Friday, February 8, 8932

John Williams (b. 1932)

In 1948, John [Towner] Williams (b. February 8, 1932, Floral Park, New York) and his family moved to Los Angeles, where he attended North Hollywood High School.

He later attended the University of California, Los Angeles and Los Angeles City College, and studied privately with composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco.

In 1952, Williams was drafted into the United States Air Force, where he conducted and arranged music for the Air Force Band as part of his duties.

After his service ended in 1954, Williams moved to New York City and entered Juilliard School, where he studied piano with Rosina Lhévinne.

Williams was married to actress Barbara Ruick from 1956 until her death on March 3, 1974. They had two children together. One of those children is Joseph Williams, former lead singer for the band Toto; another is Jenny Williams, also a singer, who was born in 1956.

He worked as a jazz pianist at New York's many studios and clubs. He also played for composer Henry Mancini: The session musicians were John Williams on piano, Rolly Bundock on bass, Jack Sperling on drums, and Bob Bain on guitar -- the same lineup featured on the Mr. Lucky TV series.

Williams's most familiar style may be described as a form of neoromanticism, inspired by the same large-scale orchestral music of the late 19th century -- especially Wagnerian music and its concept of leitmotif -- that inspired his film-composing predecessors.

After his studies at Juilliard, Williams returned to Los Angeles and began working as an orchestrator in film studios. Among others, he had worked with composers Franz Waxman, Bernard Herrmann, and Alfred Newman.

Williams began to compose music scores for television series programs in the late 1950's Williams's first major film composition was for the B-movie Daddy-O in 1958,

He was also a studio pianist, performing in scores by composers such as Jerry Goldsmith,

Elmer Bernstein,

and Henry Mancini (for whom he played the opening riff to Peter Gunn, 1958).

His first screen credit came by 1960 in Because They're Young.

Williams also recorded with Henry Mancini on the film soundtracks of Days of Wine and Roses (1962) and Charade (1963). He was known as "Johnny" Williams in the early 1960's, and served as arranger and bandleader on a series of popular albums with singer Frankie Laine.

He soon gained notice in Hollywood for his versatility in composing jazz, piano and symphonic music, eventually leading to credits for

Lost in Space (1965) and

The Time Tunnel (1966).

He received his first Academy Award nomination for his score to the 1967 film Valley Of The Dolls, and was nominated again in 1969 for Goodbye, Mr. Chips. He won his first Academy Award for his adapted score to the 1971 film Fiddler On The Roof. By the early 1970's, Williams had established himself as a composer for large-scale disaster films, with scores for The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake, and The Towering Inferno; the last two films, scored in 1974, borrowing musical cues from each other.

In 1974, Williams was approached by Steven Spielberg to compose the music for his feature directorial debut, The Sugarland Express. The young director had been impressed with Williams's score to the 1969 film The Reivers, and was convinced the composer could provide the sound he desired for his films.

They re-teamed a year later for the director's second film, Jaws.

Jaws (1975)

Widely considered a classic suspense piece, the score's ominous two-note motif has become nearly synonymous with sharks and approaching danger. The score earned Williams a second Academy Award, his first for an original composition.

Shortly afterwards, Williams and Spielberg began preparing for their next feature film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977). Unusual for a Hollywood production, Spielberg's script and Williams's musical concepts were developed at the same time and were closely linked. During the two-year creative collaboration, they settled on a distinctive five-note figure that functioned both as background music and the communication signal of the film's alien mothership. Williams employed a system of musical hand signals in the film, based on a method invented by Zoltan Kodaly.

In the same period, Spielberg recommended Williams to his friend and fellow director George Lucas, who needed a composer to score his ambitious space epic, Star Wars (1977) Williams produced a grand symphonic score in the fashion of Richard Strauss and Golden Age Hollywood composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Max Steiner.

Its primary melody -- Luke's Theme (Main Title) is among the most widely-recognized in motion picture history, and The Force and Princess Leia are well-known examples of leitmotif. The film and its soundtrack were both immensely successful, and Williams won another Academy Award for Best Original Score.

Williams worked with director Richard Donner to score the 1978 film Superman. The score's heroic and romantic themes, particularly the main march, the Superman fanfare and the love theme, known as Can You Read My Mind, would appear in the four subsequent sequel films.

He married for a second time on June 9, 1980, to his current wife, Samantha Winslow.

Williams is a member of Kappa Kappa Psi, the national honorary fraternity for college band members.

In 1980, Williams returned to score The Empire Strikes Back, where he introduced The Imperial March as the theme for Darth Vader and the Galactic Empire.

From 1980 to 1993, the composer succeeded Arthur Fiedler as Principal Conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra. Williams never personally met his predecessor, although he did speak with him on the telephone. His arrival as the new leader of the Pops in the spring of 1980 allowed him to devote part of the their first PBS broadcast of the season to presenting his new compositions for The Empire Strikes Back.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

For the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark, Williams wrote a rousing main theme Raiders's March to accompany the hero, Indiana Jones. He also composed separate themes to represent the Ark of the Covenant, the character Marion and the Nazi villains of the story. Additional themes were featured in his scores to the sequel films Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Williams composed an emotional and sensitive score to Spielberg's 1982 fantasy film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. The music conveys the film's benign, child-like sense of innocence, particularly with a spirited theme for the freedom of flight, and a soft string-based theme for the friendship between characters E.T. and Elliott. The film's final chase and farewell sequence marks a rare instance in film history, in which the on-screen action was re-edited to conform to the composer's musical interpretation. Williams was awarded a fourth Academy Award for this score.

The original Star Wars trilogy concluded with the 1983 film Return of the Jedi, for which Williams's score provided the Emperor's Theme and the climactic Final Duel. Both scores earned Williams Academy Award nominations. It has been noted that the 1942 film The Talk of the Town carries thematic music similar to that found within the Star Wars films.

Williams almost ended his tenure with the Pops in 1984. Considered a customary practice of opinion, some players hissed while sight-reading a new Williams composition in rehearsal. Williams abruptly left the session and turned in his resignation, reportedly due to mounting conflicts with his film composing schedule as well as a perceived lack of discipline in the Pops' ranks, culminating in this latest instance. After entreaties by the management and personal apologies from the musicians, Williams reconsidered his resignation and continued for nine more years.

The Williams-Spielberg collaboration resumed with the director's 1987 film Empire of the Sun.

Williams has written many concert pieces, including a symphony, Concerto for Horn written for Dale Clevenger, principal hornist of the Chicago Symphony, Concerto for Clarinet written for Michele Zukovsky (Principal Clarinetist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic) in 1991 and a Sinfonietta for wind ensemble.

His continuing work with Speilberg has spanned genres from blockbuster such as Jurassic Park, to somber tragedies including Schindler's List (both from 1993).

a Cello Concerto premiered by Yo-Yo Ma and the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in 1994, concertos for the flute and violin recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra, and tuba. His bassoon concerto, The Five Sacred Trees, which was premiered by the New York Philharmonic and principal bassoon player Judith LeClair in 1995, was recorded for Sony Classical by Williams with LeClair and the London Symphony Orchestra.

In 1995 Williams stepped down from the Boston Pops and was succeeded by Keith Lockhart, the former associate conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops.

Williams is now the Laureate Conductor of the Pops, thus maintaining his affiliation with its parent, the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), resident of Symphony Hall in the Massachusetts capital. Williams leads the Pops on several occasions each year, particularly during their Holiday Pops season and typically for a week of concerts in May. He conducts an annual Film Night at both Boston Symphony Hall and Tanglewood, where he frequently enlists the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, official chorus of the BSO, to provide a choral accompaniment to films (such as Saving Private Ryan).

His Trumpet Concerto was premiered by the Cleveland Orchestra and their principal trumpet Michael Sachs in September 1996.

In 1999 George Lucas launched the first of a series prequels to the original Star Wars Trilogy. Williams was asked to score all three films, starting with Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Along with themes from the previous movies, Williams created new leitmotifs in Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002). Here Williams composed Across the Stars, a love theme for Padmé Amidala and Anakin Skywalker (mirroring the love theme composed for the second film of the previous trilogy).

Williams makes annual appearances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, and took part as conductor and composer in the orchestra's opening gala concerts for Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2003.

Williams's association with Spielberg has continued to the present and included Munich and the Eastern-tinged melodrama Memoirs of a Geisha, both from 2005). Spielberg has said, "I call it an honorable privilege to regard John Williams as a friend."

The Star Wars saga concluded that same year with Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005). Most notable of these was Duel of the Fates, an aggressive choral movement utilizing harsh Sanskrit lyrics that broadened the style of music used in the Star Wars films. The final installment combined many of the themes created for the entire series. Few composers have scored an entire series of this magnitude: The combined scores of all six Star Wars films add up to music that takes a full orchestra more than 14 hours to perform entirely.

In the new millennium, Williams was asked to score the film adaptation of the widely successful young adult's book series, J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter. He went on to score the first three installments of the franchise. As with his Superman theme, the most important theme from Williams' scores for the film adaptations of the Potter series, dubbed Hedwig's Theme, has been used in the fourth and fifth movies in the series (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix), scored by Patrick Doyle and Nicholas Hooper respectively.

In 2008 scored Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and will most likely be scoring Steven Spielberg's future projects Lincoln and Interstellar. He also expressed an interest in composing the score for the seventh and final film in the Harry Potter film series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

[John Williams - Star Wars: Main Title; Leia's Theme;
Cantina Band / The Empire Strikes Back: Yoda -
Analysis and Figures]

[8932 Johnny Cash / 8932 John Williams / 8931 Herman]