‘Williams Answers Spielberg’s Call For Music’ (1983)


By George McKinnon, Globe Staff – 05/13/1983 

It looked like Pops Goes To Africa in Symphony Hall yesterday afternoon what with exotic African instruments crowding the stage and the members of the Tanglewood chorus chanting in a strange tongue.

The reason was that Pops conductor John Williams received a call earlier this week from Steven Spielberg, who’s directing the film, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (sequel to Raiders of the Lost Ark) in England and needed at once five minutes of music for the soundtrack.

Williams, who will do the score when the film is completed, immediately set about composing the music for what Spielberg called the “sacrifice scene.” Williams called the work “Sanskrit Sacrifice.”

Yesterday afternoon 10 members of the Pops percussion and tympani section and 30 members of the Tanglewood chorus gathered on stage for the recording, and a courier waited in the wings to rush the tape to Logan and a flight to London. Spielberg said it was essential that he receive this bit of music posthaste because he needed it to film the sequence.

The movie director had hired a London Sanskrit scholar to write the chant and the Sanskrit lyrics were flown to Boston. Obviously none of the chorus knew Sanskrit, so the chanting was done phonetically.

In order to make the music as authentic as possible, Williams got in touch with Joe Galeoto, a teacher at Berklee College of Music, who has an extensive collection of African musical instruments. The Pops members drummed away on such instruments as an African log drum, a prempensua, bolia and dondos, all drums; and a jyle, a sort of xylophone.

And last night when the Pops audience filed in, the “Sanskrit Sacrifice” was high over the Atlantic bound for London.