June 29, 2020

Is John Williams a Thief? Prepare to Have Your Mind Blown

John Williams Steals
Welcome to the latest iteration on the theme of GREAT ARTISTS STEAL. 

If you are a movie person and NOT a classical music person, i.e. most people visiting this website and reading this post, some of this may come as a surprise to you. John Williams, one of the greatest composers in cinematic history, is not only heavily influenced by other great composers but lifted some of his most famous musical moments DIRECTLY from their work. To the point where two amazingly charismatic and intelligent classic musicians, Brett Yang and Eddy Chen, are wondering if Williams had to pay royalties.

*Narrator voice* he didn't. 

It's not a huge shock, we know that all art is influenced by what came before. If you study music you're likely to incorporate the classics into your new work. These guys speak on this very notion. Questioning if there is even an original thought in existence, to begin with. But all that aside, the similarities between Williams' work and some of the very established greats is quite remarkable. 

Here is where we get real meta though. Chen and Yang are demonstrating how one person is stealing from another while creating a YouTube video that might violate copyright laws and thus also be itself an act of theft!

You really need to see the video before we dive into more meta aspects of it, and the genius of Williams and his influences. 

On another meta-level, Chen and Yang's video is based on a preexisting written post from elsewhere on the internet. 

Oh, and you are currently reading about their video on another post that is aggregating their video of another post about an artist who was lifting from other artists. 

Welcome to post-modernism. 

All that mind-bending meta stuff aside, classical music is a GREAT place to find influence musical and otherwise. And I can't go much farther into this post without bringing up how amazing composer Eric Wolfgang Korngold

Korngold was clearly a major inspiration to Williams, just as the movies he scored were influences on Lucas and Spielberg. The Adventures of Robin Hood is widely recognized as one of the most important early blockbusters in movie history. 

Korngold scored a trio of Errol Flynn starring swashbucklers. Robin Hood is the most famous, but Captain Blood and The Sea Hawk are the other two and were both also directed by Michael Curtiz. 

Errol Flynn Sea Hawk

Curtiz is not on the lists of celebrated auteurs along with Kubrick, Hitchcock, Hawks, or Ford but he may be FAR more instrumental than any of those directors in defining the action-adventure genre which is where most modern filmmakers and studios make their living. 

Curtiz looms large over the modern filmmaking landscape and he's hardly ever mentioned.

The Spielberg, Lucas, and Cameron crew owe more to Curtiz than anyone else and they'd hardly deny it. But don't forget Curtiz also directed Casablanca, often considered one of the three best movies ever made if not THE best movie ever made. 

Tip your hat to Michael Curtiz. The most important director nobody studies. 

So yes, along with the fascinating ways earlier music influences modern scores, so too does earlier movie directing. And earlier blog posts.      

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1 Comment

Yeah, because copying is totally stealing.

June 29, 2020 at 3:42PM

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Dan Earl
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