Film and Theatre Studies

John Williams

            John Towner Williams is one of the most popular composers in the United States. Born in February 1932, John Williams has become one of the most prolific film scores composers, of all time. His contribution to the world of film is evident from the numerous awards granted to him. Additionally, he has composed music for national and international events raising his status as a music composer. Moreover, he has become so popular in the film industry that the audience can easily recognize his music. He is also an orchestral conductor and music performer renowned for his piano performances. Above all his achievements, his film and television scoring activities stand out. He has established a niche market for his scores, which are widely sought after in the film world.

His film composition career began in the late 1950s with a composition for the movie, Peter Gunn introducing him to the worldwide film audience. However, this was not his first composition as he had composed other kinds of music prior to this film. During this period, Williams also participated in the composition of music for television shows. In the 1960s, John Williams composed music for several movies including Valley of Dolls and Goodbye, Mr. Chips (Vaz & Hata, 1994). As the years went on, John Williams’ compositions for film became known in Hollywood for his compositions for famous films. In 1971, his efforts were recognized when he won an academy award for his composition for the film, Fiddler on the Roof. In 1974, he composed another piece for the film Images, which was very popular at that time. This also was recognized through a nomination for the academy awards. His compositions for Irwin Allen’s films were also well received as the audience could relate with the music. The compositions for The Adventure in 1972, Earthquake and The Towering Inferno, both of 1974, were some of his greatest works in this period (Vaz & Hata, 1994).

In 1974, Williams met movie director Steven Spielberg who had noticed his enormous talent in composing for film. He composed music for Spielberg’s film, The Sugarland Express and this began a long lasting professional relationship. In 1975, the two teamed up once again for the film Jaws, which is still popular, even in the modern world. This film earned Williams another Academy Award making his score popular for horror films. Additionally, Williams composed music for Spielberg’s film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. This led to his recommendation for George Lucas’ movie, Star Wars (Vaz & Hata, 1994). The scores he composed for this film have become a world-renowned part of the movie. This is particularly so with how audience can relate each tune with a particular character or action.

Star Wars is one of the most successful films of all time. Its popularity since its launch in 1977 to the contemporary society has increased its recognition as one of the most popular American films. Nonetheless, William’s compositions for this movie have enhanced his reputation in the world of music for film. The score for this film consists of different themes for every episode. The main theme for this film is called Luke’s theme and has become one of the most popular film tunes. The score also includes the Force theme and Princess Leia’s theme (Huggins, 2003). Over the years, Williams has made several changes and additions to the composition to make it fit with the modern world. One of the most recognizable changes is the addition of the Imperial March, Emperor’s theme and the Parade of Ewoks (Huggins, 2003). Williams was nominated for these works and won one of these. All these compositions incorporate different musical styles showing the versatility of Williams in composition. However, there are certain motifs that keep on recurring thus are related to specific characters of actions. Through the music of Star Wars, people are able to predict an action even before it occurs. More recently, in 1999, Williams was asked to compose music for the prequels to Star wars by the same director as the original works. These films include The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith (Huggins, 2003). Williams made changes to the previous motifs by adding new ones or removing some that existed originally. Additionally, Williams incorporated more popular styles of music to fit the modern society. His compositions for the original Star Wars, in addition to the changes made in 1983 and those of 1999, make up one of the largest compositions ever made for a single film. In summary, the Star Wars compositions by John Williams are some of the most popular film scores worldwide.

Williams continued his success in the world of film scoring with his composition for Superman. His compositions for this film continued to be used in the sequel of the same movie. Another notable composition created by Williams is the music for the sequel of films based on Indiana Jones. The first composition for this film was in 1981 for the film, Raiders of the Lost Ark. The score for this film is called the Raiders March. Additionally, he also composed other themes to go signify different characters. Williams has also composed music for other films in the same sequel namely, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Last Crusade and Temple of doom, which are all part of the Indiana Jones sequel (Vaz & Hata, 1994). In similarity to the Star Wars scores, Williams in this film also creates motifs that are recurrent and represent certain characters, places or actions.

In 1982, John Williams composed music for Spielberg’s film, E. T. the Extra-Terrestrial (Vaz & Hata, 1994). This film was notable because the script was changed to fit the music composed by Williams. This shows that music can be used to represent different actions and even go to an extent of defining what goes into a film. The score for this film also resulted in an Academy Award win for Williams. In 1987, he continued with composition for film; with the score for the Empire of the Sun. Williams’ composition continue to be seen even in the modern world. In 1993, he wrote music for the film, Jurassic Park, which is a world-renowned film. Additionally, he scored music for Schindler’s list in the same year. Williams has also composed music for the popular Harry Porter films (Huggins, 2003). His compositions for the series have been used in the fourth to seventh parts of the films. Williams has also composed music for the yet to be released film, The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn with Steven Spielberg as director.

As well as composing for film, Williams also composes music for television. Some of his most renowned compositions for television are those of Checkmate and Lost in Space, which are popular television series (Vaz & Hata, 1994). It is important to note that Williams has composed music for almost all of Steven Spielberg’s films and television series. Their collaboration has resulted in some of the greatest productions in the world of film. He also composed music for Amazing Stories, which is a television series by Spielberg. Additionally, his compositions on television include those for Land of the Giants, Great Performances and the Time Tunnel. Apart from these, Williams has also composed music themes for the different programs on NBC including those for NBC news, the Today Show, Meet the Press and the NBC Sunday Night Football (Huggins, 2003). Moreover, he has also composed theme music for various programs on the Australian Seven Network.

The most notable thing about John Williams’ compositions is the use of recurrent themes. Through this form of composition, a relationship is created between a particular tune and specific characters or actions. For example, Williams has created particular themes that are used in scary scenes where a person has died. This style of composition is different from what other composers use since music is not about the whole film but is related to specific episodes and at times to specific scenes. This style is popular among people who follow different sequels of a particular film and want to relate between the different episodes. In conclusion, through his compositions for film, John Williams has become one of the most popular composers in the American society.





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