The curious case of John Williams

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Les Backshall
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Re: The curious case of John Williams

Post by Les Backshall » Fri Feb 22, 2013 12:18 pm

dogonjon wrote:...In my own definition Williams is intentionally mediocre...
I was going to question whether Williams could ever be described as mediocre, intentionally or otherwise, but I see you're using your own definition. That trumps everything of course - perhaps it will get in the dictionary some day.

Les
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khayes
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Re: The curious case of John Williams

Post by khayes » Fri Feb 22, 2013 3:33 pm

I wish I were half as mediocre as JW.
Ken

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Denian Arcoleo
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Re: The curious case of John Williams

Post by Denian Arcoleo » Fri Feb 22, 2013 4:08 pm

Yes, I have a feeling that if there was a classical guitar forum to which only chimpanzees were allowed to contribute, eventually, after a thousand years or so of furious typing by generations of chimps, eventually the phrase, 'John Williams is intentionally mediocre' would appear.

:shock:

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Re: The curious case of John Williams

Post by FHC » Fri Feb 22, 2013 4:15 pm

Denian Arcoleo wrote:Yes, I have a feeling that if there was a classical guitar forum to which only chimpanzees were allowed to contribute, eventually, after a thousand years or so of furious typing by generations of chimps, eventually the phrase, 'John Williams is intentionally mediocre' would appear.

:shock:
Fat chance :)

dogonjon

Re: The curious case of John Williams

Post by dogonjon » Fri Feb 22, 2013 7:05 pm

brooks wrote:
dogonjon wrote: This appears to be an intentional response to Bream and Segovia who at times push the expressive elements a bit to far and suck for it.
dogonjon wrote:Don't get me wrong these are the greats of our time yet there are thresholds for expression that make music interesting but exceeding that is unproductive.
gee, if only Segovia and Bream had had you around to instruct them in the thresholds of acceptable expression and musicality, how much better and less "unproductive" and "dogmatic" they both would have been. where can i find the recordings of dogonjon - impartial arbiter of acceptable expressive thresholds - so I can better understand where Segovia and Bream went off the rails?
Before the worms dry let me say that the opinions I have offered about Bream (guitar face) and Segovia (tempo variations) are not my solely own and were adopted from others on this forum. I offered a comparison to Williams (robotic) playing with the hope that the juxtaposition of criticisms might induce a grin or provoke a thought. My yard stick of what proper expression is comes from OWL! I prefer Williams to Bream or Segovia for the fact that in my opinion he plays a bit closer to the score.
In John Williams Web site he says http://www.johnwilliamsguitarnotes.com/ ... orial.html
"Editorial
When writing out music there are some problems which are particularly relevant to the guitar. First, the need to convey a wide range on one stave (the treble or G clef) often necessitates using extra ledger lines or octave signs.

Second, the constant playing of melody and accompaniment together and/or several musical lines can create a very crowded stave. And third, in my view, we have become too reliant on written fingering; we are looking for fingering instead of music.
Although each of these problems is a discussion in itself, together they can make a very congested musical page. I try to simplify this with more use of octave signs, more single connecting stems and less fingering. Altogether this requires more thinking about the nature of the music as in traditional tablature and popular TAB.

Of course, the usual fingering conventions are used, but I give very few dynamic markings as I believe that it is up to each player's expressive choice and understanding."
The last part about limiting fingering and dynamic markings says a lot about his philosophy on expressive choices I happen to agree with.

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Re: The curious case of John Williams

Post by brooks » Fri Feb 22, 2013 7:39 pm

PaulHardy wrote:
It's an internet forum. People put out strong opinions. If we aren't able to pass critical comment on people who have made more records than ourselves then what are we going to write about?

I have a friend in an amateur choir who happens to think Kiri Te Kanawa is a poor singer - by your criteria should she shut up too?
no, but if she joins a soprano forum and declares that Maria Callas and Renee Flemming sometimes "sucked", that the latter was "very dogmatic" and that her "fits of fury" and "[soprano face] ruined passages and distracted you from the virtue of the performance to see a sweaty [woman] grimacing", that Renata Scotto was "intentionally mediocre", and that this one or that one went beyond some "threshold for expression" beyond which music is "unproductive", i suspect that another forum member might wish to know something about the accomplishments of one who so spoke with such authority and so glibly and insultingly disparaged these great artists. would such an inquiry in this context be equivalent to telling your friend to shut up?

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Re: The curious case of John Williams

Post by brooks » Fri Feb 22, 2013 8:31 pm

dogonjon wrote: Before the worms dry let me say that the opinions I have offered about Bream (guitar face) and Segovia (tempo variations) are not my solely own and were adopted from others on this forum. I offered a comparison to Williams (robotic) playing with the hope that the juxtaposition of criticisms might induce a grin or provoke a thought. My yard stick of what proper expression is comes from OWL! I prefer Williams to Bream or Segovia for the fact that in my opinion he plays a bit closer to the score.
In John Williams Web site he says http://www.johnwilliamsguitarnotes.com/ ... orial.html
"Editorial
When writing out music there are some problems which are particularly relevant to the guitar. First, the need to convey a wide range on one stave (the treble or G clef) often necessitates using extra ledger lines or octave signs.

Second, the constant playing of melody and accompaniment together and/or several musical lines can create a very crowded stave. And third, in my view, we have become too reliant on written fingering; we are looking for fingering instead of music.
Although each of these problems is a discussion in itself, together they can make a very congested musical page. I try to simplify this with more use of octave signs, more single connecting stems and less fingering. Altogether this requires more thinking about the nature of the music as in traditional tablature and popular TAB.

Of course, the usual fingering conventions are used, but I give very few dynamic markings as I believe that it is up to each player's expressive choice and understanding."
The last part about limiting fingering and dynamic markings says a lot about his philosophy on expressive choices I happen to agree with.
No one is above criticism, and i have no problem with your declaring you musical preferences. the post before this one just struck me as a bit insulting and lacking in respect, especially for JB. apologies if I over-reacted.

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Re: The curious case of John Williams

Post by PaulHardy » Fri Feb 22, 2013 8:35 pm

... another forum member might wish to know something about the accomplishments of one who so spoke with such authority and so glibly and insultingly disparaged these great artists. would such an inquiry in this context be equivalent to telling your friend to shut up?

Whilst I might have a general overall sympathy to some degree with the broad thrust of dogonjohn's diagnosis, I personally feel he over-states the symptoms of both sets of patients; both the Apollonian Williams and the Dionysian Bream and Segovia. I can't dismiss the "stylings" of the latter two in the way he did, and since most of my Bream experience is audio only I miss a lot of the facial expressions which I can understand might drag after a while.

But dogonjohn put out an argument which can be chewed over and challenged, whereas dismissing an argument -- however intemperately you may feel it's expressed -- by asking how many recordings the arguer has put out doesn't give anyone a discussion point to come at. I would respect your opinion on the artists described even if we disagreed, but I don't actually know it. I only know what riles you about dogonjohn's language, which isn't the same as his argument.

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Re: The curious case of John Williams

Post by brooks » Fri Feb 22, 2013 9:01 pm

PaulHardy wrote: Whilst I might have a general overall sympathy to some degree with the broad thrust of dogonjohn's diagnosis, I personally feel he over-states the symptoms of both sets of patients; both the Apollonian Williams and the Dionysian Bream and Segovia. I can't dismiss the "stylings" of the latter two in the way he did, and since most of my Bream experience is audio only I miss a lot of the facial expressions which I can understand might drag after a while.

But dogonjohn put out an argument which can be chewed over and challenged, whereas dismissing an argument -- however intemperately you may feel it's expressed -- by asking how many recordings the arguer has put out doesn't give anyone a discussion point to come at. I would respect your opinion on the artists described even if we disagreed, but I don't actually know it. I only know what riles you about dogonjohn's language, which isn't the same as his argument.

well, I don't think there was much of an argument in dogonjon's original post to be dismissed, but you're right that the question about recordings was irrelevant, and more an expression of annoyance than anything else. But the analogy I used to explain my response to it was not "sledgehammer sarcasm" but an attempt to challenge the one you used - your friend being told to shut up for not liking Kiri Te Kanawa - which did not seem relevant to me.

John Oster

Re: The curious case of John Williams

Post by John Oster » Fri Feb 22, 2013 11:11 pm

jwp wrote:I liked this whole post, but especially
dogonjon wrote:... Williams ... playing says to me "this is what was written...."
Which is an interesting thought: John Williams as the Sviatoslav Richter of the classical guitar. Hmmm... So does that give us Bream as the classical guitar's Glenn Gould? Gould was certainly brilliant, but as a steady diet I think I prefer Richter.
I see Bream as more of a Vladimir Horowitz: idiosyncratic technique that worked for him, something of a risk-taker, and not above tinkering with the text a bit.

dogonjon

Re: The curious case of John Williams

Post by dogonjon » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:25 am

This post is joke captioned for the humor impaired (that's a joke). I have my own way of thinking about progressive levels of achievement in Classical Guitar(no Joke). Since I was denied the formal music study at the university I attended I resorted to what was available(the university in question and the reason I couldn't study guitar there is a joke). Lacking acceptance in the orchestral music community made me very much an outsider to the musical academia (no joke). With university unavailable I resorted to what was available and affordable, Community College(joke). My guitar teacher at this college was very good, taught me well but swore a lot (sort of a joke). Much of my criticism of Julian Bream comes from this teacher(no joke). He assigned me HVL Choro#1 and as I learned it I started to over emphasize the chords (no joke). He coached me not to play the piece that way because that's how Bream played it (no joke) and he didn't like Breams interpretation of the piece and forbid me from listening to any more Bream for fear I'd be contaminated by his interpretations (no joke). He had similar feelings for Segovia (no Joke) and stated that Williams and Parkening were better role models for students and I should listen to Charo before Bream or Segovia (his joke). After graduation and with no opportunities to perform I taught guitar lessons (I was a joke). Uninspired and dejected I joined a series of bands (some were jokes and again I was a joke). Seeing that most musicians were musically illiterate was offensive to me (joke/no joke). I quit music (no joke). After a number of years I was again recruited to play in a band called Free Beer (no joke). We called the band Free Beer because that's how we were paid (joke). The band also had it's own system of insider jokes that I can't talk about here because it's very offensive (joke). Being offensive is funny (joke) just check out Tim Minchin (he plays piano and is one of the few acceptable pianists because he is funny, Check out "Prejudice" on youtube- If I posted the link I would be banned from here(joke)). If he doesn't completely offend you, you will laugh your (joke) off.
That said here is my progression (this is a joke):
Pathetic: pieces are played intermittently with frequent stops, fingering, rhythmic and note errors.
Dismal: Pieces are played with continuity but memory errors cause the form of songs to be inaccurate.
Mediocre: Pieces are played with continuity, no errors and with the accuracy and expression of a midi file (not to be confused with a midiphile- one who loves midi)- (joke). The player often plays entire pieces if not whole concerts on auto pilot.
Really Suck: Pieces are accurately played but the attempts at artistic expression can be confused with slowing for difficult passages ( as many others have said about Segovia- joke on you) or you become so involved in expressive acts that it becomes excessive,resulting in facial distortions and lack of composure(as my teacher said about Bream-joke on me).
Aware: Performances are accompanied by a calm mental state that keeps the performer within the confines of their own ability. The precision of the performance is accurate and tone, expression and dynamics are appropriate for the artistic intention of the player and every piece (never a joke). I put Williams and Parkening in this category (no joke).
Fully Conscious: Every note, point of contact and attack are anticipated, prepared and executed with total confidence and precision. The outcome of every piece is clear to the performer before each piece begins (total joke= impossible).
I put Charo in this category (joke on every one) because she is also very funny.

So there. That's my progression and I find it funny therefore I expect some to be offended (joke). That's also why I refer to guitar as "not fit for formal study or concerts and is historically a popular instrument relegated to Bars, Taverns, Parlors and Brothels"(joke). It's also why I refer to guitarists "Getting with the Chicks"(joke "TM") as a means to develop "social networking"(no joke). I apologize to Mr Bream and Mr Segovia for making fun of their affectations but no one is perfect and we all benefit from a dose of humor occasionally. After all I'm not commenting on the woes of society like Minchin does.

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Re: The curious case of John Williams

Post by Blondie » Tue Feb 26, 2013 1:01 pm

Denian Arcoleo wrote:Yes, I have a feeling that if there was a classical guitar forum to which only chimpanzees were allowed to contribute, eventually, after a thousand years or so of furious typing by generations of chimps, eventually the phrase, 'John Williams is intentionally mediocre' would appear.
:shock:
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Les Backshall
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Re: The curious case of John Williams

Post by Les Backshall » Tue Feb 26, 2013 1:39 pm

dogonjon wrote:This post is joke captioned for the humor impaired (that's a joke)...joke... joke.... joke....(this is a joke)...joke...joke...
Thank goodness I was wearing corsets, or my sides would have split.*

Les

*with apologies to Edmund Blackadder.
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Mark Clifton-Gaultier
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Re: The curious case of John Williams

Post by Mark Clifton-Gaultier » Tue Feb 26, 2013 1:49 pm

Denian Arcoleo wrote:Yes, I have a feeling that if there was a classical guitar forum to which only chimpanzees were allowed to contribute ...
If? After reading through Glassynails' 6/8 - 3/4 metrical saga and then this lot I think that you may have missed a "heads up" Denian.

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Re: The curious case of John Williams

Post by Gruupi » Tue Feb 26, 2013 4:25 pm

I wouldn't call John Williams mediocre, but I understand the sentiment that Dogonjon is trying to express. At the highest levels, musicians and great artists are expected to do more than play all the right notes and interpret the composers intentions. I think the title of this thread is appropriate for the dilemma. John Williams has certainly pushed the boundaries of playing the right notes to the highest level, sometimes the composers intentions and playing the right notes is all that is needed to get the music across. At times though, this way of playing leaves me feeling empty and cold, like it is perfect but just lacks passion.

To be fair, sometimes John Williams' approach works, in my opinion his Aranjuez is the best out there. The music is impassioned enough to stand on it's own, and it takes a very steady reasoned approach to play it correctly with an orchestra. This is the case in a few other pieces as well, in some surprisingly different styles. So for this reason, I wouldn't label John Williams as mediocre. He does miss the mark in some pieces (opinion), but since he is so prolific in his output, I can forgive him of that too.

So, maybe we expect to much from the demigods of performing. To expect perfection, passion, and a wide repertoire over the whole course of someone's career is a monumental achievement, and no one in the history of music could really live up to this. So rethinking what I said earlier about not modeling my playing on John Williams, it would be more appropriate to say I wouldn't model it solely on John Williams approach, but there are some aspects of the way he plays that would be relevant to any student.

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