John Williams on his ideal orchestra

The composer, starting recording sessions for The Force Awakens, talks to his union website about the Los Angeles musicians who are playing on his next soundtrack.

‘This group is made up of a pool of freelancers in Southern California. I’ve worked with them for decades now on a variety of films, and I am friends with most of them. They consistently come together to form a fabulous orchestra, and I’m always happy and proud to be reunited with them for these projects.’

After six previous film soundtracks being recorded in the UK with the London Symphony Orchestra, The Force Awakens marks the first Star Wars soundtrack to be recorded on American shores, utilizing musicians from AFM Local 47. ‘With this new film, the schedule has evolved to the point that I’ll need to be working with the orchestra continuously for several months, and that’s obviously easier for me to do here in Los Angeles, than it would be in London.’

Full interview here.

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  • I’m wondering what the Brits are doing wrong (in pricing?). This is the second major film franchise to throw away a long history of working with British musicians – the first being Peter Jackson’s choice to use a New Zealand orchestra for the second and third Hobbit films, after 4 films (plus extended editions) using the London Phil.

    Granted, Disney’s been using local L.A. musicians in their other projects for quite a long time now.

    • I doubt this is due to ‘pricing’ with the Brits; my understanding is that this is purely due to John Williams age; he himself – as conductor – has had to cancel various appearances in the States due to back problems.

    • All you have to do is read the article. It’s nothing to do with the Brits and everything to do with the production schedule.
      Dozens of Hollywood movies are recorded in London every year – by the likes of James Newton Howard, Harry Gregson-Williams, Howard Shore, Alexandre Desplat, John Powell, Danny Elfman etc etc etc. All A-List composers working on huge movies.

    • Nothing against British musicians or the LPO, who really did do sterling work for the earlier “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, but Peter Jackson is a New Zealander and his film studios are based here in Wellington, New Zealand, so there is a certain logic (and hopefully also pride) in him being able to use our own national orchestra, the NZ Symphony Orchestra (NZSO), for the latter two “Hobbit” films; indeed, he’d already used the NZSO for his earlier film “The Lovely Bones” in 2009. The NZSO is a very fine orchestra indeed, widely regarded as by far New Zealand’s best, and I feel it could do with better/wider support and publicity than it sometimes gets in this country, especially in the current sometimes challenging economic and cultural climate, so in that sense it’s great that Jackson has been able to work with it for these films and give it more exposure in doing so.

  • On the face of it this looks like a big win for U.S. musicians. Of course, the devil is in the details, to which I’m not privy, but hopefully this continues reconciliation between Local 47 and the AFM, and furthers unity between the players’ conferences and all musicians in the U.S.

    • Yes, to those of use who care about such things…the average Star Wars fan couldn’t care less if it the LSO or the orchestra of southern North Dakota at Hoople. And how many LSO players who played in the original movie are still with the LSO? Using the LSO is/was a real status symbol that a studio orchestra, no matter how good, doesn’t provide. The choice of orchestra is a small matter; just wait until John Williams is no longer the composer!

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