John Williams at 90 – Q30 Television


He is the only living classical artist that the general public can know his face, sing a tune or two, and recognize his contribution to pop culture, film and music.

Source: Hollywood Bowl

ET The Extra-Terrestrial, Star Wars, Harry Potter and Superman: The Movie. What do all of these movies have in common, besides John Williams? There is theft, and a lot. Bikes, brooms, cars, spaceships and a man.

Williams’ music is often described as “floating” or “makes you want to fly”. Go ahead and listen to it Opening of Superman if you don’t believe me. At the end of this buildup, if you don’t want to run through the fields of Smallville back to Ma and Pa Kent’s farm, something is wrong and you should go see your doctor.

Film scores are meant to evoke emotion and/or enhance the visuals of a scene. He’s there to contextualize a scene and bring it to its full potential. However, this is where John Williams stands out from all the others. He does not make film music; he just makes good music.

People regularly listen to his scores for fun. They mean something. My favorite Christmas song is “Somewhere in my memory” from Alone at home. The second that starts playing, I think of the holidays, but what’s even deeper is when someone says “Christmas”, I think of Somewhere in my memory.

As usual, when something or someone becomes remarkably popular, no matter how good it is, there will be criticism. John Williams was a bit criticized by many YouTubers who found his work too derivative or blatantly stolen from other classic artists like Strauss and Stravinsky. Critics came after him for saying his music all sounded the same. Classical musicians have even fired it a bit for being too luscious, and the quality is diminished because it’s based on visuals. Some have valid points, but I also disagree.

From everything I’ve heard, seen, and read about this man, he’s very quiet and humble. Also, all of the man’s reviews were done from a distance. In contrast, everyone who worked with him spoke only of his sheer genius, his modesty and his genuine love of his craft. He doesn’t seem like the type to steal anything. As for what critics have said about it, it still sounds…yes. It’s written by the same man. Also, if everything sounded the same, how come when I took a poll with a few friends, almost everyone could pick out each main theme?

As for the piece of classical musician, I understand. But, there has been an absurd interest in classical music because of John Williams. Many musicians have practiced just for the chance to be close to the London Symphony Orchestra or the Boston Pops simply because they were honored by John Williams. I even got interested in a bit of classical music just because that’s where John operates, and I’m certainly not the only one. Yo-yo Ma worked with him on non-film pieces for some time and even inspired famed concert violinist Anne Sophie-Mutter to pursue music in the first place. He single-handedly brought some life to a genre of music that is frankly rapidly dying and is being pushed aside by the artists he helps.

Even if he only helps a little, he may be the only classical artist on the planet who can still consistently sell out an entire music hall, and he deserves the credit. He is the only living classical artist that the general public can know his face, sing a tune or two, and recognize his contribution to pop culture, film and music.

Now I could go on to regale you with the story of Spielberg hearing the Jaws score for the first time. I could talk about how the two men became lifelong friends with over 25 film collaborations over nearly 50 years. I could then explain that he conducted several Olympic themes, NBC’s nightly news theme, played at Obama’s inauguration, and additional musical work for lost in space and Gilligan’s Island. I might even fit into his long resume after 70 whole years of music. Maybe I would even say that at 90, he’s still doing film music. No, maybe I should tell you about the awards he’s won; he has been nominated for 52 Oscars, 6 Emmys, 25 Golden Globes, 72 Grammys and 16 BAFTAs. Perhaps the multiple lifetime achievement awards, Hall of Fame inductions and doctorates bestowed? But I’m not going to do that.

I’ll tell you his music means more than numbers, extremely impressive numbers that they can be. It impacts the audience on an emotional and central level. Ultimately, Williams never wrote music for a screen or classical music; he wrote it for the viewer. He wrote it for dreamers and artists, and the human spirit. He didn’t write for what music should fill the time the editor gave him or improve the film’s visuals. Instead, he wrote for what emotion the audience should feel. Whether or not I watch the binary sunset sceneI still feel the same desire for adventure and purpose that Luke feels when he’s just listening to it, and that makes all the difference.

Thanks for making me think I could fly if I listened enough to the Superman theme. Thank you for making me believe that if I closed my eyes, reached out my hand and listened to the theme of strength, I could lift something. Thank you for letting me believe that Hagrid would take me to Hogwarts any day now. Thanks for tricking me and generations of people into believing that if you become an archaeologist you’ll find dinosaur bones and hidden temples only to find out that’s just kinda boring. 6-year-old Willy Teare thanks you, and more than a decade later, thank you again. Happy birthday Mr. Williams.

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