John Williams is an American composer who is credited with scoring some of the greatest major blockbusters of all time. Some of these major films and franchises include; Jaws, Indiana Jones, E.T., Schindler’s List, Harry Potter, and, of course, Star Wars. His first film score was for a promotional film for tourism in Newfoundland, Canada in 1954, but it was in the early 1970s that he truly started to emerge as the artist he is known as today. Williams has been nominated for 52 Academy Awards, taking home five in total for best music.
There is no question that Williams will go down as one of the most influential composers of all time, and be known for scoring the second highest-grossing franchise in cinema history. Williams’ scores are more than just instruments neatly placed together — they are epics. They are stories in themselves that inspire the scenes that they are placed in. Williams makes his scores as memorable as the films they are featured in. Here’s how he composed one of the best film scores of all time for Star Wars.
Meeting Steven Spielberg
One of the greatest duos in cinematic history all started over lunch in the early 1970s. Steven Spielberg was known for hanging around movie lots until he eventually was invited to work on one. The first major film that Spielberg would go on to direct was called The Sugarland Express, and it would be during this film’s early production that he and Williams would have their very first encounter. According to Yahoo!, Spielberg requested that Universal Studios set up a lunch between the two so that Spielberg could convince Williams to work with him. Allegedly, it was Williams’ works in a film called The Reivers that sparked Spielberg’s interest in him. Spielberg impressed Williams, and the partnership between the two was almost instantaneous.
After their work together on The Sugarland Express, the pair would go off to make the 1974 classic Jaws, whose score is one of the most recognized in cinema all thanks to a single opening note. Spielberg and Williams would go on to have a very successful career together, with Williams scoring close to 30 of his films. It was thanks to Spielberg and Williams’ score for Jaws that he gained the attention of George Lucas. Although some of Williams’ most notable work has been with Spielberg, it is hard to ignore that the score for Star Wars would go down as one of the greatest film scores of all time.
A New Hope
In May 1977, Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope released in theaters, and went on to change cinema forever. The film, an influential story about a young man destined for greatest, would inspire sequels and spin-offs for decades to follow. Lucas’ space epic needed a score as strong as its story. This is where Williams comes in. Williams’ career before Star Wars was already affluent, and his work was highly distinguished amongst filmmakers alike. However, after hearing his work for Jaws, Lucas recruited him out of the deep shark-infested waters and into a galaxy that was all his own. Discover Music stated, “While Williams’ grand symphonic Star Wars main title is the most recognizable of his work, the other compositions that make up the score are equally ambitious in scope, and the diversity in styles makes it hard to believe it came from one man.” This statement couldn’t be any more true. The Star Wars score embodies adventure, greatness, and a whimsical, child-like gleam that is felt almost instantaneously.
One of the most notable stories considered when referencing Williams and A New Hope is the inspiration for the infamous cantina scene. Williams went to Julliard and worked as a jazz pianist before transitioning to film composition. As the story goes, Lucas told Williams to imagine what future space creatures would be listening to in a sleazy bar. Williams used his skills and knowledge as a jazz pianist to create the upbeat, 30s swing band style song that plays in the background of the cantina scene. From there, the rest was history. Next, Williams is set to score the theme for the new Obi-Wan Kenobi miniseries that will premiere on Disney+.
During an interview with music critic, Alex Ross, Williams reflected on his work for the original Star Wars theme. The composer stated, “That fanfare at the beginning, I think it’s the last thing I wrote. It’s probably a little overwritten – I don’t know. The thirty-second notes in the trombones are hard to get, in that register of the trombone. And the high trumpet part!” It is hard to imagine that Williams would even consider the theme being anything but perfect, being that the score won him the 1978 Oscar for Best Original Score. The trumpet’s high-C that Williams mentioned demands the viewers’ attention, and commends the story for what it is.
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