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Composing : Movie composers by Xan Aspero

Xan Aspero

Movie composers

Who would be the best composer if you had to pick, James Horner or John Williams? Which Soundtrack? I go with James Horner, TITANIC.

Aldon Baker

Well, its a complicated question. Put the top 100 best movie composers on titanic score and they will all make something iconic. Its just a matter of taste really!

LindaAnn Loschiavo

I don't know if he is best but the name that comes to mind is Giorgio Moroder -- and with it I think of several songs I want to hum.

Joel Irwin

Best, top, whatever - these tend to be so subjective and have a lot to do with criteria used and personal taste as mentioned above. No different from top pop act, best classical composer, etc. For example, you could have asked which composer had the most Oscar nominations or wins (which itself is quite subjective). You also didn't mention present/living or any time. While I don't agree with the view, most people I ask today seem to prefer or feel that the top film composer is Hans Zimmer. Though in my opinion, the question for Hans is more who is the top film composing company since as we know, Hans is like a top surgeon with many fellows, residents, nurses and techs who all assist. I am not in Hollywood but he may have more associated with his music production than most. Personally I like film composers who are versatile. So for me, ask yourself, who can gain both Oscar, Tony, Emmy and Grammy recognition - not Barbra Streisand :) For me that would be Marc Shaiman (5 Oscar nominations, for example). In addition to the above, he has scored and written music whole series on TV (2012's Smash), has been musical director for all sorts of things and has been associated with too many concerts for singers to mention. You can read his IMDB. I can't think of anyone who has been more involved in things than him - he is an around composer, not just a film composer. From an orchestration point of view, many people feel John Williams has set the standard for us to strive for. Probably true, but in terms of 'younger' or more active composers who specialize in actual orchestral works, I tend to lean towards Alan Silvestri. But as you did not specify living or dead - I personally feel the composer who may have had the most impact and set the bar of excellence could have been Jerry Goldsmith (with 17 Oscar nominations he only one once) or perhaps Alfred Newman. BTW, you can check this out in Wikipedia but in summary 6 composers have won 4 or more times with John Williams 5 and Alfred Newman 9. In nominations - John Williams has been nominated an amazing 44 times with Alfred Newman a close second at 43. Third place has four at 17 nominations (all deceased I believe including Jerry Goldsmith). And Hans Zimmer has a ways to go - 9 nominations and 1 win.

C T Ågren

This is a fun question, impossible questions are always fun to dwell on. I'm a B Herrmann fan. So I say Herrmann definitely (Psycho and Cape Fear for instance). Can't leave out Goldsmith and the Alien score, that really send me on the anxiety road. At the same time, I just love Williams' Close Encounter. Struggling to be a composer myself, I have understood how complex it is to get the parts of an orchestra score working together. What John Williams is doing with such ease is so complex (take Star Wars) and so insanely good that you can cry.

Xan Aspero

Joel, you elaborated quite a bit on a question that had no relevance to whether living or dead, no other composer from the 1500's to 2000's, not Mozart or Chopin. If I were referring to such a broad spectrum, I would have said so. My main focus is on 2 composers JOHN WILLIAMS and JAMES HORNER. That was all.

C T Ågren

Ah, only those two.. Williams then, his iconic, and for reasons above.

Joel Irwin

Xan - my error, didn't read the 'if I had to pick' part. Actually, IMHO best composer of the last 100 years was Duke Ellington who even scored 8 films and was nominated for a scoring Oscar :) (happy to delete both of these two - just respond as such and your wish is my command)

Samuel Estes

I'd go with John Williams, and that would be the hardest question of all... I'd say probably IJ: Lost Ark. OR Catch Me if you can - those would be my favs, Star Wars of course rocks, but Lost Ark and Catch Me if You Can, I could not stop listening to.

Brendan Squires

I would choose John Williams. ET is my favorite score. The final 20 minutes are especially amazing.

Mark Saltman

I think even James Horner would pick John Williams, no contest here- and Titanic is not Horner's best work IMO.

Ambrose Freeman-Toole

John Williams. E.T.

Christopher Weatherwax

John Williams' scores are known by pretty much everybody in the states that has ever watched a movie. His Star Wars theme was really genius to me above all the others in its simplicity and creativity with the chord progressions. Link for you: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4rQSJDLM8ZE

Dan Backhouse

Out of those two it'd have to be Williams for me. Whilst I do like Horner's works and he's immensely talented, that Enemy at the Gates, Avatar, Troy, Willow (and others) motif is evidently repetitive. Personally a score which never fails to make me smile is Michael Kamen's Band of Brothers. Particularly 'Suite Two' but the entire score is brilliant. As is the series btw! Watch it if you haven't! :) Other personally favourites are Alan Silvestri, who cannot like his Back to the Future score. And whilst he may be more than a one man band, Hans Zimmer's scores work great from Gladiator to The Dark Knight to Man of Steel (Not to forget Pirates of the Caribbean).

Gary W.W. II

That's a tough question. To narrow it down, that is. I'd have to say that my preference leans in the direction of Composers like Alexander Desplat, and Nino Rota.

Ian Hudson

Given the choice, I'd go with John Williams. Both are incredible composers, but I feel John Williams is better in terms of thematic development and orchestration. Also, his music is much more well-known. In fact, I can identify just about every film he's done just from his music and vice versa. Whenever I think of a film he's scored, whether it be Jaws, Harry Potter, Star Wars, E.T., Indiana Jones, the very first thing that comes to mind are the musical themes associated with each of those films. Few other composers have left such an impression on me than John Williams.

Gary W.W. II

I agree, John Williams does have a strong musical identity. What I appreciate about his approach is his ability to follow the visual story of a Film without leaning upon decorative Motifs. His simplicity, and natural genius for Composition Structure are always eloquently crafted.

Christopher Weatherwax

Yes I agree with Gary. Williams was so creative in his uses of Atonality and Leitmotif/Chord Progressions in each successive film he scored. He knew that was all you needed to rely on in its simplicity. Ian is correct as well, I can recognize any Williams score just by hearing the first few notes and instantly know what film it is from. Personally I have been liking Hans Zimmer recently in his "Batman Begins/Dark Knight" scores and think he is the only reason those movies work at all, but will he equal or surpass Williams? Not sure, I think time will tell and things are much different now with scoring Daw's and other things. It's like Williams' era was more traditional Orchestral Romantic and Zimmer's is something different.

Christopher Weatherwax

As for Xan's original question regarding James Horner: Well Braveheart/Aliens/Wrath of Khan/Troy are some of the most epic and my own personal favorite movies of all time, and he scored them. What does that tell you? Maybe technically compositionally he doesn't surpass Williams, but maybe with the emotion and feeling he is right up there, and damn is he good. :)

Matt Milne

I'd go with John Williams, he's the best all rounder. Goldsmith was a pro with melody, along with Horner, but Williams could do something of everything.

Dana Solomon

Well, if I MUST pick between those 2, then I would have to say Williams. I mean, there aren't too many cues he has written that aren't liked. But to this day one of my all time favorite melodies he composed is "Luke & Leia" from Star Wars - "Return of the Jedi".

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