Celebrating John Williams
A Class Act
“Aside from George Lucas, nobody deserves more credit for the success of ‘Star Wars’ than John Williams,” says Mark Hamill. Pretty strong recommendation there then.
As you may have guessed February’s Flickfeast birthday celebration has been reserved for one of the most well-known composers of our time – the great John Williams. So many film moments were made all the more remarkable because of the attached piece of music and below we will explore some of them.
But before that: a short moment to ponder the importance of music in film and the relevance of celebrating John Williams. Music has the uncanny ability to develop emotion in a scene: the pure swells of an orchestra can heighten the raw power of love’s first (or last) kiss, reducing many an audience to tears. It can also incite panic and suspense: the change of key, quickening of tempo, even control of volume give clues to future intent. Sometimes it can be just as simple as the soundtrack just sticking in your mind and not letting go.
Selecting some films John Williams’ music featured in is a monumental challenge: with 210 Music department credits on IMDB, there are bound to be many missing from this list (which could just go on and on), but here goes… three John Williams’ iconic Movie soundtracks.
Hedwig’s Theme from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)
How could this not have been mentioned? Potentially the most recognisable tune from any Harry Potter film. Within the first few seconds the entirety of all that is Harry Potter can be heard. The magical qualities of the song just resonate with audiences and is rightfully associated with the opening credits of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Setting the tone for the film, Hedwig’s Theme is so remarkable in its simplicity. Knowing a few things about music is quite useful: here’s a fact – it’s set in the key of e minor, eliciting a melancholic, sad tone. More to Hedwig’s Theme’s credit: it has been interpolated within other themes including those by Patrick Doyle, Nicholas Hooper and Alexandre Desplat. A great theme tune to begin with.
Duel of the Fates, Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Say what you will about the Prequels…that won’t be debated here (although I really enjoyed them) instead, we shall celebrate the mesmerising Duel of the Fates. The use of orchestra and choir to create such an emotion-filled piece always gives me goosebumps when hearing it. Having lyrics based on a slender fragment of a Welsh poem Cad Goddeu (translated at Battle of the Trees) while being sung in Sanskrit adds mysticism towards it. More staggering is Williams arranged it solely by ear. First being heard in the battle between Sith Apprentice Maul and Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, it featured in other (abridged) forms: Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones featured it in a scene with Anakin travelling on a speeder bike. Check out Youtube’s alternative lyrics for the song, be warned: you’ll never un-hear “Corn on the Cob”. Sure, there is that theme tune, which is undoubtedly awesome…but it’s just too obvious to go for. Moving on…
Jurassic Park (1993)
Jurassic Park is an awesome film, featuring (then) cutting-edge computer graphics. I remember as a child those dinosaurs were real. Blown away by the sheer magnitude of what I was watching, there was no real thought to theme tunes or the background music. Re-watching as an adult, you appreciate the swelling atmospheric and iconic brass band. Wow, another song that when played, just sends shivers down the spine. It brings back memories of childhood and for that reason alone must be considered a great theme tune, one which will be remembered for many, many years to come.
There you have it.Three songs written by John Williams which I consider to be worthy (above the rest of his equally stunning pieces) of celebration. Happy Birthday to John Williams!
What favourite pieces do you like most? Are there any less obvious pieces to go for? Drop your comments down below…