It’s one thing to be a composer of a much-loved symphony, though today classical music isn’t as widespread as it once was, if you make a masterpiece now it’s highly likely only those immersed in the world of classical music will really appreciate it. However, if you take your skills elsewhere and instead compose a score for a hit film, your music is heard by the millions who head out to see it, then all the subsequent viewers at home who view it at their leisure. This is why some of the most famed composers of recent are those who have created memorable film scores, and few are more worthy or more celebrated than John Williams. Born in 1932 in New York John Williams (previously credited as Johnny Williams) learned piano and composition, by the 1950’s he had made his way into the film industry and began his immeasurable streak of composing exceptional music for feature films. Throughout the 60’s he began to master his craft and by the late 70’s he was being hired by the biggest names in Hollywood. What makes Williams such a great composer is the fact that he can hit the emotional levels of films and play to action (as all good composers should) but on top of this he really drives a film home with a theme that you will remember for the rest of your life. This may seem like hyperbole but as we look at some of the films that contained his best works you will no doubt realise that John Williams is an extremely powerful force in film and music history.
Jaws – 1975
Before Halloween, Before Friday the 13th and a good deal before Nightmare On Elm Street, the scariest entity on screen with a theme tune was a shark. When John Williams simplified terror into two notes, suddenly the bar for suspense films was raised higher than ever before. Everyone knows the shark theme, its simple, its repetitive but its somehow immensely frightening. Since then films have tried to create themes for horror characters that increase in intensity as the stalkers do in proximity, but Jaws and John Williams clearly pioneered this idea, proving that you don’t have to be Mozart to make unforgettable themes.
Star Wars – 1977
It wouldn’t be outlandish to say that this is one of cinema’s most recognisable themes. From the very second a Star Wars movie begins with its legendary title crawl, the astonishing, enormous and rousing theme kicks into high gear and crowds know that they are in for something unlike any journey before. Somehow in a single track Williams manages to incorporate not just the scale of these films but also the whimsical and magical nature of the force and the many alien inhabitants, he shows the charm of funny looking creatures, and the dread of a dark force ready to overthrow anything in its path. Managing to create both the incredible titles as well as hero themes, Williams also dabbled in the dark side, composing the menacing Imperial March which creates an aural interpretation of one of the big screen’s most imposing villains – Dart Vader.