21 Songs, 1 Hour 15 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

John Williams' music for Steven Spielberg's innocence-drenched 1982 blockbuster (it went unchallenged as all-time box office champ until Titanic) won him his third Best Original Score Oscar. But it also seemed to mark the point where the critical backlash against the composer began — hardly surprising, given his world-beating string of contemporary hits in service of Spielberg and George Lucas. But comparing the alternately effervescent and introspective adolescent emotions Williams successfully evokes here to the thunder of his Star Wars and Indiana Jones scores is a ludicrous exercise — even if his cues here are rooted in similar 20th century Russian romanticism. It's music that tugs unashamedly at the heartstrings, just as its filmmakers intended, with the closing arc of "Escape/Chase/Saying Goodbye" showcasing Williams' emotional writing at its pinnacle. Spielberg often termed ET a loose sequel to his previous alien-themed Close Encounters of the Third Kind; his composer responded with a score that could as well be a second, more nakedly romantic movement to his CE3K soundtrack.

EDITORS’ NOTES

John Williams' music for Steven Spielberg's innocence-drenched 1982 blockbuster (it went unchallenged as all-time box office champ until Titanic) won him his third Best Original Score Oscar. But it also seemed to mark the point where the critical backlash against the composer began — hardly surprising, given his world-beating string of contemporary hits in service of Spielberg and George Lucas. But comparing the alternately effervescent and introspective adolescent emotions Williams successfully evokes here to the thunder of his Star Wars and Indiana Jones scores is a ludicrous exercise — even if his cues here are rooted in similar 20th century Russian romanticism. It's music that tugs unashamedly at the heartstrings, just as its filmmakers intended, with the closing arc of "Escape/Chase/Saying Goodbye" showcasing Williams' emotional writing at its pinnacle. Spielberg often termed ET a loose sequel to his previous alien-themed Close Encounters of the Third Kind; his composer responded with a score that could as well be a second, more nakedly romantic movement to his CE3K soundtrack.

TITLE TIME

About John Williams

You can hum a John Williams theme the minute you leave the movie theater, and you'll probably still be humming it decades later. Case in point: It took just two menacing notes for the legendary New York–born composer to help launch the blockbuster era with his suspenseful score for Jaws—and kick off a subsequent decades-long partnership with its director, Steven Spielberg. But it was the majestic fanfare he penned for Star Wars two years later that really introduced his richly musical but instantly catchy style. Reviving the grandeur of classic Hollywood orchestras, Williams evoked wonder with an intensity to rival any mind-blowing visual effect, while also infusing all that slam-bang-pow onscreen action with surprisingly poignant emotion. He added the perfect swell of tear-inducing strings during E.T.'s indelible farewell scene, coaxed the exotic thrills of classic Saturday matinee serials with his swashbuckling cues for the Indiana Jones series, and engendered a palpable sense of play and adventure in the early Harry Potter films. While his influence still dominates today's superhero epics and intergalactic adventures, Williams has also tackled stories plucked from history's most harrowing chapters, bringing the appropriate gravitas to the unimaginable horror of the Holocaust (Schindler's List) or the political turmoil of the Civil War (Lincoln).

HOMETOWN
Flushing, NY
BORN
February 8, 1932

Songs

Albums

Videos

Listeners Also Played