I Lament. John Williams is Old.

This has nothing at all to do with writing, but it’s something that’s been on my mind lately.  If you don’t know who John Williams is you’d better hurry and Google his name before I send a zombie ninja fairy after you.  Yes, I mean that John Williams.  That one!

John WilliamsA couple years ago, upon facing the reality that my favorite movie composer of all time was getting on in years, I decided to head out to Boston to see him conduct the Boston Pops Orchestra playing his music.

He used to lead the Boston Pops regularly (from 1979-1995), so I thought it only fitting to see him in concert in Boston with his Pops.

It was probably one of the greatest fangirl moments of my life.  I saw John Williams in person.  I listened to the actual orchestra playing his music.  And of course they had screens showing clips from the film scores he conducted throughout the night.

For those less familiar with John Williams, he is best known for scoring the Star Wars saga, but it’s likely if it’s a well-known movie soundtrack or pretty much anything Stephen Spielberg has directed (all but two) it’s a John Williams score.

John Williams

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love James Horner, James Newton Howard, Hans Zimmer, Alan Silvestri, Thomas Newman, and especially Danny Elfman—but there’s just no one quite like John.  In the immortal words of Brad Roberts, “Sometimes I despair the world will never see another man like him.”

The last soundtrack I truly loved from John Williams was for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.  This is just my own personal opinion, but it doesn’t seem like since then there have been many great soundtracks—this may be due to not so many great films coming out in the last several years.  That’s not to say that there aren’t any, just that movies aren’t what they were in the ’80s and ’90s.

Lately I’ve been listening to John Williams soundtracks, and that’s what got me thinking about it.  Ever since Prisoner of Azkaban I’ve wondered if there will really be anything that affects me the way John Williams scores have.


Michael GiacchinoAll right, he’s no John Williams—at least not yet.  If you haven’t heard of Michael Giacchino, you’re forgiven.  I hadn’t taken notice of him either until a movie called Speed Racer that restored my faith in movie soundtracks.  You may not love the movie Speed Racer (foolish you) but it’s got a killer soundtrack hands down.  His philosophy is to make the old music new.  Which means if it’s a renewal of a franchise (like Speed Racer or Star Trek) you can count on him not excluding what’s already been done and at the same time making it his own.

Take one of my favorite pieces from the Speed Racer soundtrack.  Called Racing’s in Our Blood, if you’re familiar at all with the original Speed Racer theme, this is basically a slowed down more emotional version of the same thing.

Something I always loved about John Williams is he made a memorable theme for the movies he scored that he stuck in the soundtrack in various ways, molded for each part like the perfectly tailored piece of clothing.

Michael Giacchino isn’t far from doing the same thing.  I especially noticed this in the Star Trek soundtrack.  If you want to check out his further works, they include: The Incredibles, MI:3, Ratatouille, Up, Super 8, Cars 2, MI:4 and coming soon Star Trek 2 (IMDB is calling it Star Trek Into Darkness…?)

Super 8, by the way, is kind of an homage to Stephen Spielberg and John Williams, another reason I’m digging Giacchino.

All right Mr. Giacchino, high hopes.  Don’t disappoint us.  I’m also still hoping we get a couple more really phenomenal soundtracks out of John.  Maybe Lincoln will be one of them.

Do you have a favorite movie soundtrack?  I’m talking score here, not popular songs that are in a movie.  Who’s your favorite composer if you have one?

And for those new to having any sort of familiarity with movie soundtracks…  Aside from John Williams, here are some of my favorite pieces from the other great movie composers of our time:

James Horner
Too Many Secrets from Sneakers
Zorro’s Theme from The Mask of Zorro

James Newton Howard
Main Theme from The Sixth Sense
Main Theme from Signs
Macrotus from Batman Begins (both Howard and Zimmer on this one)

Hans Zimmer
The Dream is Collapsing from Inception
Discombobulate from Sherlock Holmes

Alan Silvestri
Main Suite from Back to the Future
Main Theme from Forrest Gump

Thomas Newman
VFD & Resilience from A Series of Unfortunate Events

Danny Elfman
Main Theme from Batman
Main Theme from The Simpsons (did you know that?)
This is Halloween from The Nightmare Before Christmas
Breakfast Machine from PeeWee’s Big Adventure
Main Theme from Spider-Man (okay, I’ll stop here, love this guy too)

Oh, and because I started with John Williams, I feel I should end with John Williams—but we can always do it with some pizzazz.  As the video states, John Williams is the Man! (Also, if the opening annoys you, skip to :30 in, that’s where it really starts.)


3 thoughts on “I Lament. John Williams is Old.

  1. I like how Danny Elfman can think outside the box. His scores always seem like a breath of fresh air and you can often pick out one of his scores right away. Hans Zimmer on the other hand does beautiful, more traditional sounding, work. Two different ends of the spectrum in my opinion, and I love both of their work. The movie score is something of a dying animal. If you think back to movies from the fifties, they often began with an overature and had a musical interlude somewhere in the middle. We can even go back further to silent movies where the emotion of the actors was mostly played out through the musical accompaniment. Older cartoons like Tom and Jerry pop into my head too. The music was just as much a part of the movie experience as the actors and script. Nowadays we’re lucky to even notice the movie score through all the explosions and breaking glass. I don’t think movie scores will ever die completely, but the number of composers who get it right seems to be on the decline. We’ll see what the future holds.

    • I’m glad I’m not the only one noticing the decline in quality of movies. It seems like 20 years ago even mediocre movies had decent scores, and now… Which is why I loathe the idea that the end all be all for a book is having it made into a movie. I’m not saying it wouldn’t be cool to have a book I wrote made into a movie, just that it’s not what I aspire for writing it in the first place.

  2. I just want to say that John Williams is a LEGEND! He’s definitely one of my favourite film composers ever, alongside Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard. I wish more films had the epic scores of these composers, because they really do make a difference to films and are just completely awesome 😉

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