John Williams at 90!

By Shlomo Maital   

attack great white shark

  Composer John Williams (score for Jaws!, Jurassic Park, etc. etc.) was 90 years old on Feb. 8.   And he is finding new directions.  Writing in the New York Times, Javier Hernandez (Feb. 12-13, 2022) recounts that Williams, who wrote the music for a huge number of movies, is now movie-less and working on composing a violin concerto. 

      Do you remember his score for Spielberg’s movie Jaws?   Here is what Spielberg observes: “When everyone came out and said ‘Jaws’ scared them out of the water, it was Johnny who scared them out of the water.  His music was scarier than seeing the shark!”

      And indeed, it was. 

      Music is a crucial, and often not fully appreciated part, of movies and TV shows.  Try this.  At a dramatic or scary moment in the movie – press “mute’.  How does this impact your emotions?   Replay Jaws. At a scary moment, mute it.  Makes a difference, right?

       Here is a very small part of the list of movies John Williams has scored:  Jaws, the Star Wars series, Superman, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, the Indiana Jones series, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, and the first three Harry Potter films.  That triumphal scene where ET on the little boy’s bike handlebars takes flight?  The music absolutely makes it!  

       Williams is super-creative. He does not repeat himself.  For Schindler’s List, he made powerful use of Mahler.  He is a hard worker, composing all morning at his Steinway, revising in the afternoon. 

        In his lovely piece, Hernandez quotes Williams as saying “Music has been my oxygen and has kept me alive and interested and occupied and gratified!”

       And he ends with a Williams story. 

     Williams once made a pilgrimage to the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig, Germany, where Back once worked.  He heard the church pastor explain how he worked hard to protect Bach’s remains during WWII.  As Williams left the church, he paused.  “An organist was filling the grand space with the hymn-like theme from “Jurassic Park”.

    Williams, beaming, turned to the pastor. “Now,” he said, “I can die”.

     Not yet, John Williams.  We love your music and want more and more of it.