The Baton: A John Williams Musical Journey
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!

Episode 101 - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Episode 101 - Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

October 21, 2020

John Williams' 100th film brought him back into the world of Indiana Jones, this time writing music for our fedora-wearing adventurer's quest to find a mythical skull that has strange powers. Joining host Jeff Commings on this episode to discuss the highs and lows of the film and score is Brian Martell, marking his fourth appearance on "The Baton." The two discuss Shia Labeouf's miscasting, Cate Blanchett's spot-on acting and the various callbacks to previous Indiana Jones scores that melded with new thematic material. It's going to be a 95-minute ride that could change your thoughts about the film!

Episode 100 - Munich

Episode 100 - Munich

October 14, 2020

Break out the confetti and party hats! The 100th episode of The Baton is here! And on this episode, host Jeff Commings talks about John Williams' haunting score for Steven Spielberg's "Munich," the story of revenge after the 1972 deaths of 11 Israelis at the Munich Olympics. John Williams gives us four themes that provide the mold for the score, a radical departure from his work on Spielberg's "War of the Worlds" earlier in the year. From a gut-wrenching vocal by Lisbeth Scott for the Israeli hostages to a main theme that is transformed into what Commings believes is the best strings-only composition by John Williams, there is much to admire in this episode.

Episode 99 - Memoirs of a Geisha

Episode 99 - Memoirs of a Geisha

October 7, 2020

John Williams wanted to be the composer for the film version of the novel "Memoirs of a Geisha" long before a script was written or a budget finalized. He realized the opportunity to infuse Japanese flavors into a Westernized score, and he enlisted the help of previous collaborators Yo-Yo Ma and Itzhak Perlman to play on the cello and violin, respectively. Host Jeff Commings talks about the themes in the score, and examines the scenes in which three Japanese instruments are highlighted throughout the film. Though the movie did not gain a Best Picture Oscar nomination as hoped, the film did garner some praise for Williams' score, and he was celebrated during awards season. Put on your best kimono and join us for this exciting episode!

Episode 98 - War of the Worlds

Episode 98 - War of the Worlds

September 30, 2020

Steven Spielberg had long wanted to do an alien invasion movie featuring very bad visitors to Earth, and he finally checked that off his list with "War of the Worlds." In telling the story, John Williams went into full horror mode, employing some of the tactics used previously by such classical composers as Igor Stravinsky, especially in the first alien attack that turned out to be one of the most violent nonfiction moments Spielberg has put on film. Host Jeff Commings is joined by composer/conductor Eduardo Victoria as the two detail the high points of the score and how the music really has similarities to Williams' previous work, including Jaws and Superman. 

Episode 97 - Revenge of the Sith

Episode 97 - Revenge of the Sith

September 23, 2020

Host Jeff Commings starts this episode of "The Baton" with a not-so-great opinion about John Williams' score to "Revenge of the Sith," the final film in the "Star Wars" prequel trilogy. Can co-host Andrew Ledford change our host's mind about the score as they discuss the use of the Emperor's theme, the Force theme and the music for all the lightsaber battles? It's going to be a tough sell, but by the end of the episode, it's likely that hearts and minds will be changed about this film ... except for Hayden Christensen's acting, of course.

Episode 96 - The Terminal

Episode 96 - The Terminal

September 16, 2020

Though the movie and score for "The Terminal" might seem like a blip on the radar, neither Steven Spielberg nor John Williams approached this film any less seriously than their major successes. The story marks Tom Hanks' third film with Spielberg, as an Eastern European man stuck in the JFK airport for nine months. Williams supplies a wonderfully light theme for Viktor, as well as a lyrical love theme that host Jeff Commings believes could have been turned into a beautiful love song by Alan and Marilyn Bergman. Grab a plate of cannelloni and join us for this exploration of an often-forgotten Williams score.

Episode 95 - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Episode 95 - Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

September 9, 2020

Many John Williams fans sneered at the music for "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," mostly because the Maestro chose to almost completely scrap the musical ideas he created for the first two films in favor of darker themes and tonalities in Alfonso Cuaron's take on the franchise. Host Jeff Commings is joined by Paulius Eidukas as the two talk about some of the new themes that make up the score and how some of the compositional techniques made Sirius Black and Peter Pettigrew musically intertwined with each other. Both praise Williams' work for the film and lament there wasn't another opportunity for Williams and Cuaron to collaborate after this project. 

Episode 94 - Catch Me If You Can

Episode 94 - Catch Me If You Can

September 2, 2020

John Williams capped off a marathon year of writing film scores with his Oscar-nominated composition for Steven Spielberg's dramedy "Catch Me If You Can." The score gave Williams the opportunity to return to his jazz roots, writing music that reflected the 1960s setting of the film. Many of the music cues feature saxophone solos by Dan Higgins, who joins host Jeff Commings to talk about his musical background and why playing the music in the score fit perfectly into his performance style.

Episode 93 - Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Episode 93 - Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

August 26, 2020

The demanding work schedule John Williams faced in 2002 meant he had to make a tough choice for his score to "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets." He asked composer/orchestrator William Ross to help out by adapting much of the music from the first film for use in the sequel, while fitting the new music Williams wrote into certain places. This allowed Williams to work on Steven Spielberg's second film of the year, but it meant trusting that Ross would do a good job with his music. Host Jeff Commings details the specifics regarding Ross' responsibilities, as well as Williams' new thematic material and how it is presented in the film. Brush up on your parseltongue and enjoy this latest episode!

Play this podcast on Podbean App