John Williams (composer)

From Academic Kids

This article is about John Williams, the noted film composer. For other people with the same name, see John Williams.

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John Williams is probably the most widely-heard and best-known of the post-Second World War film composers

John Towner Williams (born February 8, 1932 in New York City) is one of the most widely recognized composers of film scores. He is often credited with the revival of the grand symphonic film score, specifically with his richly thematic and highly popular 1977 score to George Lucas' Star Wars.

Aside from Star Wars, he has also composed many of the highest grossing films of all time, some of which are Jaws, Jurassic Park, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and the Harry Potter movies (1-3). While skilled in a variety of 20th century compositional idioms, his most familiar style may be described as a form of neoromanticism, informed by the large-scale orchestral music of the late 19th century and that of Williams' film-composing predecessors. The influence of Korngold and other Hollywood Golden Age composers is strong in much of Williams' most famous work. Though the heroic, brassy music of films such as Star Wars, Superman: The Movie, and Raiders of the Lost Ark may be what Williams is best known for, his long list of works include many scores for sensitive dramas and more experimental concert works.


Early life

In 1948, John Williams and his family moved to Los Angeles, where he attended the University of California, Los Angeles. He also studied composition privately with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, who also taught another great film score composer, Jerry Goldsmith.

Williams returned to New York after service in the Air Force. There he went to the famous Juilliard School, one of the most well known music schools in America (other famous alumni include Philip Glass and Itzhak Perlman). There he had piano lessons with Rosina Lhevinne. In New York, he worked as a jazz pianist.

Film scoring

Williams later returned to Los Angeles, where he started working in the film studios. There he worked with some of the finest film score composers of that time: Franz Waxman, Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Newman. He began his career composing TV scores.

In the early 1970s, he scored some of the big-budget disaster films that were popular at the time. His scores for The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure, for example, are particularly impressive. In 1975, he got his big break. After meeting Steven Spielberg, he was commisioned to write the music for Jaws, Spielberg's upcoming film. The music is legendary for its slow, ominous Shark Theme (arguably the single most recognised theme in film music history), and earned Williams his second Academy Award (he had won his first for his 1971 adaptation of the music for the film version of Fiddler on the Roof). Williams' collaborations with Spielberg have been some of the most fruitful of his career, and they have worked on more than twenty films together.

He wrote the scores for several TV shows, including Gilligan's Island, Lost in Space and NBC Nightly News. Williams often works with Steven Spielberg and George Lucas and has been nominated for 43 Academy Awards, of which he has won five (for Star Wars, Fiddler on the Roof, Jaws, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and Schindler's List). He currently holds the record for the most Oscar nominations for a living person and has the third most Oscar nominations in history. Furthermore, he holds the record for the most Academy Award losses ever (38).

Apart from the five Oscars he has won, Williams has also been the recipient of at least two Emmys, seventeen Grammies, an induction into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame and the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame, and a 2004 Kennedy Center Honor. He also won a Classical Brit award in 2005 for his soundtrack work of the previous year.

Notable film scores

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Williams conducting the London Symphony Orchestra during the
recording of the score for Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

Conducting and performing

From 1980 to 1993, Williams was the principal conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra. He still has close ties with the Pops and the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), which have much overlap and both perform out of Boston's Symphony Hall. He conducts several concerts with the Boston Pops every year, particularly during their Holiday Pops season. He also frequently enlists the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, the official chorus of the BSO, to sing choral music in his movie scores (such as Saving Private Ryan).

He is an accomplished pianist, as can be heard in various scores in which he provides solos, as well as a handful of classical recordings.

Williams has written various concert works, including concerti for bassoon, clarinet, flute, violin, trumpet, cello, and tuba.

The Olympics

Williams, being the most prominent composer in North America, has also composed the official theme for all four Olympic Games held on the continent in the last 26 years. They are:

External links


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