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Musings On Music Part Three John Williams

The universe of film score composers boasts a galaxy of great stars: Henry Mancini, Miklos Rozsa, Elmer Bernstein, and Jerry Goldsmith are but a few who come to mind most readily. For me, though, the greatest composer of film music of all is John Towner Williams.

I have absolutely no doubt that, even if you don’t know who John Williams is, you would know his music. Who in the modern world has not heard the epic scores from the “Star Wars” saga? Who amongst us hasn’t felt heroic just from listening to the eponymous theme music from the “Indiana Jones” movies or “Superman”? I know I feel some sort of elation just from hearing the cue from when E.T. and Elliott and their friends take off on their bicycles over the police blockade, or when the Tyrannosaurus Rex appears from out of nowhere to ironically rescue the hapless humans from the Velociraptors in “Jurassic Park.” And when I hear the instrumental version of “Can You Read My Mind?” from “Superman – The Movie,” or hear “Across the Stars,” the theme song that signifies the ill-fated love of Anakin Skywalker and Padme Amidala from “SW Ep II: Attack of the Clones,” my heart swells and aches as I am reminded of my own special someone.

Working most frequently with the world-famous London Symphony Orchestra, Williams' list of credits is impressively long and features many of the greatest blockbusters in Hollywood history. Here is a short list of films wherein he composed the score and conducted the LSO during the recording of the film score:
  • The Towering Inferno
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Jaws
  • Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
  • Superman - The Movie
  • Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
  • E.T.
  • Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  • Schindler's List
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • Empire of the Sun
  • Memoirs of a Geisha
  • Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace
  • Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
  • Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
  • Born on the Fourth of July
  • JFK
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  • Amistad

And this, actually, is just a list of my personal favorites from his extensive catalog of work. I know I've left out quite a few of my other favorites, for brevity's sake.

One of my great personal pleasures is putting on my headphones, queuing up one or two (or three, even) of his soundtracks on WinAmp, then clicking "Play." I then just lie back, close my eyes, and allow the stirring performance of the LSO take me to a galaxy far away, or fly through the air like the last son of Krypton. Without fail, John Williams is able to tell a story without any words, without any pictures. His music is so memorable and is such an integral part of every movie to which it is attached, so much so that to strip the film of his contribution leaves the film so sadly empty.

I've had the immense pleasure of having watched John Williams conduct the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra several times, and each time it has been memorable. At such performances, he often talks to his audience, and you get the unmistakable impression that here is a prodigiously talented individual with absolutely no airs about him, no pretensions whatsoever. When he speaks, he seems like a very kind, gentle soul; were it not for his supreme ability to make music as only he can, you would never ever notice him.

He speaks softly, but he carries a big stick, figuratively; like a Jedi with his lightsaber, John Williams wields his baton and writes with his composer's pen and makes art like few others can.

He is one of the world's greatest classical musicians, and for me, a permanent resident in my personal pantheon of musical greats.

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