Personalities | John (Towner) Williams | Contemporary | Classical

b. 1932
American composer

Early work as a studio pianist in Hollywood led to pockets of work in the 1960s. During the 1970s, he produced music for a number of films including The Towering Inferno (1974). Following collaborations with Steven Spielberg in the mid-1970s, Williams wrote music to Star Wars (1977). Stylistically, he adopts the romantic breadth of composers such as Gustav Holst (1874–1934) and Richard Strauss (1864–1949), but is able to make use of avant-garde techniques (for instance, for the velociraptor music in Jurassic Park, 1993) when they are called for. In addition to scores of a more reflective nature, such as Schindler’s List (1994) and Saving Private Ryan (1999), Williams has written a number of chamber and orchestral works, including 15 concertos. But it is in the dramatic mainstream that he has proved most successful, as the continued popularity of the Star Wars soundtracks testify.

Recommended Recording:
TreeSong, Violin Concerto, Three Pieces from Schindler’s List, Gil Shaham, Boston SO (cond) John Williams (Deutsche Grammophon)

Sounds Familiar

Star Wars
By associating characters with clear themes, John Williams was able to give his music an active role across the Star Wars series of films. Parts of Anakin’s theme, for instance, are clearly drawn from that of Darth Vader. Such recognizability allows Williams to change the mood of a theme without losing its identity.

Introduction | Contemporary | Classical
Personalities | Iannis Xenakis | Contemporary | Classical


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