Seven Hedwig Samurais

OK, I didn’t mean for today to be Harry Potter day. It’s purely a coincidence that I have three posts in a row that mention it. But I was listening to Fumio Hayasaka’s score to The Seven Samurai all the way through for the first time this afternoon when I was struck my the similarities between a certain thematic passage and, (possibly because i had recently listened to the rock version), John Williams’ Hedwig’s Theme.

Now I’m not suggesting anything ill towards Mr. Williams. I think he’s a great composer who has written some of the best contemporary music for orchestra and I absolutely adore his work for the Harry Potter franchise. But a simple listen should reveal, despite differences in orchestration and arrangement, that the two piece sound similar.

First, The Seven Samurai. This excerpt is taken from the 5 minute intermission interlude. It was written in 1954.

[audio:http://www.tunequest.org/matrix/uploads/2006/05/interlude.mp3]

Then there’s Hedwig’s Theme, written in 2001.

[audio:http://www.tunequest.org/matrix/uploads/2006/05/hedwig.mp3]

What say you? Separated at birth? Coincidence? Or am I reading too much into this one?

A Frothy Potion: Hedwig Rocks!

One of the advantages of having your own website is that you get to see what keywords are bringing people to it. I recently took notice when somebody stopped by the tunequest looking for "Hedwig’s theme rock version." Being both a fan of both John Williams’ Harry Potter scores and off-beat cover versions, I set out to learn more.

It didn’t take much effort before I had tracked down a copy. Apparently some guys named Andrew and Kenneth of Northern Virginia recorded the theme with what sounds like a standard 4-piece rock band (or some kind of digital equivalent). And while it’s not quite a masterpiece, I do think it is noteworthy. Like if John Williams were writing music for Wyld Stallyns.

Download it here.

Facing the Phantom Menace

Though the movie was somewhat disappointing (Ii’m not a rabid Star Wars purist, but I do admit the film could have been better), John William exceeds expectations, filling his own very big shoes for the score to Episode I: The phantom Menace. Like any good Star Wars music fan, I bought the album when it was released and had most of it memorized by the film’s premiere (midnight showing!).

Williams pulls out all the stops, creating an original album that is closely tied to the Star Wars universe without being derivative of the first trilogy. His original themes are excellent: the action and conflict of The Duel of the Fates, the luster and majesty of the Theme for the Old Republic, the grinding militarism and menace of The Trade Federation Battle March and the tenderness of young Anakin’s Theme, which, if you listen closely, you can hear an echo of the Imperial March.

And to this day, whenever I hear the segue from the end celebration march to the closing fanfare, I still tense up with the memory of the theater packed with Star Wars fans exploding into cheers and applause.

Gives me goosebumps still.

March 28-29 – 120 songs played. 81 removed

i’ve done a fair amount of weeding over the past couple days and probably reduced the tunequest by a day as a result. some early pizzicato five (i like P5, but by her majesty’s request is unlistenable) and some aphrodite (my love affair with drum and bass has largely run its course) didn’t make the cut and were, well, cut. i also made the single largest removal to date: the emerson string quartet’s collection of shostakovich’s string quartets. nothing against the emersons or shostakovich, mind you, but string quartets, as a form of music, have always been a struggle for me to appreciate. i don’t doubt their musical worth, but i can’t get into string quartets. i’ve tried, but i guess i just prefer the power of the orchestra.

as it stands, i would not want to offend the spirit of shotsakovich, so i did especially listen to and enjoy his "waltz #2 from jazz suite" this evening. beautiful beautiful music that is.

forth tunequest:

  • peggy lee & george shearing [beauty and the beat!]
  • beth orton [central reservation]
  • london symphony performing elgar’s enigma variations
  • bjork [bachelorette]single
  • elbow [cast of thousands]
  • silver apples [contact]
  • the evil genius orchestra [cocktails in the cantina]
  • yoko kanno [cowboy bebop 2: no disc]
  • fila brazillia [brazillification]
  • delarosa and asora [agony part 1]

today’s tunequest is quite varied, from the glitch harmonics of scott herron’s delarosa project to peggy lee’s soothing siren song. the evil genius orchestra puts a humorous and swinging spin on everyone’s favorite star wars themes on cocktails in the cantina. personally, i think the the e.g.o.’s version of "princess leia’s theme" rivals the original. in fact, when putting together a list of mellow movie themes to be played as "mingle music" at my wedding reception i choose this version over john williams’. •

fila brazillia’s brazilification is an endurance test of downtempo remixing. it is a mix album, however it is more of a ‘best of’ collection of previously-released mixes, rather than a dj album, so i don’t think my earlier criticism applies. the record is a two disc set that starts off very strong, with excellent remixes of songs by radiohead, moloko, phosphorous, and u.n.k.l.e. but after the first half of the first album, the set begins to fatigue and the beats begin to muddle together.

that’s less a problem with the duo and more a factor of the downtempo genre. while individual tracks can be quite outstanding, over time the inherent form of downtempo puts it at disadvantage for long term active listening. it really is better suited to background music, turned on and tuned out while you work on other projects, only occasionally taking interest in choice musical passages. in that regard, the length of brazilification is its one drawback. still, fila brazillia are excellent at what they do and i can’t recommend this one enough. •

speaking of front-loading, let’s talk beth orton. i was familiar with beth before i got central reservation in 1999 through her collaberations with the chemical brothers. her voice always added an element of humanity to the brothers’ explosive beats. her own music brings her flavor to the forefront, unburied beneath layers of synthesized sound. simple arraingments and addictive melodies highlight her sophmore release. it’s too bad it’s all crammed in the first few songs. the record begins to sound monotonous throughout its second half, tempting me to just get rid of those songs. if it weren’t the strength of the rest of the album (‘sweetest decline’ in particular) i probably would, but i never know when one of those songs will suddenly click with me. •

and silver apples’ contact is quite interesting. i was prepared to dismiss it as yet another indulgence from my experimental youth, but it continues to pique my interest. •

The first tunequest post

Highlights: John Williams score for A.I. Artificial Intelligence is a breathtakingly moving film score, particularly The Mecha World suite. The man was on the mark with that one.

In a similar vein, I also enjoyed movements I. and II. from Mahler’s 6th Symphony performed by the Philharmonia Orchestra as well as some groovin’ Les Baxter.

I removed a dull number by Hooverphonic and a non-song by An April March.