Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Archive for John Williams

Dr. Bob Prescribes John Williams

We have some heavy preliminaries to discuss, starting with the differences between European film music and the classic Hollywood symphonic film score (of which Williams is its greatest contemporary exponent); the relationship between Williams’ scores and the music of Richard Wagner (1813-1883); the derivative nature inherent to the vast majority of film music (including Williams’); and the criticism levelled at film music and film composers by the “traditional” musical establishment. Generally but accurately speaking, European film music is discontinuous: there will be long swatches of time during which there is no music at all, particularly during dialogue. (On these lines, according to the great Italian film composer Ennio Morricone – 1928-2020 – who composed over 400 film and television scores, including those for Sergio Leone’s “Spaghetti Westerns”: “Our hearing, and therefore our brains, cannot listen [to] and understand more sounds of a different nature simultaneously. We will never understand four people speaking at the same time. It is absolutely necessary, if the director wants to consider music in the right way, to isolate music and give the audience the time to listen to it in the best way.”) Generally but accurately speaking, then, European film music is not synchronized with […]

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Music History Monday: John Williams

We celebrate the birth on February 8, 1932 – 89 years ago today – of the American composer, conductor, pianist and trombonist John Towner Williams, in the neighborhood of Flushing, in the New York City borough of Queens. Williams must be regarded as among the greatest film composers of all time and is without a doubt the most successful in terms of awards garnered and dollars earned. Let’s do the numbers, if only to get them out of the way. To date, John Williams has created the scores for 8 of the 25 highest grossing films in American box office history. His 115(!) film scores include those for: The Reivers (1969) The Poseidon Adventure (1972) The Long Goodbye (1973) The Paper Chase (1973) Earthquake (1974) The Towering Inferno (1974) The Eiger Sanction (1975) Jaws (1975) The Missouri Breaks (1976) Midway (1976) Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) E. T. the Extra Terrestrial (1982) The Witches of Eastwick (1987) Empire of the Sun (1987) Born on the Fourth of July (1989) Hook (1991) JFK (1991) Schindler’s List (1993) Sabrina (1995) Seven Years in Tibet (1997) Amistad (1997) Saving Private Ryan (1998) Angela’s Ashes (1999) Minority Report (2002) The Terminal (2004) […]

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