John Williams ( b. 1932)
The Empire Strikes Back
I. Yoda's theme
John T. Williams is both composer and conductor. Born in New York, he was educated at University College, Los Angeles and the Juilliard School of Music in New York. On graduating he went back to Los Angeles, and began his career in the film studios. His serious compositions include two symphonies, and a major series of concertos - for violin, cello, flute, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet and tuba. From 1980 to 1993 he was principal conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, and was appointed Laureate Conductor following his retirement in 1993. But he is best known for his music scores for over 75 films! In this field his output is simply amazing. He came to fame with blockbusters such as Towering Inferno, Jaws, the Star Wars trilogy, the Indiana Jones films, ET, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Jurassic Park, and Superman. More recent scores include the Home Alone films, Schindler's List, The Lost World (last summer's sequel to Jurassic Park), and most recently Seven Years in Tibet. Along the way he has collected 5 Oscars, 2 Emmy Awards, one British Academy Award, 16 Grammies, and 14 honorary degrees from American universities!
Hedwig's Theme from "Harry Potter"
If you know the Harry Potter stories, then this theme from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone will need no introduction. If you don't, then any attempt by me to explain their plots (complicated!), or to convince doubters of their quality (considerable!) would be presumptuous. So just sit back and enjoy the way John Williams so convincingly conjures up their fantastic world of magic.
Jaws was Stephen Spielberg’s first big success, which he made in 1975. John Williams was already a successful film composer, having written scores for disaster movies such as Towering Inferno. But Jaws was the start of his hugely successful collaboration with Spielberg. It won an Oscar for the music, but the film was beaten to second place for most of the awards by “One Flew over the Cuckoos nest” which came out in the same year. Incidentally, composer John Williams is no relation to the other John Williams, the Australian classical guitarist!
Coming out in 1993, Jurassic Park is another Spielberg collaboration for John Williams. As a film it is a contrast with Jaws – there is little subtlety, and it’s really just a standard monster-movie, albeit at a very high level of technical skill. But John Williams, as usual, produced the goods for his score.
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Among the many blockbuster films John Williams has written music for, the Indiana Jones movies are some of the most enjoyable. Raiders of the Lost Ark was the first and came out in 1981. One of his many collaborations with Steven Spielberg, the script by George Lucas & Philip Kaufman was a hark back to the swashbucklers of the 1930s. Harrison Ford is very much an updated Errol Flynn.
This remarkable film, directed by Steven Spielberg in 1993, was based on a book by Thomas Keneally. The original music was by John Williams, but it also featured music by Bach, Elgar, Lehar and Billie Holiday. The film was made in Poland , and incorporates authentic locations. The look of the film, primarily in grainy black and white, tells us that we are watching history.
Much credit is due to the three main actors -- Liam Neeson as Schindler, Ben Kingsley as his Jewish accountant (and, on occasion, Schindler's conscience), and Ralph Fiennes as the frightening Nazi commandant. The film won seven Oscars (inc Best Director and Best Original Score), but its best accomplishment is in reminding us that we must never forget what happened.
It is fortunate timing that we can perform this so close to Holocaust Memorial Day.
Star Wars March - Darth Vadar's Theme
There can't be many people (any people?) in the hall tonight who haven't seen one or more of the Star Wars films. So I can't think of anything intelligent to say about Darth Vader that isn't obvious, or pointless, or both.