Yesterday I saw the Seattle Symphony perform a Pops concert titled “The Movie Music of John Williams.” Being a science fiction fan, I knew many of the movies well: Superman, Jurassic Park, Jaws, E.T., Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars. I was in heaven. Who cared the Seattle Seahawks were playing nearby?
The Conductor talked a bit about each composition, and explained a movie theme evolves through conversations between the filmmaker and the composer. On the suggestion of the conductor, I focused on the feeling imparted by the music as I reflected on the plot of each movie. The writer in me recognized a lot of foreshadowing and definition of characters. For example, the Superman theme was upbeat and heroic. Indiana Jones conveyed adventure and romance. Actually, a lot of the music had an epic/heroic feel–Williams used some common structures in the different compositions.
The Casablanca Suite (composed by Max Steiner) even suggested the Moroccan setting. I imagine that would be a bit tougher with Star Wars. What musical phrasing would suggest an alien planet like Tattooine?
Interestingly, the Jurassic Park theme created an image of a magnificent park full of amazing dinosaurs, but gave no hint the magnificence would eat anyone. I wonder if Spielberg told Williams not to reveal that part of the movie?
The conductor also had some fun speculating about early Spielberg-Williams conversations on the Jaws theme.
Spielberg: So how’s the theme coming?
Williams: Well, I’ve got this so far. [plays the single bass note which starts the infamous DUH-duh-DUH-duh]
I couldn’t help it. I found myself imagining Spielberg responding, “We’re gonna need a bigger note.” My husband had no clue why I was giggling.
At the end of the evening, I indulged my inner geek and had my picture taken with some denizens of the lobby. It was MAHvelous to immerse myself in music and stories I love and forget all about lung cancer for a few hours.