Question about John Williams

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Francisco
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Question about John Williams

Post by Francisco » Fri Jun 30, 2017 3:08 pm

I have a vague memory of reading somewhere that John Williams said, in one of his interviews, something to the effect that in retrospect he feels a bit of regret at not having had more of a choice as to what instrument he would dedicate his life to. Memory plays tricks on us, so it may well be that I am totally wrong on this and that he never said any such thing, but have the distinct impression that he expressed some measure of regret at the fact that the path to follow was chosen for him (by his father, I suppose) and he just followed what was presented as the most logical choice, but that he didn’t really have much of an input in the matter.
There are many Williams interviews, so I am not sure where or how to look. If anybody knows for a fact that he said something along those lines, please let me know.
Thank you.
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doralikesmath
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Re: Question about John Williams

Post by doralikesmath » Fri Jun 30, 2017 3:54 pm

Didn't he study piano at the Royal College of Music? This sounds a bit odd to me.
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spruceman33
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Re: Question about John Williams

Post by spruceman33 » Fri Jun 30, 2017 4:20 pm

I believe I heard that Bream said that...
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Re: Question about John Williams

Post by dory » Fri Jun 30, 2017 4:43 pm

I imagine that he could have said that given that he was not given a choice as to what instrument to play as a child. Whether or not he actually said it-- I don't know. I think many people who had controlling parents feel this way. Maybe if John Williams had had a different father he would have wanted to be a brain surgeon or a long haul truck driver and the world would hsve missed s prodigy.
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Francisco
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Re: Question about John Williams

Post by Francisco » Fri Jun 30, 2017 5:29 pm

He did study piano, I suppose because there was no guitar program at the time. I think that a guitar department was created for him after he graduated.
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ddray
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Re: Question about John Williams

Post by ddray » Fri Jun 30, 2017 7:22 pm

spruceman33 wrote:
Fri Jun 30, 2017 4:20 pm
I believe I heard that Bream said that...
I don't know why Bream or Williams would say that. Bream can play 4 or 5 different instruments and I know Williams studied piano. Maybe they pine for the accordion or clarinet :D

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Re: Question about John Williams

Post by Francisco » Fri Jun 30, 2017 8:03 pm

ddray wrote:
Fri Jun 30, 2017 7:22 pm
I don't know why Bream or Williams would say that. Bream can play 4 or 5 different instruments and I know Williams studied piano. Maybe they pine for the accordion or clarinet :D
The clarinet has some dignified legends into its ranks, but the accordion seems to be still waiting for a savior who knows how to lift it to its true potential. I don't despise the accordion, but its best players are hard to discover. I once heard an angelic accordionist walking slowly on a secluded narrow path in Golden Gate Park, in the fog. He was probably on his way to homelessness, if not already there... but he was playing something magical for a couple of minutes.
I wonder if I dreamed this thing about Williams. I have no idea where it came from but it has been bothering me for the last few days. O well.
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Re: Question about John Williams

Post by ddray » Fri Jun 30, 2017 8:13 pm

Francisco wrote:
Fri Jun 30, 2017 8:03 pm
ddray wrote:
Fri Jun 30, 2017 7:22 pm
I don't know why Bream or Williams would say that. Bream can play 4 or 5 different instruments and I know Williams studied piano. Maybe they pine for the accordion or clarinet :D
The clarinet has some dignified legends into its ranks, but the accordion seems to be still waiting for a savior who knows how to lift it to its true potential. I don't despise the accordion, but its best players are hard to discover. I once heard an angelic accordionist walking slowly on a secluded narrow path in Golden Gate Park, in the fog. He was probably on his way to homelessness, if not already there... but he was playing something magical for a couple of minutes.
I wonder if I dreamed this thing about Williams. I have no idea where it came from but it has been bothering me for the last few days. O well.
Yeah, I'm not disparaging any instrument. I'd love to know how to play them all. As for the Williams thing, maybe it was that Mandela Effect we're hearing about all the time :mrgreen:

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Peter Lovett
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Re: Question about John Williams

Post by Peter Lovett » Sat Jul 01, 2017 2:29 am

I think you are right. In the interview with Marcelo Kayath that was recorded earlier this year he talks about his love of the cello which along with the piano, he studied at the RCM. There is a thread in this forum that has a link to those interviews with Williams. However, I also have a vague recollection that he once said, in an interview, that he has wondered what his life may have turned out if his father had not been such a keen guitarist but for the life of me I can't remember where it was said.

Incidentally, that 4 part interview with Marcelo Kayath is probably the most all-encompassing interview with Williams as it goes from his early years through his life as well as looking how he approaches his music. They are well worth a listen.
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Jeffrey Armbruster
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Re: Question about John Williams

Post by Jeffrey Armbruster » Sat Jul 01, 2017 3:37 am

He did say that in the first or second Kayath interview. I think it may have been in the context of, or led to, the subject of touring. He sounds like he's done way to much touring and found it frustrating. he would have to agree to concerts with fixed pieces up to a year in advance, and he'd be stuck preparing for those. So if his interests or mood changed, he couldn't go off much and spontaneously explore other repertoire.

I don't know how this would be different if he played a different instrument. It was almost as if he was saying that he felt that he'd been locked down by the demands of his instrument and wished that he could have had a different relationship with it. Like jazz guitar. I may be reading too much into this.
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Francisco
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Re: Question about John Williams

Post by Francisco » Sat Jul 01, 2017 4:34 am

Thank you, Peter, and Jeffrey. Yes, in that interview he does say, right before mentioning his love of the cello, that
"it was always assumed that I would be a guitarist, not necessarily the same as a musician..... I never thought otherwise"
where the passive "it was assumed" seems to mean "we assumed" but at the same time he does not really think of himself as a relevant part of that "we", he just goes along with this assumption ("I never thought otherwise"), an assumption that was sort of transmitted to him by association...
But all of this is rather subtle, whereas in my recollection (or my dreaming of a recollection) Williams is much more blunt in how he expresses his awareness that the "assumption" he would be a guitarist didn't really originate in him.
It is probably in some other interview. I hope.
But what he said here is already enough for a contrast. In the first couple of chapters of Segovia's autobiography it becomes very clear that nobody imposed or even tried to impose the guitar on him (the violin, yes, but he rejected the violin, along with his violin teacher). Instead, it was the guitar herself that imposed herself on him by sheer seduction. The sound when he listened to someone play at closer range, totally captured his entire being. He became hooked, and he soon understood he had been taken over by the instrument. Taken prisoner for life. And that there was no point in trying to resist this sweet captivity.

I is a very different start to a relationship. And I think the relative "aloofness" that many people detect sometimes in Williams playing (in comparison with guitarists like Bream or Segovia) has to do with this. Williams is a superb guitarist. Wise matchmaking by parents is known to be able to produce stable marriages, even happy ones, but of a generally much more sedate nature than matchmaking done by the future partners themselves at first sight. Something like that.

And if this is the case, those who simply went along with parental matchmaking, sometimes are bound to wonder what it would have been like to have been forcefully taken over directly by an instrument that demands nothing less than inconditional surrender.
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Jeffrey Armbruster
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Re: Question about John Williams

Post by Jeffrey Armbruster » Sat Jul 01, 2017 5:00 am

You expressed much of what I also sensed in the interview, that he felt that he'd missed something, but he never says exactly what. It may be that passion for the instrument that you mention. Bream does in fact seem to show this more than Williams, but then again who can really know 'from the outside' like us in the audience. Williams also seemed happy in this interview.

Reading the book Practicing by Kurtz you get some sense of how potentially fraught and anxious it can be to be directed from an early age to the guitar. Although Kurtz was willing enough. There may be whole aspects of life that prodigies never get to experience. It must be hard to thread the needle and not be crushed by the process.
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Francisco
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Re: Question about John Williams

Post by Francisco » Sat Jul 01, 2017 11:36 am

I watched part 1 of the interview and he comes accross as a likeable fellow. I intend to watch the other segments as time allows. But the relationship with the classical guitar that transpires from his comments is always rather ambiguous, and this is the case in other interviews with him that I've read. He finds the repertoire too thin and dull, he finds the right hand technique too constraining and opposed to to the rhythmic congeniality of up and down movement allowed by plectrum plahying... it is as if he was always wishing to escape from a room he finds too small, but never quite manages to do it. His impecable classical training made him an excellent sight reader, a skill he acknowledges he needed in order to compensate his relative lack of skill at figuring things out just by ear, on the fly, which is precisely a skill that most non-classical musicians possess. It is as if he kept trying to escape to a wider space than the narrow confines of the classical guitar world, but at the same time he feels like he doesn't quite fit in that other world either. Complicated character. But like I said, very likeable in the way he explains himself.
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PeteJ
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Re: Question about John Williams

Post by PeteJ » Sat Jul 01, 2017 12:06 pm

Francisco wrote:
Fri Jun 30, 2017 8:03 pm
The clarinet has some dignified legends into its ranks, but the accordion seems to be still waiting for a savior who knows how to lift it to its true potential. I don't despise the accordion, but its best players are hard to discover. I once heard an angelic accordionist walking slowly on a secluded narrow path in Golden Gate Park, in the fog. He was probably on his way to homelessness, if not already there... but he was playing something magical for a couple of minutes.
You could look out for my old student house-mate Karen Street. Amazing player.

Here she is jamming with guitar

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Stephen Kenyon
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Re: Question about John Williams

Post by Stephen Kenyon » Sat Jul 01, 2017 1:07 pm

PeteJ wrote:
Sat Jul 01, 2017 12:06 pm
...
You could look out for my old student house-mate Karen Street. Amazing player.
Sure is; several years ago I had a recording session with Karen and a reeds player. Writes some very fine jazz-style wind ensembles too.
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