The Baton: A John Williams Musical Journey
Episode 111 - Epilogue

Episode 111 - Epilogue

December 30, 2020

This is the final episode of "The Baton: A John Williams Musical Journey," and host Jeff Commings has invited one of the premier analysts of John Williams' music to talk about his extensive catalog for the "Star Wars" and Indiana Jones films. Frank Lehman discusses the genesis of the idea to examine all of the thematic material in both film series, and breaks down two of his favorite themes from the "Star Wars" franchise. It's a fantastic discussion that closes out this extensive podcast series with an over-reaching look at the Maestro's career.

Episode 110 - The Rise of Skywalker

Episode 110 - The Rise of Skywalker

December 23, 2020

After a mind-boggling span of 42 years, John Williams closed out his involvement with the "Star Wars" film series with the score for "The Rise of Skywalker." Host Jeff Commings and cohost Paulius Eidukas talk about the missteps in director J.J. Abrams' choices visually and musically. The two talk about the four new themes that flow through the score, all four notable because they connect more to a group of people and an idea instead of one person. With the help of Eidukas on the piano, we understand how the new themes connect to previous melodies, and how the finale gave them a "shivers-up-the-spine" feeling with the music. As of this posting, "The Rise of Skywalker" is the final film in the John Williams canon after 60 years of writing the score for 109 films. It is fitting that "The Rise of Skywalker" is the final film in John Williams' career, if the Maestro has indeed retired from film scores.

Episode 109 - The Post

Episode 109 - The Post

December 16, 2020

In what might be their final film collaboration, Steven Spielberg and John Williams worked together to give us a score for "The Post" that doesn't go full bore with the orchestra, using instead the emotion of electronic pulses and Americana touches to convey the tension of publishing the Pentagon Papers in The Washington Post. Host Jeff Commings and co-host Paul Wright discuss the way Williams perfectly matches "the intended emotional contexts of a scene with music," resulting in an emotion from the viewer that is almost purposeful. Though we could presume that "The Post" is the final John Williams score for a Steven Spielberg film, the Maestro started a new collaboration in 2017 with violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, writing a concerto for her that was a long time coming.

Episode 108 - The Last Jedi

Episode 108 - The Last Jedi

December 9, 2020

Rian Johnson took over for J.J. Abrams as director of the second film in the "Star Wars" sequel trilogy, titled "The Last Jedi." Johnson changed the tone and direction of the sequel dramatically, and composer John Williams went along for the ride with a couple of new themes for two new characters whose music only appears in this film, for different reasons. Host Jeff Commings is joined again by Paulius Eidukas for an examination of the use of pre-existing music -- including Leia's theme in the controversial "Leia in Space" scene -- and how certain compositional techniques made Williams' Oscar-nominated score feel bold and a little daring.

Episode 107 - The BFG

Episode 107 - The BFG

December 2, 2020

Trombone player and music teacher Paul Wright makes his debut appearance on "The Baton" to defend the Steven Spielberg film "The BFG" and discusses with host Jeff Commings the intricate compositional technique John Williams used for this score. From creating virtuosic flute writing to reaching back to past themes to give us a buffoonish motif for the villains, the co-hosts have a blast dissecting this "blip" on John Williams' filmography, a underrated score that has many gems that you will discover in this episode.

Episode 106 - The Force Awakens

Episode 106 - The Force Awakens

November 25, 2020

When the news broke that Disney would be producing a new trilogy of "Star Wars" films taking place after the events of "Return of the Jedi," the logical choice was to have John Williams return to continue his expansive space opera composition. And he returned with some new themes for "The Force Awakens" that featured a complex motif for the female hero and a theme for the villain that, not surprisingly, had a connection to Vader's theme. Host Jeff Commings is joined by Paulius Eidukas for an examination of Williams' compositional techniques for the new film, and why some music might have a connection to the Harry Potter scores.

Episode 105 - The Book Thief

Episode 105 - The Book Thief

November 18, 2020

Host Jeff Commings and co-host David Kay discuss the quiet yet personal score for "The Book Thief" in this episode. John Williams lobbied hard to be the composer for this film after reading the book and the script, and Kay believes Williams found a personal and intimate connection to the story at 81 years old. In addition to discussing the themes Williams wrote for Death and the heroine Liesel, the two chat with director Brian Percival about collaborating with John Williams. Percival relives the moment he sat in John Williams' home listening to the Maestro play themes from the score on his piano, and sitting in the middle of the recording studio as Williams conducted the studio orchestra. This is our first opportunity to hear firsthand about the director-composer relationship in this podcast, and we hope you enjoy the episode!

Episode 104 - Lincoln

Episode 104 - Lincoln

November 11, 2020

John Williams only worked on one film score when he turned 80 years old, collaborating once again with Steven Spielberg for "Lincoln." The film marked the 40th year of Spielberg and Williams working together, and it required Spielberg to exercise a lot of restraint in a dialogue-heavy film. Williams also shows some restraint in writing music for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, providing a noble but slightly fragile theme for the president. Host Jeff Commings also looks into the research Williams did to write music that harkened back to the 1860s, including a main theme for the film that feels like it is adapted from a pre-existing Negro spiritual.

Episode 103 - War Horse

Episode 103 - War Horse

November 4, 2020

John Williams had the opportunity to return to the English style of music he loves so much, drawing on the influences of Ralph Vaughan Williams for his score to Steven Spielberg's film "War Horse." Host Jeff Commings is joined by composer Victor Josse for this look into the stunning setpieces of the film and the music that accompanies them. That includes the moving prologue, the emotional plowing scene and the heartbreaking dash through No Man's Land. 

Episode 102 - The Adventures of Tintin

Episode 102 - The Adventures of Tintin

October 28, 2020

Though John Williams didn't have a film score released in 2009 or 2010, he was working hard during that time on his next project, an animated film adaptation of the popular Tintin character, called "The Adventures of Tintin." Host Jeff Commings talks about why Williams was allowed nearly two years to write the score, as well as the other pieces of music he wrote in that timeframe. Co-host Felix Moller helps to discuss the musical themes in the film, including the ways Tintin's theme is linked to Indiana Jones' theme. But that's just one way these two movie heroes are linked, so settle in for a great analysis of this fun score!

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