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John Williams. Film and TV Composer of an Era. By: Edward Aquino. Early Life. Born on February 8 th 1932 Born in Long Island New York One of 4 children, two brothers and one sister Father was a jazz percussionist Family left New York and moved to LA. Education.

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john williams

John Williams

Film and TV Composer of an Era

By: Edward Aquino

early life
Early Life
  • Born on February 8th 1932
  • Born in Long Island New York
  • One of 4 children, two brothers and one sister
  • Father was a jazz percussionist
  • Family left New York and moved to LA
  • Williams attended North Hollywood HS
  • Went on and attended UCLA
  • Studied Orchestration under Robert Van Eps
  • Studied privately under Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco
  • Attended Julliard and studied under Madame Rosina

Madame Rosina Lhevinne

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco

early work
Early Work
  • Drafted into service for US Air Force in 1952, he conducted and arranged as a part of his duties.
  • Played piano at local jazz clubs
  • Started with 20th Century Fox as studio pianist
tv and film
TV and Film

The early years

  • began playing piano for productions

and then moved to orchestration.

  • Notable titles:
    • South Pacific
    • To Kill A Mockingbird
    • Lost in Space
    • Land of the Giants
tv and film1
TV and Film

Making a name for himself

  • Working with producers Steven
  • Spielberg and George Lucas
  • Notable titles:
    • Jaws
    • Superman
    • Fiddler on the Roof
    • Star Wars
tv and film2
TV and Film

In the 90s:

  • he won yet another Oscar for his score in Schindler’s list
  • Also composed for Jurassic Park

A Living Legend

john williams today
John Williams Today
  • John William’s continues to dazzle
  • “Hedwig’s Theme” from Harry Potter is one of his most recent scores
  • Conducts renditions of his top film scores at the Hollywood Bow

Award winning composer

  • John Williams has won
  • 5 Academy Awards (has been nominated 48 times!)
  • 4 Golden Globe Awards
  • 7 British Academy Film Awards
  • 21 Grammy Awards.

In addition, he was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl hall of fame in 2000 and received the Kennedy Center Honors in 2004.

three composition histories and listening guides
Three Composition Histories and Listening Guides
  • The Force Theme-Star Wars a New Hope (1977)
  • Hedwig’s Theme-Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
  • The Raider’s March-Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
the force theme
The Force Theme

Composition History

  • A description of the first picture. You may change this text.
  • “The Force Theme” was written and recorded in December 1977.
  • The London Symphony Orchestra performed the original score.
  • Although film compositions were trending towards popular music and small bands, John Williams pushed back with his full symphonic orchestra scores, making this piece a cornerstone of a musical movement.
  • As a common theme with most of John William’s scores “The Force Theme” repeats itself in the later installments and reinforces the general theme of the movie to the audience. This technique is often times called a leitmotif.
  • This score for Star Wars A New Hope was originally released on LP in 1977. Years later a re-mastered CD edition was released by RCA in 1989.
the force theme1
The Force Theme

Listening Guide

  • 0:00 Introduction: The Force Theme is in minor key which is ironic to me because the feeling of the piece expresses more positive than negative emotions. Williams is able to successfully give this feeling because he ends the last part of the piece with a major chord. The melody of the theme is divided into four different parts or ideas. The piece builds gradually until it reaches a climax this happens stretched along the first three parts until it reaches an octave above the first note then quickly falls in the last. The rhythm of this piece is 4/4 meter or common time duple meter with some triplets. There are combinations of both long-short and triplet rhythms which gives the piece a march-like quality evident especially when brass instruments are introduced. The Timbre features strings with solo melodies played by woodwinds.
the force theme2
The Force Theme

Listening Guide (continued)

  • 0:01 Disjunct main theme played by French horn. Soft and inviting, the instrument is opening the conversation and introducing the theme.
  • 0:14 Climax of French horn with flute and other woodwinds joining on last notes. You also hear a slight glissando of the harp
  • 0:18 Strings and woodwinds repeat main theme March quality prominent here
  • 0:26 Strings play notes that fall from climax to end the phrase
  • 0:33 Flutes play a contrasting idea part (b)
  • 0:36 Cellos reply back with dissonance as if answering to the beauty of the flutes with a short harsh deep tone
  • 1:01 Disjunt main theme revisited again played by flutes very soft or pianissimo. Accompanied by the harp plucking a soft melody as well.
  • 1:30 French horn follows up flute with a louder phrasing of the main theme, which ends in a slightly different variation then the main theme. This variation sets up the coda by rising in notes.
  • 2:01 the notes decrease or fall and the piece ends with the final note being accented out.
the raiders march
The Raiders March

Composition History

  • A description of the first picture. You may change this text.
  • The Raiders March was written and composed by John Williams in 1981
  • Just like the Star Wars saga, The London Symphony Orchestra performed this score and Herbert Spencer orchestrated it
  • Polydorreleased a movie soundtrack pressed on LP in 1985 and since then it has been re-mastered and rereleased on CD several other times by DCC Compact Classics, Silva Screen and Concord Records.
  • The Raiders March is a leitmotif characterizing and portraying the hero Indiana Jones in the films through its commanding and adventuresome tune. Much like is other works John Williams captures the spirit of the film and compliments it perfectly with the punch-to-the-face melody.
the raiders march1
The Raiders March

Listening Guide

  • 0:00 Introduction: The Raiders March is in the major key and in the form a-b-a with divisions and then sections that end up repeating the main theme. The piece opens up with a march theme which is disjunct. Throughout the song you will hear dissonant harmonies to give the listener a feeling of chaos and adventure. Like most marches the timbre of the piece features brass and percussion to give it the punchy, adventuresome tone. Raider’s March is in common time duple meter with some syncopation.
the raiders march2
The Raiders March

Listening Guide (continued)

  • 0:01 Repetitious rhythmic intro played by strings also known as ostinato
  • 0:06 Trumpet introduces disjunct march theme while strings continuing ostinato.
  • 0:18 Trumpet plays main theme/melody and finishes Accompaniment from other brass and bass drum to finish phrase.
  • 0:22 March theme repeated with more instruments, syncopation from cymbals
  • 0:37 Strings bring in next section (b) this contrasting idea closes with similar rhythmic phrase to main theme.
  • 0:50 Brass repeats phrase of contrasting part (b). Percussion adds march quality and gives a feeling of reiteration to the phrase that was introduced by the strings. Section closes out with an extended cadence.
  • 1:16 Opening theme/part a repeated and gets brought back into a more lively and fuller sound (forte dynamic). Strings, brass, percussion are all joined together. Towards the end of this you will hear part a imitated again but up a half-step.
  • 1:50 As part a closes trombones play a cadence phrase from part b to conclude the march.
the raiders march3
The Raiders March

Listening Guide (continued)

  • 2:00 Bridge section brought in by strings playing low notes. There is a rise and fall in these notes to give the piece a more slow and haunting sound. Completely contrasting to the march theme in the first section.
  • 2:22 Bridge is repeated with slightly different phrasing. Cellos and violins play two pieces answering each other almost as if in conversation.
  • 3:07 Violins come in loud to repeat bridge section for a final time and then end the piece in a soft cadence demonstrating a wide dynamic range.
  • 3:30 A variation of the opening march theme returns played by the French horn with ostinato rhythm from the flute. Also heard in this section is the triangle and harp’s glissando.
  • 4:02 Brass instruments join in crescendo to a climax of the phrase and prepare ears for the next statement.
  • 4:14 Maintaining loudness the opening theme is played again with vigor. Brass, strings play in unison and percussion adds a punch to the dynamics with cymbals exclamation on each phrase that leads to the coda.
  • 4:45 Harp brings in coda which plays on melodic ideas and phrases from the a section/march theme. The whole orchestra leads into a climax that is met with a dissonant and abrupt ending.
hedwig s theme
Hedwig’s Theme

Composition History

  • A description of the first picture. You may change this text.
  • Hedwig’s theme was written and composed by John Williams in 2001
  • London voices and additional artists, such as Marcia Crayford and Randy Kerber, performed his scores for The Sorcerer’s Stone.
  • “Hedwig’s Theme” was featured in the preview of the film, and because of the overwhelming praise for the score in the previews, Williams decided to include the theme more heavily in the film.
  • Hedwig’s theme is the signature score for the franchise, and has been featured in all 8 films.
  • Hedwig’s theme is also a leitmotif, and is a portrayal of the magical and whimsical world of Harry Potter.
hedwig s theme1
Hedwig’s Theme

Listening Guide

  • 00:00 Introduction: Hedwig’s theme is in the minor key and in the form of AB or binary. Timing for this piece is ¾ simple meter and the melody is divided up into two main phrases. The timbre matches the theme of the movie with a very mysterious feel with moments of highs and lows. A wide spread dynamic range grabs the listener and takes them on the adventure of Harry Potter. Throughout the piece there are contradicting ideas and phrases, syncopation for variation. As found with most of John William’s pieces it takes you on an adventure and changes in mood quite often.
hedwig s theme2
Hedwig’s Theme

Listening Guide (continued)

  • 0:01 Celesta starts piano and opens up track to a crescendo main theme is played
  • 0:35 Strings enter and cellos play a rhythmic part with violins playing a contradicting ascending/descending allegro melody in the background.
  • 0:47 Opening/main theme (a) is repeated by flute, oboes and trumpet together in unison.
  • 1:17 more and more instruments get added in to develop a complex but pleasant texture to the music next you will hear the xylophone, harp add separate pieces to the theme.
  • 1:20 Main theme (a) is played again by French horn still with the accompanying violin dissonance in the background almost as if a sweeping wind on a cold night.
  • 1:35 Jumps right into the next theme/section (b) with clarinets and oboes
  • 1:50 Trumpet repeats phrase of contrasting section (b) to a cadence. Piece moves into a melody that is similar to the first theme with clarinets and cellos accompanying.
  • 2:00 Celesta plays arpeggio solo to give piece a brief intermission followed by violins that repeat the phrase.
hedwig s theme3
Hedwig’s Theme

Listening Guide (continued)

  • 2:30 The opening theme is played through one measure by the entire orchestra with vigor but ends with a slightly different phrase that plays on the beginning theme.
  • 2:54 Violins are featured here with a complimentary phrase that brings the timbre down to a serious and flowing sound contrasting the previous pieces they were playing.
  • 3:05 Brass and strings rebuild tension and power of tone to a climax
  • 3:10 all instruments join together including the piccolo to work as an interlude to prepare for the movement back to part (b)
  • 3:40 French horn comes in loud to reintroduce part (b) for a final time. Harp adds glissando for dramatic texture and other woodwinds strings help rebuild mood and theme.
  • 3:57 a dramatic leap to the main theme occurs as if the two parts are battling one another. Something interesting happens here where the instruments play a fugue and combine at the end with a variation of the opening theme setting up for the coda.
  • 4:30 Instruments play the last measure together and end abruptly on the last note. The flute and violin keep playing even after the note an allegro arpeggio found in earlier parts of the piece then a quick rebuild occurs of all the instruments playing a dissonance until it reaches a climax and then ends.
  • Barton, Tom (2013). A Musical Biography of John Williams. Virtual ebook by Mall
  • Publications: USA.
  • Film Tracks (2013a). “Star Wars.” Retrieved 10:17, Oct 07, 2013,
  • from
  • Film Tracks (2013b). “Star Wars.” Retrieved 10:45, Oct 07, 2013,
  • from
  • Film Tracks (2013c). “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
  • Retrieved 11:50, Oct 07, 2013, from
  • titles/harry_potter.html
  • The Biography Channel. (2013). “John Williams”. The Biography Channel website.
  • Eder, Bruce (2013). “Star Wars.” All Retrieved 10:04, Oct 07, 2013, from
  • soundtrack-mw0000881353
  • Hable, Markus (2013). “The John Williams Collection.” Retrieved 08:57, Oct 06,
  • 2013, from
bibliography continued
Bibliography (continued)
  • Horn, David (2009). “Interview: John Williams, on Great Performances, Speilberg
  • and more.” Thirteen. Retrieved 03:43, Oct 04, 2013, from
  • williams-on-great-performances-spielberg-and-more
  • “Reference: Awards” and “The John Williams Web Pages.”
  • Accessed Oct. 07, 2013, from
  • Mirriam-Webster (2013). Online Dictionary. Retrieved 03:05, Oct 07, 2013, from
  • Waldron, D’Lynn (2013). “John Williams, Composer of Music for the Movies:
  • Biography, Photos, Filmography and Discography.” Retrieved 01:57,
  • Oct 05, 2013 from
  • “John Williams Biography.” Retrieved on Oct 06, 2013 at 03:01, from