We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

John Williams's Film Music

Jaws, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and the Return of the Classical Hollywood Music Style

Emilio Audissino

Publication Year: 2014

John Williams is one of the most renowned film composers in history. He has penned unforgettable scores for Star Wars, the Indiana Jones series, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jaws, Superman, and countless other films. Fans flock to his many concerts, and with forty-nine Academy Award nominations as of 2014, he is the second-most Oscar-nominated person after Walt Disney. Yet despite such critical acclaim and prestige, this is the first book in English on Williams’s work and career.
            Combining accessible writing with thorough scholarship, and rigorous historical accounts with insightful readings, John Williams’s Film Music explores why Williams is so important to the history of film music. Beginning with an overview of music from Hollywood’s Golden Age (1933–58), Emilio Audissino traces the turning points of Williams’s career and articulates how he revived the classical Hollywood musical style. This book charts each landmark of this musical restoration, with special attention to the scores for Jaws and Star Wars, Williams’s work as conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, and a full film/music analysis of Raiders of the Lost Ark. The result is a precise, enlightening definition of Williams’s “neoclassicism” and a grounded demonstration of his lasting importance, for both his compositions and his historical role in restoring part of the Hollywood tradition.

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press

Series: Wisconsin Film Studies

Title Page, Copyright Page, Dedication, Quote

pdf iconDownload PDF (86.9 KB)


pdf iconDownload PDF (55.2 KB)
pp. xi-xii

List of Illustrations

pdf iconDownload PDF (60.0 KB)
pp. xiii-xiv

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (57.0 KB)
pp. xv-xviii

There are many people who have accompanied me throughout the preparation of this book. My appreciation goes to the Dipartimento di Storia delle Arti at the University of Pisa, Italy, where I completed the three- year doctoral program in which I had the chance to refine and complete the necessary research work. Special...

read more

Prefaceon Methodology

pdf iconDownload PDF (103.0 KB)
pp. xix-2

It has been twenty years now that I have been studying John Williams’s music. Along the journey, one thing has kept striking me as extremely odd: there was no English- language book on John Williams. So, I resolved that I should try and fill the gap. The book you are about to read is, hopefully, my answer to the...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (82.3 KB)
pp. 3-6

John Williams is probably the most successful composer in film history. His name is associated with many of the major Hollywood box- office blockbusters of the last forty years. In a career spanning more than fifty years, John Williams has won four Golden Globes, five Emmys, twenty- one Grammys...

Part I: The Classical Hollywood Music Style

read more

1. “The Classical Hollywood Music”: A Chronicle

pdf iconDownload PDF (164.4 KB)
pp. 9-25

The regular presence of music as an accompaniment to film projections during cinema’s infancy— between 1895 and 1905—is not certain.1 At that stage, cinema was seen as a kind of carnival amusement, a low- brow draw based on “attractions” presented in simple single- shot tableaux running a few minutes.2 Music...

read more

2. “The Classical Hollywood Music”: A Stylistic Definition

pdf iconDownload PDF (485.3 KB)
pp. 26-54

What exactly is the “Classical Hollywood Music”? How can we distin- guish a classical Hollywood score from, say, a coeval Italian score? To answer the first question, we have to detect the typical characteristics that define the “Classical Hollywood Music.” In short, we have to define its style. To...

Part II: John Williams and the Classical Hollywood Music Style

read more

3. The “Modern” Hollywood Music Style: The Context of Williams’s Restoration

pdf iconDownload PDF (135.8 KB)
pp. 57-68

The change in contractual arrangements between musicians and studios in 1958 can be seen as the end boundary of the classical style. Film music underwent such changes in terms of language, techniques, musical means, and functions that the new style blossoming in the 1960s can be called “modern...

read more

4. Star Wars: An Oppositional Score

pdf iconDownload PDF (186.5 KB)
pp. 69-85

After his not very convincing debut with the Orwellian Sci- Fi film THX 1138 (1971), the emerging film director George Lucas hit the box office with American Graffiti (1973) and became powerful enough to carry on with a big project that he had been contemplating for several years: The Star Wars.1 The idea was to make a film that blended sci-fi with mythology, technology...

read more

5. Williams’s Early Years: Spotting the First Traces of Neoclassicism

pdf iconDownload PDF (170.5 KB)
pp. 86-103

John Towner Williams was born in New York on 8 February 1932. His father, John Towner Williams Sr.—known as Johnny Williams— was a percussionist in the CBS Radio Orchestra and a member of the Raymond Scott Quintette.1 Young Williams studied music and learned to play the trumpet...

read more

6. Jaws: Williams’s Neoclassicism Floats Up to the Surface

pdf iconDownload PDF (164.2 KB)
pp. 104-118

John Williams reached stardom in the mid-1970s, a period in which Holly- wood cinema was recovering from the previous decade’s debacles. In those years, a new generation of filmmakers and screenwriters— among them George Lucas and Steven Spielberg— was building their reputation, launching...

read more

7. Williams’s Neoclassicism: Style and Habits

pdf iconDownload PDF (151.9 KB)
pp. 119-133

What is musical neoclassicism? In art- music historiography, neoclassi- cism was a trend that brought back the clarity of past forms as opposed to the excesses of contemporary music: [ It is a] musical trend that arose in the second half of the nineteenth...

read more

8. Williams’s Naysayers: A Deconstruction of Classical and New Criticisms

pdf iconDownload PDF (127.7 KB)
pp. 134-144

Classical Hollywood composers were typical targets of highbrow critics. For example, Miklós Rózsa saw his credibility as an art composer prejudicially questioned: “Only a light- headed critic would suggest that Rózsa’s chamber music and his symphonic works sound like ‘movie music,’ although...

read more

9. Raiders of the Lost Ark Background: A Neoclassical Film

pdf iconDownload PDF (208.6 KB)
pp. 145-160

May 1977. Mauna Kea Hotel, Hawaii. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are on vacation together. Star Wars is just coming out in theaters. Lucas, thinking it would be a commercial flop, decided to flee California, away from the expected box- office disaster— which, on the contrary, would...

read more

10. Raiders of the Lost Ark Analysis: The Return of Max Steiner

pdf iconDownload PDF (199.9 KB)
pp. 161-182

Like all the chapters of the series, the film opens with the Paramount logo, a mountain, which dissolves onto a visually similar form.1 In this case, the Paramount mountain becomes a real mountain, the profile of which is then blocked off by the entrance of a character donning a fedora hat and coming into the...

read more

11. Beyond the Films: Conductor John Williams

pdf iconDownload PDF (148.2 KB)
pp. 183-196

Each year in spring, Boston’s Symphony Hall undergoes a major transfor- mation. The rows of seats on the main floor are replaced with tables; the walls are decked with flowers and lit in cheerful colors. The orchestra plays light symphonic pieces spanning from famous opera overtures to selections...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (99.5 KB)
pp. 197-204

As previously explained, the impact of neoclassicism was quite limited. Jeff Smith stated: “And despite a major revival in the Korngold- styled scores of John Williams, Romanticism’s hold on film scoring was further weakened by the incorporation of rock, folk, and soul elements in the 1960s and 1970s, and...

Appendix 1: Completing the Picture

pdf iconDownload PDF (190.2 KB)
pp. 205-228

Appendix 2: Film and TV Scores, Concert Pieces, and Arrangements

pdf iconDownload PDF (105.0 KB)
pp. 229-246


pdf iconDownload PDF (62.7 KB)
pp. 247-250


pdf iconDownload PDF (250.9 KB)
pp. 251-286


pdf iconDownload PDF (126.5 KB)
pp. 287-302


pdf iconDownload PDF (113.0 KB)
pp. 303-318

Series Page

pdf iconDownload PDF (37.7 KB)

E-ISBN-13: 9780299297336
E-ISBN-10: 0299297330
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299297343
Print-ISBN-10: 0299297349

Page Count: 264
Illustrations: 12 b/w photos, 10 illus.
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Wisconsin Film Studies