Liberal Arts Blog — Film Composers (II): John Williams
Liberal Arts Blog — Thursday is Joy of Music Day
Today’s Topic: Film Composers (II) John Williams (1932 — ) — the GOAT of film composers?(Part One)
In case you have been living in a cave for the last twenty years, GOAT stands for “greatest of all time.” Put differently is Williams the Beethoven of film composers? Well, there is lots of evidence that he is. For example, “with 52 academy award nominations he is the second most nominated individual after Walt Disney.” He has actually won five Academy Awards and 25 Grammys. A partial list of his film scores speaks volumes: Jaws, the Star Wars saga, ET, Home Alone, Indiana Jones, the first three Harry Potter films. He has composed the score for 8 of the top 25 highest-grossing films at the U.S. box office (adjusted for inflation).” Wow! Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
THE JAWS THEME — “two notes that changed the film world”
1. “The main “shark” theme, which signals impending danger, consists of a pair of alternating notes, identified as either E and F or F and F sharp.”
2. “Describing this theme as “grinding away at you, just as a shark would do, instinctual, relentless, unstoppable,” Williams wanted to keep it straightforward.”
3. “I just began playing around with motifs that could be distributed in the orchestra, and settled on what I thought was the most powerful thing, which is to say the simplest.”
NB: “Williams went on to win an Oscar for best original score and credits “Jaws” for “jump-starting his career.” “Spielberg’s aquatic thriller almost singlehandedly launched the summer movie release pattern that dominates the industry today. But the success and impact of “Jaws” arguably comes down to two little notes.”
THE STAR WARS THEME — roll over Wagner!
1. The film without the music? Hmmm.
2. The George Lucas film came out in 1977 and quickly surpassed “Jaws” (Stephen Spielberg) as the highest grossing film of all time.
3. Originally performed by the London Symphony Orchestra.
NB: As well as being the main theme of the film, it is “also considered the primary leitmotif of Luke Skywalker, the protagonist of the original Star Wars trilogy.”
THE HOME ALONE THEME — a Christmas classic!
1. The introductory theme is absolutely irresistible and “Somewhere in my memory” is the film’s signature song.
2. Without the music, “Home Alone” would not be up there with “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Die Hard,” “Love Actually,” and “White Christmas.”
3. Impossible for me to imagine the film without the score.
NB: The Home Alone franchise includes three sequels, three television films, and three video games.
1. “My father was a Maine man — we were very close. My mother was from Boston. My father’s parents ran a department store in Bangor, Maine, and my mother’s father was a cabinetmaker. […] People with those roots are not inclined to be lazy.”
2. Directed the Boston Pops from 1980 to 1993, succeeding Arthur Fiedler. He is still their “laureate conductor” and still conducts during the Christmas holidays and in May.
3. He is also a pianist and trombonist.
NB: Drafted in 1951, “he played the piano and brass and conducted and arranged music for the U.S. Air Force Band as part of his assignments.”
FINAL WORD: Hollywood has two seasons. Williams owns both.
1. There are summer movies: “Jaws” invented them.
2. There are Christmas movies: “Home Alone” re-invented them.
NB: This is something of an exaggeration. I plead poetic license.
Here is a link to the last three years of posts organized by theme:
Time to share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to music. Or the coolest thing you learned in your life related to music. Say your favorite song or songs. Or your favorite tips for breathing, posture, or relaxation. Or some insight into the history of music….Or just something random about music… like a joke about drummers. jazz, rock….or share an episode or chapter in your musical autobiography.
This is your chance to make some one else’s day. And perhaps to cement in your memory something important you would otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than you otherwise would about something that matters to you.