A to Z Challenge: N (John Williams’ film scores)

*Read John Williams’ biography here

Directed by Oliver Stone, this 1995 drama tells the biographical story of the political and personal life of former US President Richard Nixon who is played by Anthony Hopkins.

Unlike the musical style Williams’ had demonstrated previously, the score for Nixon is gloomy and missing upbeat pieces. There are lots of minor key motifs which alternate with “electronically-driven dissonance” which might have supported the fall of Nixon (and Williams’ own recollections of the Nixon era) but failed as an album.

The score was nominated for an Academy Award in the category Original Dramatic Score but lost to The Postman.

I’m not a huge fan of this score. I love the rolling timpany early in the music, but I prefer uplifting music which this is most definitely not. For me it is discordant and melancholy. The ending in particular finishes on a minor chord which I always find dissatisfying, made worse by what seems like an unfinished series of notes on piano. Is the ending complete or do you think it has been left hanging?

8 comments on “A to Z Challenge: N (John Williams’ film scores)

  1. I sound like a broken record, but I haven’t seen “Nixon” either. Maybe they should do a movie about Obama, I would probably not miss that one 😉


    • I still wouldn’t watch that (being Australian, US politics doesn’t interest me that much).

  2. Minor chords are supposed to feel unfinished. It’s the nature of the sound.

    • I know, Liz, but I still don’t like it *grin* I hate playing those pieces in band because I just want to play one more note to “finish’, lol.

  3. I agree this wouldn’t be my pick for casual listening, but it does have a powerful sound…political, if that’s possible 🙂 And am I the only one who hears hints of Star Wars in all that brass?

  4. I think this would be more at home in one of the Star Wars movies…

    • John, considering how many Star Wars movies Williams’ has scored, it isn’t surprising elements of that work appear in other scores. If you read Williams’ fan sites where this sort of thing is discussed, quite a few of his scores have elements of his other work showing through.

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