and to hear what orchestrating a Williams score is like from those who've done it. I enjoy reading about that kind of thing.

    The short answer is that they're given everything, as a condensed score, and then do the thankless job of creating a full score and parts. It's usually described as copy work, rather than orchestration.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2018
    NoamL likes this.
  8. NoamL

    NoamL Winter <3

    Jul 6, 2015
    Los Angeles
    There's quite some mistaken information here unfortunately.

    As a super fan of this score (Potter + the Star Wars prequels were what first interested me in film scoring) please permit some corrections of fact:
    • "I don't think he scored even #2, regardless of his name being on it." HP2 is JW's work. I know because I've seen a few of JW's short-score sketches that relate to that film. There is still a large amount of reuse of HP1 material in HP2, generally stitching bars together from previously used cues. Williams was aided in the task of adaptation by composer William Ross, who also conducted the recording sessions. HP2 also contains lots of original themes which are unmistakably JW's work, for example the themes for Fawkes, Dobby, Aragog, etc.
    • "Obviously there were lots of orchestrators for all the movies." There were two orchestrators working for JW on Potter 1 & 2, Conrad Pope and Eddie Karam. Orchestrating for JW is NEVER a euphemism for additional-composing, as it occasionally is today, and in fact the actual orchestration work consists mostly of moving notes from the sketch to the full orchestra layout.
    • For those who don't know how this works, maybe the following will be enlightening. Here is JW's "sketch" for the opening of the 2nd movie:
    Screen Shot 2018-12-05 at 10.28.15 PM.png
    • And the final orchestrated score, in Conrad Pope's writing:
    Screen Shot 2018-12-05 at 10.45.38 PM.png
    • Here's Conrad Pope's thoughts about it: "With JW, every detail is generally accounted for [in the sketch]: even in the string divisi and in the disposition of brass. The only discretion an “orchestrator” or copyist truly has is in the voicing of the woodwinds - and even there it is generally only with regard to their role in an “orchestral” tutti.... More than the “instrumental” assignments in JW’s sketches, what I find more important in making a correct and balanced orchestration are his precise indications of dynamics and articulations. [check out how many musical instructions, even pedal marks, slurs, crescendos, etc - are indicated in the sketch already!] Here he reveals that he is a true master, not just of composition but rather of the mechanics of the orchestra and orchestral performance."
    • "He scored the first three, maybe four?" Patrick Doyle did the fourth film, Nicholas Hooper did 5 & 6, and Alexandre Desplat did both "halves" of #7. In my opinion, Doyle struck the best balance between adapting JW's musical world and taking things in a darker, more mature direction as well. Just listening to the 10 minute cue "Voldemort," I have to wonder why he didn't take over the series permanently. Not to say that Desplat isn't a great composer or that I didn't like any aspects of his scores.
    • "Does anyone know why he did not do the rest? Scheduling conflicts?" No one knows for sure but it's an observable fact that JW puts Lucas and Spielberg ahead of other directors. Keep in mind as of 2006, JW was already 74 and he had just finished doing 4 movies for Lucas and Spielberg in 2 years, plus Memoirs Of A Geisha. Between "Memoirs" and the new Star Wars films, JW didn't really come out of retirement except when Steven Spielberg called.
    • "The movies are pretty much constant music. I don't think one guy could actually do it all." It illustrates how productive a great composer can be when all he has to do is write the score on 8 lines on paper. A way of working that is so different and so much more efficient than the way we all work now, and that JW had been accustomed to for over 40 years by the time he wrote the Potter films. He didn't have to turn in mockups, he didn't have to sit there and @#% around with MIDI, or tweak a mix, or print stems, or program percussion parts. All of his energy, time and talent was directed at writing notes, which again, is the total opposite of the way we all work now, where the score is completely written, orchestrated, performed, mixed, and mastered, from the start to the end, twice, and the first time (the mockup) necessarily happens on the composer's computer network.
    • "No composer could write something of that magnitude in that amount of time without some serious assistance." What an unintentionally devastating commentary on the music all of us are producing today, if someone thinks JW couldn't have written it all because there's too many 32nd notes in the Violin 1 part. As you can see, he wrote out each of the notes you played.
    • "I've done a lot of music from his various movies, did the first Star Wars movie in concert. HP is on an entirely different level." They are from different style periods. JW as of Potter and the Star Wars prequels was exploring how much he could make his music richly orchestrated and ornate in its complexity and nuance. Possibly influenced by the early 20th century Russians like Prokofiev, and their French contemporaries too. JW as of Star Wars, ET, Jaws, is far more straightforward in his language, with the main influences clearly being jazz and JW's own predecessors in adapting post-classical German (Mahler, Wagner, Strauss) music to the screen like Walton and Korngold. Interestingly, as of the new Star Wars movies he seems to be moving back in that direction.
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2018
  9. Land of Missing Parts

    Land of Missing Parts No Time for Honky-Tonk

    Jan 27, 2013
    I say it as often as I can, while I still can: I think John Williams is the greatest living composer, at least that I've ever heard.
    Wolf68 and whiskers like this.
  10. Sears Poncho

    Sears Poncho Active Member

    Apr 23, 2017
    NoamL, I am not a superfan. I'm a working musician with a resume about 12 miles long :) I'm not for/against JW or anyone, I'm just some guy who plays a whole lotta music for a long long time. And I'm an orchestrator as well. I had a chart played last nite by sym, I have another one tonight, I had 45 (new ones) this year I think done by symphony. I'm not trying to turn this into a dick-waving contest, really. I have no interest in that. I made some remarks about MY experiences, I've played the scores. I've also played a lotta opera, all the big-ticket ones.

    For the sake of anyone following the thread, the violin 1 part to Mahler #1 is 20 pages. The vln1 to Beethoven 9 is 20 as well. The entire Nutcracker vln 1 is 53 pages. One of the HP scores I did was 138. So, I'm not just giving "opinion" here. It also requires overtime pay to be played in concert. I can show you the check stub. :) Both 1 and 2 did. Rather than get into some boring BS, let's just agree that they are long long songs.

    Again: I like JW too. I have no interest in insulting your boy. The "superfan" stuff can be a bit much. A quick look at the credits for both the first films list many orchestrators. There are also copyists etc. Why I mention this is for anyone trying to learn about orchestration: I don't have a "copyist" or editor or proofreader etc. and you won't either So, that's a good amount of "time". IMDB lists 7 orchestrators (including JW) for #1. So again, not pulling things outta the air. If these 7 are imaginary, I really wanna get a gig like that.

    The actual "point": my interest in forums like this is often about young people who are thinking about/trying to get into the music biz. And in the real world, Mahler 1 vln 1 is available to download, as is Beethoven 9 etc. It can give some insight as to what we are talking about time-wise. JW probably has many rooms full of awards and bags of money everywhere, he probably trips over stacks of $100s. Nobody is interested in taking anything away from JW, superfan or not. He's great. I'm talking about what goes into something like this, not JW. A lot. Nobody is "accusing" JW of anything, he's obviously proven himself over 50-60 years.

    For those of us who aren't JW, "orchestration" is somewhat like "music theory" in that it's a term that covers a lot of ground. Hairpins, cresc. and dim, dynamics, "dolce" blah blah. That stuff goes into scores too. Every dot, dash, accent, schmaccent. When someone says "the orchestrator has discretion over wind voicing", well, that's exactly what I said all along. It's a matter of time, not just talent.
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  11. AdamAlake

    AdamAlake Music Person

  12. Jeremy Gillam

    Jeremy Gillam Active Member

    Jun 10, 2017
    Los Angeles, California
  13. thesteelydane

    thesteelydane Senior Member

    Apr 9, 2015
    Hanoi, Vietnam
    The viola part is seriously difficult too, and in places very awkward and much, MUCH less idiomatic than usually from Williams. I've played all the Star Wars suites (on both violin and viola) and there's not a single passage that doesn't fit the instrument. Difficult at times, yes, but always idiomatic. The Harry Potter movies - not so much. There's a whole lot of WTF passages in the string writing. Just saying my experience is exactly the same as @Sears Poncho.
    ism, N.Caffrey and Sears Poncho like this.
  14. HelixK

    HelixK Active Member

    Nov 10, 2018
    There's so much information "from the trenches" in Sear's reply, you can't just say "wrong" and not elaborate... the suspense is killing me :rofl:
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  15. ism

    ism Senior Member

    Dec 14, 2016

    What counts as a WTF viola passage?
  16. Jeremy Gillam

    Jeremy Gillam Active Member

    Jun 10, 2017
    Los Angeles, California
    16th notes.
    David Cuny likes this.
  17. ism

    ism Senior Member

    Dec 14, 2016
    Seriously - that was not intending a setup for viola jokes! I have nothing but love for violas!
    David Cuny, NoamL and Jeremy Gillam like this.
  18. Chr!s

    Chr!s Active Member

    May 27, 2018
    Because even then, he was old as hell.

    I can't imagine being 71 years old, writing the kinds of scores he does and being condemned to that one franchise for the next decade. I might be dead next Tuesday, and you want me to commit to this?
  19. lux

    lux Senior Member

    I watched all of them, and while it's definitely an interesting work I found the whole analysis lacking completely the concept of evolution. The characters change a lot in the serie. I remember myself how being 17 was completely different from being 11. "My" music was different, the music around me was different, and, finally, my feelings were totally different.

    The analysis then completely lost me on the intro sequence of HP7pt1 marking it just as "action strings" where that's probably one of the most brilliant opening of the last few years with a perfect balance between storytelling and music.

    All in all I disagreed with most of what's been said in the videos. Cause it takes three vids to basically blame other composers for not being JW. Not detailed as JW. Not magical as JW. Not approaching themes like JW does.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2018
  20. Olfirf

    Olfirf Member

    May 11, 2018
    Well, there certainly is contribution of orchestrators, sometime more or sometimes less, as you can read from the Conrad Pope quote Noam posted. Things can occur like health issues which sometimes increase the role of orchestrators, as the financial undertaking of major movies certainly won’t let something like that mess with their schedule. In these cases, i think orchestrators should get more recognition, like credits and money. I guess, because of the Oscar rules, the credits rarely happen! :)
    But however you turn it: it seems very clear to me that Mr. Williams has more than once proven that he is perfectly capable of writing a full movie score without any help, while the more recent composers like Zimmer have a whole lot of help (not all of them!). Just take a look at all of the given credits to additional composers, arrangers and multiple orchestrators. :) There is no question about it IMO

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