The Sound of Imagination: The Music of John Williams

Music can be intensely personal in a way other mediums can’t. Every girl has their formative boy band as a preteen, for instance, or a band that defines a certain period in their lives. For me, movies have been one of my favorite things, so film scores make up a big part of my musical experience. One legendary film composer is also one of my favorites: John Williams. Through his vast and stunning body of work, John Williams has impacted the very fabric of popular culture.

Born in 1932 in New York, John Williams’ musical talent showed itself early on. He began composing in his teens. He attended UCLA and Julliard at different times, then worked in studio orchestras playing piano. He arranged music and finally moved into composing scores for television and then film, all while marrying actress and singer Barbara Ruick and having three kids. His compositions for the small and big screens began in the late 1950’s and early ‘60’s and they haven’t stopped since.

However, it isn’t just the sheer volume of Williams’ work that is significant. If you asked anyone to hum a film score, chances are high you would hear his work. This is because of the blockbuster level of most of his films. He is the favored composer of directors Steven Spielberg and George Lucas (that means not only Jaws but Star Wars AND Indiana Jones), and he scored the first three films in the Harry Potter franchise. Films that big take on a life of their own outside of theaters and that includes the music. What I love most about Williams’ compositions is they fit so perfectly with the world of each story, they feel like they were just out there waiting for that exact film. The music is that organic to the whole experience of watching the movie.

Obviously, Williams has also worked on other sized projects during his career. He did some episodes of the Lost in Space television series, he’s worked with Oliver Stone and was the composer for Alfred Hitchcock’s final film, Family Plot. I’d like to single out one of Williams’ early films (which credits him as Johnny Williams!) for praise: 1966’s How to Steal a Million. Starring Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole, this is a fun heist-romance film. The score is suitably upbeat, with jazzy tones. Clearly, this man is creating the art he was meant to—318 various awards nominations and 181 wins (including 5 Oscars) attest to that.

Popular culture itself would not be the same without the music of John Williams. As a film composer, he is unparalleled. His career continues with Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and I’m sure beyond that into the future. A film fan like me loves being transported into another world, and music is an integral part of how that happens. John Williams is responsible for more than his fair share of evoking moviegoers’ imaginations, and I just want to say: Thank you, sir.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Rachel Sexton lives in Ohio with her dog Lily. Her favorite things are movies and books, and her hobby is editing fan videos.

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