restricted access Appendix 1: Completing the Picture
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205 Ap­ pen­ dix 1: Com­ plet­ ing the Pic­ ture Peh! ­ They’re butch­ er­ ing the clas­ sics! . . . Laser ef­ fects, mir­ rored balls . . . John ­ Williams must be roll­ ing ­ around in his grave. Homer Simp­ son, at­ tend­ ing a Star Wars con­ cert (The Simp­ sons, sea­ son 6, epi­ sode 23: “The Spring­ field Con­ nec­ tion”) Williams’s Ver­ sa­ til­ ity for Spiel­ berg (and Oth­ ers) Neo­ clas­ si­ cism is the style ­ mostly as­ so­ ciated with John ­ Williams. How­ ever, he also pos­ sesses a ­ chameleon-like abil­ ity to write in a num­ ber of di­ verse mu­ si­ cal di­ alects and to ad­ just his per­ sonal idiom to the re­ quire­ ments of the film at hand: When I do a film . . . I’m not think­ ing about sty­ lis­ tic pur­ ity; I’m not think­ ing about any­ thing but, “Okay, ­ here’s a film and my mu­ si­ cal job is to con­ struct some­ thing that will live ­ within it and seem to be part of it and will sound like the pic­ ture looks.” If I have to write a scene from 206 • Appendix 1 Jane Eyre for in­ stance, I write some­ thing that ­ sounds like York­ shire in the ­ eighteen-sixties. Why? Not be­ cause I’m try­ ing to write orig­ i­ nal music, but be­ cause I’m try­ ing to get some­ thing be­ hind the pic­ ture that­ smells like York­ shire. You don’t think about that when you watch the movie, but some­ how ­ you’re very com­ fort­ able be­ cause it’s right. . . . If you have only one style of music and do only one thing . . . ­ you’re in trou­ ble in the film busi­ ness. If you want to have a ca­ reer in films, and do a hun­ dred films, you need to be very ver­ sa­ tile.1 For ex­ am­ ple, ­ Williams em­ ployed con­ tem­ po­ rary di­ alects and mu­ si­ cal means in Heart­ beeps (Allan Ar­ kush, 1981) and Space Camp (Harry Winer, 1986). In the for­ mer, he used synthe­ siz­ ers and mixed them with his trade­ mark or­ ches­ tral sound; in the lat­ ter, he ­ adopted both synthe­ siz­ ers and 1980s ­ pop-music di­ alects. Later, he also ven­ tured into Asian di­ alects for Seven Years in Tibet ( Jean-Jacques An­ naud, 1997), for which he ­ blended a Tibe­ tan ­ chorus and East­ ern ­ scales with a West­ ern ro­ man­ tic main theme fea­ tur­ ing Yo-Yo Ma’s lyr­ i­ cal cello solos.­ Williams would ex­ plore Asian di­ alects again—this time more ­ deeply and sub­ stan­ tially—for Me­ moirs of a Gei­ sha (Rob Mar­ shall, 2005). Va­ riety re­ porter Jon Bur­ lin­ game de­ scribed the pro­ cess: “The chal­ lenge of Gei­ sha . . . was ‘to in­ cor­ po­ rate the gram­ mar of Jap­ a­ nese music with what we rec­ og­ nize as West­ ern har­ monic and me­ lodic ­ idioms—to bring those two ­ things to­ gether to ­ create a third ele­ ment that would seem at home in the film.’ Through­ out, the score is fla­ vored with tra­ di­ tional Jap­ a­ nese in­ stru­ ments: the 13­ -­ stringed koto, or Jap­ a­ nese­ zither; the sha­ ku­ ha­ chi, an ­ end-blown bam­ boo flute; the sham­ i­ sen, a ­ threestringed ­ plucked lute; taiko drums; plus other wind and per­ cus­ sion in­ stru­ ments ap­ pro­ pri­ ate to the set­ ting.”2 That same year, ­ Williams also ­ worked on a com­ pletely dif­ fer­ ent score for Mu­ nich (Ste­ ven Spiel­ berg, 2005), switch­ ing to Mid­ dle East­ ern tim­ bres and­ scales. ­ Williams told Va­ riety: “It ­ couldn’t be more dif­ fer­ ent from Gei­ sha in am­ bi­ ance and tex­ ture.” For it, he ­ created “a kind of ­ prayer for peace, a lyr­ i­ cal com­ po­ si­ tion as­ so­ ciated with Avner (Eric Bana) and the home he ­ leaves be­ hind in Is­ rael,” and an­ other theme for solo voice and or­ ches­ tra “that ac­ com­ pa­ nies one of sev­ eral flash­ backs to the tar­ mac at Mu­ nich, and also one of sev­ eral ­ scenes that re­ call the ab­ duc­ tion of the Olym­ pic ath­ letes...


Subject Headings

  • Williams, John, 1932- -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Motion picture music -- History and criticism.
  • Jaws (Motion picture).
  • Star wars (Motion picture).
  • Raiders of the lost ark (Motion picture).
  • Boston Pops Orchestra.
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