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John Towner Williams (born February 8, 1932) is an Americanmarker composer, conductor, and pianist. In a career that spans six decades, Williams has composed many of the most famous film score in Hollywoodmarker history, including Star Wars, Superman, Home Alone, the first three Harry Potter movies and all but two of Steven Spielberg's feature films including the Indiana Jones series, Schindler's List, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park and Jaws. He also composed the soundtrack for the hit 1960s television series Lost in Space as well as the fanfare of the DreamWorks Pictures' logomarker.

Williams has composed theme music for four Olympic Games, the NBC Nightly News, the rededication of the Statue of Liberty, and numerous television series and concert pieces. He served as the principal conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra from 1980 to 1993, and is now the orchestra's laureate conductor.

Williams is a five-time winner of the Academy Award. He has also won four Golden Globe Awards, seven BAFTA Awards and 21 Grammy Awards. With 45 Academy Award nominations, Williams is, together with composer Alfred Newman, the second most nominated person after Walt Disney. He was inducted into the Hollywood Bowlmarker Hall of Fame in 2000, and was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2004.

Early life and family

John Williams was born on February 8, 1932, in Flushing Queens, New York, the son of Esther and John Williams, Sr. His father was a jazz drummer who played with the Raymond Scott Quintet.

In 1948, Williams moved to Los Angelesmarker with his family. Williams attended North Hollywood High School and graduated in 1950. He later attended the University of California, Los Angelesmarker and studied privately with composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. In 1952, Williams was drafted into the United States Air Force, where he conducted and arranged music for the Air Force Band as part of his duties.

After his service ended in 1955, Williams moved to New York Citymarker and entered Juilliard Schoolmarker, where he studied piano with Rosina Lhévinne. During this time he worked as a jazz pianist at New York's many studios and clubs. He also played for composer Henry Mancini: The session musicians were John Williams on piano, Rolly Bundock on bass, Jack Sperling on drums, and Bob Bain on guitar—the same lineup featured on the "Mr. Lucky" television series. Williams recorded with Henry Mancini on the film soundtracks of Peter Gunn (1959), Charade (1963), and Days of Wine and Roses (1962). He was known as "Little Johnny Love" Williams in the early 1950s, and served as arranger and bandleader on a series of popular albums with singer Frankie Laine.

Williams was married to actress Barbara Ruick from 1956 until her death on March 3, 1974. They had three children together: Jennifer (born 1956), Mark (born 1958), and Joseph (born 1960). His youngest son, Joseph Williams, is the former lead singer for the band Toto. His daughter, Jenny Williams, is a singer. He married his second wife, Samantha Winslow, on July 21, 1980. Williams is a member of Kappa Kappa Psi, the national honorary fraternity for college band members.

Film scoring

John Williams at the Avery Fisher Hall.
While skilled in a variety of twentieth-century compositional idioms, Williams's most familiar style may be described as a form of neoromanticism, inspired by the same large-scale orchestral music of the late 19th century—especially Wagnerian music and its concept of leitmotif—that inspired his film-composing predecessors.

After his studies at Juilliard, Williams returned to Los Angeles and began working as an orchestrator in film studios. Among others, he had worked with composers Franz Waxman, Bernard Herrmann, and Alfred Newman and fellow orchestrators, Conrad Salinger and Bob Franklyn. He was also a studio pianist, performing in scores by composers such as Jerry Goldsmith, Elmer Bernstein, and Henry Mancini (for whom he played the opening riff to Peter Gunn). Williams began to compose music scores for television series programs in the late 1950s, eventually leading to the pilot episode theme for Gilligan's Island, Lost in Space, and The Time Tunnel.

Williams's first major film composition was for the B movie Daddy-O in 1958, and his first screen credit came two years later in Because They're Young. He soon gained notice in Hollywood for his versatility in composing jazz, piano and symphonic music. He received his first Academy Award nomination for his score to the 1967 film Valley of the Dolls, and was nominated again in 1969 for Goodbye, Mr. Chips. He won his first Academy Award for his adapted score to the 1971 film Fiddler on the Roof. By the early 1970s, Williams had established himself as a composer for large-scale disaster films, with scores for The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake, and The Towering Inferno; the last two films, scored in 1974, borrowing musical cues from each other.

In 1974, Williams was approached by Steven Spielberg to compose the music for his feature directorial debut, The Sugarland Express. The young director had been impressed with Williams's score to the 1969 film The Reivers, and was convinced that the composer could provide the sound he desired for his films. They teamed up again a year later for the director's second film, Jaws. Widely considered a classic suspense piece, the score's ominous two-note motif has become nearly synonymous with sharks and approaching danger. The score earned Williams a second Academy Award, his first for an original composition. Shortly afterwards, Williams and Spielberg began preparing for their next feature film, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Unusual for a Hollywood production, Spielberg's script and Williams's musical concepts were developed at the same time and were closely linked. During the two-year creative collaboration, they settled on a distinctive five-note figure that functioned both as background music and the communication signal of the film's alien mothership. Williams employed a system of musical hand signals in the film, based on hand signs designed by Zoltán Kodály. Close Encounters of the Third Kind was released in 1977.

In the same period, Spielberg recommended Williams to his friend and fellow director George Lucas, who needed a composer to score his ambitious space epic, Star Wars. Williams produced a grand symphonic score in the fashion of Richard Strauss and Golden Age Hollywoodmarker composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Max Steiner. Its main theme—"Luke's Theme"—is among the most widely-recognized in motion picture history, and the "Force Theme" and "Princess Leia's Theme" are well-known examples of leitmotif. The film and its soundtrack were both immensely successful, and Williams won another Academy Award for Best Original Score. In 1980, Williams returned to score The Empire Strikes Back, where he famously introduced "The Imperial March" as the theme for Darth Vader and the Galactic Empire. The original Star Wars trilogy concluded with the 1983 film Return of the Jedi, for which Williams's score provided "Jabba the Hutt's Theme" and the "Emperor's Theme." Both scores earned Williams Academy Award nominations.

John Williams conducting the music score to Raiders of the Lost Ark in the Avery Fisher Hall.
Williams worked with director Richard Donner to score the 1978 film Superman. The score's heroic and romantic themes, particularly the main march, the Superman fanfare and the love theme, known as "Can You Read My Mind," would appear in the four sequel films. For the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark, Williams wrote a rousing main theme known as "The Raiders March" to accompany the film's hero, Indiana Jones. He also composed separate themes to represent the Ark of the Covenant, the character Marion and the Nazi villains of the story. Additional themes were featured in his scores to the sequel films Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Williams composed an emotional and sensitive score to Spielberg's 1982 fantasy film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. The music conveys the film's benign, childlike sense of innocence, particularly with a spirited theme for the freedom of flight, and a soft string-based theme for the friendship between characters E.T. and Elliott. The film's final chase and farewell sequence marks a rare instance in film history, in which the on-screen action was re-edited to conform to the composer's musical interpretation. Williams was awarded a fourth Academy Award for this score.

The 1985 film The Color Purple is one of two feature films directed by Steven Spielberg for which John Williams did not serve as composer (the other was the 1971 direct-to-television Duel, Spielberg's first feature film). The film's producer, Quincy Jones, wanted to personally arrange and compose the music for the project. Williams also did not score Twilight Zone: The Movie, but Spielberg had directed only one of the four segments in that film; the film's music was written by another veteran Hollywood composer, rival Jerry Goldsmith, chosen by lead director and producer John Landis. The Williams-Spielberg collaboration resumed with the director's 1987 film Empire of the Sun, and has continued to the present, spanning genres from science fiction thrillers (1993's Jurassic Park), to somber tragedies (1993's Schindler's List, 2005's Munich), to Eastern-tinged melodramas (2005's Memoirs of a Geisha, eventually helmed by Rob Marshall). Spielberg has said, "I call it an honorable privilege to regard John Williams as a friend."

In 1999, George Lucas launched the first of a series of prequels to the original Star Wars trilogy. Williams was asked to score all three films, starting with The Phantom Menace. Along with themes from the previous movies, Williams created new themes to be used as leitmotifs in Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005). Most notable of these was "Duel of the Fates," an aggressive choral movement utilizing harsh Sanskrit lyrics that broadened the style of music used in the Star Wars films. Also of note was "Anakin's Theme," which begins as an innocent childlike melody and morphs insidiously into a quote of the sinister "Imperial March" of the prior trilogy. For Episode II, Williams composed "Across the Stars," a love theme for Padmé Amidala and Anakin Skywalker (mirroring the love theme composed for the second film of the previous trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back). The final installment combined many of the themes created for the series' previous ones, including "The Emperor's Theme," "The Imperial March," "Across the Stars," "Duel of the Fates," "The Force Theme," "Rebel Fanfare," "Luke's Theme," and "Princess Leia's Theme," as well new themes for General Grievous and the film's climax, entitled "Battle of the Heroes." Few composers have scored an entire series of this magnitude: The combined scores of all six Star Wars films add up to music that takes a full orchestra more than 14 hours to perform in its entirety.

In the new millennium, Williams was asked to score the film adaptation of the widely successful book series, Harry Potter. He went on to score the first three installments of the franchise. As with his Superman theme, the most important theme from Williams's scores for the film adaptations of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, dubbed "Hedwig's Theme," has been used in the fourth, fifth, and sixth movies in the series (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince), scored by Patrick Doyle and Nicholas Hooper twice, respectively. Like the main themes from Star Wars, Jaws, Superman, and Indiana Jones, fans have come to identify the Harry Potter films with Williams's original piece.

In 2006, Superman Returns was released, under the direction of Bryan Singer, best known for directing the first two movies in the X-Men series. Singer did not request Williams to compose a score for the new movie; instead, he employed the skills of X2 composer John Ottman to honorably incorporate Williams's original Superman theme, as well as those for "Lois Lane" and "Smallville". Don Davis performed a similar role for Jurassic Park III, recommended to the producers by Williams himself. (Film scores by Ottman and to a lesser extent Davis are often compared to those of Williams, as both use similar styles of composition.)

In 2008, Williams scored the fourth installment of the Indiana Jones series, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull; he will be scoring Steven Spielberg's future projects Harvey, Lincoln and Interstellar.

Harry Potter producer David Heyman has stated that Williams might return as composer for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows depending on Williams's schedule.

It was recently announced that Williams scores The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn, the first film in the upcoming Tintin trilogy based on the comics by Hergé, continuing his long-time collaboration with Steven Spielberg, while also working with Peter Jackson for the first time. The film is now in post-production. The scoring sessions began in october 2009 and the main sessions will end in summer 2010.

Conducting and performing

Williams signing an autograph after a concert
From 1980 to 1993, Williams succeeded Arthur Fiedler as Principal Conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra. Williams never personally met Fiedler, although he did speak with him on the telephone. His arrival as the new leader of the Pops in the spring of 1980 allowed him to devote part of the Pops' first PBS broadcast of the season to presenting his new compositions for The Empire Strikes Back, in addition to conducting many Fiedler audience favorites.

Williams almost ended his tenure with the Pops in 1984. Considered a customary practice of opinion, some players hissed while sight-reading a new Williams composition in rehearsal. Williams abruptly left the session and turned in his resignation, reportedly owing to mounting conflicts with his film composing schedule as well as a perceived lack of discipline in the Pops' ranks, culminating in this latest instance. After entreaties by the management and personal apologies from the musicians, Williams reconsidered his resignation and continued for nine more years. In 1995 he was succeeded by Keith Lockhart, the former associate conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops.

Williams is now the Laureate Conductor of the Pops, thus maintaining his affiliation with its parent, the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO), resident of Symphony Hall in the Massachusetts capital. Williams leads the Pops on several occasions each year, particularly during their Holiday Pops season and typically for a week of concerts in May. He conducts an annual Film Night at both Boston Symphony Hall and Tanglewoodmarker, where he frequently enlists the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, official chorus of the BSO, to provide a choral accompaniment to films (such as Saving Private Ryan).

Williams makes annual appearances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowlmarker, and took part as conductor and composer in the orchestra's opening gala concerts for Walt Disney Concert Hallmarker in 2003.

Williams has written many concert pieces, including a symphony, Concerto for Horn written for Dale Clevenger, principal hornist of the Chicago Symphony, Concerto for Clarinet written for Michele Zukovsky (Principal Clarinetist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic) in 1991, a sinfonietta for wind ensemble, a cello concerto premiered by Yo-Yo Ma and the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in 1994, concertos for the flute and violin recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra, tuba, and a trumpet concerto, which was premiered by the Cleveland Orchestra and their principal trumpet Michael Sachs in September 1996. His bassoon concerto, The Five Sacred Trees, which was premiered by the New York Philharmonic and principal bassoon player Judith LeClair in 1995, was recorded for Sony Classical by Williams with LeClair and the London Symphony Orchestra.

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

In addition, in 1985, Williams composed the well-known NBC News theme "The Mission" (which he performs in concert to signal the final encore), "Liberty Fanfare" for the rededication of the Statue of Libertymarker, "We're Lookin' Good!" for the Special Olympics in celebration of the 1987 International Summer Games, and themes for the 1984, 1988, 1996, and 2002 Olympic games. His most recent concert work "Seven for Luck", for soprano and orchestra, is a seven-piece song cycle based on the texts of former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove. "Seven for Luck" was given its world premiere by the Boston Symphony under Williams with soprano Cynthia Haymon.

John Williams also made a rare appearance on the BBC in 1980 to explain what life as a composer is like and how demanding it is to get everything just right.

In April 2005, Williams and the Boston Pops performed "The Force Theme" from Star Wars opening day in Fenway Parkmarker as the Boston Red Sox, having won their first World Series championship since 1918, received their championship rings.

In April 2004, February 2006, and September 2007, he conducted the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hallmarker in New York Citymarker. The initial program was intended to be a one-time special event, and featured Williams's medley of Oscar-winning film scores first performed at the previous year's Academy Awards. Its unprecedented popularity led to two concerts in 2006—fundraising gala events featuring personal recollections by film directors Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. Continuing demand fueled three more concerts in 2007, which all sold out. These featured a tribute to the musicals of film director Stanley Donen, and had the distinction of serving as the opening event of the New York Philharmonic season.

Notable compositions

Film scores



The following list consists of select films for which John Williams wrote the score and/or songs. Those films for which his music won an Oscar are in bold. 109 total.


1950s

1960s

1970s

1980s

1990s

2000s

2010s


The Olympics

Williams has composed music for four Olympic Games:

Television themes



Concerti

  • Concerto for Flute and Orchestra (1969), premiered only in 1981 by the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra under Leonard Slatkin.
  • Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (1976 rev. 1998), premiered only in 1981 by the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra under Slatkin.
  • Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra (1985), premiered by the tubist Chester Schmitz of the Boston Pops for their 100th anniversary.
  • Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (1991), recorded by Michele Zukovsky for whom it was written. Clarinet Concerto recording
  • Concerto for Bassoon and Orchestra (The Five Sacred Trees) (1993).
  • Concerto for Cello and Orchestra (1994).
  • Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra (1996).
  • Elegy for Cello and Piano (1997), later arranged for Cello and Orchestra (2002). Based on a theme from Seven Years in Tibet.
  • TreeSong, Concerto for Violin and Orchestra (2000).
  • Heartwood: Lyric Sketches for Cello and Orchestra (2002).
  • Concerto for Horn and Orchestra (2003). Premiered with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in November 2003.
  • Duo Concertante for Violin and Viola (2007). Premiered at Tanglewoodmarker in August 2007.
  • Concerto for Viola and Orchestra (2009)
  • Concerto for Harp and Orchestra "On Willows and Birches" (2009)


Celebration pieces and other concert works



Awards

John Williams has won a total of five Academy Awards and four Golden Globe Awards. He has been nominated for 21 Golden Globes and 59 Grammys. With 45 Oscar nominations, Williams currently holds the record for the most Oscar nominations for a living person, being the second most nominated person in the history of the Academy Awards, tied with late fellow film composer Alfred Newman, to Walt Disney's 59. Forty of Williams' Oscar nominations are for Best Original Music Score and 5 are for Best Original Song. All five winners are in the former category. (More correctly: The first Academy Award for Fiddler on the Roof was for Musical Adaptation.)

Williams has also received three Emmy Awards and five nominations, seven BAFTAs, twenty Grammy Awards, and has been inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame and the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Famemarker. In 2004 he received a Kennedy Center Honor. He also won a Classical Brit award in 2005 for his soundtrack work of the previous year.

Williams's richly thematic and highly popular 1977 score to the first Star Wars film was selected in 2005 by the American Film Institute as the greatest American movie score of all time. His scores for Jaws and E.T. also appeared on the list, at #6 and #14, respectively.

In 2003, the International Olympic Committee accorded Mr. Williams its highest individual honor, the Olympic Order.

Grammy awards

  • Jaws (1975) (Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture)
  • Star Wars (1977) (Best Pop Instrumental Performance)
  • Main Title from Star Wars (1977) (Best Instrumental Composition)
  • Star Wars (1977) (Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture)
  • Theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1978) (Best Instrumental Composition)
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1978) (Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture)
  • Main Title Theme from Superman (1979) (Best Instrumental Composition)
  • Superman (1979) (Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture)
  • The Empire Strikes Back (1980) (Best Instrumental Composition)
  • The Empire Strikes Back (1980) (Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture)
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) (Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture)
  • Flying (Theme from E.T.) (1982) (Best Instrumental Composition)
  • E.T. (1982) (Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture)
  • Flying (Theme from E.T.) (1982) (Best Arrangement on an Instrumental Recording)
  • Olympic Fanfare and Theme (1984) (Best Instrumental Composition)
  • Schindler's List (1993) (Instrumental Composition for a Motion Picture or Television)
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998) (Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television)
  • Theme from Angela's Ashes (2000) (Best Instrumental Composition)
  • Memoirs Of A Geisha (2007) (Best Score Soundtrack Album For Motion Picture, Television Or Other Visual Media)
  • "A Prayer For Peace" (Theme from Munich) (2007) (Best Instrumental Composition)
  • "The Adventures of Mutt" (from Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull) (2008) (Best Instrumental Composition)


Golden Globe Awards

  • Jaws (1975) (Best Original Score)
  • Star Wars (1977) (Best Original Score)
  • E.T. (1982) (Best Original Score)
  • Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) (Best Original Score)


Emmy Awards

  • Heidi (1968) (Outstanding Achievement in Musical Composition)
  • Jane Eyre (1971) (Outstanding Achievement in Musical Composition)
  • "Great Performances" (2009) (Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music)


Academy Award nominations (excluding wins)

  • Cinderella Liberty (1973) (Original Dramatic Score)
  • Nice to Be Around (from Cinderella Liberty) (1973) (Song)
  • The Towering Inferno (1974) (Original Score)-
  • Star Wars (1977) (Original Score)
  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) (Original Score)
  • Superman (1978) (Original Score)
  • The Empire Strikes Back (1980) (Original Score)
  • Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) (Original Score)
  • If We Were in Love (from Yes, Giorgio) (1982) (Song)
  • Return of the Jedi (1983) (Original Score)
  • Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) (Original Score)
  • The River (1984) (Original Score)
  • Empire of the Sun (1987) (Original Score)
  • The Witches of Eastwick (1987) (Original Score)
  • The Accidental Tourist (1988) (Original Score)
  • Born on the Fourth of July (1989) (Original Score)
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) (Original Score)
  • Home Alone (1990) (Original Score)
  • Somewhere in My Memory (from Home Alone) (1990) (Song)
  • When You're Alone (from Hook) (1991) (Song)
  • Nixon (1995) (Original Dramatic Score)
  • Sabrina (1995) (Original Musical or Comedy Score)
  • Moonlight (from Sabrina) (1995) (Song)
  • Sleepers (1996) (Original Dramatic Score)
  • Amistad (1997) (Original Dramatic Score)
  • Saving Private Ryan (1998) (Original Dramatic Score)
  • Angela's Ashes (1999) (Original Score)
  • The Patriot (2000) (Original Score)
  • A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) (Original Score)
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (2001) (Original Score)
  • Catch Me If You Can (2002) (Original Score)
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) (Original Score)
  • Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) (Original Score)
  • Munich (2005) (Original Score)


Pop culture references

  • In the Family Guy episode "Brian Does Hollywood," John Williams is presented as a nominee for Best Musical Score in the fictional Adult Movie Awards. Unlike the other nominees, who are shown wearing headphones and using electronic instruments to record their music, he is shown conducting a 48-piece orchestra.
  • John Williams was seen calling Daniel Negreanu's $100,000 challenge in a promotional video for PokerStars.
  • In the Family Guy sixth season opener "Blue Harvest" (the working title of Return of the Jedi), John Williams is seen conducting the London Symphony Orchestra, performing "Binary Sunset" from Star Wars, as well as the theme for The People's Court. Later, "Luke" (played by Chris) finds the charred remains of Williams and the orchestra at his burning homestead and laments that the rest of the show will have to be scored by Danny Elfman, whom he immediately beheads with his lightsaber.
  • In the 1995 Simpsons episode "The Springfield Connection," Homer complains about a Springfield Pops performance of music from Star Wars by exclaiming, "They're butchering the classics! John Williams must be rolling around in his grave."
  • In the Roy Zimmerman song "Guns In Space," John Williams is mentioned in the line "or they just do not like a war for which John Williams does the score."


See also



References

  1. John Williams' Awards at www.IMDb.com (accessed July 9, 2007)
  2. Official Academy Awards Database at www.oscars.org (accessed 2007-09-29)
  3. Sony Classical Williams Biography at www.sonybmgmasterworks.com (accessed 2007-09-29)
  4. Films & Filming, vol.24, 1977, p.32
  5. Tribute to John Williams, ca. 1991.
  6. John Williams Biography at FilmReference.com.
  7. Marooned credits (unaired pilot, 16 October 1962)
  8. "David Heyman on Possible Return of John Williams to Score Deathly Hallows Films" at www.the-leaky-cauldron.org (accessed 14 July 2009)
  9. John Eggerton, "Are You Ready For Some Gridiron Violins?"in Broadcasting & Cable, 30 August 2006.
  10. http://www.afi.com/tvevents/100years/scores.aspx AFI 100 Years of Film Scores,


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