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Various JW Articles

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This is a collection of all the rare and not so rare Richard Dyer / Boston Globe articles i could aquire over the years. In it JW often talks about the score he worked/works on at the time of the article. This would be great to be added to the corresponding filmography sections as a bonus.

This is a work in progress topic. If you have any other JW articles please post them here and i will add them to the main post!

1980

JW is new Pops Maestro - Richard Dyer 1980

JOHN WILLIAMS IS NEW POPS MAESTRO

A MUSICIAN'S MUSICIAN By Richard Dyer Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, January 11th, 1980

John Williams of Los Angeles, composer of film music and winner of three Academy Awards, has been chosen to succeed the late Arthur Fiedler as conductor of the Boston Pops. The announcement was made simultaneously in Boston and London yesterday by the management of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Williams, 47, who is in London for a recording commitment, said: "For a musician to be asked to stand in front of them (members of the Boston Symphony who make up the Pops orchestra) is the greatest honor anyone in the profession could have."

LONDON - The management and trustees of the Boston Pops have had their hands full, solving the problem of the Future of the Pops, finding someone to Fill Arthur Fiedler's Shoes, answering, in short, The Maiden's Prayer.

And now they have John Williams.

If you look at this decision in one way, it might seem a longshot: What the management of the Pops has done is follow the most famous, most public conductor in the world with someone who has relatively little experience and reputation as a conductor of public concerts. Although he has appeared with half a dozen leading American orchestras, including the Boston Pops, John Williams has made his unrivaled reputation in several other fields of the music business.

But Andre Previn, Williams' friend and colleague for more than two decades, warns against worrying along these lines. Reached in Berlin shortly before he was to conduct a concert of the Berlin Philharmonic, Previn said: "Anybody who thinks John Williams is just a Hollywood musician' is completely wrong. He is such a good musician, so thorough, so completely schooled. John is damned fortunate at this stage of his career that the job at the Pops should be open.

"As I said to him recently, Why do you want to spend the rest of your life in a frightening goddamn city like Los Angeles? You've got nothing left to prove out there.' At the same time the Pops is lucky that John is available. He is a first-class pianist, and he knows a terrific amount of music. Furthermore, he knows the orchestra from the point of view of the man with the pencil, and that means intimately. He can make superlative arrangements of pop materials, and he can edit, fix, handle anything that comes up in someone else's arrangement, make it better, and all in a matter of minutes. That's quite rare among conductors. Did I say rare? That's being polite. It's unique.

"He is also a very efficient conductor; the players of the London Symphony Orchestra, who have recorded several film scores with him, are full of admiration. They say there's no nonsense about him, that he knows what he wants and he knows how to get it."

John Williams has a background that is every bit as varied as Arthur Fiedler's was 50 years ago - and it is important to remember that Fiedler's selection was a longshot too - and he has amassed impressive credentials in several areas of music.

Born in New York in 1932, Williams studied music both at UCLA and at the Juilliard School in New York, where he was a piano pupil of the dreaded Russian pedagogue, Mme. Rosina Lhevinne, who produced some of the greatest keyboard virtuosos of our day (and at least one great conductor, James Levine). In these same years, Williams was beginning his activity as a composer; composition was his second major, and at 19, he wrote a piano sonata.

His keyboard facility was what led him into his career in the movies. During his New York years, he was active as a jazz pianist, often working with the leading musicians of the day both in clubs and on recordings (Williams' First Symphony contains a musical tribute to Eric Dolphy). After Juilliard, Williams returned to California because his family was there, and he went to work almost immediately in the film studios: He was the pianist for such famous musical films as "South Pacific" and "West Side Story," and he worked for giants of the film music business like Alfred Newman and Jerry Goldsmith. He made arrangements for pop singers like Vic Damone. This, in turn, led to writing music for television during its so-called Golden Age (programs like Kraft Theater and Playhouse 90), and, in time, for the movies.

Williams has served as composer, or musical director, for more than 50 films, big commercial exercises like "Fiddler on the Roof," "Goodbye, Mr. Chips," "Diamond Head," as well as smaller, unpretentious, and artistic films like the Faulkner picture, "The Reivers," Robert Altman's "Images." His own favorite score, he said a few years ago, was the romantic one he wrote for the television film of "Jane Eyre."

"Johnny served a tough apprenticeship," recalled his longtime friend Lionel Newman (Newman is vice president for music at Twentieth Century-Fox). "He did cops-and-robbers movies, writing Fender-bass things with bongos. It didn't take him long to grow out of that. Now he writes for films the way one would write an opera; he develops the characters dramatically through the music he writes. What he does enhances the film; he doesn't just write musical sequences, the way so many others do. Furthermore, he has taught us to use the full orchestra; in the old days, 50-60 men on a picture was considered a large orchestra - now, because of him, you can't think of a big movie without thinking of using a full symphony orchestra. He is a tremendous conductor; he knows how to rehearse thoroughly and carefully, and well within the time limits a budget imposes. But his biggest contribution may have been to make people aware of the importance of music to films; his work has stimulated the use of music in films."

The music Williams wrote for "Jaws" represented movement onto a new plateau of commercial success after nearly 20 hard-working years in the business. Steven Spielberg was so impressed with his work on that film that he recommended him to George Lucas who was making "Star Wars," the picture that

put moods and melodies by John Williams into the minds of millions of people around the world. The "Star Wars" soundtrack album sold more than 4 million copies, which was the largest sale of any soundtrack album, and indeed of any nonpop album, in history.

Since then, Williams has consolidated his position, moving from success to success, with "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "Superman," and "Dracula." It is safe to say that Williams is now the most sought-after composer of film music in the world. He has three Oscars, two Emmys and he has been nominated 13 times for an Academy Award.

In his "spare time," Williams has been active writing concert music. His "Essay for Strings," commissioned by the Rockefeller Foundation, has been extensively played by American university symphony orchestras; the work for symphonic bands that he wrote for the 50th anniversary of the Eastman School of Music has been recorded. Andre Previn conducted his First Symphony in Houston and in London, and this summer will conduct the Flute Concerto both in London and in Pittsburgh. The Violin Concerto - "an absolutely wonderful piece," Previn says - will be heard in St. Louis next year with Mark Piskunov, and Henryk Szering reportedly plans to take it into his repertory.

Previn did not want to talk about Williams' role in terms of film music - "He seems to have done endless films, and he writes them very well" - but stressed the quality of his concert works. "I have nothing but admiration for him. The way John writes when he writes for himself has nothing to do with his film music - except that in all the music he writes, he is an absolutely superb orchestrator."

It is obvious that Williams has much to gain from his new connection with the Pops. If he wants to be a public figure, he is a major one, starting yesterday - the music director of the Boston Pops automatically becomes one of the most famous musicians in the world, and one of the most sought-after as a guest.

His new position will bring him an opportunity to interpret some of the masterpieces of the standard repertory, music that he has known intimately

from the vantage point of the composer; he can also bring his own works forward, as well as exploring byways that interest him. Ultimately, the music director of the Boston Pops has a lot to do with the formation of musical taste in America.

It is equally obvious that the Pops has a lot to gain from its connection with Williams - and not just in the potential revenue from "Star Wars" concerts. Now it has a music director who can make his own arrangements for the popular part of the program at the highest level of professional skill that exists today. It has a music director who is commercially viable to the recording companies (and the Pops has not had a really satisfactory recording arrangement in years). It has somebody who will "look good" on television, and who has the kind of modest wit that will perhaps make him an attractive public personality. There is even, who knows, the possibility that Williams can get the Pops into the lucrative world of recording for films. The London Symphony Orchestra is one of the great musical ensembles in the world, and its work recording Williams' scores for the movies has substantially subsidized some of its more serious activities.

Many questions will remain unanswered even after that first Williams concert with the Pops scheduled for Carnegie Hall Jan. 22. How willing will Williams be to give his full energies to what is a full-time job? His friends have the utmost confidence in him, but there will be a lot of "woodshedding" to do - "it is one thing to know the music, another to perform it," says Newman.

"Johnny may have to learn more about showmanship - he is a very reserved, very private person. But there is nothing he cannot develop into - I know because I have seen him do it." And there is always the problem of standing in the shadow of Arthur Fiedler's image. "I have warned him that the danger could be in trying to imitate the Fiedler formula for success too closely," Previn says. "I told him he would be a fool to imitate the Old Man; Arthur Fiedler was something unique."

The best thing for the Pops' vast public to do is to wait 50 years to see if Williams has solved the problem of The Future of the Pops, if he has Filled Arthur Fiedler's Shoes, if he has answered The Maiden's Prayer. For the moment, all we need to know is that there is a real musician in charge of the Pops, a superbly equipped musician with an ear, a mind and a heart.

JW passes Test with flying Colors - Richard Dyer - 1980

WILLIAMS PASSES TESTS WITH FLYING COLORS By Richard Dyer Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, January 24th, 1980

It didn't look like a Pop's concert, not outside Carnegie Hall, where the cold drizzle was falling on the "Sold Out" sign, not indoors, where there were no tables, no decorations amid the white, crimson and gold interior, no bustling waitresses, no cheese tray, no ham sandwiches, and no Pops' Punch.

Only the program in your hand and the blue-blazered men and women filing onto the stage told you where you were and what you were doing. One of those men, incidentally, was John Barwicki, who has been playing in the Boston Pops since before the time of Arthur Fiedler.

The concert had been sold out for two weeks; the type in the program had been set, and the only way to announce this special occasion was to put a box in the middle of all the white space to tell the crowd that on Jan. 10 John Williams was appointed the 19th conductor of Boston Pops. This, officially, then was among his last appearances as a guest conductor - but it was something special and more than that.

John Williams was on the spot. In press conferences in London and in Boston, he had already demonstrated that he knew all the right things to say; in a rehearsal in Symphony Hall yesterday, he had demonstrated to the orchestra that he knew his business; now it was up to him to demonstrate to the public that he knew how to get across to them.

Important people had been squeezed into the "Sold Out" house - the power brokers of the National Music Management; members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) board; the orchestra's music director Seiji Ozawa; Johanna Fiedler, the daughter of Arthur Fiedler, conductor of the Pops for a legendary 50-year tenure; Samantha Winslow, Williams' fiancee; and a large deputation of the press, newspapers, televisions, and radio (Gene Shalit was checking Williams out for this morning's appearance on the Today Show).

But Williams, when he bounded out onto the stage at 8:07 p.m. immediately demonstrated that his concern was with the whole audience, and not with just the important guests. Thousands were there who had bought their tickets before they knew this was going to be a historic occasion, thousands who represent the millions who form the audience of the Pops, thousands of people there because they like to have a good time with music.

The evening tested the Pops' new conductor in three ways, as a program builder, a composer, and a conductor - and he passed all three tests with flying colors.

The program began with his own spirited Coplandesque "Cowboys" overture, a work drawn from the score William's wrote seven years ago for a John Wayne film. As it began, William's had his hand on his hip, and for all the fact that he was in a conductor's penguin suit, he looked for all the world like The Duke about to push open the saloon doors. Within moments however, he was showing himself as a real musician, spiritedly and expansively guiding the music to its destination.

Nothing could have been a greater contrast to this than the Faure "Pavane" that followed, in which Williams insisted on a classical rubatto, the pizzicatto accompaniment absolutely even, while the Pops' solo wind and massed strings floated their expressive melody over it.

Then came concert master Emanuel Borok's fire-and-brimstone performance of Saint-Saens's Violin Concerto. This is not a standard work Williams can have known since childhood; nothing in Isaac Stern's recording can have prepared him for the chances Borok was going to take, the fullness of personal expression he was going to bring to it. But Williams was there all the way, glorying with his soloist in that open-throated G-string, catching every shift, mood and tempo, giving specific directions to the orchestra every measure of the way.

At intermission, Borok was sweaty but happy. "I like this. He is famous and talented - and a nice guy too. It's too much."

In the meantime Ozawa had taken Johanna Fiedler for a drink in the Carnegie Bar. "It's the first time in 15 years I come through the front door," Ozawa said with a laugh. Solicitous of Johanna Fiedler's feelings - "Is a very difficult night for her" - he didn't talk much about the concert but he looked like a happy man. "It's a good start," he said, and she smiled in agreement.

Williams devoted the second half of the concert to music from the movies, to a suite from Frederick Loewe's "Gigi," and to excerpts from three of his own film scores, "Superman," "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," and, assuredly, "Star Wars." His own music showed up the conventionality of the arrangements of Loewe's work, but Williams treated everything with dignity and respect, even when climax was piling upon climax, and the suite of the orchestral writing was capitalizing on the whole history of music. Surely the idiom of Penderecki can never have been heard at Pops concert before Williams wrote his "Close Encounters," which modulates into all the tenderness, sweetened by the celeste, of the end of "Der Rosenkavalier."

The playing in everything was better than anybody could have possibly expected, given the limits of rehearsal, and Williams was wonderful to look at - particularly delightful in "I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore," a song from "Gigi" in which his body bobbed up and down with the pizzicatto. With all of this, who needed the Silver Screen? At the end there were two encores, a stirring and witty march from the score Williams wrote for "1941," and Gershwin's "Strike Up the Band." But of course by then the band had already been struck up, and wonderfully, for nearly two hours.

Backstage, a sweaty yellow towel, tossed at BSO assistant manager Gideon Toeplitz, was a signal from Williams that he was on his way up to his dressing room.

Within a few moments he was dapper in a blue suit and tie and ready to greet his fans. The first of them burst into the room and said, "A star is born!" Williams just said he felt great. His fiancee, perched on a table next to a recently popped bottle of Piper Hiedsick, said her fingers hurt from putting in and pulling out William's shirt staves. "Some things are going to have to change around here," she said.

Not many, one hoped. It didn't look like a Pops Concert, no, it didn't. But Williams made it feel like one - because he made it sound like one.

QA with John Williams - Richard Dyer - 1980

Q & A WITH JOHN WILLIAMS

POPS' CONDUCTOR TALKS ABOUT HIS NEW BEAT By Richard Dyer.

The Boston Globe, April 27th, 1980

John Williams, the new conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, came to lunch at The Globe a week ago. He didn't get much chance to eat because editors and reporters badgered him with questions. He responded to everything as fully and patiently and carefully as he could, always looking his questioner in the eye. Here are some of the questions and answers, as transcribed and edited by Globe music critic

Q. Why would anyone give up everything you've given up to come to a town like Boston and a place like the Pops?

A. I don't feel I've given up anything; instead I have added something new and exciting to my life. I do plan to continue writing film music: visibility in that area is important to me, and it could be important, in an oblique way, to the Pops. Of necessity I will have to do fewer films. But in the last 20 years I have done about 60 pictures, and it will feel good to take a breather from that. In any case, I am more a musician than a man of Hollywood, and the attraction of this new position is the orchestra itself. After all, this is one of the great ensembles of the world, and any musician would find the opportunity to work with them every day irresistible.

Q. What sort of changes do you envision for the Pops?

A. Arthur Fiedler's tripartite program is a terrific format - the configuration of an opening section of older classical music, a middle section featuring some kind of concerto soloist, and a final third of pop music. The most noticeable changes will be in the third part; we've got to try to update the Pops library, to add some new pieces. On our opening show next Tuesday night we have a marvelous new bit that I'm already very proud of.

Stephen Sondheim looms very large in the history of our theater in the last 10 years, but I was shocked to realize that none of his work, apart from an odd few arrangements of "Send in the Clowns' is available for orchestra. So we got Jonathan Tunick, who of the new generation of orchestrators seems to me the very best, to prepare a medley from "A Little Night Music." This gives you an idea of the kind of things we can do; we need to take the best of the music that is around and put it into shape for orchestral performance.

The first third of the program, too, will see some changes. In May we will be playing more than 60 numbers in the first part of the evening, and of them approximately 35 percent are things the orchestra hasn't seen before, at least in this context. That's good, I think: It keeps the interest of the players up, piques the interest of the audience. And for the orchestra's centennial, we have commissioned a festive overture from John Corigliano, who is a wonderfully talented young composer. I'd like to have one or two pieces like that every year, pieces that can take their place alongside Bernstein's "Candide" overture as a permanent part of the Pops repertory.

But for all this kind of change, the word I keep using is "continuity." The Pops is a great institution, a great forum. Over the years the public came to think of Arthur Fiedler as a beautiful old gentleman, but in fact for him change was what the Pops was all about. Within Fiedler's format, we are going to try to introduce a healthy amount of change, for the future of the Pops in the next decade largely depends on the kinds of changes we can make now.

Q. Will you be composing for the Pops?

A. Of course. On our first program next Tuesday night we will have "The Reivers." Burgess Meredith will read passages from Faulkner's novel along with my musical triptych. The central part of that is derived from the thematic material of the score I wrote for the film, but the outer panels are new. You know, the only time I ever actually spoke to Arthur Fiedler was when he rang me up last year and asked me to write a "brilliant 5-minute march" for his 50th anniversary concert. I had film commitments then, and I couldn't do it. But I want to do it now.

Q. In addition to the musical changes, do you plan to alter the visual presentation for the television audience?

A. I hope so. TV is very important to musical presentation. Arthur Fiedler is the best example I know of a person who was in the best sense of the word a

popularizer, and in the last few years he did that by reaching millions through television. The challenge is to do more than to show the conductor waving his hands and the closeup of the clarinetist moving his fingers during his solo bit. The Pops has a good television producer in Bill Cosel, who is a creative young fellow with wonderful ideas. Given our restrictions of time and budget, he wants to take the Pops out of the hall, to experiment with sound- over exterior work that will be artful, to do special visual things that will contribute to the ambience, the mood, of each particular piece. One of the things I want to do for next year is to arrange a Christmas show with Perry Como. He has been all over the world, but I don't remember him doing a Grandma Moses kind of American Christmas. Boston is the place to do that, and the Pops the orchestra to do it with.

Q. How do the members of the orchestra feel about playing Pops material?

A. A symphony orchestra, like everything else, is made up of individuals, and some have more liberal views than others. Most of the people I know these days understand the value of the Beatles and they are able to evaluate their talent, which was considerable. No musician who knows anything can put down Cole Porter - the turns of phrase that he spun out are as good as anything in music. Most of the younger brass and wind players coming out of the conservatories these days can bridge any gap - most of them know about pop music, most of them have played in pop bands. There is not as much snobbism as there used to be. Brass players, and percussion players, in any case tend to enjoy the Pops; they will sit around for two and a half movements of a Beethoven symphony before they are able to play anything. And here they blow the whole show.

Q. Aren't some of today's pop idioms completely incompatible with the sound of the symphony orchestra?

A. Well, there are some things that shouldn't be tried. A symphony orchestra is never going to swing the way a jazz band does, it is never going to rock the way a rock band does. In arranging music for the Pops it is important not to ask musicians to do something they shouldn't do, and that they can not do. As an instrument, the symphony orchestra is one of the greatest inventions of man's mind. And as it has evolved for the last 200 years, it has become capable of a tremendous range of expression. But turned- on, amplified sound is not one of them. I do think, though, that there are some rock musicians today who have had good conservatory training, and some of those people may be capable of making a nice fusion of the rock-pop thing and the orchestra. I keep talking about Keith Emerson's piano concerto, which is a very creditable work; he is the kind of person who might be able to bring these things together.

Q. What about the arrangements that are already in the Pops library that sound dated today? Is there anything you can do about them?

A. Some of our greatest composers were song writers who were not orchestrators in the way that the great classical composers were. Their work has come to us through the work of an outside orchestrator. Some of these composers were very lucky: I think of Richard Rodgers, who had Robert Russell Bennett working for him throughout most of his career. To my ear, to my mind, Bennett's work is the right way to orchestrate Rodgers's music, and when you play something of his in 2080 in a Bennett arrangement it is going to sound right. But most of our songwriters were not as lucky as that, and most of their work is in very poor shape. Gershwin is in pretty good shape, because Ferde Grofe was around, but most of the work of his contemporaries is in unspeakable condition. In the period between the First World War and about 1950 there was an explosion of creativity, but there are no definitive orchestral versions of the work of Porter, of Irving Berlin, of Harold Arlen, a major writer, of Harry Warren, of Jimmy McHugh, of Jerome Kern, who may have been the greatest of them all.

One of the things I would like to see done for future generations not only of Americans but of everyone would be to have this treasure of ours put into shape for orchestra. I don't claim to be the prophet who can do it all, but the Pops is the kind of place where a lot of this kind of work could be done - the Pops is supposed to be the custodian of American popular music, and this is part of its job. Doing this work might engender a whole new phase of creativity, for that kind of musical explosion is going to happen again. Some generation of our kids, or of our grandchildren, will do it.

Q. Tell us about your movie work, and its potential relationship to your activity at the Pops.

A. When I started in the film studios in the middle '50s each studio had its own contract orchestra, some of them with as many as 70 players. When I was just coming out of school, I auditioned for Columbia and then, a year or so later, I also went to Fox. So as a very young musician I was playing for all of the greats of the film industry - Alfred Newman, Franz Waxman, Max Steiner, Dimitri Tiompkin . . . I knew them all well because I played the piano for them. Later some of them came to me and asked me if I could orchestrate, and as a man with all the temerity of youth, I said "sure."

I was very lucky because I found myself on the inside when I was still a youngster. First I orchestrated the music of the others, then I was writing my own. I came to conducting out of self-defense, because some of those studio music directors were, to put it kindly, not among the great musicians of the world.

How does this relate to Pops? Well, without wanting to sound pretentious, I think that film is going to engender a lot of important music. The audio- visual thing that films represent is after all still in its infancy - we've had only about 50 years of sound film, so we have to think of it as still in its infancy. I am well aware of the argument that music shouldn't have visuals, that music is exclusively an aural experience; I also know that there is some kind of physiological reaction that sets in - if something is visually striking, then we listen less attentively. Nevertheless I don't think any of us can have any idea where the audio-visual combination can lead. The Pops can be a wonderful forum to pick up and re-examine the best bits of what has already been done.

Q. Aren't the constraints on a composer of film music unimaginably frustrating?

A. In many ways writing for film is very restricted. If you have 2 minutes 31 seconds to do something, you can't have more if you think you need it. Then you find yourself acoustically in competition with wagon wheels, gunshots, space ships sweeping back and forth, and you thank God for the soundtrack lp where the public can get the other 80 percent of the music they never heard in the film. And the problems continue right down to the level of the neighborhood theater, where the reproduction equipment is in bad shape. It is soul-destroying, if you think about it. But you can also think of it as sympathetically human; like everything worth doing, it is full of difficulties. It is no less a problem in the theater, which is difficult for musicians because of the highly collaborative nature of the work.

Q. Do you have any favorites from among your film scores?

A. I think of them all like my children. I love them all, and I find them all very different. And there are aspects of each one that I dislike and wish I could have improved upon. Working in film one has to develop a kind of chameleon technique, a fluency in different idioms - every film requires a different type of musical touch. Nothing could be more different than the music for "Star Wars" and the music for "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

Q. Have you found any difficulties in moving from the world of the recording studio to live performance in front of audiences?

A. In one of the first concerts I did in London some little thing went wrong, and my first instinct was to stop and turn around and say, "Let's do another take." In the clinically quiet atmosphere of the studio if something goes wrong, you can stop and begin all over again. But in one sense working with an orchestra is always the same, for my attention is always on the music in a kind of clinical way, trying to anticipate problems, trying to express what is there. When I am conducting I am unaware that there is an audience out there really. When I conducted the Pops as a guest last May, people told me I waited too long between numbers. My natural impulse was to wait until the audience quieted down, to wait for that pregnant pause before the music begins. But the din never stopped.

Q. What are your feelings about the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Pops in comparison to other orchestras?

A. The sound of the strings in that hall is really something ravishing - that's the wonderful thing about an old wooden box, which is Symphony Hall, and another old wooden box, which is the fiddle. The two of them sympathetically vibrate, and you have a certain kind of music-making that doesn't happen in any other place. If there is a "string problem" in Los Angeles, it has something to do with the acoustics of the hall there. It is a cold, brittle room, and the lower end of the frequency range is not flattered; the players struggle and that affects the sound. People talk about the brass of the Chicago Symphony or the London Symphony Orchestra; it's just a question of different emphasis. The brass in those orchestras is a little more extrovert, a little jazzier, a little edgier, more brilliant, biting. Chicago has a very theatrical, very brilliant brass section. The Boston sound is round and beautifully produced and carefully projected, something I think of as a bit more classical and conservative. The London Symphony is a very "hot" orchestra, its decibel level is large, and the orchestra looms at the audience in a very vigorous, athletic way. Boston has a more contemplative, sedate way of playing in comparison; it is a beautiful, classical orchestra that is aided by a fabulous hall that shapes the sound in that particular way.

Q. What about the non-musical side of your life?

A. It's all so boring - I am a workaholic, my children say. I have three children, a daughter 23, and sons 21 and 20; my wife passed away a few years ago. My children are all in California, but they will come up to Boston to witness all of this, and that will be nice. I do hit golf balls or tennis balls from time to time, but mine has basically been a working musical life. I love to play chamber music, which I do in California for fun; I even give concerts two or three times a year in local universities with my chamber-music buddies.

Q. What do you know now that you didn't know back in January when you accepted the job?

A. So far, I don't know very much more about Boston - I can tell you about the inside of my hotel and some of the rooms in Symphony Hall. I haven't even been out to the Esplanade yet - I've just seen it on television, Arthur Fiedler and 400,000 people. That was fantastic, I've rented a house on Beacon Hill, and I will be there until the middle of August, and getting to know the city is going to be fun.

Where is JW coming from - Richard Dyer - 1980

WHERE IS JOHN WILLIAMS COMING FROM?

FROM HOLLYWOOD, PRINCIPALLY, WHERE THE NEW CONDUCTOR OF THE BOSTON POPS SCORED EARTHQUAKE, JAWS, AND STAR WARS, AND WORKED WITH FRANK SINATRA, MAHALIA JACKSON, AND ALFRED HITCHCOCK

By Richard Dyer; Globe Staff

Boston Globe Magazine, June 29th, 1980

The third paragraph of every story about John Williams, the nineteenth conductor of the Boston Pops, is always the same. I ought to know - I've written enough of them.

What happens is this. people ask Williams about his plans for the Pops then they ask him something about the music he wrote for Star Wars. This is what the articles are mostly about, but buried somewhere in the middle is usually the information that he studied at Julliard and at various universities i California, that he has been a jazz pianist, that he arranged albums for pop stars, and that he wrote music for television and for more than fifty movies before Star Wars. And that's that.

So by way of getting ready to celebrate the last of John William's local debuts - as conductor of the Esplanade Concerts, on the Fourth of July - it seemed appropriate to go to see him and ask him to talk more fully about his past. As I put it, I wanted to hear about Rosina Lhevinne, his celebrated piano teacher, and about all those movie stars.

Williams laughed, admitted that Peter O'Toole was one of his friends and said he didn't know many movie stars. "By the time a composer goes to work on a picture, the film is already shot and the actors have gone off to something else; most of my friends in Hollywood are in music. like me." But as Williams talked on, the names of tuesday Weld and frank Sinatra and Mahalia Jackson and dozens more came up. And as he spoke about them, what happened was that the picture of Williams himself, already clear in outline, developed further detail and shading.

Although he is uneasy talking about himself (more than once he said it would be impossible to extract anything readable from our conversation), Williams again answered every question as fully and as responsibly as he could; the interruption of a phone call or an impertinent digression from his interview cannot deflect him from completing what he means to say. Williams describes his father, now 75, as someone "who has been a working musician all his life," and as the conversation extended well beyond the scheduled lunch hour, it became more and more certain that this is for Williams the highest form of compliment, and that "working musician" is the only possible description of Williams himself. Even the living room of his hotel suite (the house he has found on Beacon Hill isn't ready yet) has been turned from a place of sedentary comforts into a place of work habits - there are a stereo system, a spinet, and manuscript paper; to find a place to sit down, you have to move a pile of scores.

Williams says he doesn't remember learning to read music: "It seems I could always do that." He began piano lessons at the age of 6 or 7. He wasn't one of those prodigies who crawl over to the instrument and begin playing a Mozart sonata, but taking up music was the only natural thing for the son of a percussionist in the CBS Radio Orchestra to do. Within a couple of years he organized a little band with some his grade school chums, adn they tried to play pop tunes from sheet music. "It wasn't working very well and I discovered the reason why - the boy who played the clarinet was in a different key from the piano. So I reckoned how to write him up a tone. That was the beginning of my writing and orchestration - I used to sit in the basement in our house in Flushing, Long Island, and pore over orchestration books. I applied Rimsky- Korsakov to the pop tunes of 1940 and 1941, adn by the time our band was in high school, we were already quite sophisticated."

His father used to take him to the radio studios, where the young Williams "fell in love" with the sound of the orchestra; he learned to play the trombone, the clarinet, the bassoon, and the trumpet. The father of one of his girl friends played the cello, so there were even a few lessons on that. By the time he was 15, Williams decided it was time to get serious, and he really went to work mastering the piano.

His first college work was at UCLA and at Los Angeles City College - music students in california migrated from school to school in those days according to where the action was. Williams studied orchestration with Robert van Epps, who had worked on some of the famous MGM musicals, and by the time he was 20 he felt he was "pretty good." This was put to the test when the draft and the Korean War intervened, and Williams went into the air force. There he played in bands and conducted for the first time, and "when anyone wanted an arrangement of a tune, I got lumbered with that."

Nevertheless his big ambitions during these years remained witht he piano; "I guess I wanted to play Rachmaninoff with the New York Philharmonic." The route to that was study with Madame Lhevinne, who was then the most celebrated piano pedagogue active in America. "When she accepted me I was 22 or 23, which was very old by the standard of her students. One day when i was toiling away in a practice room, I heard these crashing octaves and fabulous thirds coming from next door, and when I went over to look, there was this little kid from Texas named John Browning. Rosina never gave me the impression that I could handle a concert career like that, but I had a nice relationship with her anyway; she taught from a humanistic rather than technical standpoint. and she encouraged me to write music. I showed her some of my arrangements, and she was amazed I could handle the orchestra like that - not everyone who could play 'La Campanella' could do that; she like the fact I knew somthing about music.

"The best piano playing I ever did in my life was at my audition for her. I remember I played a Bach Prelude and Fugure, and she stopped me and asked waht was going on. I said it was 'like a canon.' 'Vy do you say it is like a canon,' she said in her Russian accent, 'ven it is a canon?'"

After his studies with Lhevinne, Williams went back to California because his family was there - as well as a young singer whom he was to marry, Barbara Ruick. (Ruick, who died a few years ago is remembered by movie buffs and record collectors. She was Carried int he film of Carousel - the one who sings "When I Marry Mr. Snow" - and she is an attraction in several of the "reconstructions of Broadway shows written in the era before original cast recordings. Williams' second wife, Smamantha Winslow, whom he married just this month, is a photographer.)

His first jobs were in the film studios, where he was the pianist for big musical films like South Pcific. And these jobs brought him into contact with the last survivors of the "golden era" of Hollywood film composing - Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Newman, Dmitri Tiomkin. "I always said that if Tiomkin hadn't gone to the St. Petersburg Conservatory to study with Gliere he would have been the premier instead of Khrushchev - he was that same kind of table- pounding Russian. His music had great drmamtic sweep, even if he did underscore American westerns with Ukrainian folk tunes."

Soon Williams, with all the temerity fo youth, was assisting some of them with their orchestrations. On Tiomkin's Funs of Navarone short score, everything was int he bass clef. "How do i orchestrate that?" Williams wondered to a sympathetic friend. "Throw some of it out," was the suggestion.

Of these famous Hollywood musical figures, the one Williams grew closest to was the irascible Bernard Herrmann. "Actually, he adored my wife, even when he couldn't bear me, and we would sometimes have dinner two or three times a week." Williams recalled. Herrmann was the kind of man who would walk into a projection booth and ask the director to stop wasting his time with rubbish and then leave. And he knew how to put someone on the spot. Once when Williams was complaining that he never had time to work on his symphony, Herrmann said, "If youw ant to write a symphony, who's stopping you?" Years later, Herrmann, "dressed in his beret and looking mean," sneaked into London's Roayl Festival Hall to hear Andre Previn conduct even though he hadn't been speaking to Previn for years; the next day he called Williams and said, "Pretty good tune there in the first movement why did you cover it up with all that rubbish?"

Herrmann's reputation stands higher today than any other Hollywood composer's, in part because the films he did with Orson Welles and Alfred Hitchcock have become classics. And in part because he realized the value of his own work. "In every film score," Williams says, "there may be a nice little tune or a good turn of phrase. So much creative juice goes flowing into a film score that here and there there are sixteen good measures in the middle of some necessary window dressing or fol-de-rol. Benny had the sense to put those good bits into order and work them into pieces that could stand on their own. He recorded them then - and on those records he has left something of himself. I have tgried to do that with some of my own music - The Reivers and Jane Eyre - and I've been encouraging my colleagues to do the same thing."

The first picture that Williams composed on his own was Because They're Young, the 1958 screen debut (and farewell of American Bandstand disc jockey Dick Clark. "There was a budget of about $3.50 for the music, and I took it on. I remember that what I wrote was jazzy - there was a fight sequency with bongo drums and things like that. The important thing about that picture is not that it was my first but that it was Tuesday Weld's. She's a terrific person and a wonderful performer whose career hasn't gone where it should have because of bad management."

It was several years, however, before Williams becamse a full-time film composer. First came a contract with Columbia Records, and, concurrently, television. For Columbia, Williams made two jazz band albums of his own ("They didn't sell") and arranged albums for such singers as Andy williams, Vic Damone, Jackie & Roy, and Doris Day ("Very strange; she had begun as a big band singer, but she was afraid of singing and of musicians - she wanted to bve in a booth where they couldn't see her; a very inhibited lady"). And, of all things, Williams arranged seven albums for Mahalia Jackson. "I had to work with Mildred Falls, Mahalia's three-hundred-pound pianist, who could drown out my whole sixty-piece orchestra. I took everything down from the the way Mildred played, because Mahalia believed the way she did it was the way the Lord meant it to be. It was a circus of a time: A tewelve-song LP would take a week to write and record and edit. Compare that to a rock album, where it takes three or four months to get thirty-five minutes worth of music. The business has changed so much in the last twenty years that it seems like a different world."

Part of the reason that Williams was having a "circus of a time" during the Columbia Records years is that during the same period, from 1958 to 1964, he was under contract to Revue Television productions, where he was responsible for thrity-nine programs a year. "The shows I was assigned to were the hardest shows, the hour shows, which meant I had to write about twenty to twenty-five minutes of music a week, score it, and record it. It was a tremendous learning opportunity for me. What I wrote may not have been good - it probably wasn't; the main idea was to get it done, and i got it done. A lot of good people came out of that world.

"I think I have the distinction of scoring the very first piece of film Robert Redford did. It was a Chrysler program, a story about Harvard, and I remember commenting to people in the projection booth about what a telling figure this unknown young man became when you put him on the screen. An Revue is where I met Robert Altman, a plain-spoken Kansan who had come to work for Kraft Theater. Even then his shows always had something a bit special in them. 'What kind of music do you like?' I asked him. And he said, 'I don't care what you write as long as you haven't written it before.' I came up with two pianos and a battery of percussiona nd he loved it - that may have led to the percussion score I wrote for Images ten years later."

In the sixties Williams was credited with over twenty film scores, according to the index for the decade published by the American Film Institute. When asked about each of them sequentially, Williams proved his modesty: Sometimes he would say he had forgotten it completely or admit he never saw the picture after writing the music. And what he does remember is mostly the music. Gidget Goes to Rome. "Lots of accordians," Williams says. Bachelor Flat. "Lots of brass chords on cuts to brassieres - that sort of thing." John Goldfarb, Please Come Home. "I remember what they wouldn't let me do. It was a picture about an Arab sheik who wanted to create a football team. i remember I arranged the Twentieth Century-Fox fanfare for a whiny Arab band, and they said absolutely not."

None But the Brave. "Frank Sinatra directed that. He couldn't have been nicer and more appreciative, and he didn't come in with any preconceived ideas about the music. Maybe you wouldn't want him for an enemy, but he is a marvelous friend. He's a very compelling character; he can give you the impression he is completely alone in the world. he would be the guest of all time at the Pops, if he would do it." How to Steal a Million. "That meant a lot to me because it was my first really major picture. It was directed by William Wyler. He is a great director, but very hard of hearing; he said he liked my music, but I was never sure he had heard it!" Not With My Wife, You Don't. "That was nice because I wrote two songs with Johnny Mercer. Tony Bennett still occasionally sings one of them, 'Inamorata.'"Fitzwilly. "THat was originally called The Garden of Cucumbers. I wrote a good piece in it, a tuba solo written for a raid of Macy's by some elegant tghieves, and every time a purse is snatched there is a woodwind run."

In this period Williams was more or less typecast in comedy pictures; later he worked principally on musicals. he won an Oscar for his contribution to the film version of Fiddler on the Roof, and he did an immense amount of work on Goodby, Mr. Chips. "That was the first time I worked with children. When we went back a year later to do some post-synch work, all our sopranos were baritones."

A still alter cycle in the late sixties, and early seventies made Williams the disaster composer - he wrote the scores for Earthquake and The Poseidon Adventure and The Towering Inferno and the two Jaw pictures. Gene Shalit is now a firend of Williams - despite his on-the-air review of The Poseidon Adventure which he described as a story about "a ship that turns over and goes tot he bottom of the don't-go-sea."

In the middle of all this was the occasional excpetional picture, something departing from the norm - a film like Altman's Images, for example. Williams' score for that is now in the film-music textbooks. Or Hitchcock's Family Plot. "I wasn't excited about that particular picture, but i wanted wo work with Hitchcock, and it turned out to be his last film. He didn't want any thick, heavy scoring. 'Just remember this,' he said to me, 'murder can be fun.'"

Now, of course, we are in the midst of the cycle of Williams as the composer for epics and spaceships and flying heroes - Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman, The Empire Strikes Back; even Dracula turns into a bat and flies. Williams' originality matched that of the pictures themselves - he realized that the science fiction films, though set in the future, actually reflectg a nostalgia for Saturday-afternoon-a t-the-movies, and his old-fashioned, romantic music recaptured that popcorn-saturated atmosphere and met a need of its own.

WIlliams downgrades all of the compliments on how he has restored the prestige of the symphonic movie score. "I don't expect what I have been doing for the last two or three years will last - nothing does; already in some studios they are calling for more pop music, for more youth-oriented pop noise."

Williams says he has no regrets about having worked on so many picutres that have no pretensions to art. "You can't tell from the script whether a picture is going to be any good - or even what kind of picture it is going to be. I don't even read scripts now. The ideal thing to do is see the first cut and react to it. But that is getting harder and harder to do, because the post-production periods are shrinking all the time.

"In the forties, they tell me, a film could go six to eight months post production, but the cost of money these days makes that prohivitive; even on the biggest films you get only six to eight weeks, and there is a sense in which you can only decide on how much you can get away with. You are always working within conventions - a western has to have a harmonized folk tune, and it's no good writing an atonal score for a comedy like Penelope. In fact, I've written only one atonal score- for a Ray Bradbury piece on telelvision years ago.

"And then, when you are done, you become only a part of a total experience - you can be covered up by a bit of conversation, or the squeak of a wagon wheel, or the squoosh of a spaceship. But even when you can't actually hear the music, you can tell that it has contributed something indefinable to the total experience if the composer has done a good job - you miss it if it isn't there. What a composer can never forget is that what he is doing is musique practique, music made-to-measure. I've been happy with my work only a very few times - you do the best you can, and that's all you can do.

"If a film is good, it's a kind of miracle, really, so many factors are involved. And if a score is any good, it's a kind of miracle too - there's no time to write it, and there are so many restrictions in the medium. But it is important to realize that we are still only at the beginning of the audiovisual period, and the possibilities are unlimited. There is some very good film music - yes, the scores of Prokofiev and Shotakovich and Walton and Copland are classics, and examples for musicians who work in the movies - and one day even better music is going to be written by someone. There is so much energy going into films, so much attraction - on all campuses everyone wants to make films, and in every music department there are one or two or sixty kids who want to write music for the movies. And some of them are going to go places where we haven't been yet."

When asked how in the world he has ever had time to learn everything that his career has demonstrated that he knows - the complex techniques of writing for film and telelvision, the complex techniques of orchestrating and conducting and playing the piano, the mastery of the whole tradition of western concert music upon which commercial music draws, Williams smiles and says, "I don't know. I guess it's just a lifetime of doing it. I just learned as i went along, and the pont comes when your whole life comes to bear on everything you do. Working in music is what my life has always been about. And it still is."

1981

Borok and Williams make Merry - Richard Dyer - 1981

Borok and Williams make merry

EMANUEL BOROK, violinist, with JOHN WILLIAMS, pianist - In a recital of music by Beethoven, Debussy, Tchaikovsky, and Brock in the Burden Auditorium at the Harvard Business School Sunday afternoon.

By Richard Dyer Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, December 22nd, 1981

John Williams didn't look like a man with a secret Sunday afternoon when he came out to make his Boston debut as a pianist. What he knew and we didn't was that he had just renewed his contract as conductor of the Boston Pops for another two years. He looked happy, but there were already reasons to account for that - he clearly enjoys making music with his Pops concertmaster Emanuel Borok and this is a time of good cheer. The red handkerchief that peeped out of Williams' pocket looked at once sporty and seasonal.----year and a sizeable crowd slid across the ice to the Burden Auditorium at the Harvard Business School to hear and cheer it.

The opening work, Beethoven's "Spring" Sonata, seemed a curious choice for this date and for these particular artists, and the performance was not really a successful one. Borok's playing was both ardent and impeccable, as always, but the lusciousness of his sound, considerably deadened by the carpeted surroundings, and his characteristic intensity of approach were a little beside the point here, particularly when the conversational manner this sonata requires is not really Borok's style. Williams made an interesting accompanist; he has ideas about the music, and there is lots of rhythmic life in his playing. But it was clear during most of the scale-and passage-work that he has not spent much of his time over the last 25 years in concentrated finger drill.

(Williams was sufficiently advanced 30 years ago to be a pupil of the celebrated pedagogue Rosina Lhevinne at Juilliard; he says that he gave up serious thought of a virtuoso career because of the sounds emanating from an adjacent practice room where John Browning was working. He made his name as a jazz pianist, and it was that skill that brought him entree into Hollywood.)

But the Debussy Sonata went considerably better; it was wonderful to hear this music played without inhibition, as Borok did, and Williams proved to know as much about color as he does about structure. In two Tchaikovsky bonbons Borok was in his element, and Williams demonstrated at the keyboard what he has already shown on the podium - he is a terrific accompanist.

The program ended with a bit from "Fiddler on the Roof" that Williams had arranged for violin and piano, and that Borok played to a fare-thee-well. And this performance closed a circle in a way - at his very first appearance with the Pops Williams conducted this work with Borok as soloist. And as Williams said with characteristic generosity at his press conference yesterday, "that sparked an instant love affair with the orchestra and Emanuel Borok, its fabulous concertmaster. Being so close to that beautiful sound on Sunday was really fun for me."

JW quiet side - Boston Globe - 1981

JOHN WILLIAMS' QUIET SIDE

By M. R. Montgomery Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, March 18th, 1981

John Williams lives on a quiet street in the modest (one- Mercedes-to-a-garage) part of this village, in a quiet neo-Georgian house with a blooming red camellia bush that reaches to the second floor windows.

It is a retreat from the hustle of Sunset Boulevard, and appropriate digs for a man who says he led the life of a monk until he became the Boston Pops conductor.

"Twenty-five years," he begins, sitting on a green sofa in a room so modest that two walls covered with Grammies, Oscars and gold records seem to blend easily with bookcases filled with musicology and literature. It is a blend of pop and circumstance.

"Twenty-five years I really led the life of a monk. I had an office and I went there and composed. It suited me. I'm a private guy." He sits quietly and looks at the walls and bookcases that sum up a thousand years of music and a single lifetime of his music and says, altogether without affectation, "It is hard to say what life is about."

He is as prolific as Mozart, a comparison, like anything hinting at a compliment, that brings a shy smile and a demurrer. He wrote at least 200 television movie scores, including everything from the "Kraft Suspense Theater" through "Wagon Train," and 70 feature film soundtracks before Star Wars" and the Boston Pops made him a public figure.

"You don't have to be good," he reflected, "just strong."

Like the rest of us old enough to remember it, he misses early television, especially the excitement of composing for live theater, including dozens of "Playhouse 90" scores. "Television (he is a precise speaker, TV' is not in his vocabulary) is so disappointing." He searches for a word: "Tawdry?" He waits for assent that such is the right word. "It is tawdry. A national disgrace, really.

"I do have great hope for the film industry, so many young people, so enthusiastic, so bright and so inventive. George Lucas showed up in London with the script for the third stage of the Empire films, and everyone was so genuinely excited. I can tell you that Yoda returns, but George is quite secretive."

Lucas, as Williams knows, is about as withdrawn as Howard Hughes. "But George is not neurotic about it," Williams adds quickly.

Lucas is planning a new movie capitol of his own, complete with cabins in the woods where authors and composers can live quietly, far from the madding crowd in Hollywood.

The current Lucas effort, "Raiders of the Lost Ark," is due for summer release, a pastiche of '30s movie technique and a plot revolving wildly around the discovery of the Ark of the Covenant and a subsequent heroic struggle between Nazi and American archaeologists for its possession. Williams has scored a triumphal march motif for Harrison Ford, who plays the American hero, Indiana Jones. "You know the kind of thing," Williams says, "a heroic theme that swells when things are going well for our hero, the kind of music that makes the audience want to cheer." And how does the movie come out? "Yes, quite a strong playing of that march at the end," Williams hints.

He has written a love theme for "Raiders," "a bit like As Time Goes By,' " he explains. Later, sitting at one of his two grand pianos, he gently refuses to play a few bars of the new tune. He has his secrets, does Williams.

Coming out of his musical monastic cell has changed his life, or at least made him wonder what it means. "Imagine," he reflects, "what it is like to jump on a train that Arthur Fiedler has moving at 60 miles an hour. Quite exciting. I tell people in Europe that we play six nights a week and they can't imagine it." He cannot quite imagine that it is John Williams, the mild- mannered musicologist, who has just come out of the recording studio booth in the guise of Superman of stage, screen and radio.

He is, of course, a sometimes practitioner of serious music (his Violin Concerto premiered in Carnegie Hall last month with the St. Louis Symphony). Several players in the Pops mentioned that they thought he should devote himself, for a while, to serious classical music. When this was conveyed to him, he retreated quickly. "Well, one wonders if the world needs more classical music by me," he begins. "I do write some, but . . ." His voice trails off, and then he uses a Welsh analogy, "It is very hard work to mine that seam."

What does excite him, what brings back the enthusiasm in his speech is a vision of music and film combined, a sort of new symphonic device. "I saw the most amazing thing in London. It was Abel Gance's great silent film, Napoleon.' Do you know about that? It opened in Paris the same week as The Jazz Singer,' and no one paid any attention to it. Only the first installment was ever made, five and a half hours of incredible film. It is playing in London with a soundtrack of classical music, Beethoven, Brahms, everyone, such an alluring film.

"I know that it is supposed to be unecessary to combine music with vision, almost tasteless. But this is the way a movie should look and sound!"

He would not like to get into the argument about whether serious music would be improved by a visual component. He has, after all, spent half his life improving film with music. But he is internally excited.

"I was going on about this business of film and music and Tom Morris (BSO general manager) said, Well, get your friend Lucas to do a silent movie and you do the music.' " Williams closes his eyes and imagines a movie made to support music, after a quarter century of writing music to support a film. "I don't know. Maybe Lucas will make such a film." He sits quietly and thinks about all that energy, all that inventiveness, at the service of music.

He is, after a lifetime residence in Beverly Hills, not a citizen of California. It is not only the 6 to 8 months a year he has spent in London recently, but that he has always been insulated from the garish side of this plastic-in-the-rough city. "Really," he says while steering his single and modest Mercedes sedan down Sunset Boulevard, "I have always just gotten up and gone to work. I am very insulated from all this." In a curious turn of phrase for someone who owns a house in Beverly Hills, he adds "I don't think I'd really like to live here."

When Tom Morris convinced him to take over the Pops, there was speculation that part of the motive was to put the BSO aboard the film soundtrack gravy train. "Of course it is possible," Williams says. "We can record right in Symphony Hall, all we need is a synchronized video machine for me to look at. That is not the problem. You really must have the orchestra for five to seven days, and the BSO doesn't have free weeks like that. Recording is much easier, you can do it during the same week you perform. But I would love to use that wonderful orchestra for a movie. We will try."

On this brief visit home between London soundtrack recordings and returning to Boston for Pops season, Williams conducted a concert at the local monument to concrete and concertos, the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. It was warmly received, but local heroes are not all Rocky Balboas.

The capacity of orchestra level ticketholders to sit on their hands while the balconies are giving a standing ovation is particularly strong here, perhaps the result of arriving in a herd of Rolls Royce automobiles.

Even the appearance of Henry Fonda, coming on stage with the aid of a cane to narrate Williams' own score from The Reivers' could not unseat the exceptionally beautiful people in the first ten rows.

Williams is, indeed, out of place in tinsel town. Were it not for the glistening leaves of the camellia outside the windows behind the two Steinway grand pianos, he could be in London, Boston, or even in George Lucas' planned retreat in Marin County.

Films, music, and the life of the mind are all quite portable. When he returns to Boston, he will be carrying his new march, a tribute to Arthur Fiedler. It does not yet have a title. The composer is worrying about finding exactly the right words for the title. "Something with Maestro, perhaps, something with Fiedler. Oh, I'll get it."

He drops his visitors off at the Beverly Hilton, the only place in town where taxi cabs ever congregate, and drives sedately off to his quiet cell at 20th Century Fox to meditate on music, film, and, most unusual in this environment, the meaning of life.

1982

Orchestrating a new pops season - Richard Dyer - 1982

ORCHESTRATING A NEW POPS SEASON By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, May 4th, 1982

Last week, just a week away from the opening night of Pops, John Williams was still in the Hollywood studios of 20th Century Fox finishing up recording his score for one of the big summer movies, Steven Spielberg's "Extra- Terrestrial," which everyone is already calling "E.T." for short.

"I've spent the last three months on this," Williams said over the the telephone after a screening. "It's a picture about a visitor from another world, who joins us here, experiences some adventures, and then returns. It is very spectacular and also very touching, I think. We wanted to do the soundtrack album in Boston, with the Pops, but once again there was no way to fit it into the orchestra's schedule."

Not the type to give away any more secrets about the movie, Williams shifted the subject to what he called the "hot and heavy" planning for the Pops season that opens tonight.

The Pops requires "hot-and-heavy" planning, although for 97 seasons it has been one of the city's most famous informal institutions. Symphony Hall gets a new paint job, the players of the Boston Symphony Orchestra change their penguin suits for blue blazers, and the music in the folders can range from Stravinsky to "Chariots of Fire." Six nights a week for 12 weeks the public clamors to get in, to sit around the little triangular tables, order ham and cheese sandwiches, champagne, and the Pops Punch full of mystery ingredients.

But there cannot be mystery ingredients in the work that has to go into putting on 72 consecutive concerts of the Pops season.

The formula is always the same - after all Arthur Fiedler triumphed with it for 50 years. There is a group of lighter classics in the first third of the program. Then, in the middle a soloist; for the television evenings the soloist is famous and most other nights it is a member of the orchestra or a young artist on the way up. Finally at the end there are the fancy arrangements of popular favorites past and present and in the hands of these players the music goes from black and white into technicolor widescreen stereophonic sound. But someone has to engage the guest conductors, work on the repertory and diversify it, commission the arrangements, select the soloists. And that has been part of Williams' work with members of the Boston Pops management over the last few months.

"The big change you will see this year," Williams begins, "is that we will have some new guest conductors that we haven't had before, and that some of them will lead more concerts than guest conductors usually have. This doesn't represent any unhappiness on anyone's part about the people we have had in the past. It is simply consistent with my wish to keep things as fresh as we can and as far away from the routine. Harry Ellis Dickson will be back with us again, of course, and I will continue to do the majority of the concerts myself. But I will conduct somewhat less often than I did last year - I think that will be good both for me, and for the orchestra. We've gotten on wonderfully well, but I see bringing in new people as a healthy kind of diversity. I'll do the television programs and the recording and look after things."

The principal guest conductors for the Pops season, in addition to Dickson, will be John Lanchbery, from the world of ballet, Henry Mancini, from the world of film, and Christopher Keene and Murry Sidlin, from the world of concert music. In addition there will be concerts led by Erich Kunzel, Victor Borge, and Lionel Newman; Leonard Bernstein is expected to lead half a program one night. "All of these are solid musicians," Williams says, "and they will do something other than run-of-the-mil l Pops concerts."

There will be 5 televised Evening-at-Pops programs. "I am not happy that there is only one American orchestra with a television contract," Williams says, "but I'm pleased and proud that it's us." The guest stars for the television series will be Rich Little, who will narrate "Peter and the Wolf" on opening night, Tchaikovsky-competition-winning celist Nathaniel Rosen, the King's Singers, the British male vocal sextet with a comprehensive repertory, blues singer Nell Carter, Bernadette Peters, and the Abyssinian Choir, a gospel choir from New York. "That will be a fabulous show. They have already sung with Zubin Mehta and the New York Philharmonic, but this will be their Boston debut."

Among the orchestra members who will be featured soloists in other Pops concerts this summer are Pops concertmaster Emanuel Borok, violinist Cecylia Arzewski, cellists Jonathan Miller and Luis Leguia, violist Marc Jeanneret, and Lois Schaefer, piccolo. There will be soloists from outside the orchestra as well; one of Christopher Keene's programs, for example, has scenes from "Porgy and Bess" featuring two favorite artists from the Opera Company of Boston, soprano Sarah Reese and baritone David Arnold.

The new work commissioned for the Pops this summer is a "festival overture" by William Bolcom called "Ragomania." "It is dedicated to Eubie Blake and the memory of George Gershwin, and it is a lot of fun," Williams says. "We will give the premiere on opening night, and expect to play it a lot throughout the season. We have to have Chariots of Fire,' of course. We have a new blues medley by Billy May that looks very good - The Birth of the Blues,' Blues in the Night,' The Basin Street Blues.' John Morris has prepared a Tribute to Fred Astaire' for us. It will have all those wonderful things in it - The Carioca,' The Contintental,' Cheek to Cheek,' Dancing in the Dark,' Let's Face the Music and Dance.'

"On my desk right now I have the score of a Comedy Overture' of my own - I hope to finish it in time to play it during June. No, it doesn't go to any specific comedy - the audience will just have to invent one as it goes along. "Oh, I almost forgot. Billy Byers has a new arrangement of New York, New York.' I hope it will go over in Boston, Boston!"

The Pops management also reports something Williams was too modest to mention - "someone" will sing "If We Were in Love," the song Williams wrote for Luciano Pavarotti to sing in the forthcoming movie "Yes, Giorgio."

Philips Records will record two additional Pops albums this season. The repertory for one of them hasn't yet been decided on, but the other will be an album of movie music. "It will have a new arrangement of the Tara theme from Gone with the Wind,' which is something the Pops hasn't had before, and the original MGM arrangement of The Trolley Song.' Jerome Rosen, from the orchestra, has made a medley of some of the newer movie tunes, and we will have something from E.T.' of course."

Williams will again be renting a house out in Weston for his months in Boston. "My wife Samantha likes it very much because there are so many wonderful places to run. She's in training now for the San Francisco marathon in July. Her ultimate aim, of course, is to run in Boston. I used to run a little with her, but I don't get very far, I'm afraid. I love it out west of the city - the air is wonderful, and the country is beautiful."

After the Pops season ends in July Williams returns to California to do the score for a new movie about the church, "Monseigneur."

"That has my young friend from Superman' in it, Christopher Reeve, and Genevieve Bujold. Then, after November 1 I am committed to the third installment of the Star Wars' saga, which is called The Revenge of the Jeddi.' That I have to finish in time to record in London in January. I have no film plans beyond February of next year. Though, of course, I will be coming to Boston again in April. I live in the best of all possible worlds - California in the winter, and then I come to Boston along with all the great weather!"

1983

Williams Answers Spielberg's Call For Music - George McKinnon - 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.

(A condensed version of the "Sanskrit Sacrifice" appears on the original soundtrack album as "The Temple of Doom." )

1986

Getting ready for a big date - Richard Dyer - 1986

GETTING READY FOR A BIG DATE By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, page 15, April 22nd, 1986

"I've only seen the Statue of Liberty from the water," says John Williams, speaking from his office at 20th Century Fox in Hollywood. "From the deck of the S.S. France, in fact. I've never been on the island or up inside the statue. I imagine the Fourth of July won't be the time to try that!"

Instead, Williams will be beneath the statue, conducting the Pops Esplanade Orchestra in a nationally televised concert. "Clamma Dale and Simon Estes will be with us to sing excerpts from 'Porgy and Bess,' " he said. "Bernadette Peters and Joel Grey will participate in a tribute to George M. Cohan. And John Denver will be with us too. There will also be a chorus and some other guests that I hope to be able to announce by the time I get to Boston to open the Pops season on May 6."

Williams' own contribution to the festivities will be a piece called ''Liberty Fanfare" that will open the concert. "It's about five minutes long, and it has a one-minute detachable frontpiece that will be the signature music for all of the ABC presentations connected with the Fourth of July. I've tried to create a group of American airs and tunes of my own invention that I hope will give some sense of the event and the occasion. It will certainly show off the great brass that we have developed in Boston. The show will end with a fireworks display by Tommy Walker, who did the great show at the '84 Olympics in Los Angeles. He's got 30 or 40 barges that will light up the whole New York harbor. It ought to look great on television."

The Pops has already announced the soloists for its television season -- Richard Stoltzman, Joe Williams, Johnny Mathis, Natalie Cole, Dame Kiri te Kanawa, Mel Torme, George Shearing, and Victor Borge. "There's one other program that we've already done," Williams adds; "our Christmas program with the Vienna Boy Choir. We will also have some nice new things this season. For the opening of the season we have commissioned an overture by William Thomas McKinley; later in the season we will repeat Peter Maxwell Davies' 'An Orkney Wedding: With Sunrise' which we will do for television. We were able to persuade Irwin Kostal to do a nice collection of Kurt Weill, both Berlin and Broadway material. And Sid Raymond has contributed a new medley of Jerome Kern material from his Hollywood period. Lee Holdridge is doing a couple of contemporary things I am anxious to see and hear -- a song of Burt Bacharach's, for example, called 'Friends at the Moment.' Another sweet thing is Gershwin's 'Love is Sweeping the Country.' I'm surprised that we didn't have that in the Pops library. This year's hit film title is from 'Out of Africa,' which has a lovely tune."

Members of the Boston Symphony will be playing Pops for only the first five weeks of the season this year. This means all the television activity will be crowded into five weeks, and that there will be time for only two recordings. "We are going to do Holst's 'The Planets,' and a compilation of some of my own things, including the Olympic Fanfare, the new 'Liberty Fanfare,' some of the music I wrote for NBC, and the memorial I wrote for Arthur Fiedler, 'Pops on the March.' "

The rest of the season will be played by the free-lance Pops Esplanade Orchestra, whose increasing role in Pops activity is one of the tough negotiating points in the BSO's contract renewal talks. "This is an issue we need to come to grips with," Williams said. "There's enough public demand for the Pops to function 52 weeks a year, though no one is suggesting that we do this. The Esplanade Orchestra is a wonderful group, and any city in the country would be proud to have it as a resident orchestra. Everything it does is under the aegis of the BSO, and aids and abets the purposes of the BSO. I continue to stand on my soapbox and say that Pops activity is good for American orchestral musicians; this is our own great heritage. As long as everything we do in either orchestra supports the activities of the Boston Symphony, then for me, that's enough of a rationalization to go ahead with it."

Williams made a spectacularly successful cross-country tour with the Esplanade Orchestra last summer. "That was a wonderful experience. It reaffirmed the idea that the Pops belongs to the whole country. I'd never toured with the orchestra before, apart from some single dates, so I was astonished not only at the attendance and the reception but also at the warm affection of the public that we found everywhere. We've been talking about a Japanese tour and about another American tour, and I think they ought to be done. They ought to be built into the life of the Pops just like they are built into the life of the BSO."

Williams has had a busy but frustrating year in Hollywood. He spent several months working on songs for a film of "Peter Pan" that Steven Spielberg has decided not to make. "I don't mind saying that was a disappointment. It's very charming music, I think. But technically it would be a very difficult picture, with all that flying and those other special effects. I can't speak for Steven's personal life, but he has just had a baby and wants to have another, and he just doesn't want to invest 2 1/2 years of his life in this picture right now."

Next Williams went on to compose the score for a film called "Space Camp" that is supposed to open this summer. "It's a terrifically good and effective film, but there is a serious complication. It's about a space shuttle launch, and the principal character is a young female teacher who is on board. Though it was written more than two years ago, obviously no one is going to respond to it in quite the same way today. The way we watch the film is colored by the tragedy. But we've had some previews, and the response has been so positive that I believe the public will embrace the film in the right way. The audience stands and applauds at the end because it has such a strong emotional resonance."

Williams has several other film projects in the works, but won't be free to talk about them until June. "Given continuing good health, I should start a film after the Pops season that will be ready for Christmas release. I'm feeling good, and my wife Samantha is vigorous and strong and off and running. She came home from Santa Monica last week with a third-place medal from a 10K race she had run. She was very disappointed, and I couldn't imagine why. Then I remembered -- last year she was first!"

1987

Pride and Pops - Richard Dyer - 1987

PRIDE AND THE POPS

A GALA OPENING TONIGHT By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, page 65, May 5th, 1987

Last Tuesday night, well after 11 o'clock, John Williams recorded the final notes of his score for "The Witches of Eastwick." "The last musical chore," he said, "was to record two Presbyterian hymns with a church choir -- remember, this story takes place in New England."

By Thursday he was in New England, and Saturday he began rehearsals for his eighth season as conductor of the Boston Pops, which opens tonight with a gala concert featuring Tony Bennett.

Before the first rehearsal, Williams energetically paced the Green Room upstairs as he had his picture taken, exchanged pleasantries with Boston Symphony assistant conductor Carl St. Clair, and talked about "Witches" and the forthcoming season.

" 'The Witches of Eastwick' will be out late in June, and I'm very taken with it. The script simplifies the novel -- there are fewer characters and a different ending -- but it is beautifully written. Jack Nicholson is the leading man and the three women are Michele Pfeiffer, Susan Sarandon and Cher, who is a deeply good actress. Part of my job was to write different kinds of music for three large-scale seduction scenes. One of the women is a cellist, and at one point the climax of the Dvorak Concerto sweeps into the Love Theme

from 'The Witches of Eastwick.' I hope Tony Dvorak won't mind!"

Williams will be with the Pops for two months, including a cross-country tour with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra to be underwritten by Nabisco. In the fall, he goes to work on a new Steven Spielberg film, "Empire of the Sun," which will have a script by Tom Stoppard. "It's a story about the Japanese capture of Singapore, and we will record the score in London the last week in September."

After that, he dreams about doing a big musical with Spielberg. "I have the feeling there is a huge public waiting to stand in line to see a beautifully mounted movie musical with gorgeous tunes. I think this is the right time to do it. Steve is certainly the right person for it, and I hope I am."

In the meantime Williams has his hands full with the Pops. His achievements with the Pops have been considerable, but he seems proudest that this season will mark the orchestra's 18th season on television. "That is a sign that there has been no diminution of the appeal of the Pops and that its place in the affection of the public is secure." Not all of the television dates are set, but Sammy Davis Jr. will appear on one program and Metropolitan Opera mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade on another. Negotiations are under way with a famous violinist, a pop singer who is an American legend, and a puckish jazz pianist. Johnny Cash will appear with the Esplanade Orchestra in the Hatch Shell -- "on the Fourth of July, our fans will be happy to know," Williams says, alluding to the controversial decision for the orchestra to perform on the holiday in the Statue of Liberty celebrations last year.

Williams' records with the Pops are consistent best-sellers, and he is proud of them. " 'Pops in Love,' our current release, is not just a symphonic mood album," Williams says. "Seiji Ozawa's choices of personnel have been felt. The special quality of the playing of flutist Leone Buyse and oboist Al

Genovese and the other principals puts it on another level. The brass playing on our Bernstein album is hair-raising, and I think our recording of 'The Planets' is quite splendid."

This year there will be two new recordings -- "which is all there will be time for. One will be a 'digital jukebox' of Pops classics, most of them in new arrangements. The other album I want to call 'On The Village Green'

because I think everyone is unconsciously looking for air. It will be a bucolic record, with music by Delius, with a dash of Yorkshire flavor in the music I composed for 'Jane Eyre,' and 'An Orkney Wedding,' the piece that Peter Maxwell Davies composed for the Pops. That closes with a bagpipe climax, and I want to end the record with a full band of pipes and drums making the most deafening noise imaginable in something like 'Scotland the Brave' or 'Loch Lomond.' This will really test the transistors of everyone's home equipment."

There will be some new repertory for the Pops this year: The Oregon-based Childs Foundation has imaginatively supported the Pops by underwriting new arrangements. "This year a new Jerome Kern medley is coming in, and a selection of spring tunes like 'April Showers' and 'June is Bustin' Out All Over,' and an amusing medley of train songs -- 'Sentimental Journey,' 'Take the A Train,' 'Alabamy Bound,' and 'The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe.' I'm also particularly happy that this year for the first time we will have a collection of country tunes, a Nashville medley. This is a whole rich vein of American music, some of it transplanted from Scotch and Irish music. Our arranger, Joe Reismann, produced many records in Nashville and he has an intimate knowledge of this field. He is also an expert orchestrator for symphonic ensembles, so I think this will be something special. I think the public will be happy to hear it when we introduce it on the Esplanade on the Fourth of July."

The season's other conductors will include Harry Ellis Dickson, Carl St. Clair, Max Hobart, Michael Lankaster, Erich Kunzel, Bruce Hangan, John Mauceri and, making his debut, British film composer Bill Conti ("Rocky"). "Harry Ellis Dickson is officially retiring this year, but he will be conducting quite a bit and helping out the way he always does. He doesn't need any accolades from me, but everyone should know that he has contributed more to the Pops than anyone who is still with us. I want his help for as long as he wants to help us."

Williams is candid about saying that many of the problems that have troubled the Pops during his tenure have not yet found solutions. "The best I can say is that some kind of process is under way. I am not satisfied, and I feel we need to do more. We have had a number of new pieces composed for us, for example. Some of them were good, some less interesting, but we need to have more of them, and we need more success with the whole idea of new pieces. There are still too many concerts, I think, and not enough rehearsal time. One way around the problem of inadequate rehearsal is to cut down on the diversity of the programs. But too many repetitions of the same material is also demoralizing. Finding the right mix, the right balance, is a never-ending challenge, and our popularity is sometimes not helpful. After 18 years on television, everything we play has been on, so we need new material. We also need it for the records. But that leads to overwork. We should never do more than we are able to do well. No matter how difficult the situation is, we have to insist on quality."

Asked about the continuing controversy about the role of the second Pops orchestra (the Esplanade Orchestra, which spells the BSO during the first few weeks of the season and takes over completely when the BSO heads for Tanglewood), Williams says, "I have a very simple philosophy about this. It can be proven that the activities of the Esplanade Orchestra are beneficial to the BSO, and therefore the Esplanade Orchestra is a positive thing. The success of the Pops has created a larger public demand than the BSO itself can meet. Quality control is certainly enforced in the Esplanade Orchestra; many of the players are regular substitutes in the BSO and the Pops. The management has not turned it into a purely commercial enterprise, and the Esplanade Orchestra has a limited season -- I can't, and don't want to, work with the Pops all year, and I don't think there should be constant quickie jobs and runouts. Of course the BSO and the Pops should retain their identity for recordings, but frankly I don't see anything wrong with the status quo. Our Fourth of July Statue of Liberty Show with the Esplanade Orchestra had the strongest ratings of anything from that weekend of television coverage, and the director of our show won an Emmy -- in L.A. he took out an ad to thank the orchestra."

While Williams won't say that many of the problems he has faced have gone away, he is proud of some things he has achieved with the Pops. "We have refreshened the repertory, and I am proud of the sound we make. There is a problem with the richness of Symphony Hall and the type of orchestrations we use. When I came, there was a weightiness I have tried to streamline. I've tried to resist the fat bel canto sound, and we have worked towards something leaner and more incisive. I know it will be politically difficult, but now we need to experiment with electronic enhancement of the sound. In the ambient atmosphere of Symphony Hall, and with an audience that is eating and drinking and having a good time, there's a real lack of control over the way we sound, and some experiments with electronics might give us some of that control."

Williams is characteristically guarded when it comes to discussing his

plans for a future with the Pops. Asked if he finds his job with the Pops rewarding, he says, "This is a very complicated assignment. A lot of it is pleasurable and some of it is difficult. I will be here a lot this season, 10 weeks, counting the tour and the Christmas Pops, but I haven't organized a schedule beyond that into next year. I need to get to know the new manager, Ken Haas, and find out his plans and see how well they coincide with my own. I need to see how he picks up on my feelings about what we need to do. Like any job, this is a gratifying and exciting opportunity. It is also a responsibility full of burdens, choices and problems. I'm doing the best I know how to do with it."

1988

Pops well tempered for upcoming season - Richard Dyer - 1988

WILLIAMS SAYS POPS WELL-TEMPERED FOR UPCOMING SEASON

By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, page 110, May 1st, 1988

Last week, John Williams had conducted his first Pops rehearsal of the season, and he pronounced himself well-satisfied. "I think the orchestra is in the best shape it's been in since I came here."

Over an abstemious seafood-salad lunch, Williams talked about his recent activities and his plans for the Pops season, which opens Tuesday night in a gala program featuring vocalist Dionne Warwick. "Dionne and I go back a long time, to 'The Valley of the Dolls' in 1967 -- I can't believe it's been 20 years. Andre Previn wrote the score, but he had to go to London, so I arranged and conducted the music. Dionne has a unique sound and she's a beautiful lady; I've tried for years to get her at the Pops, so this is a nice way to begin the season."

The Dionne Warwick program will be the first of several Pops concerts taped this season for later television broadcst. "Tommy Tune will come along with the Manhattan Rhythm Kings for a special tribute to Fred Astaire. Sid Ramin has done some new arrangements of the Astaire tunes for us. Then the Smothers Brothers will be coming, and we will have Byron Stripling, the lead trumpet in the Count Basie Orchestra for a Louis Armstrong tribute. Stripling has reconstructed some of Armstrong's most famous solos. We will do a Fourth of July television program from the Esplanade. And I'm particularly pleased that Perry Como will be coming to do a tribute to Bing Crosby. I love Perry Como, and I have wanted to have him with the Pops for years, but it has been difficult to plan because of Perry's commitments to one of the major networks. A year ago, though, I found myself sitting on a plane next to Betty Hutton who assured me that Perry would make every effort to come if we told him we wanted him for a tribute to Bing, and she was right. Our television season will also include two programs we taped last season, a program with Andre Watts in a sparky performance of the Mendelssohn G-Minor Concerto, and another program with Frederica von Stade."

The von Stade taping, Williams explains, was the first one to use a new stage arrangement developed by PBS Pops producer William Cosell and takes advantage of a new camera crane. "The new stage brings the orchestra out beyond the proscenium a little more, so we lose a few seats. But arranging the orchestra in a semicircle around the podium, and on a series of descending tiers, helps correct the problem we have always had with sound slapping back from the back wall. We have new lighting, with more varied possibilities, and we have solved the problem of glare coming up off the floor. I think we have a real treasure in Bill Cosell -- every year he comes to me with new ideas for making the programs look better and sound better. It is with undisguised pride that I point out that we now have a television contract through 1989, which will make it a 20 year-run for the Pops on PBS, 10 years with Arthur Fiedler and 10 years with me. For something to run 20 years on television is very remarkable, particularly when you realize how much every other orchestra is struggling to get on TV at all."

In addition to the PBS series, Williams is excited by the prospect of another network television show to follow up on the success of ABC's Liberty Weekend program in summer 1986. "This is important because the networks reach a much larger audience, and that makes it possible to interest artists who might not otherwise be available to appear with us."

Records are also important to spreading the message of the Pops. Williams' recording of Holst's "The Planets" is just out, and there will be two more Philips releases before the end of the year -- a record of British music, including Sir Peter Maxwell Davies' "An Orkney Wedding: With Sunrise" and a record called "The Digital Jukebox." Two additional records will be made this summer, an album of Russian music ("I want to call it 'From Russia with Love,' Williams says, "but no one agrees with me"), and an album to be called "Hooray for Hollywood" that will feature the Pops' Judy Garland and Fred Astaire medleys as well as more recent film music, including excerpts from Williams' own score to "The Witches of Eastwick." A projected album featuring the music of the Beatles has been put off for a year because the arrangements aren't ready.

Williams is pleased at this season's roster of guest conductors, particularly because he has decided to cut back his own activity a little. ''I know people are sometimes disappointed that I don't and can't conduct every concert myself. Frankly, I find it physically difficult to rehearse and record during the day and then give a concert at night -- I don't see how Arthur Fiedler did it. Sometimes I wonder if he was really 85 when he died -- maybe he was just 45, and the Pops aged him fast! My analogy is to a major-league pitcher -- he couldn't pitch every night, either, not without pulling his arm out of his socket. This year, we will have Erich Kunzel and John Covelli again, and Richard Hayman will be coming back for the first time in many years. Next to Arthur Fiedler, Hayman, through his arrangements, has made the largest single contribution to the success of the Pops. Max Hobart and Ronald Feldman from the orchestra will be conducting again, and Henry Rabinowitz will be back from London; for me, he's family. After John Mauceri took over the tour of the Esplanade Orchestra last summer when I was sick, I was particularly anxious to have him back, and the Boston Symphony's assistant conductor, Carl St. Clair, will also be with us. I like Carl's youth and the way he is in touch with so many American things. Finally, I am very happy to say that Harry Ellis Dickson will be back, though I am afraid he is having a very busy year without us!"

The list of the season's soloists is not yet complete, but among the orchestra members who will play are concertmaster Tamara Smirnova-Sajfar and violinist Lucia Lin, clarinetist Peter Hadcock, flutist Leone Buyse; violist Michael Zaretsky will appear with his former colleague, Emanuel Borok, now concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony. Pianists Benjamin Pasternack and Jeffrey Kahane will play, and Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii will narrate Copland's "A Lincoln Portrait."

Tour plans are still in the making -- because of past successes there is considerable demand for a return tour of Japan and a third cross-country American tour by the Pops Espalande Orchestra. And Williams cherishes the dream of touring with the Boston Pops Orchestra as well; he is especially anxious to travel to the Soviet Union. "I think they would go crazy for us."

Another ambition that is still in the works is the fulfillment of Williams' longstanding wish to record a film score with the Pops. "The schedule is always the problem. Our most famous near-miss was the score to 'E.T.,' but it would have taken seven days over a two-week period, and the time just wasn't there. We also tried more recently with 'Eastwick.' It is still a terrific idea, and producers would love to have the prestige value of the Pops, but the problem will always be the same. A project like this would be a nice adjunct for the orchestra, but it is not as important as the concerts of the Boston Symphony."

The ambitious commissioning program for new pieces specially conceived for the Pops by leading serious composers is also still in the works. "I hope that we will have the pieces by Joseph Schwantner and William Kraft in 1989, and the pieces by John Adams and Oliver Knussen the year after. As Virgil Thomson used to say, "TTT -- tunes take time."

Williams himself has had more "time for tunes" than usual lately because he didn't compose a film score this spring, although he is committed to the new Indiana Jones film that is currently in production, and he hopes very much that a project on a South African subject he cannot discuss yet will work out. ''That is something that it would be important to do." But he has not been idle. Recently, he composed and recorded themes for NBC's coverage of the Summer Olympics -- some of this music will be heard early in the Pops season. And he has written 50 new "bumpers" and themes ranging from 5 seconds to 3 minutes for use on the NBC evening news and during the forthcoming election coverage. "It's very difficult to devise music for television," Williams says, "in part because the sound is so bad. People leave the set on all the time, and so it becomes nothing more than the source of a constant noise level. So, I write fanfares in the hope of catching people's attention. Actually, these days, synthesizer music is on television almost 24 hours a day. So when you write acoustic music, the way I do, you automatically get attention!"

1989

JW begins 10th year with Pops - Richard Dyer - 1989

JOHN WILLIAMS BEGINS 10TH YEAR IN TUNE WITH POPS By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, page B37, May 7th, 1989

Arthur Fiedler piloted the Boston Pops for 50 years, and now John Williams is almost a fifth of the way there: The season that opens Tuesday night will be Williams' 10th as conductor. Although he has never attempted to match Fiedler's high public profile -- perhaps because he has never attempted to -- Williams has found his own secure place in the affections of an international public. A very private person, Williams is still startled when total strangers stop him in a hotel lobby somewhere and ask for his autograph.

"I don't want an image," says a newly slimmed-down Williams, whose major career is in Hollywood, world capital of image-making. "But I'll admit, the reception the Pops gets everywhere it goes gives me a glow. But the glow belongs to the whole Boston community that has created the Pops and kept it going; Boston ought to know that the glow is there all over the country, in fact all over the world."

Williams has big plans for the current Pops season, including a major celebration of the 20th consecutive season on television's Public Broadcasting Service (Ch. 2 in Boston), a special program that will feature soprano Roberta Peters and baritone Robert Merrill in nostalgic duets, comic pianist Victor Borge and Art Buchwald delivering his new narration for Saint-Saens' ''Carnival of the Animals," which will feature the Paratore Brothers, who were launched on their international careers by this piece and the Pops. "You can imagine that Buchwald's new text will deal not only with animals, but with political animals," Williams says.

Among the other television programs of the season will be the opening-night program featuring soprano Kathleen Battle and saxophonist Branford Marsalis in a tribute to Duke Ellington; a country music evening starring Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle; Carol Channing in a joint appearance with clarinetist Eddie Daniels; a Broadway evening with Mandy Patinkin and Barbara Cook; and Andre Previn playing Gershwin's Concerto in F. "I'm also hoping to lure Andre into conducting a piece or two," Williams acknowledges.

Williams is particularly eager to emphasize the two new works that have been commissioned for the Pops this season, Joseph Schwantner's ''Freeflight," which will be heard on opening night, and William Kraft's ''Vintage Renaissance," which will have its premiere early in June. This has been an important part of Williams' agenda from the beginning, and he is very proud that one of these special Pops commissions, Peter Maxwell Davies' ''An Orkney Wedding: With Sunrise," has now entered the standard international repertory. "Oliver Knussen has promised us a piece, and I hope he finishes it before I'm too old to conduct it. John Adams has also agreed to write for the Pops."

There will be a number of new arrangements this season as well -- an Andrew Lloyd Webber medley ("we've needed this"), some new Irving Berlin items, a cafe-society medley, a group of choo-choo songs ("The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe," etc.), some pieces from the current hit "Jerome Robbins' Broadway" and a new suite from "Porgy and Bess" that Williams hopes will include some beloved melodies like "I Loves You Porgy" that Robert Russell Bennett did not incorporate in the standard suite. Asked if he plans to include anything recent of his own, Williams says he may program music from the score from "The Accidental Tourist." And if the latest Indiana Jones picture ("Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade") is the hit everyone expects it to be, he can hardly avoid pulling out the famous march from "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

Williams himself thinks this third picture of the series is the best.

The Pops will fulfill its decade-long contract with Philips Records with two new CDs. "We haven't done any Gershwin, so it's time. We'll do the new 'Porgy' Suite, 'An American in Paris,' and 'Rhapsody in Blue.' We're casting for a pianist now -- no, I won't do it myself because it would take a month of hard work for these tired old bones to make a decent enough sound. It takes some muscle to play 'Rhapsody in Blue."'

The guest conductors for the season will be Harry Ellis Dickson, the new assistant conductor Ronald Feldman ("He is personable and I feel sure he will be successful"), Carl St. Clair, Harry Rabinowitz, Bruce Hangan, Erich Kunzel, John Covelli, Michael Lankaster and Jonathan McPhee. Williams is also interested in attracting some mainstream conductors onto the Pops podium, and reports he has had "interesting" conversations on this subject with Boston Symphony guest conductor Yuri Termirkanov, among others.

Williams himself will be here for six weeks with the Pops, conducting three or four times a week. Then, after three weeks of vacation, he will return for the final two weeks of the season of the alternate free-lance Pops Esplanade orchestra. This season, in a new experiment, the Esplanade orchestra will return to Symphony Hall for a week in July after the annual free concerts in the Hatch Shell. Williams will also lead the Esplanade Orchestra on a two- week, 10-city American tour this summer; in June 1990, he will lead the Boston Pops on a tour of Japan.

This has been an exceptionally busy year for Williams as a composer for films. In addition to "The Accidental Tourist" and the Indiana Jones picture, Williams has composed the music for a new Jane Fonda/Robert De Niro film about illiteracy called "Stanley and Iris." He is working on Oliver Stone's new film about a Vietnam veteran, starring Tom Cruise, called "Born on the Fourth of July."

"I saw a rough cut, and I was staggered by this film -- it may be the most powerful film I have ever seen. It sounds pretentious to say I was 'inspired,' but I knew immediately I had to do it, and I knew immediately how to do it. I want to score it for trumpet and strings."

Before the year is over, he will also write the score for a new Steven Spielberg film called "A Guy Named Joe," a remake of a popular World War II picture; Richard Dreyfuss takes the Spencer Tracy role.

"Writing music is my working life," says Williams. "This is what I do. I go to the studio every morning and I compose two minutes of music. After a while, it adds up -- there's an hour and 50 minutes of music in the Indiana Jones film, and you know that all of it requires the full orchestra, going prestissimo. That's a lot of notes. There's 40 minutes of music in the Fonda film, and 50 in 'Born on the Fourth of July.' "

Asked to sum up his feelings about a decade at the Pops, Williams says, ''That's hard. So much has changed -- and so little. That's the way tradition works; change comes in very small increments. I don't think it's complacent to point out that the popularity of the Pops does not seem to have diminished at all. But we have to be alert to the danger signs. The traditional source of the Pops repertory is the Broadway stage, and now there's very little new music that people want to live with, that they want to keep. So we have to keep up the search for a repertoire, finding new things, and discarding things that no longer work. The Pops is famous for delivering a certain glowing good feeling that it must produce each and every time out. The amazing thing is that it does."

Williams promises additional "surprises" for the Pops season. But he acknowledges he's about to receive a surprise himself. His wife, photographer Samantha Winslow, has been building a new house in Telluride, Colo.; she came across the site on one of her periodic mountain-climbing expeditions. Williams has not seen the site, although he has avidly studied all the maps and plans and followed the progress of the construction, which is scheduled for completion early in July. It doesn't sound like the house will be an escapist retreat, however. That's not the John Williams style. "It's not a huge house, just a few thousand square feet. There will be room for a piano. I wonder if there's a good piano tuner in Telluride . . ."

Orchestrating Indiana Jones - Boston Globe 1989

ORCHESTRATING 'INDIANA JONES'

By Fernando Gonzalez, Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, page 91, June 18th, 1989

The music business thrives on stories of overnight fame and million-dollar contracts. For most musicians, success means simply making a living doing what they have trained to do.

It's an extremely competitive world in which discipline and flexibility are a must. A good day might include a recording for a soap commercial in the morning, some teaching in the afternoon and a Mahler symphony at night. The weekend schedule might bring a pop show, a wedding and a jazz dance.

Pat Hollenbeck, 34, knows this life well. Most recently, he orchestrated John Williams' score for "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade." Last year, he orchestrated jazz composer George Russell's "Esthetic Gravities," a commission by Boston Musica Viva. He plays percussion with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Boston Pops, for which he has also written several arrangements. He was also one of the original members of the Boston-based Orange Then Blue.

The time for the musical specialist, said Hollenbeck in a recent conversation at his home in Cambridge, is over. "Being a specialist is a luxury that few can afford nowadays."

"Anyway, for me, music never really had this barrier: 'You're a classical musician, you are this, you're that.' That wasn't my experience," he says. ''And with any profession, you have to move with the times."

For Hollenbeck, this means working with synthesizers ("People are worried they are going to be put out of work. I say you still need someone to turn that synthesizer on. Don't fight it, work with it.") and getting more involved with writing music for film. "There are tremendous opportunities in that world," he says, "and there're going to be more."

He credits John Williams, who arrived as conductor just as Hollenbeck began playing with the Pops 10 years ago, with sparking his interest in sound tracks.

"When he started he brought so much energy with his music," says Hollenbeck. "There's something very seductive about it. So I started paying attention to how music affected things when coupled with visuals. I was just trying to stretch as a musician. I never thought of it as a career, I was just trying to learn."

He also mentions Williams and George Russell as important influences in his development as a writer.

"When you are a classical percussionist," he continues, "you are in a kind of SWAT team. You sit back there and you wait. And then you wait a little more -- but in the meantime, all these sounds are going around, and I tried to consciously absorb them. John is an unbelievable orchestrator himself, and when he came to the Pops he also brought with him music by other orchestrators, real top-of-the-line stuff, so it was almost by osmosis, hearing this terrific stuff."

In 1987, Hollenbeck arranged and orchestrated Williams' score for "New England Time Capsule," a five-minute film made for the Omnimax Theater at the Museum of Science. "John had other commitments, so he wrote the themes and I basically put it together."

The work of the orchestrator consists of assigning the different elements in a piece of music to the instruments in the orchestra. It can be a rather straightforward job with some elbow room for taste and creativity. In the Hollywood lore, there is always somehow more than that.

"When I got out there I heard these horror stories of orchestrators being handed a page with a title, a key signature and a number of bars and nothing else on it; so orchestrators have developed a mystique as, allegedly, 'the secret composers,' and in many cases it may be true -- but not with John Williams. With him, orchestrating means taking his notes from the little green paper and putting them in the big yellow paper. But it was a tremendous learning experience."

"He wanted me to do what he needed done but also somehow enhance it. But when it came down to the heat of battle and he was on the podium and the picture was going by he was amazing at molding the music and getting what he wanted. He's like a chef. He has the ingredients and he chooses: 'Take the oboes out, put the clarinets up an octave,' whatever."

"People usually think that to make something better you add something. The greatest thing I learned from him is that the opposite is true. Less is more."

He said he was surprised by the mood at the recording sessions.

Director Steven Spielberg, producer George Lucas, they were all there, he said. "It was interesting. It's not what I envisioned. There's no feeling of stress and tension. It's an incredibly positive atmosphere. They are having fun."

And while this was not Hollenbeck's first visit to Los Angeles, he says he also learned something about "laid-back LA."

"I found it to be almost the opposite. Boston for musicians is laid back in the sense that there's a limited number of jobs and you know what to expect. You also know, for example, that certain months -- January, February, August -- you are almost guaranteed not to work. There, at the recording session, the contractor would stand up at the breaks and read the list of names of people who had dozens of phone calls -- and the rest were calling their answering services to check for work."

The musician's life, says Hollenbeck, "is funny." "You sit around and do nothing or all of an sudden you get offered 25 gigs in two days."

Typically, there's not much time to enjoy the results of his work in ''Indiana Jones." He just completed an arrangement of Bobby McFerrin's hit ''Don't Worry Be Happy" for the Pops. He is also playing regularly with the Pops. His next project is the orchestration of George Russell's "Esthetic Gravities" for big band, to be recorded in London.

"I don't have any insights in John's methods," he says as a sort of explanation, "but someone who produces so much and of such quality has to be incredibly motivated and disciplined person."

"I remember an interview with Henry Mancini in the Globe: Perseverance is the key," Hollenbeck says. "He is right. Some of my classmates were the kind of guys that when you heard them they made you want to quit they were so talented. Unfortunately, some of those people have turned into talented cab drivers."

JW pursuit of Excellence - Boston Globe - 1989

JOHN WILLIAMS' PURSUIT OF EXCELLENCE

By Marian Christy, Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, page 21, July 4th, 1989

John Williams, conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra since l980, describes himself as a cool professional.

"I don't have the aspect of extrovertedness," he says softly. "I can't entertain with flourishes. That's not in my personality."

But in this interview, conducted in a private studio at Symphony Hall, Williams reveals his vulnerabilities and his intensities. A perfectionist who temporarily resigned his Pops position in 1984, the 57-year-old Williams says admits that maturity has made him more peaceful about himself and his career.

He also reveals his continuing obsession with music when he cites his favorite bedtime reading: a score of Beethoven sonatas that sits on his nightstand. "It reads like a novel!" he says.

Williams first rose to prominence as the composer of music for films. He has scored 80 movies, including some of Hollywood's biggest moneymakers, and has won four Oscars (for "Star Wars," "Jaws," "E.T." and "Fiddler on the Roof"). He has also won two Emmys and 15 Grammys.

Born in Flushing, N.Y., Williams studied music at the University of California at Los Angeles, at Los Angeles City College and at the Juilliard School.

He and his second wife, photographer Samantha Wilson, are building a house in Telluride, Colo. Williams lives in Weston when he is working in Boston.

"When I was working in Hollywood, I saw how successful Andre Previn was -- and with seemingly little effort. I felt I had to work harder because I was less gifted.

"I had to work harder to do the same work. I had to be prepared to spend more hours. It's still that way. I'm a natural musician but not that natural. Maybe it appears to be obsessive. Maybe it's a kind of compensation for being a less quick study than a colleague.

"To me, music encourages its own intense concentration. Music is very intoxicating, very seductive. It can hold your attention longer than reading.

"When I'm working, I don't think of myself. I think only of the music. I don't set out to lose myself, but I do. I abandon myself to the music. If you concentrate completely on subject X, your own adrenaline anesthetizes you from subject Y.

"The pursuit of excellence is what life ought to be about. It's trying to get closer to God, to imitate the perfect state. The odyssey to find perfection should define humanity.

"This thought comes into my consciousness when I'm working. If I forge my music better, if I shape it better, if I make it better, I am happier than if I hadn't tried.

"To me it's like this: If you bust your gut and you lose, you feel badly. But if you don't bust your gut and you lose, you feel much worse.

"I wasn't critical of the orchestra's manners when I left the Pops in l984. Our differences had to do with attitude. I thought we needed an atmosphere that was more friendly, more efficient.

"There were aspects that needed changing. I left because I thought leaving was necessary.

"Things changed. But a lot of things have stayed the same. The difference now is that I'm more comfortable.

"There's so much to learn on a job. You can be diminished by your predecessor. I had to face that possibility because my predecessor Arthur Fiedler was highly visible. I wasn't scared. I was uncomfortable.

"When I tell you I'm more comfortable now, I mean more comfortable about being able to deal with the problems. You do better because you know more. Being 'comfortable' has its complications. Complacency has to be guarded against. We need to be animated by something, even discomfort.

"What I do with the orchestra is try to make the goal we're seeking worth the maximum effort. I'm dealing with professionals who know the importance of a moment, who know when to say to themselves: 'Now it counts!'

"I don't use tricks to inspire my orchestra. I don't even know if I can inspire. If there are tense musical disputes, I think they can be remedied with technical solutions. I offer the solutions. Maybe if I'm right enough times, that inspires respect.

"Discipline is essential to creativity. Rarely is anything right the first time. Maybe, maybe you get it on the fifth try. Discipline involves tenacity and steadfastness. It has to be applied vigorously every day.

"Music is athletic. You have to train every day in order to perform. If you get lazy, you get weak. Musicians are like joggers. If you jog every day, you get to a higher level. Success is the result of sustained effort.

"Music is a basic human need. We communicate verbally. We communicate with body language. But there comes a time when a shepherd picks up a flute or a hunter picks up a drum and plays out his joy or his pain. Music is an essential nutrient. Without it, we are incomplete.

"When I was composing for films in Hollywood, I saw other people conducting my music. I thought: 'But I know better how my music should be performed.'

"So I got up on the podium and told the musicians exactly what I wanted -- and when they did it, I was satisfied. That's how I got the first inkling that I could be a conductor.

"I'm never frustrated by music. What can be frustrating is not being able to solve problems in a given piece. You have to address yourself to your own inadequacies.

"The joy of music doesn't come often to me. Most things are flawed. Maybe I'm being too hard on myself. The ideal always seems to elude me. I always want to do better.

"After all, I'm defined by my work, by the details of the process of making music. My work is what I am."

You will be hearing from him - Richard Dyer - 1989

YOU'LL BE HEARING FROM HIM

By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, page 77, August 31st, 1989

LENOX -- Timothy Morrison has returned from Hollywood, where he made his first movie, "Born on the Fourth of July."

You won't see Morrison in the new Oliver Stone film starring Tom Cruise when it's released next Christmas, but you'll hear him. John Williams composed the score for the story of Ron Kovic, the quadriplegic Vietnam veteran who has become a powerful spokesman for veterans' rights; Kovic himself makes a brief appearance in the film. As he watched a rough cut of the film last February, Williams' ear heard music for trumpet and strings, and the trumpeter he heard in the still-unwritten music was Morrison, the principal trumpet of the Boston Pops and associate principal trumpet of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

"It is an important, painful, serious and vivid film," Williams said one afternoon at Tanglewood last week.

''I knew immediately I would want a string orchestra to sing in opposition to all the realism on the screen, and then the idea came to have a solo trumpet -- not a military trumpet, but an American trumpet, to recall the happy youth of this boy. And I knew I wanted Tim -- he has an American sound and his playing is very touching, very beautiful. There is real serenity in his playing; Tim's a thoughtful guy."

Morrison, 33, is unusual because he has had two different careers in the Boston Symphony. He first joined the orchestra in 1980, left in 1984 and spent two seasons touring with the Empire Brass before rejoining the orchestra in a more prominent position a year ago.

The soft-spoken Morrison is tall, good-looking and built like an athlete, which is what he wanted to be when he was growing up in Portland, Ore. He played drums a little and trumpet in the school band. "But basically I was interested in sports -- basketball, football, baseball, and I went out for track. But I realized that I had more natural talent as a musician than I would ever have as an athlete, so I got serious about the trumpet when I was a junior in high school."

Morrison's teacher was the principal trumpet in the Oregon Symphony, Fred Sauter, who was a friend of Gunther Schuller, who was then president of the New England Conservatory. On his teacher's recommendation, Morrison won a scholarship and came to Boston to study with Roger Voisin and Armando Ghitalla, two first trumpeters of the Boston Symphony. In 1977 he was a student at the Tanglewood Music Center. "At the Conservatory and at Tanglewood was where I first learned about orchestras. I hadn't gone the traditional route and never played solo cornet. I had no orchestral experience when I came here, so I had to open my eyes. The caliber of performance was very high. I still remember the Stravinsky 'Rite of Spring' we played at Tanglewood for Seiji Ozawa and the Bruckner Fourth with Klaus Tennstedt and the performances of Schoenberg's 'Gurrelieder' and Berg's 'Wozzeck' at the New England Conservatory."

From the conservatory Morrison went into the State Symphony of Mexico in Toluca, where he spent a year. "The altitude was hard to adjust to at first. I remember trying to go jogging the first day I was there, and it was a lung- aching experience."

He left Toluca to come to the Boston Symphony as fourth trumpet, though he found himself playing second fairly often during those volatile years of the section. After four years, however, Morrison left. "I felt I didn't want to be fourth trumpet forever, and I wanted to try something different and strike out on my own." He went to Los Angeles intending to pursue the free-lance life, but wound up with a number of former BSO colleagues in the Empire Brass.

"That was the best thing I ever did," Morrison recalls. "It made me a better player. Partly it was performing so constantly -- in those seasons we often played more than 100 concerts a year. Also in a group that size everyone is basically a soloist, so you learn how to survive. On the other hand, I quickly discovered that life on the road was not for me."

So when the position of assistant principal trumpet of the BSO and principal trumpet of the Pops opened up, Morrison returned. "I am now in a more exposed position and carry more responsibility. I spent several years in a supporting capacity to some great players, and now I am stretching my own wings. I knew I had it in myself to be a principal trumpet, but until recently I wasn't in a situation where I was able to develop this ability in myself."

In addition to his responsibilities at the BSO and the Pops, Morrison teaches eight to 10 students a year at the New England Conservatory. "I try to help them on the technical level, but more than that I try to teach them to express themselves through the instrument. I also try to teach them the theatrical elements in their playing, to project beyond the orchestra and out to the audience -- to make music, in short. I'm not sure where I learned this myself; I'm a late bloomer in a way. It took me a while to get in touch with my own feelings and to make connections through them to the music and to the audience."

Morrison thinks a good trumpet sound is a warm sound. "I look for ease in production, a free sound, a sound that is capable of different colors. I also like a good-sized sound, not overblown, but with a lyrical, singing quality. Of course the trumpet must be able to sound nasty when you need it to, but the nastiness should never get out of control."

Lately Morrison has been returning to his first musical interest; he's been taking drum lessons. "I just want to be proficient enough to have fun with it -- I like to play a lot of different kinds of music, jazz and rock-funk. I identify rhythmically with music; to me that is the most important aspect of it."

Morrison feels he has "come full circle" several times in his life, and it happened again when he returned to Los Angeles to play in the film soundtrack. "The studio musicians in LA have a varied life -- they go from the studio to play a concert or a jazz gig. I like to see myself as that kind of musician. John has written a very interesting score -- it's a very dramatic, serious side of John's music, a side I hadn't really seen before. I like John's writing for the trumpet very much; it's very lyric and very melodious. I can't tell you much about the movie because I only saw the 40 minutes or so that I'm in. Even then, I didn't see very much because I had things to do -- I couldn't be looking around too much. They showed a black- and-white copy of the scenes with music, and the music starts and stops. You have to stay very flexible within a very strict time frame; you have to let the music breathe. I did think it was a very interesting picture to watch; Oliver Stone is an artist working with film and there is a great eye behind the camera."

Williams says, "I think some sequences in the film are as good as anything I have ever seen. Tom Cruise has matured remarkably and he is brilliant in it. But I know people are going to find it difficult to watch some of this film, and whether the American public is ready to embrace something so strong, I don't know. But it is an important film and to my mind the best of the Vietnam films. And Tim Morrison soars in it from the beginning right through. His playing has that special glow."

How JW celebrates Christmas - Boston Globe - 1989

THE SUGARPLUM FAIRY TALKS TURKEY

By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, page 24, November 26th, 1989

"All Christmas observances in our family are fairly traditional," says Boston Pops conductor, John Williams, "with gifts and lots of slimming things to eat. It's a family time. For the last 10 years, I've spent the week just before Christmas in Boston conducting the Pops. I enjoy that, because Christmas in Boston looks like Christmas ought to look. For someone from California this is a wonderful thing. Two years ago, the family came to Boston to join me, and then we went out to spend Christmas in Stockbridge.

"My wife Samatha does all the cooking, and my favorite part is the stuffing she does -- when I ask her what's in it, she says 'Everything.' Sometimes I'll play a few carols at the piano. For years a group of us would sing the new carols my friend and colleague Alfred Burt composed every Christmas; I'm very devoted to them, and now I always try to put some of them on the Pops Christmas program. . . . All the lights and festivity and shopping brightens everything -- life in the winter months would be unthinkable without Christmas, wouldn't it?"

A new recording contract for Pops - Richard Dyer - 1989

A NEW RECORDING CONTRACT FOR POPS

By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, page 110, December 14th, 1989

John Williams and the Boston Pops signed a new recording contract with Sony Classical, a division of CBS records, on Monday. The long-term, exclusive, multi-record contract ends the Pops's 10-year association with Philips Records that resulted in 15 best-selling CDs with two more awaiting release.

Next week Williams and the Pops will make the first recording under its new contract, an album of contemporary show tunes from Broadway and London's West End, including songs by Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, Jerry Herman and Andrew Lloyd Webber and songs from Claude-Michel Schonberg's ''Miss Saigon." The producer of the album will be Thomas Z. Shepard, long associated with CBS' celebrated series of original-cast albums.

Boston Symphony Orchestra general manager Kenneth Haas is on tour with the orchestra in Japan and could not be reached for comment yesterday; Williams, flying to Boston from California to rehearse for the opening of Christmas Pops, also could not be reached.

Joseph S. Dash, senior vice president of Sony Classical, declined to spell out details of the new Pops contract ("long-term" in the record business means three or four years, for example), but he sounded jubilant at the label's new acquisition. "Let's face it. CBS Masterworks is the pre-eminent crossover label in the world; in effect we created the genre. That's why we feel so strongly about this new relationship -- we have the combination of the preeminent Pops orchestra in the world, a great composer-conductor in John Williams, who is a prince of a person to work with, our know-how when it comes to this kind of repertory, and our powerful world-wide distribution."

Discussions with CBS have been under way since before the last Pops season. With the infusion of new capital resulting from Sony's acquisition of CBS, the label has been signing artists previously associated with other labels. The final recording of the late Vladimir Horowitz, reportedly part of a $1 million contract, was made for CBS, and the company has added such artists as Midori to its roster as well as acquiring the video legacy of the late Herbert von Karajan, and performances by two of today's most reclusive conductors, Sergiu Celibidache and Carlos Kleiber.

Dash said yesterday, "This contract has been in the works for quite some time -- good things take a little bit of time to gestate. The important thing at the end of the day is that the answer is 'yes,' and now that we have that 'yes' we are wasting no time before we make our first recording."

Naturally we can look for the Pops to work in collaboration with major CBS artists in various fields, such as Barbra Streisand, Placido Domingo and Yo-Yo Ma, just as the Pops collaborated with Jessye Norman during the Philips period. But Dash downplayed this dimension yesterday. "Of course we will always look for opportunities to present the Pops with our other artists, but it will be icing on the cake. The raison d'etre for our coming together is the talent of Williams and the Pops, and even if we didn't have a great roster to fall back on, we would still want to do this deal."

Philips plans to issue an album called "Pops a la Russe" in the spring and an all-Gershwin album featuring pianist Misha Dichter in the fall of 1990. The last Pops records of the legendary half-century tenure of Arthur Fiedler as conductor did not invariably adhere to the standards of taste that characterized his earlier work, but over the last 10 years Williams has been resistant to some strictly commercial propositions.

Some of CBS's crossover ventures, such as the projected "Goya" musical with Placido Domingo, have not been of high artistic quality, and some industry observers have wondered how far CBS will try to push Williams and the Pops into a more commercial direction. Dash downplayed these concerns by characterizing Williams as "a superb musician with a great deal of taste."

1990

JW talks pops past and future - Richard Dyer - 1990

WILLIAMS TALKS OF POPS' PAST, FUTURE

By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, page 76, July 19th, 1990

LENOX -- John Williams had a Pops concert to conduct at Tanglewood on Tuesday, but for the last two weeks he says he's mostly been a "civilian, checking out the golf courses in the Berkshires."

But he settled down on Monday afternoon for a late-afternoon drink and a little talk about the Pops season that just ended, the recent tour of Japan and some plans for the future.

"That trip to Japan was an experience beyond my capacity to describe. At one of the concerts the prime minister was present, so we played both the Japanese and the American national anthems. The audience listened to their own national anthem in silence, but there was warm, generous and spirited applause for ours -- they have a vey positive feeling about American things. I had been hesitant about including 'The Stars and Stripes Forever' on the program, but then I learned that the inventor of the Walkman had conducted it on the concert Sony gave him in honor of his birthday. So I put it in, despite my trepidation, and when it came to the part where the audience in Boston always starts clapping, the Japanese audience started clapping right on cue. The American film music also seemed to be very popular, 'E.T.' especially. And I particularly appreciated the audience's willingness to listen -- that is something we miss sometimes in the garden-party atmosphere of the Pops at home with all the bottles and tables and talking."

Williams said the audiences seemed very familiar with the Pops repertory. Japan is a major market for Boston Pops recordings, and every concert was sold out. And now, of course, the Pops record exclusively for the Sony label. The first Sony CD, "Music of the Night," is out now, and Williams is very happy with it. "I think Sony has given us a sleeker sound. Symphony Hall has fabulous acoustics for several kinds of music, but not for all -- sometimes the Pops arrangements can sound too overwhelming."

Forthcoming recording projects for Sony will include an album of marches to be called "I Love a Parade," an album about the romance of train travel to be called "All Aboard," and an album of film music, including Copland's ''The Red Pony," and two pieces of his own Williams is particularly anxious to record, "The Reivers" and "Born on the 4th of July." "Tim Morrison Pops principal trumpet, who plays so beautifully in 'Born on the 4th of July,' is an unbelievable artist and asset to the Pops. What will be different this year is that for the first time we will be doing some recording away from the regular Pops season, which is always such a crunch. We will have recording dates in February and in October, and I think that will help the recordings to emerge in a stronger way."

Williams has a well-documented tendency to stay to his hotel rooms during tours; he knows how to focus and conserve his energies. But he enjoyed getting out and about in Japan this time, and found himself particularly fascinated by the ancient temples in Kyoto. "I am absolutely convinced that ghosts reside in those woods; it was absolute magic. At first the conformity of so much we saw was a little off-putting, but then I began to understand the beauty of it too -- it was like watching flocks of doves."

Williams' most recent composition was a short fanfare he has called ''Celebrate America," which had its premiere on the Esplanade on the Fourth of July. This is a kind of preview for a major event of 1992, the anniversary of Columbus' voyage to America. "Governor Dukakis also asked me to write a pop song about this, but I didn't really think I was the man for the job, so I asked my friends Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil to do it, and it was fantastic; we had a choral/pop arrangement on the Esplanade and the audience adored it. The Tanglewood Festival Chorus had other responsibilities, so Beverly Taylor from Radcliffe did a wonderful job of getting a chorus together and prepared. Our next move is to make a good commerical recording of the song in the fall to use in the television promotions for the big celebration, and our hope is to have another network television show again, like the one we did for the restoration of the Statue of Liberty. There is also talk of a tour to Europe and to Spain in particular in 1992, and the Japanese have already invited us back as well."

The most recent film Williams has scored is "Presumed Innocent," which opens this summer. He says he will probably do another in the fall, but he's not sure what, yet. "I've passed on a couple of things; I'm still looking for the right project at the right time. The next film I'm committed to is the new Steven Spielberg film, 'Schindler's List,' which is about the Holocaust. The script is wonderful, but the film hasn't been cast yet."

Spielberg, incidentally, is such a fan of Williams' that he likes to tease him by singing the principal themes from movies Williams scored so long ago that the composer himself has forgotten them; Spielberg can sing the main title from "Diamond Head." "I have all my pencil sketches bound in leather, and they stretch across a whole wall in my house in California. But Steven actually knows what's in them!"

The Music Man - Richard Dyer - 1990

THE MUSIC MAN JOHN WILLIAMS WRITES THE SOUND TRACK FOR AMERICA'S MAKE-BELIEVE

By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, page B23, October 7th, 1990

LOS ANGELES -- The Universal Studios tour is a joyride through a land of make-believe. The trams make it across a collapsing bridge, escape a flash flood and a menacing space capsule, come through an exploding subway station unharmed. Placidly it rolls alongside a tranquil New England harbor where a great white shark looms from the waters.

The whole thing is an elaborate commerical for Universal films and television programs, and it's just what the tourists have paid their $22 for, even if the guide doesn't have the actor's gift of making it seem he's just thought up his lines. And when the patter fails, there's always music to take over: Most of the soundtrack for the tour is by John Williams, who has created more movie music that everyone knows and remembers than anyone alive. An ''E.T." ride under construction is mentioned and we hear the soaring theme; as the razor jaws gape and scissor, we hear the menacing motive of ''Jaws" that terrified a nation for a whole summer.

What the tour doesn't tell you is that it's all make-believe, and that the businesslike work of of creating make-believe is going on elsewhere, not very far away.

The tour winds through the back lot, a town that doesn't belong together, where a turn around each corner brings you into a different country, city and century -- an American town square, a Parisian street cafe, the Transylvanian town where Bela Lugosi prowled by night.

Around another corner is what looks like a quiet street in Santa Fe or the corporate headquarters of Taco Bell. This is Steven Spielberg's Amblin Productions, and in a low building off to the side, John Williams has his studio, and there he writes his music -- the music that has taken permanent hold on the imaginations of more than one generation of American moviegoers.

The studio is just three rooms in a rehabbed writers' building built in Route 66 tourist-court architecture ("Welcome to the low-rent district," Williams quips). The rooms themselves are spacious, and only a fair amount of video and audio equipment gives away what's going on there. Williams' own room looks like a large study; there's a desk, a couch, a coffee table. Next to the grand piano at one end of the room a large architect's table has been rigged up. On it are the tools of Williams' trade -- music paper, pencils, erasers and a stopwatch. A radiant light filters through the curtained windows.

A couple of weeks ago, Williams was there composing the music for a film that will be coming out at Christmas called "Home Alone." "I didn't want to do a picture right now," Williams said. "I've been working on a clarinet concerto. But a friend talked me into going to a screening and I just went dippy over the movie -- it gave me the same feeling as 'E.T.,' though it's a small picture, without that physical scope. I think the public is going to go crazy for this -- it's a story about an 8-year-old outwitting some very Dickensian villains. There's a lot of music, about 50 minutes, built on five major themes."

Before taking a visitor on a guided tour of his West Coast world, Williams stops to finish a phrase on the piano and on paper; no musician can leave a harmonic suspension unresolved. And then he confers briefly with an assistant in the outer room; Williams has discovered a mistake. The final version of the film has been edited a little differently from the one he was working with. In a drugstore scene, one cutaway from the child's point of view to the glowering bearded villain has been taken out, but the music Williams composed still glowers for that split second; he knows he'll have to sweeten it up.

Then Williams steps out into the afternoon. "I first came to Hollywood with my parents in 1938 when I was 6 years old, and you could see the coast all the way -- up? down? -- to Malibu. You can't do that any more. My dad worked at Warner Bros., which was then out in the country, surrounded by farms, but now there's been too much unplanned growth -- so much so that I've been thinking about moving somewhere else, and just keeping a little place to work in here. Over my years with the Boston Pops I've gotten very attached to New England, but the places I like in the Berkshires and in New Hampshire are too far away from Symphony Hall to be very practical as places to live."

As he walks over to the main Amblin building, he passes through an arbor hanging with richly-scented bougainvillea; there's a small Japanese garden and a pool where fat, lazy carp preen and swim. The decor of the building is a little surprising in its juxtapositions, but because it reflects the taste of an interesting person -- Spielberg -- it works. Priceless American Indian antiquities hang displayed next to priceless movie memorabilia (a call sheet for a day's shooting of "Citizen Kane"; an original gel of Disney's Pinocchio), which in turn hang alongside pricey Norman Rockwell canvasses. The Rockwells are far larger than a cover for the Saturday Evening Post; they are also richer in color and better painted than you might think -- it isn't easy to condescend to these paintings when you see the originals. There's even a bit of movie music memorabilia: the manuscript of "When You Wish Upon a Star" -- "a pretty good tune," Williams observes. The books on display are decorative and seem to have been bought by the yard; it's hard to imagine Steven Spielberg settling down to an evening of reading Frances Parkinson Keyes.

The next building over is where the writers work, and up there on the stucco is emblazoned their motto. "Movies while you wait . . . and wait . . . and wait." There's also a special nursery for the lucky children of Amblin employees -- a yellow brick road winds into the cradle room, and a real-life ship has broken through the wall in another. Spielberg has never lost touch with what children like. The screening room was in use, so even Williams couldn't barge in. "You know, at the back there's an old-fashioned movie candy store. When Steven was little, he always wanted a complete snack bar where everything would be free, and now he's got it. It's stocked up daily."

Returning to what he calls "my little music building," Williams explains he's only had this office for three years. "For 25 years my studio was at Fox. After my friend Lionel Newman died, Steven offered me this place over here. In a way I was coming back, because I'd worked here before. Alfred Hitchcock's offices were here, and I worked on his last picture, 'Family Plot.' We had lunch a few times and he always took a sirloin steak with a glass of wine. He said he wanted to counteract the animal fat with acid, and he must have known what he was doing!"

The next morning, Williams continued the conversation at his home, in a large but unpretentious house on a corner near UCLA. His wife, Samantha Winslow, wasn't there -- she was off finishing up a vacation home that has long been under construction in Telluride, Colo. "This weekend I will fly out to see it for the first time. All I've done so far is answer questions about furniture and tiles and sign a lot of checks! I didn't want to go until the house was completely finished -- it's out on a mountaintop, and I'm a city boy, you know." If his wife wasn't home, his dogs were, barking merrily outside the glass doors.

Upstairs, Williams has another studio; downstairs there is a living room big enough for two grand pianos, a Boesendorfer and a Hamburg Steinway; the room, he says, is ideal for chamber music. Open on one of the pianos are Beethoven's Cello Sonatas. "I heard Yo-Yo Ma and Manny Ax play one of these at Tanglewood last summer, and they made me want to learn to play this music myself." On a sideboard stand Williams' Oscars -- and hefty they are; also prominent is a poster announcing the premiere of the First Symphony by John T. Williams, under the direction of Andre Previn. An unusual feature of the decor is Williams' collection of fine antique carved wooden music stands, the rarest of which is an Italian sextet stand, with room for the music of six string players -- each with his own candleholder.

Another prominent presence in Williams' living room is a long row of leatherbound pencil sketches and scores for most of the films he has composed; it stretches all the way across one wall. "It's been a working life," Williams says, without exaggeration. "Even though the point is speed, writing music for films is a very time-consuming thing. I sometimes think to succeed it's just as important to be strong as it is to be good. It's a lot to turn out 10 to 15 minutes of music for full orchestra every week."

Williams acknowledges, "There's even more music upstairs, spilling out of filing cabinets, but even so I don't have all of it -- the early stuff is probably better off lost. It's probably immodest of me to save all of this, but always in my ear, I hear the voice of my colleague and friend Bernard Herrmann, who wrote so many great scores for Hitchcock, and he said, 'Keep your music. You can't trust anyone else to.' And as usual, Benny was right.

"Did you know that the whole great MGM music library is gone? Sometime in the '70s, an insurance inspector came along and wondered what all that dangerous-looking yellow molding paper stuff was doing lying around, and it was destroyed -- not only the orchestral scores like 'Dr. Zhivago' but also the great musicals. The only way they are preserved is on the sound tracks, and if you want to perform those arrangements, you have to listen to them and write them down. I had to do that myself when I wanted to pull out my music for 'Jane Eyre' for the Pops. It had been burned, so I just sat right here with the record and listened to it over and over and copied it by ear. Even last year when I wanted to do the fugue from 'Jaws,' I had to reconstruct it. So there's a point to keeping all of this."

Each score has its own story, of course. It's hard to forget the sweeping, melodramatic music of "Dracula," with horns and strings. "Yes," says Williams, "that music was campy and Lisztian and fun. I've never brought any of it out for the Pops, even though I like it a lot. Somehow it would look ridiculous on a program page -- the 'Love Theme from "Dracula." ' If we ever give a Halloween concert, I just might do it!" Pressed for his own favorite, Williams says, "When people ask that question, I usually say 'Close Encounters of the Third Kind.' It was a picture with very little dialogue, so a major part of holding the audience's interest fell to the composer."

Williams says he is content with his busy bicoastal life. "My life has somehow been chiseled into two parts -- I never thought it would turn out this way. It's a tough life, physically hard, with all the travel, and with all the public conducting. But to my own surprise this has been a big part of my life, mostly because of the people I have met and the friends I have made. I particularly love Tanglewood; every summer I can leave the smog behind and come and do that beautiful thing. Lately I have been becoming enormously rededicated to the Pops. And in a way the Pops brings together the two parts of my life, when I can conduct film music. However you rate it as music, it has definitely played a part in American life."

1991

JW to retire in 93 - Richard Dyer - 1991

POPS' WILLIAMS TO RETIRE IN '93

TO LEAVE CONDUCTOR'S JOB, MAINTAIN LOCAL MUSIC TIES

By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, December 20th, 1991

John Williams will retire as conductor of the Boston Pops at the close of the 1993 season. Williams informed Pops management of his decision late last week and told the orchestra at last night's Christmas Pops concert.

In a conversation earlier this week, Williams said, "This year I turn 60 and I have been thinking very seriously about how I want to spend my time. I never thought I would become a professional conductor; composing has always been my first love. For the last 11 years I have been carrying on two simultaneous careers, which has been both gratifying and rewarding.

"I am as keen about the Pops as I ever was, but now I want to work less, both as a conductor and as a composer for films. I want to take the time to write some concert music, to travel less, and read, walk, and spend time with my grandchildren."

For the next two seasons Williams will continue to lead the Pops in concert in Boston, at Tanglewood and on tours of America and Japan; he will continue taping television programs and CDs. He says he is eager to continue his association with the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Pops, and he has agreed to become artist-in-residence at the Tanglewood Music Center, effective immediately and permanently, according to Boston Symphony Orchestra executive director Kenneth Haas.

"I am not sure what capacity I will continue in," Williams said, "but this has been a big investment for all of us, the orchestra, the management and me, and it is a family relationship. I love Tanglewood as a kind of spiritual retreat; I have spent most of my life in the commercial world, so I love imbibing that atmosphere. And Tanglewood in the summer does have California weather!"

Williams is the most successful composer of film music in the history of the medium. Two current pictures have Williams scores, "Hook" and "JFK." Ten of the 12 top grossing films in history have scores by Williams (among them "Home Alone," "E.T.," "Star Wars," "Return of the Jedi" and ''Jaws").

It was therefore a surprise when Williams, who had never been a public performer, agreed to succeed Arthur Fiedler and become the 20th conductor of the Boston Pops in January 1980.

But Williams had had a long and versatile career in music, and he adapted quickly to his new responsibilities. He studied piano with Rosina Lhevinne, trainer of great virtuosos like Van Cliburn, and composition with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. He made a career as a jazz pianist, Johnny Williams, and arranged albums for such diverse Columbia Records stars as Mahalia Jackson and Doris Day.

He entered films as a rehearsal pianist for "South Pacific" in 1958; he has since scored more than 70 movies, ranging from "Tammy Goes to Rome" to ''The Towering Inferno" to such film-music classics as "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." In the process, Williams has won four Oscars (and been nominated for 28) and 15 Grammies.

With the Pops and the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestras, Williams has toured the United States and Japan, recorded 20 best-selling CDs for Philips and, more recently, three for Sony Classics (with three more still unreleased) and taped more than 50 award-winning television programs. The Pops under his tenure regained a momentum that had slowed during the last years of Arthur Fiedler's 50-year reign as conductor, and the only problems that became public arose in 1985, when Williams resigned because of discipline problems in the orchestra and then agreed to return.

"At 60," Williams said, "you are not exactly creaking with age, but you have to be realistic about how much energy you have and where you want to put it.

"I am not leaving the Pops because I want to spend more time in Hollywood; I want to scale back there, too. I never thought of myself as a performer, and the best use I can make of my time and talent is to write music, and so I want to concentrate on that, to think about the pieces I am writing, give them time and breathing room.

"Next spring I am writing a bassoon concerto for the New York Philharmonic and its principal player, and that is exactly the kind of thing I would like to do more of. I want to devote more time to serious musical composition -- but don't worry, I will always remember the advice of Vaughan Williams to a younger composer who had presented him with pages of crabbed counterpoint: 'Young man, if a tune should ever occur to you, don't fail to write it down.' "

Williams also elaborated on his hopes of spending more time with his family.

"I have three grandchildren now, one of them already 9, and I am closer to my own children now that they are in their 30s than I was when they were growing up. Between 'Hook,' 'JFK' and Pops responsibilities, I have not had a day off since early in the summer, and that made me crazy; I missed being around the youngsters more. There's a speech in 'Hook' about that -- childhood doesn't last long, so don't miss it."

Williams believes there is "a strong future" for the Pops and plans to spend the next two seasons working toward it.

"At a time when all the arts are being urged to broaden their demographic range, and rightly so, the Pops is in a better position to do it than many other organizations. Major arts institutions have been criticized for relying solely on our European heritage. The Pops has never defined its repertory and its mission so narrowly, and so the relevance of the Pops to people's lives is as sharp and keen as it ever was -- it reaches out to audiences without pandering to them."

Williams is fully aware of the accomplishments of his years at the Pops; he is both eager to share the credit and disarmingly modest.

"I think all of us have done a good job in keeping the Pops vital, in building a bridge between Arthur Fiedler and the present. I will be leaving at the right time; the institution is growing, the television is going well, the new relationship with Sony Classics is successful.

"I think the Pops is better off now than it was 10 years ago, and because I'm not leaving tomorrow, there is time to make it still better before I retire. But I also really believe in my heart of hearts that 10 years from now the Pops will be better still. And not to mimimize the difficulty of the job, I think if I can do it, anybody can."

1992

Hook and JFK - Richard Dyer - 1992

'HOOK,' 'JFK' ARE LATEST HITS WITH THE JOHN WILLIAMS TOUCH

By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, page A5, January 19th, 1992

Ten of the 12 top-grossing films in the history of the medium have scores by John Williams, and so do two of the most successful current films, "Hook" and "JFK."

"Hook" boasts a sweeping, romantic score that adds up to a whopping two hours of music -- an opera's worth. There is soaring, flying music for the journey to Neverland that recalls "E. T.," and a lot of charming pictorial detail. The giant flowers of Neverland recognize the Wall Street Peter Pan long before the Lost Boys do and they nuzzle up to him; as they do, the French horn nuzzles up, too. Throughout the film, romanticism is undercut and complicated by the twisting Prokofievian irony of the music that accompanies Captain Hook himself -- music that is at once swaggering and comic as it traces its silvery, sinister arc.

The score to "JFK" is shorter and sparer. Its most effective moments are nostalgic -- the tattoo of drums, the trumpet's lament for the slain president (played plangently by the Boston Pops' principal trumpeter, Timothy Morrison), and the sweeping, strength-of-the-people melody that is heard in the piano when Kevin Costner comforts Sissy Spacek after the assasination of Robert Kennedy and that wells up again in the strings during the final credits.

When Williams was in town to conduct the Christmas Pops, he sat down to lunch to talk about the two new films, and before long he dropped a bombshell, announcing his decision to retire from the Pops at the close of the 1993 season. One of the reasons, he said, was his heavy workload -- because of his commitments to the Pops and to these two film scores, he had not taken a day off for more than six months. "This pace is making me crazy," said Williams, who is approaching his 60th birthday. "At 60, you are not exactly creaking with age, but you have to be realistic about how much energy you have, and where you want to put it." So Williams is leaving the Pops and will also attempt to cut back on his film work, in order to spend more time with his family and write some long-deferred music for the concert hall.

"Hook" is actually Williams' second major score related to the Peter Pan story. A few years ago, he wrote the songs for a film musical of Sir James M. Barrie's play; Steven Spielberg was hoping to persuade Michael Jackson to take the title role, but when Jackson declined, the project died. "Hook," too, was originally planned as a musical, with songs, but those plans changed as the film evolved and Spielberg cast it mostly with nonsingers. "Robin Williams can sing," Williams said, "and Dustin Hoffman was game, but it wasn't really a singing cast. So now we have a two-hour score for full orchestra, pounding away."

Only one of Williams' songs, for Peter Pan's daughter, survives in a short sequence of the final film, though the themes from the discarded songs permeate the score. "One plan we have now is to make a CD storybook album of the film, using some of the songs. It would be nice if we could bring some of that music back to life."

Both "Hook" and "JFK" were composed in unusual ways. "I saw 'Hook' piecemeal," Williams recalls, "in assemblies of two or three reels at a time. What this meant was that I wrote 20 to 30 minutes' worth of music every three or four weeks, and that I wrote the beginning long before I ever saw the ending. At least I got the reels mostly in sequence."

Of course, Williams had copies of the shooting script all along, but he didn't find them all that helpful, because the script kept changing. "Each version came on a different color of paper, and it wasn't long before I had a whole rainbow of scripts!"

For "JFK," Williams worked in a way that was almost unique in his experience. He wrote six musical sequences, which were recorded in full before he had seen the entire film. "After the Pops season last summer, I went down to New Orleans where Oliver Stone, the director, was still shooting the movie, and I saw about an hour's worth of cut material and some of the dailies. I thought his handling of Lee Harvey Oswald was particularly strong, and I understood some of the atmosphere of the film -- the sordid elements, the underside of New Orleans."

After Williams had scored and recorded his sequences, Stone cut the film to the music, or to the parts of the music he decided to use. This is the way the classic collaboration of Eisenstein and Prokofiev worked on "Alexander Nevsky," but only once before has Williams had a similar opportunity, when Spielberg recut the end of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" in order to synchonize with the logic of the music. "In 'JFK,' the music is cut up, in a documentary fashion; a musical sequence that may have lasted seven minutes on the recording lasts a minute or two in the film. On the CD, however, the score is presented in full, as pieces of music," Williams points out.

The musical sequences Williams wrote include a Kennedy Theme, a Conspirator's Piece, a Motorcade Sequence, Garrison's Obsession and an Arlington Sequence. Into the lyrical Kennedy theme Williams implanted an Irish lilt. Williams describes the motorcade music as "repetitious." "It spins out in a minimalistic way -- my hope was that Oliver Stone could be led into the pace of the sequence by the rhythms of the music. It is strongly kinetic music, music of interlocking rhythmic disciplines." For another sequence, Williams used Scottish drum patterns, drawing on his memory of the Black Watch at the Kennedy funeral. "And then I had big Japanese bass drums thundering along and exploding to accentuate the cuts." The meditative ''Arlington" sequence is scored mostly for strings, but there is also a long soliloquy for solo horn.

Like most Americans who lived through that terrible time, Williams can remember the moment he learned of the assassination of the president. "I woke up late in the morning when someone came into my room to tell me that President Kennedy had been shot. I switched on the television to follow the reporting. It was my first recollection as an adult of weeping; I was in my 30s, and I hadn't cried in decades. This is a very resonant subject for people of my generation, and that's why I welcomed the opportunity to participate in this film."

Williams interrupted his Christmas Pops schedule to fly to New York to meet with Ron Howard and see some footage for his next project, which will reunite him with the star of "Born on the Fourth of July," Tom Cruise. "It's tentatively called 'The Irish Story,' and it's a lyrical piece, an immigrant story about a young man who comes to Boston in the 19th century and winds up making the rush for land claims in Oklahoma. I'm looking forward to the chance to write some Boston music!"

Articles from 1993 till Today are included in my next posting below

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Indeed a great idea to gather them here! :)

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1998

Spielberg and Williams on Saving Private Ryan - Richard Dyer -1998

Spielberg and Williams on Saving Private Ryan

At work again, he and John Williams exult in their admiring duet of 24 years

By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff, 02/24/98

`Meeting Steven Spielberg was the luckiest day of my life,'' said John Williams, smiling.

The feeling is clearly mutual. Sitting at Williams's side Sunday, eating a watercress salad, Spielberg said, ''I crave Johnny's company and his friendship. And his music still makes me break out in goose bumps. I know I cannot find anybody better.''

Williams met Spielberg in 1973, so the two men are celebrating the first 25 years of a professional collaboration that has brought each to the pinnacle of his profession.

The goose bumps continued to develop over the weekend when Williams, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus recorded the 55-minute score for the newest Spielberg/Williams collaboration, ''Saving Private Ryan.'' Spielberg was present for most of the three days of recording at Symphony Hall, documenting every step with his hand-held video camera. One of the film's stars, Tom Hanks, came in to observe Saturday.

Spielberg explained that the film, due for release this summer, is based on a true story from World War II. ''It's about four brothers, three of whom were killed within 48 hours, while the fourth is unattainable behind enemy lines. The Army dispatched a squad to find and rescue the remaining son so that he could go back to his mother in Iowa.''

In a process called ''spotting, '' Williams and Spielberg repeatedly watch a rough cut of a film and decide mutually what scenes should have music. For this film, it was decided to spin the music out in long sequences called cues, some of them eight or nine minutes each. In the closing credits sequence, ''Hymn to the Fallen,'' a ghostly tattoo of military drums, propels the elegaic music; a Bach-inspired bass line lends solidity and solemnity. There is a piercingly sad duet for trumpets (Timothy Morrison and Thomas Rolfs), who played antiphonally from the balcony, and the horn (Richard Sebring) has a prominent solo part throughout.

The music is profoundly moving - Williams said he was so devastated by the ending of the film that he hardly knew how to proceed. Spielberg, in turn, was so moved the first time he heard the music that he said he fantasized about leaving out the credits so the audience could just sit, listen, and reflect in the darkened theater. ''That would be illegal of course,'' he added with a grin.

There's a lot of pressure when the red recording light is on and the clock is ticking at about $100,000 an hour, but the players nailed their solos every time. Williams did everything he could to create a reassuring atmosphere. ''Avoid anything grandiose or operatic,'' he said, ''while still giving more,'' and everyone knew exactly what he meant. The session provided shining examples of people knowing their business - and loving what they are doing.

To introduce one episode, Williams asked Hanks to read aloud an eloquent letter of consolation from Abraham Lincoln to a Massachusetts mother who had lost five sons in the Civil War, a letter that figures in the movie.

''It is a pleasure to be performing,'' the lanky Lincolnesque actor said, ''and in such a hall.'' He read the letter so affectingly that the orchestra responded with an appreciative shuffle of its feet.

Many good ears

In the basement recording booth, Williams had very sharp ears working for him - sound producer Shawn Murphy, and Williams's own longtime editor, Kenneth Wamberg, was at his side. And Spielberg, a former school band clarinetist, also boasts a very good ear. In his liner notes to the recording of the Oscar-nominated `Amistad' soundtrack, Spielberg wrote that Williams's music surprises him every time, yet the director also has a very clear sense of what he wants, of what's effective. At one point, he asked Williams if the horn could not move to its last note. Williams understood instantly that Spielberg wanted the harmony left unresolved in order to lend poignancy and possibility to a visual transition in the film.

Williams's ears were the sharpest of all - often he would make a quick revision in his score to get just the effect he wanted. ''Sopranos,'' he said to the chorus, ''hold on to your G. I want it to rub irritatingly against the F-sharp.'' He retuned drums, and removed wind parts, when his inner ear told him their harmonics might interfere with the dialogue.

In 1973, Williams was 40 and long established as a successful composer of music for films; Spielberg was 23 when he called to arrange a lunch meeting. He had directed a Joan Crawford television hour and a film for television, and he was about to direct his first theatrical feature, ''The Sugarland Express.''

Williams recalled, ''I felt like a Dutch uncle, because he looked as if he were all of 16. He was beardless then, and so polite, sweet, and bright.''

At that point Spielberg was auditioning for Williams. ''I had seen two recent movies where the music especially impressed me, `The Reivers' and `The Cowboys,' and both of those scores were by John Williams,'' Spielberg said. ''I wrote a screenplay listening to my LP of the soundtrack of `The Reivers' - in a way it was based on the music, which I heard so often I wore the record out and had to buy another one. The script never got made. Back then nobody was interested in my big inspirations. I thought, `If I ever get a shot at directing a movie, I really want to see if this guy will write the score.' And when I was assigned to `Sugarland Express,' the first thing I did was get in touch with John.''

Williams was impressed that Spielberg could whistle all the principal themes from scores he had half-forgotten himself. ''I remember I whistled `Make Me Rainbows' from the score to `Fitzwilly,''' Spielberg said, whistling it again, in tune and in rhythm, to prove it. Williams recalled that Spielberg played clarinet on the soundtrack to ''Jaws.'' ''There was a scene with a high school band, which was hard to do - good musicians are not effective when they are trying to play like amateurs who are trying to be good.''

It is certainly true that when most people recall Spielberg movies, they hear as well as picture them, and a key part of what they hear is Williams's music.

''I hear all my movies,'' Spielberg said. ''It has taken me years to get all I hear and see onto the screen.''

Spielberg, 50, recalled that his earliest years came just before the advent of television, during the last days of network radio.

''My father rigged up a crystal set in my room, and every night I went to sleep listening to radio shows - `Beulah' and `Amos 'n' Andy,' and `Inner Sanctum,' which terrified me. I must have been between the ages of 2 and 4 when I was listening to all those shows. When you listened to radio in a darkened room, you were looking inside your own imagination; radio inspired the imagination. Later we had the first TV on our block - we didn't have any money, but my dad became a TV repairman, so we had one. There was an amber light that let you know when the set was ready to come on, and my little job was to watch that amber light.''

Restoring art of scoring

The Spielberg/Williams collaborations represented a major step toward restoring classic film scoring, which had taken a sidestep during the 1960s. ''I really believe that John brought back a lost art which was one of the great achievements of the '30s and '40s. It all finally came to a full stop with the soundtrack of `Easy Rider' in 1969. That's when the `needle-drop' soundtrack became popular, collages of old hit songs that made movies sound like top-40 radio stations. The last great old-style score before John was `Spartacus' in 1960, a film that represented the end of an era in several respects. Elliptical films, vignette films became popular, and the big entertainments that the movies had created to compete with television were over. I had to stop buying movie soundtrack albums because there weren't any I wanted to hear anymore!''

''Well, don't forget `Lawrence of Arabia,''' Williams chimed in - conversations between the two men tend to spin a glittering thread through the mazes of movieland.

The first film score recorded in Boston was ''Duel in the Sun'' in 1946. Mention of this led Spielberg to add that his California home was formerly owned by that film's producer, David O. Selznick, who married its star, Jennifer Jones, in the back yard.

''The house has an amazing history,'' Spielberg said. ''Selznick commuted to make `Gone With the Wind' from that house, and that's one of the reasons I bought it. I've seen the guest books from that era, and I feel the presence of many revelers in that house.''

This led Williams into a favorite Selznick story, which in turn led to a merry-go-round of stories about Alfred Hitchcock's preferred composer, Bernard Herrmann, who was a mentor and friend to Williams. Spielberg met Herrmann on the very last day of the composer's life. ''I complimented him extravagantly on all the great music he'd written and how much of an inspiration he had been to me, and he let me talk on and on before he said just one thing. `How come you're using John Williams all the time?'''

''Saving Private Ryan,'' which also stars Matt Damon, represents the third time Williams and Spielberg have recorded a soundtrack in Symphony Hall. Music for the reedited version of ''Close Encounters of the Third Kind'' was recorded here, as was most of the ''Schindler's List'' score.

''The session players we have in Los Angeles are fantastic, and they have amazing skills,'' Spielberg said. ''Half of them are graduates of the Tanglewood Music Center,'' Williams added, proprietarily.

''But there are also advantages to working with an orchestra that has played together for years,'' Spielberg said, to explain why the decision was made to come here for ''Saving Private Ryan.'' ''This is a movie about a company of soldiers, and it seemed appropriate to use an experienced company of musicians who are all virtuosos. Also we really wanted the sound of this room, Symphony Hall. On a soundstage you can get acoustically correct sound, but you don't hear the air. Here you get a rich, warm sound off the walls and ceiling, and you do hear the air; Symphony Hall is an instrument too. On `Schindler's List,' we did some cleanup work in a studio in Hollywood, and even to my untrained ear the difference between the two kinds of sound was night and day, and I've wanted to come back ever since. Both of us felt this was the right film to bring to Boston.''

The orchestra's long familiarity of working with Williams was also a factor. ''I've never seen John leap to a take after so little rehearsal,'' Spielberg said with admiration. ''Of course John still likes to hone the takes until the music sounds just the way he wants it to.''

Coaxing the right sound

And Williams does know how to coax the sound he wants out of his players. Other film conductors work with clicktracks; Williams had a monitor showing the film at his feet and a huge stopwatch ticking away next to the podium, but he conducted freestyle, allowing the players more expressive freedom. ''Play it quietly - but loving it,'' he said to the cellos. ''That's it! The color you just got is the thing,'' he said.

''Saving Private Ryan'' is scheduled for release in July. By then Williams will be in residence at Tanglewood, where he and Andre Previn will supervise a seminar on film composing. Spielberg said that after finishing the film, he plans to take a year and a half off. ''I want to relax with my family and lead a normal life, to the extent that is possible in Hollywood.''

Neither man can say whether the revolution and restoration they created will be permanent, or whether they will one day be perceived as dinosaurs themselves. ''Well, if that happens, John will be the most commercially successful dinosaur in history,'' Spielberg quipped. The director of ''Jurassic Park'' knows whereof he speaks. ''Well, this dinosaur's tail is not so long,'' said Williams, wryly, ''and his teeth are not so sharp any more,'' and you wouldn't believe him for a second.

This story ran on page C01 of the Boston Globe on 02/24/98.

© Copyright 1998 Globe Newspaper Company.

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Continuation for articles starting with the year 1993

1993

The Williams Whirlwind - Richard Dyer - 1993

THE WILLIAMS WHIRLWIND

DINOSAURS, SINATRA HIGHLIGHT HIS BUSY LAST YEAR AT THE POPS

By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, page B1, May 9th, 1993

John Williams, still at home in California last week, called in to talk about the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park and about his final season as conductor of the Boston Pops, which opens Wednesday evening with a gala concert featuring Jessye Norman and Aretha Franklin.

Williams didn't want to do an "exit interview" because he won't be exiting until after the Christmas Pops, and there's a lot of work to do between now and then. It's also true that the retrospective mode doesn't suit him much -- at 61, he's still much more interested in talking about what comes next.

Williams wasn't in a position to say very much about the opening night

because he doesn't know much about it, though the suspicion was beginning to

dawn on him that TV producer William Cosel has been busy cooking up some surprises.

But he sounded eager to get to work on some of the other Pops specials, particularly the concert featuring Linda Ronstadt and Rosemary Clooney on May 22. "I didn't know that Linda and Rosie were musical pals. Every time I run into Linda, I ask her when she's going to come to the Pops, and this year I saw her at the Skywalker Ranch when she was recording that 'Faust' musical that Randy Newman was doing. She was once again very shy about coming to the Pops, but then I got word she would come if she could sing with Rosie, and I was delighted. I love Rosemary Clooney. The first time I heard her was opposite Bing Crosby, and I know he was crazy about her -- in addition to the musicianship, the pitch, she has that swing rhythm, that jazz feel that was the basis of Crosby's own art."

Williams also sounded tickled by the idea of the program with jazz singer Shirley Horn and jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval. "Between Arturo and Pops principal trumpet Tim Morrison, we've got the two greatest trumpeters under one roof the same night. I don't know whether we're going to cook up some kind of two matadors thing for the two of them or not, but there's certainly going to be a lot of talent on that stage, and it will be a fabulous night. I'm also looking forward to working with James Taylor on May 25; I've never met him but I'm a fan. It's going to be a very busy time -- I'll be in Boston for four weeks doing all these television shows and concerts, and then we're going to Japan -- my second tour of Japan."

Williams found performing Pops concerts in Japan "a thrilling experience." "The thing that struck me most," he said, "was the quietude that came across the audience. When the musicians turned the pages of their music it sounded like a hurricane! In a normal concert back home, you don't even notice it, but with those audiences in Japan, every sound can be heard. It has a marvelous effect on the orchestra and on me -- the players begin to listen to themselves more carefully, and to their stand partners; concentration is heightened and enhanced. And touring is always exciting, visiting new cities, meeting new audiences."

In the middle of all this activity, Williams and the Pops will be recording a new CD for Sony Classical. Plans for a collaboration with one of the great celebrities of the classical musical world have had to be postponed because of the artist's schedule, so instead, the Pops will record an album of music associated with Frank Sinatra, a prospect that delights Williams, especially when he learned that Arthur Fiedler's participation in a Sinatra concert 45 years ago led to a notorious fight with BSO music director Serge Koussevitzky.

"Things were different in that generation, God bless them. Back then, Frank Sinatra was a juvenile delinquent; now he's an elder statesman. I've known him for quite some time, and I composed the score to the only film he

himself personally directed, 'None But the Brave,' a Second World War story, a good action film. He couldn't have been nicer, more considerate, more appreciative. Since then, I've seen him from time to time and even conducted for him, most recently at a fund-raising gala for Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. I know you can hear that he has a reputation for being difficult, but you can also hear what I can say, which is that I never had anything but the most wonderful and gracious connection with him. I think Frank is good with musicians; he appreciates people who do music. Our Pops programs were already set when this project came up, so what I want to do is put the new arrangements in as encores, and say a word or two about Frank. It was a real treat to pick these tunes; we had a list of 50 or 60, each title better than the other."

Another addition to the Pops repertory will be selections from Williams' score to "Jurassic Park." "I've just finished with it, and I hope everyone's going to like it. You get caught up in the moment of creativity, with the chauvinistic spirit of everyone working on the film, but you can never really know what the public's going to do. Still, when I saw 'Home Alone' I thought there would be a huge public for that film, and there was, and it didn't take a genius to know it. I can't believe that 'Jurassic Park' won't be a great success. The computer graphics of the dinosaurs are so beautiful -- never in your life have you seen what you're about to see. These creatures are so enormous, the texture and lighting of their skin, their movements, the integration with the live action -- it is a staggering achievement. And to know that they aren't models but numbers in a computer blows my mind, which is a pre-computer mind!"

Williams scared a nation out of its wits with his music for "Jaws" and there will be lots of scary music in "Jurassic Park." "On the CD, you can hear all kinds of wild orchestral and choral things, the raptor attacks and chases and things; the idea was to shake the floor and scare everybody. The Pops isn't going to play those parts. Instead we'll play the music that accompanies the first appearance of these benign creatures, some gentle religioso cantilena lines, music that tries to capture the awesome beauty and sublimity of the dinosaurs in nature. The Pops will play the material that is very sonorous, tonal, straightfoward, string oriented. There's also a kind of adventure theme, high-spirited and brassy, that accompanies the flight to the island where the experiment takes place; it's very thrilling and upbeat musically, very positive, and the Pops will be playing that, too."

Williams' next film project is Steven Spielberg's Holocaust drama, ''Schindler's List," which is currently being filmed in Krakow, Poland. ''This is a very heart-rending, uplifting story about people who were saved

from the Holocaust. There is a violinist in the story and violin music has a part to play in the live action part of the film, so I want to pick up on that texture, that voice, at the beginning and end, a kind of Hebraic lullaby for

violin and strings. Nobody in the world could play it better than Itzhak Perlman, and I am very pleased that he has agreed to participate in recording the music for the film. Steven plans to be back in the middle of June, and I should be able to see an edit of the film sometime in July."

By then, Williams will be back from Japan and settled into a "fabulous" house he has rented in the Berkshires, near Tanglewood. "I have some concerts with the Pops at Tanglewood, and I am also conducting a BSO concert with Yo-Yo Ma in the Elgar Cello Concerto. That piece is close to me, and being up in the woods with it and Yo-Yo is a very spiritual thing for me. And I also plan to get to work on 'Schindler's List.' Steven will be working on it in the Hamptons, so possibly he can bring it up to show to me in the Berkshires. I'll finish the score in California in September, and record it in October. Beyond that there are some exciting things in store, but I think it is a bit precipitous to talk about them yet."

At the time he announced his forthcoming retirement from the Pops, Williams said he wanted to have more time to compose his own music for the concert hall. Since that announcement, he has completed his Bassoon Concerto for the New York Philharmonic. Orchestras don't have the quick turnaround that the film studios do, so he will have to wait until October 1994 to hear his concerto. His next concert work will be a Cello Concerto for Yo-Yo Ma. "Yo- Yo and I have talked about this for a long time, and I have been a bit reluctant because the line to write music for Yo-Yo is one of the longest in music -- everyone alive wants to write for this great man, and it is a challenge to think one could add anything to what has already been said and done. But I feel such affection for him and for his spirit that I'm going to try; the inner self of his that he reveals when he plays resonates with me, so I am going to make time to work on a piece for him. That's the main reason I wanted to reduce the conducting and the traveling. I need quietude, and the combination of Hollywood and life in Boston has made that difficult -- in fact between now and Christmas there is barely time to take a quiet breath. But even that is something to be grateful for; how fortunate I have been to have so many wonderful opportunities to do what I love!"

Debut with the BSO - Richard Dyer - 1993

WILLIAMS MAKES A STIRRING DEBUT WITH THE BSO By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, page 30, August 30th, 1993

MUSIC REVIEW

BOSTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA

John Williams, guest conductor

At: Tanglewood Saturday evening

LENOX -- Commentators were wondering why it took so long for the Boston Symphony Orchestra to ask John Williams to conduct. The answer is probably simple: It wasn't anything the modest Pops conductor would have thought to ask for.

Conducting the Boston Symphony was a very big issue for Arthur Fielder, who came out of the BSO to lead the Pops. In a notorious incident, BSO music director Serge Koussevitzky canceled a Fiedler appearance with the orchestra after he had read, with horror, that Fiedler had conducted a Frank Sinatra concert. It was Charles Munch who granted Fiedler's lifelong wish to conduct the BSO.

Williams may live in a glitzy suburb of music, but what he projects is integrity and seriousness of purpose.

Of course he could have had a career as a symphonic conductor if he had wanted it and been willing to spare the time. He is a thoroughly schooled musician, and there are any number of recorded concerto accompaniments by superstar conductors that would have been improved if they had been conducted by Williams instead. The list of BSO guest conductors of the last 13 years that Williams is better than would not be short.

For his BSO debut Saturday night Williams chose an interesting program, half-British, half-American. The British half presented music he has conducted at the Pops, Sir Michael Tippett's "Suite for the Birthday of Prince Charles," and one of Williams' favorite works, the Elgar Cello Concerto.

This was played by one of his favorite soloists, Yo-Yo Ma, who began with his usual authority and concentration, although a string snapped during the first impassioned recitative. Ma moved to borrow Martha Babcock's cello, but just as the exchange began, Williams stopped the performance -- it might have been risky business, since Babcock had just returned to the stage after replacing a broken string herself. (Babcock's cello does know the concerto -- she once played it memorably with Williams and the Pops.) Once these problems were solved, both men, and the orchestra, settled down to give a memorable performance. Ma's playing had the spontaneity and speed of private thought and the aching immediacy of private emotion, all of it projected with a confiding ease; he drew us in. Williams conducted with rare sympathy for the soloist and the piece, and waved his baton in jubilation when the concerto was over -- this had obviously been as profoundly personal and meaningful an experience for him as he and Ma had made it for everyone else.

Williams has said that he wants to use some of his "spare time" after he retires as Pops conductor to write a concerto for Ma; a collaboration like this one gives him a head start over some of the other composers who have written for Ma.

Tippett's Suite is an attractive proposition, full of hope and confidence, lively tunes and noble ones. From a standpoint of 45 years later, it might entertain Sir Michael to write a sequel -- he has learned how to write sleazy music, so he could add movements depicting Princess Diana, Camilla Parker- Bowes and the other characters in the lurid charade about the vanity of human wishes. Williams led a chipper performance, and trumpeter Tim Morrison's intimate contribution to the lullaby reminded us of why Williams conceived two film scores with Morrison's plangent sound in mind.

The American half was a celebration of Leonard Bernstein. Leone Buyse, who has served as acting principal flutist with musical distinction and personal grace for three seasons, marked her departure from the orchestra with a soulful and eloquent performance of Bernstein's "Halil." The performance also marked the last important solo by BSO principal viola Burton Fine, who played it poignantly.

"Halil," which Bernstein described as a nocturne, is a narrative work depicting the life of an Israeli flutist who was killed in the Six-Day War -- youthful idealism is represented by Gershwin syncopations, and the end of the piece becomes allegory. The solo flute seems silenced; the alto flute and piccolo (Fenwick Smith and Geralyn Coticone) carry on his song, and then, serene above the clash of armies, the soloist floats a single, sustained sourceless sound that serves as a benediction. The piece is emotional, and so was the occasion, and so was the compelling performance.

For the finale, Williams and the orchestra tore into Bernstein's Symphonic Dances from "West Side Story." From the beginning the performance promised be finger-clickin' good, and that's how it turned out.

The legacy of JW - Richard Dyer - 1993

POPS STAR: THE LEGACY OF JOHN WILLIAMS By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, page B21, December 12th, 1993

John Williams leads his final concert as conductor of the Boston Pops on Dec. 20.

The statistics on his tenure are pretty staggering: 13 seasons, more than 300 concerts, six national or international tours, 24 premieres and commissions, 28 CDs and nearly 50 television shows.

Along the way, Williams has brought some of the leading artists of several musical worlds to the Pops -- Isaac Stern, Itzhak Perlman, Jessye Norman, Yo- Yo Ma, James Galway, Leontyne Price, Marilyn Horne, Kiri Te Kanawa, Frederica von Stade, Kathleen Battle, Oscar Peterson, Sammy Davis Jr., Ray Charles, Sarah Vaughan, John and Bonnie Raitt, Tommy Tune, Joan Baez, Nell Carter, Roberta Flack, Rosemary Clooney, Linda Ronstadt, Whitney Houston and Aretha Franklin.

He was among the first to present violin prodigy Sarah Chang; what may be more significant, in the long run, is the list of young performers, many of them locally based, who appeared with Williams and the Pops, particularly in his early seasons. Williams was also particularly supportive of musicians in both the Pops and the Pops Esplanade orchestras. Williams appeared in recital with a former Pops concertmaster; trumpeter Timothy Morrison went back to Hollywood with Williams to star on two film soundtracks.

The other important thing to say is how often the statistics represented really good stuff -- an achievement that is all the more remarkable when you realize the almost-impossible conditions of schedule under which the Pops rehearses and performs.

During Arthur Fiedler's last seasons, the great old man's health was deteriorating, and, along with it, the morale and the artistic standards of the Pops. Williams may not have arrived with any idea of how big the job was and how much work it would entail, but he did come with a musician's ear and a very clear conception of what things ought to sound like, and he made them sound that way.

Any successor to Fiedler had big shoes to fill -- they may have been 50 years old, but they were stoutly made. Williams succeeded because it simply wouldn't have occurred to him to try to imitate Fiedler, any more than it would have occurred to him to try to remake the Pops in his own image -- though that's what ultimately happened, because that is what artists do.

Williams took from Fiedler what worked: the shape of the program, the mix of music, putting the spotlight not only on celebrities but on members of the orchestra and young musicians. Williams improved discipline and morale and raised the standard of performance. He brought in guest conductors of competence and distinction, including a few from the concert world, and he took wary pride in the achievement of young proteges, like the assistant conductor, Ronald Feldman. He brought in lively new material, freshened up some old arrangements and shook up the repertory. Two Pops commissions were particularly successful: John Corigliano's "Promenade Overture," which has been widely played in America, and Peter Maxwell Davies' "An Orkney Wedding: With Sunrise," which has become the composer's most popular work and entered the standard international repertory.

The main reason Williams took the job in 1980 was to win greater recognition for the artistic legitimacy of his life work in film and the life work of many of his colleagues. Whether he succeeded in that aim (it's too early to tell), he certainly brought film music out of the background and into the limelight. Now people can judge for themselves. And other pops concerts all across the country have followed his example.

More staggering than the statistics is the fact that Williams has accomplished all this as a part-time job; his primary commitment always has been to his work in Hollywood. Fortunately, there were always good people on the case here in Boston; the role of "Evening at Pops" television producer William Cosel should not be underestimated.

Williams' double life has been a source of great strength. Like most great strengths, it represents a corresponding drawback. When Williams is busy elsewhere, he is very busy, and in the last few seasons, he has withdrawn from active involvement in the day-to-day activities of the Pops. This has led to a kind of caste system -- the splashy, Williams-propelled events on record and TV, and the backbone business of presenting concerts that a lot of people enjoy going to. It may be that Williams represents the electronic future that is already at hand; you can see the same situation at the Met, where there can be a big artistic gap between the things James Levine is connected with and everything else, and Levine has reached the stage of life where he is not as interested in a backbreaking schedule of pit performances as he is in recording and television projects that capitalize on all that backbreaking work.

The point to remember, though, is that what the media are trying to reproduce is a form of human contact and interaction -- and that is something John Williams never lost touch with. He was a reluctant public figure, which was a source of his appeal. As a podium personality, Williams was initially a bit stiff, but it wasn't long before he started to enjoy making a spectacle of

himself, once he got out there. Persuading John Williams to do anything can be a long process; once persuaded, there's no stopping him.

The great strength of Williams' part-time commitment to the Pops was that it was whole-hearted. Williams came at the Pops from an unexpected direction, and every year he returned to it fresh. At the core of the extraordinary relationship Williams built both with musicians and audiences is their realization "he doesn't have to be doing this. He certainly doesn't need the money; he is not doing this out of personal motives, or to advance his career." Williams, who spends most of his life working in a notoriously commercial, manipulative and superficial business, has kept himself an honest man -- that is the bedrock upon which he has built these two extraordinary careers of his. People trust John Williams (though they might not buy a used car from a man wearing a belt like his!). Williams is not "crossing over" to make a quick buck -- this musical world is where he lives.

Williams certainly knows every trick of orchestration in the book, and he

invented a few himself, but the most important observation to make about his music is that he believes in it and it is honest. You can't write heroic music if you don't believe in heroism; it would ring hollow. You can't write patriotic music if you don't have patriotic feelings. In a way, a mass-media composer like Williams is a truer successor to populist composers like Verdi than most operatic composers today.

The most notorious moment in Williams' tenure at the Pops came a decade ago, when he temporarily resigned because of an incident in rehearsal, when people who should have known better were giggling and carrying on during a piece of his called "America, The Dream Goes On." For Williams, the dream does continue, despite all the tragedies and disruptions of our collective history, and surely some of the most eloquent music he has composed came in the scores to "Born on the Fourth of July" and "JFK."

Williams' best music comes out of some deep place in his imagination and reaches that same place in the imagination of the listener. It is a question of belief. Was Carrie Fisher really an enchanting creature, or did a line Williams composed for the flute create that enchantment?

That same kind of belief has informed all his work at the Pops. The management will not be able to find another John Williams to replace him, any more that it was able to find another Arthur Fiedler. What the two men shared was that quality of belief, and any successor to Williams must have it, too.

The Pops has fun celebrating what is genuine and lasting about the ephemeral; the moment it loses touch with that, it runs the risk of swiftly becoming ephemeral itself. In many ways an otherworldly figure, John Williams never lost touch with that reality -- and that is why it is good that, as ''Conductor Laureate," he wants to make himself quietly useful at Tanglewood and to continue to play any role his successor wants him to in the life of the Pops. John Williams may be withdrawing from one area of his public activities, but you can't retire a touchstone.

Final Bow - Richard Dyer - 1993

JOHN WILLIAMS' FINAL BOW

AFTER 14 YEARS, THE BOSTON POPS CONDUCTOR IS TOO BUSY TO LOOK BACK

By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, page 65, December 20th, 1993

John Williams could probably compose nobly valedictory music on a moment's notice, but he is notably reluctant to embark on a valedictory conversation.

Journalists have been wearing Williams down by asking him how he "feels" at this moment of closure. With tonight's Christmas Pops concert, the last of more than 600, Williams brings his remarkable 14-year term as conductor of the Boston Pops to an end.

"Everybody's been asking me how I feel," Williams says, sighing, "and I don't know how to answer that question because I don't know how I feel yet. There is so much work to do right now that I can't think of anything as ending. I don't feel separated, and I have never felt happier than I do at the moment. I do know that what I am going to miss is the people, my friends in the orchestra, in the management, in the city -- and the people I have worked with here have always been closer to my heart than actually doing the job; the people have become a part of my life, and they are going to stay part of my life."

Speaking in a long retrospective conversation in the conductor's green room after a rehearsal last week, Williams looked remarkably fit. During the Pops season last spring and summer, Williams was suffering from severe lower back trouble; one of his responses has been to lose weight and tone himself up -- every morning and evening he does sit-ups. The results show and he's proud of them.

Although he is a modest man, he is also justifiably proud of some of his accomplishments at the Pops, and quite open about listing some of the things he wishes he'd been able to do better. "I wish I had been able to do more to invigorate the concerts on the Esplanade a little better than I did." He was also eager to give credit where credit is due -- his personal decency shines through everything he says, which is one reason why everybody likes him.

"I go out there every night and there's lots of applause, but there are a lot of people who share in the process who never get thanked," Williams said. ''Specifically, I'm thinking about the management team at the Boston Symphony, about William Cosell and Susan Dangel at WBGH, who have been the source of many wonderful ideas for guests and repertoire, and in fact about everyone in Symphony Hall, the people who sell the tickets, make the sandwiches and sweep up the floors afterwards. I didn't do this job alone, and I need to share some of the applause with people like these."

As he looked back over his 14 years, Williams said, "There's nothing I wanted to do that I didn't do, but the degree to which I was able to do it is another question."

Williams is frankly troubled about the cost of running operations like the BSO and Pops, where the budget approaches $40 million annually; he wonders whether such costs can be justified in a society with urgent emergencies in so many areas; he sometimes wonders about the relevance of his work. But he is also convinced that a place remains for the Pops. "It is in a position to reach out, and to a large number of people, because it is closer to the entertainment world than the symphony orchestra is. I believe that the Pops has the greatest opportunity of any part of the BSO organization to reach out to the widest and most diverse community, and we tried to take advantage of that opportunity."

Williams didn't mention that the first woman guest conductor of the Pops appeared during his tenure (Marin Alsop), and the first African-American (Isaiah Jackson). But he did speak with particular pleasure about his effort "to interest the composing community in the unique opportunities the Pops has to offer. We had new pieces by John Corigliano, William Bolcom, William Kraft, Joseph Schwantner; the most conspicuous success was Peter Maxwell Davies' 'An Orkney Wedding: With Sunrise,' which is a masterpiece, and I said at the beginning, we will have done a fairly good job if we have produced one masterpiece in every decade."

One major source of frustration for Williams has been the intractability of the Pops rehearsal schedule; he wasn't able to do much about it. "The schedule just isn't set up so that you can give things the attention they deserve; the pressure is always there to work quickly and economically. Ideally, what we should be able to do is rehearse a program longer and repeat it more often, but we haven't been able to do that because the exigencies of preparing for the television programs have driven the schedule."

Williams honors his past -- bound scores for all his films line the shelves of his living room in Beverly Hills. But he doesn't live in the past and he doesn't spend much time listening to the records he has made with the Pops. ''I listen very carefully during the recording and editing and test- pressing stages, but once the records are out on the market, I don't need to hear them again; in an almost journalistic sense they are behind me."

But the conductor is sure that a chronological survey of the records would prove one thing. "The records were good even in the beginning, but they are better now. The Pops is in great shape, and it is getting better all the time. As far as recording goes, we have learned how to use the hall better, how to position the orchestra to get the most effective sound out of the brass and percussion."

After tonight, Williams' immediate plan is to return to California for the holidays, which he says he will spend with the "whole brood" of his family. ''For the first part of next year, I have kept the decks cleared -- something I have longed to do for the last 30 years. Once I have rested up a little, I am going to get to work on creating a concerto for my friend Yo-Yo Ma, and that is a very intimidating prospect for any composer."

Williams has already finished a commission for the New York Philharmonic, a bassoon concerto for its principal bassoonist, Judith LeClair.

Williams' next film project will again be with his collaborator of 20 years, Steven Spielberg; Williams will write the score for "The Bridges of Madison County," and he hopes to write it next summer at Tanglewood.

The good news is that John Williams is not leaving the BSO family; he has offered to make himself useful in any way that he can to the Pops and, most particularly, to the BSO's summer music school, the Tanglewood Music Center. He has already rented a house for next summer in Stockbridge -- the same house where he composed the score to "Schindler's List" last summer.

"My wife Samantha has built houses for us in Santa Fe and Telluride. She loves them and I enjoy them, but I think my soul lives in the Berkshires. I have lived in California most of my life, but my father was from Bangor, Maine, and my mother was from Boston, and that must be coming out again. I loved watching my granddaughter rolling down the lawn on Prospect Hill in Stockbridge last summer. And I was delighted to learn that I could work there -- I have chained myself to Hollywood all these years, and it turns out I didn't need to! Steven Spielberg sent up the equipment I needed, the movieolas and things like that, and he flew up to the Pittsfield airport from his home on Long Island for meetings. Telephones and fax machines have changed the world, and it was wonderful to look out on a Berkshire morning instead of having to confront a freeway in Los Angeles; writing the music felt so relaxed and easy. So I hope I get to do it all over again next summer. And when there is any free time, I intend to walk."

Williams discounts any suggestion that he should use some of his new free time to write an autobiography like his friend Andre Previn. "I've never felt that I've done anything that warranted writing an autobiography. Still, funny things do happen now and then that make me remember how many things I've been able to do. The other night, Samantha and I were watching Audrey Hepburn and Fred Astaire in 'Funny Face' on television and suddenly I heard something familiar -- I remembered scoring that scene, and that was 35 years ago! And the weight of it all suddenly strikes me."

Williams has taken an active interest in the search for his successor at the Pops, although he's as much in the dark as the rest of us about what decision the management will reach. He doesn't worry about the problems anyone else might have in following John Williams in a big job because he never let

himself worry about succeeding Arthur Fiedler. "That was a daunting prospect, but what I soon came to realize is that the Pops is an institution larger than Arthur Fiedler, John Williams or anyone else; individuals are only temporary visitors. A new person will come in and help the institution to continue, and I am more than sanguine that it will. The Pops was a wonderful and special opportunity for me. I hope I've made the most of it."

1994

Movie Music History - Richard Dyer - 1994

JOHN WILLIAMS: MAKING MOVIE-MUSIC HISTORY

'SCHINDLER' COMPOSER IS UP FOR FIFTH OSCAR

By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, page B1, March 20th, 1994

Late last spring, John Williams sat in a screening room, overwhelmed with emotion. He had just seen the first rough cut of Steven Spielberg's ''Schindler's List."

"For this film, you need a better composer than I am," Williams said to the director.

"You're right," Spielberg shot back. "But they're all dead."

Williams did write the score for "Schindler's List," and worked with Spielberg on selecting the period and genre music that also appears on the soundtrack. For his work Williams has received his 32d nomination for an Academy Award; he has won the Oscar four times, and will find out tomorrow night whether a fifth award is his.

Speaking last week from his studio-office at Spielberg's Amblin Productions complex in Los Angeles, Williams said, "I felt writing this film was a particularly daunting challenge; nothing could be good enough to meet a story like this. What I was most conscious of was a desire not to melodramatize; it is much more difficult to be restrained in your expression of intensity of feeling than it is to go out and hit hard. I felt this story required music that was gentle and loving. The orchestra of Richard Strauss, which was the orchestra of the period, would have been the wrong noise for a film like this. The main theme, I felt, should be something like a Hebraic lullaby heard at your mother's knee -- not an actual lullaby, but something original, created for the film."

The theme is not heard until the film is well under way; it comes in to accompany the unforgettable image of a bridge thronged with Jews who have been rounded up from all over the country and brought into Krakow. It is heard at infrequent intervals throughout the film, until near the end; the last time we hear it, it comes on the piano, which is played with great sensitivity by Williams himself, though the credits don't say so.

Williams did not begin his work by reading the novel or by trying to listen to any music from the period, or any music in the style he planned to use. "I am not an avid reader of scripts and books before I get to see any film," Williams admits. "Scripts and books give me preconceptions, which I don't need. I also never listen to music when I am composing; I don't go to concerts at all. I find it a painful distraction to have to listen to music by other people while I am trying to organize things in my own mind. In this particular case, the work of familiarizing myself with the idiom of theatrical Jewish music was something I had already done; I spent so much time on the film of 'Fiddler on the Roof' back in 1971 that the idiom has been part of my vocabulary ever since."

Williams did work closely with Spielberg through the preproduction period of planning for the film. "We sit and try things and talk about the film.

From the outset we knew there would be less music in this film than in our usual action film. The choice was to use music sparingly, which fits in with the choice to keep everything in black and white, lean and very simple; the photography would be very simple, straight on, flat, with no tracking shots, no dolly shots, nothing tricky. So there couldn't be anything like that in the music either."

Williams and music-staff workers collected a substantial amount of period music that would appear in the background -- a Strauss waltz, a song from Franz Lehar's operetta "Giuditta," Elgar's "La Capricieuse," a passage

from Bach that Nazis knowingly identify as Mozart. "When we had collected all this, and much more, Steve came over to my bungalow, where I'm speaking from right now, and I played the tunes over for him on the piano, and he chose the numbers he wanted for the particular scenes. Then I went into the studio and recorded some of the pieces with a little period orchestra."

There are also several period recordings heard in the film. Billie Holiday sings "God Bless the Child"; during the scene in which labor-camp inmates are being checked for physical fitness, German officers put a record on the loudspeakers, a sentimental ditty called "Gute Nacht Mutter"; it is in the film because this is the record the Nazis actually used while they were making the prisoners run around naked to prove their fitness. The song is performed by Wilhelm Strienz, who in 1938 had participated in the first complete recording of Mozart's "The Magic Flute" with Sir Thomas Beecham; with chilling irony, the voice of the humane, all-wise Sarastro resonates throughout the prison camp.

The score also contains a prominent role for solo violin, which is played on the soundtrack by Itzhak Perlman. Williams had already planned to write something for violin, and hoped to enlist Perlman, before he had seen the film. He was taking his cue from a line in the development of the script that Spielberg subsequently decided to drop. At one point a Jewish violinist briefly glimpsed entertaining in the German Officer's Club was to become a more prominent character than he did in the end; he was to speak of his disgust at having to entertain the invaders.

Williams wrote the music for Perlman before the film was shot, and made a preliminary recording with another violinist. Spielberg used the recording to shoot some scenes to; the music generated the rhythm of the film, reversing the usual process. After the film was released, Williams extended and arranged the music he had written for Perlman into a three-movement, 15-minute piece with piano or orchestral accompaniment. Perlman has put the piano version onto his recital programs; there are rumors that he will play the orchestral version with the Boston Symphony under Seiji Ozawa next season.

Williams composed the score in the summer house he was renting on Prospect Hill in Stockbridge, near Tanglewood. "I had planned a little vacation with my family last summer, but then Steven called me and told me everything had been moved up six weeks; I would need to start right away. My music editor, Kenn Wannberg, flew in and moved into the house I was renting, and Steven sent up all the gear I would need. He also came up himself from time to time, and I would play things over on the piano for him while we looked at the material. It all worked out so well that we want to try working this way again. I have to say that being in the Berkshires helped a lot with this particular score; it was a reflective, ruminative sort of period for me, and the glorious atmosphere there contributed a lot to the process of writing the music, I think."

There is one powerful episode for chorus, when the bodies of slain Jews have been disinterred and burned, an Immolation Scene. Susan Dangle from WGBH, who had worked on Williams' "Evening at Pops" programs, put him in touch with Rabbi Bernard Mehlman from Temple Israel; Williams asked Rabbi Mehlman for a selection of appropriate texts from the Hebrew liturgy. "He very generously made a collection for me, with translations; I chose one of them

because I loved the thought it expressed: 'With our lives, we give life.' From this kind of horror, this kind of sacrifice, life can come. I set the words for chorus, and we recorded that in Toronto and in California."

The orchestral music and the sections involving Perlman were recorded during one very busy day in Symphony Hall last fall. "We recorded 25 minutes' worth of music in one day, which is very remarkable, because it takes longer to record film music than it does to record a symphonic score, because of the demands on synchronization. We did have a bowing rehearsal the night before with the concertmaster, Malcolm Lowe, and the string principals, and that helped -- and this orchestra is so fabulous that there weren't any problems. I think having an artist of Perlman's level involved, and the members of the Boston Symphony, contributed something very important to the spirit and tone of the film. During the recording, Itzhak and I could see the film, although the orchestra could not, so I invited everyone to come up and watch during the playbacks. Words couldn't describe how everyone was moved by what they were seeing, and of course that affected the kind of performance they brought to the music."

The next Williams/Spielberg collaboration will be on the film of "The Bridges of Madison County"; Williams expects to be writing it by the end of the year. Meanwhile, he is keeping himself busy composing a cello concerto for Yo-Yo Ma. The premiere is scheduled for Tanglewood in the summer of 1995, but there is some speculation that it will be moved up to this summer. "Yo-Yo is going to come by later this week and we'll talk about it; the problem is that the piece is months away from completion and it needs to be weeks away!"

Williams discusses his Oscar prospects in his usual low-key way. "I've won it four times. The first time was for the music direction for 'Fiddler on the Roof,' and the other three times were for original scores -- 'Jaws,' 'Star Wars' and 'E.T.' I've never heard of anyone winning five Academy Awards in music, so it would be a great surprise if I were to win again, although I would certainly be pleased to be surprised in that way. Still, I like to tell people that I've lost 27 times now!"

1996

London Independent Interview - Edward Seckerson - 1996

TITLE: He knows the score

AUTHOR: Edward Seckerson

SOURCE: The London Independent

DATE: 25 May 1996

"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, an incredible adventure took place ..." And like all incredible adventures, this one began with music: a flurry of fanfares, a swashbuckling theme, trumpets vaulting up the octave to certain immortality. Cue the Imperial Starship, enter Luke Skywalker. And welcome John Williams--movie composer--to the big-time. In the circumstances, his meteoric arrival was only fitting. But hardly unexpected. Cast your mind back even further to the days when most of us still assumed he also played the guitar, and you'll recall that Williams had already nailed his distinctive colours to the mast in search of a great white shark. Jaws was both his unofficial audition for Star Wars and the beginning of a still unbroken reign as Steven Spielberg's composer-in-residence.

Williams remembers the day that he first played Spielberg the now infamous "shark" motif. His left hand tapped out that creepy, chugging ostinato in the bass line. Was this "loony tunes" or what? The laugh caught in Spielberg's throat. "Do you really think it could work?" he asked nervously, suddenly aware that the man he'd hired to score his picture was not joking. Yes, said Williams, when it's more than just an idea, when it's fleshed out in the orchestration. And he continued with his presentation. "Something stirs, an ominous growling, a rising semitone way down in the depths of the string basses ... then the rhythm starts, slowly, slowly gathering momentum ... then maybe we add a tuba ... You see, it was such a mindless thing, this idea, it had the effect of grinding away, coming at you, just as a shark would do: instinctual, relentless, unstoppable ... I also heard it as a good dramatic device, lurking when the shark was unseen. I wanted the audience to feel its presence, its proximity, and since the suspense of the film was entirely dependant upon just that, I figured I was on the right track ..."

John Williams was born in New York City and moved to Los Angeles with his family in 1948. He attended UCLA and studied composition privately with the Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (he of the "other" famous guitar concerto - no wonder we were confused). Later Williams returned to New York to study piano with Madame Rosina Lhevinne (the wife of the great Russian virtuoso and teacher, Josef Lhevinne) at the Juilliard School. Though quite what Mme Rosina made of him playing for his supper in New York's jazz clubs is anyone's guess. Still, it made him a buck or two, and it freed up his assets, so to speak. Eventually, like so many young musicians of his generation, Williams went West again. Not with any clear objectives, not with movies on his mind: "Life is what happens to you while you're making other plans - isn't that what the wise man said?" Los Angeles was a happening town. And there was money in them there hills, if. . .

Talent and good fortune prevailed. Williams was a more than useful pianist. He had a natural feel for the popular repertoire - he could bend and swing to its whims. The jazz gigs were paying off. His compositional skills were being exercised too. In the late Fifties and Sixties, he made quite a name for himself scoring for TV. And he made contacts. In Hollywood it's not just who you know, it's who you work with. With Alfred Newman (doyen of musical supervisors, the man who gave us the 20th Century Fox Fanfare), he was orchestral pianist on the soundtrack of South Pacific; with Adolph Deutsch he set down the finest arrangement ever made of Gershwin's "'S Wonderful" for the Stanley Donen movie Funny Face. He did some orchestration for the legendary Dmitri Tiomkin on The Guns of Navarone; he assisted Franz (Sunset Boulevard) Waxman; he got to know Bernard Herrmann - the man who put the shrieks into Psycho, the obsessive drive into all Hitchock's prime-cuts - little knowing then that he'd one day be in Herrmann's shoes, scoring Hitch's last film, Family Plot. He was not the first to have been assigned that job and remembers asking the old boy why it hadn't worked out with the previous composer. "Well," said Hitchcock, "he kept writing this oppressive, lugubrious music." "But surely that's appropriate in a movie about murder?" replied Williams. "No, Mr Williams, you must understand - murder can be fun." And from that he learnt a thing or two about irony. Nobody survives Hollywood without it.

Which is maybe why he's still there. Over 75 movies, 30 Academy Award nominations, five Oscars, 16 Grammies, and several gold and platinum discs later (including four million sales on the Star Wars soundtrack - more than any other non-pop album in history), John Williams can still put his hand on his heart and say (with disarming modesty): "In Hollywood you don't have to be good, you just have to be strong."

He has a point, though. Ask him to take you through the process of scoring a movie, and you can feel composers the world over turn pale in sympathy. We're talking three or four minutes of music a day, every day, seven days a week, until the score is complete. That's, on average, between 50 and 100 minutes of orchestral music for a major action picture. And whatever the time-scale for composition, it's never enough. The old Hollywood whine "Do you want it good or do you want it Monday?" has no foundation in reality: Hollywood wants it good and it wants it Monday. The biggest frustration for Williams, who has fashioned many concert works of his own (his recent Bassoon Concerto is being recorded by the LSO next month), lies in never being able to revise his film work. "The art of any writing is the art of re-writing, developing, shaping, honing. We rarely, if ever, have that luxury."

So you wonder why he does it - now that he doesn't have to. And the reply comes back: "You do what you can do. Richard Strauss could write score pages for Elektra in ink during the morning, catch up on letters and go shopping for Meissen in the afternoon, and conduct an opera in the evening. Me, I probably have all the time I need, but not always the inspiration or the energy. . . I sometimes think that I've got to the point where only the pressure of time keeps me focused. Sometimes it makes for better results. It's like an impressionistic painter working in pastels where speed is of the essence." Williams always works out of the studio, physically, spiritually, close to the action. Each scene is viewed as many times as it takes during the process of underscoring it. Contrary to popular misconception, Williams lays down all his own orchestrations - meaning an eight- or 10- line sketch precisely detailing all the principal instrumentation and harmony. Transference to a 32-line orchestral score, primarily a stenographic operation (and a laborious one), is undertaken by associates. For Williams, the orchestration - who plays what, the balance of timbres and colours, the richness, or otherwise, of the harmonies - is integral to his conception of the music itself: "I couldn't delegate that part of my work away." Some do.

So what comes first? After the contract, that is. Do ideas start cooking with the script? "Actually, I prefer not to read a script - for reasons that anyone who's ever read a novel and then seen the screen version of it will understand. There's invariably a slight, nagging sense of disappointment.

It doesn't quite look like you had it in your mind's eye when you read it. Well, the same is true, I think, when you read a script and then see the director's realisation.

First of all, you know what's coming next. And the surprise element is crucial to a composer. It has to do with rhythm. So I like to sit alone in a dark projection room and watch the film from start to finish. No distractions, just me and my response to its rhythmic impulses. Is it slow here, is it accelerating there, am I surprised in the way that I should be? And the answers to all these questions have a lot to do with what the composer's function is ultimately about."

Which is maybe why Williams's scores sound so organic, so well-integrated. Movie music is made to measure, not sold by the yard. That's an important distinction. To the creative director, the music track is a great deal more than so much aural grouting. At best - and Williams's work on Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind is a shining example - it's at the very heart of the movie, inseparable from it. Admittedly, Close Encounters was one of those rare occasions where certain aspects of the film - most notably the awesome 35-minute closing sequence - were fashioned around the music. Williams explains: "Because communication through music is at the very core of the movie - the Kodaly hand-signals that we see, the five-note tone-sequence that we hear - Steven and I saw this as a wonderful opportunity to evolve a score, to plant those five notes - the thematic seeds, if you like - in the minds of the audience and watch, or rather hear, them grow to this great orchestral apotheosis in the final reel. And when you finally arrive at it, there's this strong sense of recognition - it may be subliminal to most of the audience, but it's there, and we hoped, in some unconscious spiritual way, it would prove fulfilling."

Fulfilling? This was better than fulfilling, this was celluloid opera. And it wouldn't be the last time that Spielberg effectively liberated his composer in the final reel. Consider the closing minutes of ET. The little guy was going to get the send-off he deserved. Spielberg's sensitivity to shape - there's a musical awareness in the way he cuts his films - was again a huge factor. While recording the final sequence - a process of synching (called "free timing") which Williams, the conductor, likens to accompanying a ballet in the theatre - he experienced problems fine- tuning his phrasing to the split-second demands of the film up on the screen. Spielberg was quick to pick up on the problem. "Let's take the film off the screen, John, and play it as you wrote it - as expressive and expansive as you like" - and can't you just hear it now: Williams in his finest this-thing-is-bigger-than-all-of-us mode - "I'll recut the sequence to the music."

I doubt that's happened since William Walton scored Henry V. Walton's name is one of the first to pop up when you start asking Williams about the gods in his pantheon (Haydn still occupies pride of place, Beethoven is his "Shakespeare of music", and before you even think of suggesting it, he'll tell you that he'd be nowhere without Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich). It's interesting how the Americans revere Walton. "It's to do with his Jazz Age personality. We can identify with that. It's like Tippett - I hear so many Ellingtonian touches in his music." And yet, both are as English as Williams's aching trumpet-led themes (Born on the Fourth of July, JFK) are American.

He recently penned another - Summon the Heroes - the official centennial Olympic theme. And yes, it's as if Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man has finally outgrown the century. It's designed for the great outdoors, extra trumpets and trombones flanking an outsize orchestra. We'll be hearing a lot of it this summer. Several times a day from the Atlanta stadium. It's loud, it's catchy, it's very Williams. But then, when you've done the business for Indiana Jones and Superman, what's another Olympiad?

1997

Star Wars 20th Anniversary: Interview with John Williams - Craig L. Byrd - 1997

Interview by Craig L. Byrd - (originally published on FSM print edition)

Craig L. Byrd: How did the Star Wars project first come to your attention? How did you become involved?

John Williams: My involvement with Star Wars began actually with Steven Spielberg, who was, in the '70s when these films were made, and still is, a very close friend of George Lucas's. I had done two or three scores for Steven Spielberg before I met George Lucas, Jaws being the principal one among them. I think it was that George Lucas, when he was making Star Wars, asked his friend Steven Spielberg who should write the music, where will he find a composer? The best knowledge I have is that Steven recommended me to George Lucas as a composer for the film, and I met him under those circumstances, and that's how it all began.

CB: How did you feel when you were first contacted about this project? Was it about one film at the time, or all three?

JW: The first contact had to do only with Star Wars. I didn't realize that there would be a sequel and then a sequel after that at that time. I imagine George Lucas planned it that way and perhaps even mentioned it to me at the time, but I don't remember. I was thinking of it as a singular opportunity and a singular assignment.

CB: What was your reaction when you read the script?

JW: I didn't read the script. I don't like to read scripts. When I'm talking about this I always make the analogy that if one reads a book, a novel, and then you see someone else's realization of it, there's always a slight sense of disappointment because we've cast it in our minds, and created the scenery and all the ambiance in our mind's imagination. There's always a slight moment of disappointment when we've read a script and then we see the film realized. Having said that I don't even remember if George Lucas offered me a script to read.

I remember seeing the film and reacting to its atmospheres and energies and rhythms. That for me is always the best way to pick up a film—from the visual image itself and without any preconceptions that might have been put there by the script.

CB: When you first saw an assemblage of footage, what were you looking at and how did that inspire your work?

JW: I think the film was finished when I first saw it, with the exception of some special effects shots that would have been missing. I remember some leader in there where it would say "spaceships collide here," "place explosion here," this kind of thing. But they were measured out in terms of length so that I could time the music to what I hadn't in fact specifically seen.

The first chore I really had was to spot the music of the film with George Lucas, which is to say sitting with him deciding where we would play the music and what its particular function would be for each scene.

CB: The film set any number of standards. How do you explain the Star Wars phenomenon as it occurred back in 1977?

JW: Well, along with others involved with the film, I was surprised at what a great success it was. I think we all expected a successful film. In my mind I was thinking of it as a kind of Saturday afternoon movie for kids really, a kind of popcorn, Buck Rogers show. A good, you know, sound and light show for young people, thinking that it would be successful, but never imagining that it would be this world-wide international success, and never imagining and even expecting that the sequels would (a) be along and (b) be as successful as they all were.

I can only speculate about it along with others. I remember Joseph Campbell, the great mythologist and teacher and author, who was a friend of George Lucas's and who went to Skywalker Ranch and talked to George Lucas about the films. He began to write about the mythology, or pseudo-mythology if you like, that formed the basis of these films. I learned more from Joseph Campbell about the film, after the fact, than I did while I was working on it or watching it as a viewer.

Having said all that, I think the partial answer to your question is the success of this film must be due to some cross- cultural connection with the mythic aspects of the film that Campbell described to us later. The fact that the Darth Vader figure may be present in every culture, with a different name perhaps, but with a similar myth attached to it. The films surprised everyone I think—George Lucas included—in that they reached across cultural bounds and beyond language into some kind of mythic, shared remembered past—from the deep past of our collective unconscious, if you like. That may be an explanation as to why it has such a broad appeal and such a strong one.

CB: You would also have to assume that the hero's journey then would be a part of that.

JW: That's right. All of these aspects of journey and heroic life and aspiration and disappointment, all of the great human subjects that this seems to touch and tap in on, must be one of the reasons for its great success. I suppose for me as a composer for the film, these forces that I'm struggling to put my finger on must have been at work subconsciously. The music for the film is very non-futuristic. The films themselves showed us characters we hadn't seen before and planets unimagined and so on, but the music was—this is actually George Lucas's conception and a very good one—emotionally familiar. It was not music that might describe terra incognita but the opposite of that, music that would put us in touch with very familiar and remembered emotions, which for me as a musician translated into the use of a 19th century operatic idiom, if you like, Wagner and this sort of thing. These sorts of influences would put us in touch with remembered theatrical experiences as well—all western experiences to be sure. We were talking about cross-cultural mythology a moment ago; the music at least I think is firmly rooted in western cultural sensibilities.

CB: It's interesting that you brought up opera and Wagner. On a certain level it seems like the three scores are almost your "Ring Cycle." How did it become so interwoven when you originally were only scoring one film?

JW: I think if the score has an architectural unity, it's the result of a happy accident. I approached each film as a separate entity. The first one completely out of the blue, but the second one of course connected to the first one; we referred back to characters and extended them and referred back to themes and extended and developed those. I suppose it was a natural but unconscious metamorphoses of musical themes that created something that may seem to have more architectural and conscious interrelatedness than I actually intended to put there. If it's there, to the degree that it is there, it's a kind of happy accident if you like.

That may be sound deprecating—I don't mean it quite that way—but the functional aspect and the craft aspect of doing the job of these three films has to be credited with producing a lot of this unity in the musical content the listeners perceive.

CB: The album itself was in the top 20 on Billboard's charts. That was relatively unheard of for a non- pop score. How did you respond to that?

JW: I don't think we ever had in the history of the record industry or a film business something that was so non-pop, with a small "p," reach an audience that size. I have to credit the film for a lot of this. If I had written the music without the film probably nobody ever would have heard of the music; it was the combination of things and the elusive, weird, unpredictable aspect of timing that none of us can quite get our hands around. If we could predict this kind of phenomenon or produce it consciously out of a group effort we would do it every year and we'd all be caliphs surrounded [laughs] with fountains of riches.

But it doesn't work that way, it's a much more elusive thing than that. Any composer who begins to write a piece would think, "this will be a successful piece." But you can't and we don't pull them out of the air that way. It also reminds us that as artists we don't work in a vacuum. We write our material, compose it or film it or whatever, but we're not alone in the vacuum, the audience is also out there and it's going to hit them. With all the aspects of happenstance and fad, and the issue of skirt length for example, which is to say style and fad, and what is à la mode? When all of these things come together and create a phenomenon like this, we then, as we're doing now, look back on it say, "Why did it happen?" It's as fascinating and inexplicable to me as to any viewer.

CB: It's also got to be intensely gratifying.

JW: It's enormously gratifying and it makes me feel very lucky. I'm not a particularly religious person, but there's something sort of eerie, about the way our hands are occasionally guided in some of the things that we do. It can happen in any aspect, any phase of human endeavor where we come to the right solutions almost in spite of ourselves. And you look back and you say that that almost seems to have a kind of—you want to use the word divine guidance—behind it. It can make you believe in miracles in any collaborative art form: the theatre, film, any of this, when all these aspects come together to form a humming engine that works and the audience is there for it and they're ready for it and willing to embrace it. That is a kind of miracle also.

CB: It also changed the shape of film music. A lot of filmmakers had really abandoned the idea of big full orchestral scores.

JW: Well, I don't know if it's fair to say the Star Wars films brought back symphonic scores per se. We've been using symphony orchestras since even before sound. Anyone interested in film knows that music seems to be an indispensable ingredient for filmmakers. I'm not exactly sure why. We could talk about that for days, but mood, motivation, rhythm, tempo, atmosphere, all these things, characterization and so on—just the practical aspect of sounds between dialogue that need filling up. Symphony orchestras were enormously handy for this because they're elegant and the symphony orchestra itself is one of the greatest inventions of our artistic culture. Fabulous sounds it can produce and a great range of emotional capabilities.

I think if the use of symphony orchestras went out of fad in the '50s and '60s for some reason it was just that: it was out of fad. Someone would have brought it back. It's too useful and too successful not to have it back. I think after the success of Star Wars the orchestras enjoyed a very successful period because of that—wonderful, all to the good. I don't think we can claim that it was a renaissance really, more than just a change of fad if you'd like.

CB: Or a little goose if nothing else.

JW: Right. A little helping push.

CB: All three scores were recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra. Was there a particular reason why that orchestra was chosen?

JW: We decided to record the music for the films in London. I say we, I think George Lucas decided that. He shot some of the film in Africa and England and did some of his post-production work there. It was part of the plan that we would record there and that was fine with me. I had done Fiddler on the Roof and some other large- scale productions in England and I knew the orchestras very well and liked them; I was very comfortable recording there.

We were going to use a freelance orchestra, as I had done with Fiddler and other films. I remember having a conversation with the late Lionel Newman, who was then the music director of the 20th Century Fox studios, and we were talking about the practical plans of when to record and where and so on, booking facility stages and the rest of it. He suggested to me, "Why don't we just use the London Symphony Orchestra for this recording? We won't have to be troubled with hiring freelance players, we'll just make one contractual arrangement with the London Symphony."

It also happened at that time that our friend from Hollywood, Andre Previn, was then the music director of the London Symphony. I rang him up and said, "How would it be if we borrowed your orchestra for this recording?" Andre was very positive and very excited—he had no idea what Star Wars was going to be about or what the music would be like, but just the idea that the orchestra would have that exposure seemed to be a good plan for him. So, it was a combination of a lot of nice things. I had worked in England for years and knew the orchestras well; I knew the London Symphony well. They had played a symphony of mine under Previn's direction a few years before, and played other music of mine in concerts and so on. It was a coming together of a lot of familiar forces in a nice way and I had a good time.

CB: At the risk of sounding like someone from Entertainment Tonight, it sounds like the Force was with everyone involved.

JW: [laughs] The Force did seem to be with us, yes.

CB: How do you see the scores changing from one film to another, through the three films?

JW: The scores do seem unified to me, now that I look back on the four, five or six years involved in making the films, with the distance of time making it seem to be one short period now in my mind. The scores all seem to be one slightly longer score than the usual film score. If that contradicts what I said earlier about writing one at a time, I hear that contradiction, but given the distance of time now I can see that it's one effort really. The scores are all one thing and a theme that appeared in film two that wasn't in film one was probably a very close intervalic, which is to say note-by-note-by-note, relative to a theme that we'd had.

I mean we would have the Princess Leia theme as the romantic theme in the first film, but then we'd have Yoda's music, which was unexpectedly romantic, if you like, in the second film, but not such a distant relative, musically speaking, intervalically/melodically speaking, to Princess Leia's music. So you can marry one theme right after the other. They're different, but they also marry up very well and you can interplay them in a contrapuntal way, and it will be part of a texture that is familial.

CB: I'd like to touch on some of the characters' themes. A lot of people remember the Darth Vader theme. What was the idea behind Darth Vader and how do you see his theme?

JW: Darth Vader's theme seemed to me to need to have, like all of the themes if possible, strong melodic identification, so that when you heard it or part of the theme you would associate it with the character. The melodic elements needed to have a strong imprint.

In the case of Darth Vader, brass suggests itself because of his military bearing and his authority and his ominous look. That would translate into a strong melody that's military, that grabs you right away, that is, probably simplistically, in a minor mode because he's threatening. You combine these thoughts into this kind of a military, ceremonial march, and we've got something that perhaps will answer the requirement here.

CB: And then also the hero, Luke Skywalker. What about his theme?

JW: Flourishes and upward reaching; idealistic and heroic, in a very different way than Darth Vader of course, and a very different tonality—a very uplifted kind of heraldic quality. Larger than he is. His idealism is more the subject than the character itself, I would say.

CB: And Han Solo?

JW: I would make similar comments there about Solo's music. Although they overlap a lot; I mean it's one thing really in my mind, a lot of it. And of course the Luke Skywalker music has several themes within it also. You'd be testing my memory to ask me how I used them all and where [laughs].

CB: At the Star Wars Special Edition screening in December, when the main theme came on, the audience responded. What were you looking for in the main theme?

JW: The opening of the film was visually so stunning, with that lettering that comes out and the spaceships and so on, that it was clear that that music had to kind of smack you right in the eye and do something very strong. It's in my mind a very simple, very direct tune that jumps an octave in a very dramatic way, and has a triplet placed in it that has a kind of grab.

I tried to construct something that again would have this idealistic, uplifting but military flare to it. And set it in brass instruments, which I love anyway, which I used to play as a student, as a youngster. And try to get it so it's set in the most brilliant register of the trumpets, horns and trombones so that we'd have a blazingly brilliant fanfare at the opening of the piece. And contrast that with the second theme that was lyrical and romantic and adventurous also. And give it all a kind of ceremonial... it's not a march but very nearly that. So you almost kind of want to [laughs] patch your feet to it or stand up and salute when you hear it—I mean there's a little bit of that ceremonial aspect. More than a little I think.

The response of the audience that you ask about is something that I certainly can't explain. I wish I could explain that. But maybe the combination of the audio and the visual hitting people in the way that it does must speak to some collective memory—we talked about that before—that we don't quite understand. Some memory of Buck Rogers or King Arthur or something earlier in the cultural salts of our brains, memories of lives lived in the past, I don't know. But it has that kind of resonance—it resonates within us in some past hero's life that we've all lived.

Now we're into a kind of Hindu idea, but I think somehow that's what happens musically. That's what in performance one tries to get with orchestras, and we talk about that at orchestral rehearsals: that it isn't only the notes, it's this reaching back into the past. As creatures we don't know if we have a future, but we certainly share a great past. We remember it, in language and in pre-language, and that's where music lives—it's to this area in our souls that it can speak.

CB: Can you tell me what it was like working with George Lucas on these three movies?

JW: Working with George Lucas was always very pleasant. For a great innovator and a great creative artist and a great administrator, he's a very simple, very accessible man. Now people will hear that and they'll say he's a very private man, he's very inaccessible. I suppose that is also true. But when you're working with him as a colleague sitting in the room, he's very informal, very approachable, very reachable, and communicates very well.

In discussing the spotting of the music for the film he's very particular in a way. He would say, "The music could get bigger here, or would be softer there"—you would think these ideas would be obvious, and sometimes they are, but sometimes it's very helpful to articulate the obvious. Especially in this interpersonal way that he's able to do it, he has made it a very comfortable thing for me. When he first heard the music he liked it very well, it was encouraging—I felt positive reinforcement always with George. A lot of people will say, "Don't go in that direction"; it's always "Don't do this, don't do that." With George, my experience with him was, "That's right, keep going." With that kind of collaboration, we get better results I think. He has the secret of this naturally.

He was even then, when he hadn't done a lot of films, a very experienced filmmaker and a very serious and assiduous student of filmmaking. He brought a lot of knowledge to it and a lot of knowledge about how music could be used.

I found him pleasant, a good communicator, a good leader and an expert filmmaker. And it's quite a combination of good, positive things I think.

CB: Are there any scenes that stand out for you?

JW: Well I have stand-outs in my mind because of the music that we play in concerts more recently: the asteroid field I remember from, I think it was the second film. It had a musical piece that was like a ballet of flying spaceships and asteroids colliding. That was a very effective and successful scene in my mind both musically and visually.

I remember the finale of the first film, which had that stately procession, where I made a sort of processional out of the middle theme of the main title music—for the beginning, I took the second theme of that and made a kind of imperial procession. And that was a very rewarding musical scene also. So many things, but I would say those two just right off the top of my head.

CB: A lot of people have said that their favorite scene is the cantina scene in the first film. And they often speak of the music.

JW: The cantina music is an anomaly, it sticks out entirely as an unrelated rib to the score. There's a nice little story if you haven't heard this, I'll tell you briefly: When I looked at that scene there wasn't any music in it and these little creatures were jumping up and down playing instruments and I didn't have any idea what the sound should be. It could have been anything: electronic music, futuristic music, tribal music, whatever you like.

And I said to George, "What do you think we should do?" And George said, "I don't know" and sort of scratched his head. He said, "Well I have an idea. What if these little creatures on this planet way out someplace, came upon a rock and they lifted up the rock and underneath was sheet music from Benny Goodman's great swing band of the 1930s on planet Earth? And they looked at this music and they kind of deciphered it, but they didn't know quite how it should go, but they tried. And, uh, why don't you try doing that? What would these space creatures, what would their imitation of Benny Goodman sound like?"

So, I kind of giggled and I went to the piano and began writing the silliest little series of old-time swing band licks, kind of a little off and a little wrong and not quite matching. We recorded that and everyone seemed to love it. We didn't have electronic instruments exactly in that period very much. They're all little Trinidad steel drums and out- of-tuned kazoos and little reed instruments, you know. It was all done acoustically—it wasn't an electronic preparation as it probably would have been done today.

I think that may be also part of its success, because being acoustic it meant people had to blow the notes and make all the sounds, a little out of tune and a little behind there, a little ahead there: it had all the foibles of a not-very- good human performance.

CB: In the Special Editions there's some added footage. Did that require any rescoring?

JW: George has changed the lengths in some of these films for the reissue because of his improved animatics and so on. It required some changes in the music, mostly additions and subtractions of a small sort. This was all attended to by Ken Wannberg who was originally a music editor and still is today.

The only thing I had to re-record was a short finale for Return of the Jedi, the very end of the film where George created a new scene of Ewoks celebrating. He had some ideas for new music and gave me a film without any sound but with a tempo, with Ewoks dancing and reacting and reveling in their success. You and I are now talking in January 1997; just a few weeks ago, the end of '96, I went over to London and recorded that music for the new finale. And as a matter of fact this very day that we're talking, George is dubbing that new music into the final reel of the reissue.

CB: These films are classics. Why tinker with them now?

JW: Well, this is a very interesting question. If the Star Wars Trilogy is a kind of classic, why would we want to tamper with it? I'm not particularly in favor of coloring all the old early films in black and white and might come down on the side of saying, leave things alone. That's one side of the argument.

The other side of it is true for music also. For example, every time Brahms went to hear one of his symphonies played, he would go in the audience and listen to the symphony, and the next day he would go to the Bibliotheque in Vienna, get the original score out and make changes—he never could leave it alone. Some sage said that a work of art is never finished, it's only abandoned. That's really true of all of us; it's like one of our children. You never finish trying to groom it; the child could be 60 years old, and you're still saying, "Well you look better if you dress this way."

So I think George is well within the predictable and understandable and probably correct area of an artist's prerogative to continue to try to want to improve what he's done. He complained that he didn't have the animatics 20 years ago and he wants to do it now. So I think on the one hand don't tamper with it, and on the other an artist can, should and, I think, must be excused for wanting to continue to improve his or her work. That's the two answers.

The third answer could be for those traditionalists who want the original the way it is—it's there. They don't have to go; they can listen to the Brahms without his latest edition. So they can see the original version and they can also see the new, updated George Lucas wish-list for his work.

I think it's a wonderful question and the answer has to admit all of these possibilities for us to be fair.

CB: The original negative for Star Wars was in horrible condition.

JW: I didn't know that.

CB: Because of the stock that they were using at the time. What is your take on the whole idea of film preservation and how that affects both the films themselves and the scores?

JW: I can't speak with an expertise about film preservation, but I can talk emotionally and not as a serious art historian. I would make this observation: In the last 20 years or so, I've been very heartened—I guess we all have—by the consciousness that has emerged about preservation.

We're suddenly realizing as the 20th century comes to a close, one of the greatest cultural legacies, especially American but around the world also, is our filmmaking, and that we need to be very serious about preservation and about the archival aspects of all of these things that we do. It isn't only film, it's also music. The horror stories are myriad about the great MGM library that had Doctor Zhivago original music and Singin' in the Rain original music and musicals from the '30s and '40s—all these scores and orchestra parts that people want to perform now were all destroyed in the fire after some real estate company took over the physical lab of the studio.

The American Film Institute and other interested people, their preservation sentiments are wonderful in film and I think they should extend to original scripts that people have their marginalia on, and the original scores and sketches and orchestra parts of all this material. Imagine our grandchildren fifty, a hundred years from now, the interest that they would find in being able to take the orchestra parts to Wizard of Oz and sit down and play the whole score.

That is something devoutly to be wished. I don't confuse popular arts with high art. That's another discussion not suitable for this kind of time. But, however you evaluate the popular art of American filmmaking, as a high, middle, low, wherever you place it in your mind, doesn't alter the fact that this preservation task is desperately needed. I'm just delighted that we're seeing in the recent period of years people being very conscious of it, especially young people.

CB: I understand that George Lucas is in pre-production for the first three films. Can we look forward to another John Williams/George Lucas collaboration?

JW: Oh, I very much hope I can do the new trilogy, or as much of it as I'm granted the energy and time to do—I would welcome the opportunity and hope I will be able to do it. There's no reason why I shouldn't be able to. And I would look forward to it and I hope that that happens.

CB: Has there been a conversation about it?

JW: Well George is—yes, we talk about it all the time. It's more in the area of George threatening to say, you know, I'm going to get these three things done so get ready. So the conversation is kind of on that level, and he knows I'm ready and willing and hopefully able and certainly keen to do it.

CB: It sounds like the ultimate hurry up and wait. Thank you very much.

JW: Thank you.

Amistad Press release - 1997

Amistad

Amistat is the 15th collaboration for composer / conductor John Williams and director Steven Spielberg

Los Angeles, December 2, 1997:

"When you're working on a big movie like this, you can go for inspiration really what you see on the screen," says composer John Williams's new movie directed by Steven Spielberg's Amistad. It is the 15th film by Spielberg to music by five times winner of the Academy, which won three Oscars for his Schindler's List (1993), ET: The Extra Terrestrial (1982) and Jaws (1975), Spielberg.

Amistad - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Dreamworks Records), will be launched on December 9, 1997, was written, directed and produced by Williams. In the notes for the disc, Spielberg said: "John never failed to surprise me, rise or make me look good."

What may surprise listeners, Williams notes, "was the opportunity for vocal music in this project. The score for Amistad is still vastly instrumental, but vocal performances are more important, frequent and efficient than has been the biggest part of my work for cinema. "

Perhaps the most special vocal selection is the song "Dry Your Tears, Afrika", with the participation of mezzo-soprano Pamela Dillard, Williams chose from among dozens of candidates. As for the lyrics of the song, she came to Williams when he was beginning to compose music for Amistad in July 1997. A scholar friend had seen a book of poetry from East Africa in the library of Harvard University, and showed it to Williams, who was caught by the power of the poem by Bernard Dadie 1967, "Dry Your Tears, Afrika!". The verses were written in English, but it was imperative that the song was sung in Mende, one of the indigenous languages ​​of Sierra Leone, land of many of the African characters in Amistad. "Someone in the Sierra Leone Embassy in Washington has resulted in this," Williams explains. "After all that we have found that Dadie alive - he has 81 years of age. I hope he gets so excited as I am with the song."

Amistad, a Dreamworks Pictures presentation in association with HBO Pictures' premiere in New York and Los Angeles December 10, 1997 and will be released nationally on December 12. It is the true story of 53 African captives in 1839, took over in the Spanish slave ship "La Amistad" with the hope of returning to their homeland. Instead they are captured by the U.S. Navy and charged with murder and piracy. His case eventually reached the Supreme Court, where former President John Quincy Adams fight for their cause.

"Africans show dignity and determination, and there is the beauty of their memories of home. But his American experience is a difficult exam," Williams says. "Musically there are rhythms of African drums and music on the other side of the principle of the American century. XIX, which has its origins in the Quakers, as was the abolitionist movement. The music will run to highlight the aspects of this ennobling and heroic fight. "

This type of insight helped Williams to become one of the winners but composers in film history. He won 17 Grammy Awards, having been nominated 32 times. In addition to his Oscars for Schindler's List, ET The Extra-Terrestrial Jaws and he received the statuette for best original score with Star Wars (1977) and Fiddler on the Roof (1971). He was nominated for a total of 34 Academy Awards. These approvals acknowledged their score for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, the three Indiana Jones movies of the series, and the trio of Star Wars films, as well as JFK, Nixon, Born on the Fourth of July, Superman, Home Alone and many others. The most recent score was for Williams Seven Years in Tibet by Jean-Jacques Annaud and is currently working on two new drama set in World War II, Saving Private Ryan, Spielberg. "

1998

Spielberg and Williams on Saving Private Ryan - Richard Dyer -1998

Spielberg and Williams on Saving Private Ryan

At work again, he and John Williams exult in their admiring duet of 24 years

By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff, 02/24/98

`Meeting Steven Spielberg was the luckiest day of my life,'' said John Williams, smiling.

The feeling is clearly mutual. Sitting at Williams's side Sunday, eating a watercress salad, Spielberg said, ''I crave Johnny's company and his friendship. And his music still makes me break out in goose bumps. I know I cannot find anybody better.''

Williams met Spielberg in 1973, so the two men are celebrating the first 25 years of a professional collaboration that has brought each to the pinnacle of his profession.

The goose bumps continued to develop over the weekend when Williams, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus recorded the 55-minute score for the newest Spielberg/Williams collaboration, ''Saving Private Ryan.'' Spielberg was present for most of the three days of recording at Symphony Hall, documenting every step with his hand-held video camera. One of the film's stars, Tom Hanks, came in to observe Saturday.

Spielberg explained that the film, due for release this summer, is based on a true story from World War II. ''It's about four brothers, three of whom were killed within 48 hours, while the fourth is unattainable behind enemy lines. The Army dispatched a squad to find and rescue the remaining son so that he could go back to his mother in Iowa.''

In a process called ''spotting, '' Williams and Spielberg repeatedly watch a rough cut of a film and decide mutually what scenes should have music. For this film, it was decided to spin the music out in long sequences called cues, some of them eight or nine minutes each. In the closing credits sequence, ''Hymn to the Fallen,'' a ghostly tattoo of military drums, propels the elegaic music; a Bach-inspired bass line lends solidity and solemnity. There is a piercingly sad duet for trumpets (Timothy Morrison and Thomas Rolfs), who played antiphonally from the balcony, and the horn (Richard Sebring) has a prominent solo part throughout.

The music is profoundly moving - Williams said he was so devastated by the ending of the film that he hardly knew how to proceed. Spielberg, in turn, was so moved the first time he heard the music that he said he fantasized about leaving out the credits so the audience could just sit, listen, and reflect in the darkened theater. ''That would be illegal of course,'' he added with a grin.

There's a lot of pressure when the red recording light is on and the clock is ticking at about $100,000 an hour, but the players nailed their solos every time. Williams did everything he could to create a reassuring atmosphere. ''Avoid anything grandiose or operatic,'' he said, ''while still giving more,'' and everyone knew exactly what he meant. The session provided shining examples of people knowing their business - and loving what they are doing.

To introduce one episode, Williams asked Hanks to read aloud an eloquent letter of consolation from Abraham Lincoln to a Massachusetts mother who had lost five sons in the Civil War, a letter that figures in the movie.

''It is a pleasure to be performing,'' the lanky Lincolnesque actor said, ''and in such a hall.'' He read the letter so affectingly that the orchestra responded with an appreciative shuffle of its feet.

Many good ears

In the basement recording booth, Williams had very sharp ears working for him - sound producer Shawn Murphy, and Williams's own longtime editor, Kenneth Wamberg, was at his side. And Spielberg, a former school band clarinetist, also boasts a very good ear. In his liner notes to the recording of the Oscar-nominated `Amistad' soundtrack, Spielberg wrote that Williams's music surprises him every time, yet the director also has a very clear sense of what he wants, of what's effective. At one point, he asked Williams if the horn could not move to its last note. Williams understood instantly that Spielberg wanted the harmony left unresolved in order to lend poignancy and possibility to a visual transition in the film.

Williams's ears were the sharpest of all - often he would make a quick revision in his score to get just the effect he wanted. ''Sopranos,'' he said to the chorus, ''hold on to your G. I want it to rub irritatingly against the F-sharp.'' He retuned drums, and removed wind parts, when his inner ear told him their harmonics might interfere with the dialogue.

In 1973, Williams was 40 and long established as a successful composer of music for films; Spielberg was 23 when he called to arrange a lunch meeting. He had directed a Joan Crawford television hour and a film for television, and he was about to direct his first theatrical feature, ''The Sugarland Express.''

Williams recalled, ''I felt like a Dutch uncle, because he looked as if he were all of 16. He was beardless then, and so polite, sweet, and bright.''

At that point Spielberg was auditioning for Williams. ''I had seen two recent movies where the music especially impressed me, `The Reivers' and `The Cowboys,' and both of those scores were by John Williams,'' Spielberg said. ''I wrote a screenplay listening to my LP of the soundtrack of `The Reivers' - in a way it was based on the music, which I heard so often I wore the record out and had to buy another one. The script never got made. Back then nobody was interested in my big inspirations. I thought, `If I ever get a shot at directing a movie, I really want to see if this guy will write the score.' And when I was assigned to `Sugarland Express,' the first thing I did was get in touch with John.''

Williams was impressed that Spielberg could whistle all the principal themes from scores he had half-forgotten himself. ''I remember I whistled `Make Me Rainbows' from the score to `Fitzwilly,''' Spielberg said, whistling it again, in tune and in rhythm, to prove it. Williams recalled that Spielberg played clarinet on the soundtrack to ''Jaws.'' ''There was a scene with a high school band, which was hard to do - good musicians are not effective when they are trying to play like amateurs who are trying to be good.''

It is certainly true that when most people recall Spielberg movies, they hear as well as picture them, and a key part of what they hear is Williams's music.

''I hear all my movies,'' Spielberg said. ''It has taken me years to get all I hear and see onto the screen.''

Spielberg, 50, recalled that his earliest years came just before the advent of television, during the last days of network radio.

''My father rigged up a crystal set in my room, and every night I went to sleep listening to radio shows - `Beulah' and `Amos 'n' Andy,' and `Inner Sanctum,' which terrified me. I must have been between the ages of 2 and 4 when I was listening to all those shows. When you listened to radio in a darkened room, you were looking inside your own imagination; radio inspired the imagination. Later we had the first TV on our block - we didn't have any money, but my dad became a TV repairman, so we had one. There was an amber light that let you know when the set was ready to come on, and my little job was to watch that amber light.''

Restoring art of scoring

The Spielberg/Williams collaborations represented a major step toward restoring classic film scoring, which had taken a sidestep during the 1960s. ''I really believe that John brought back a lost art which was one of the great achievements of the '30s and '40s. It all finally came to a full stop with the soundtrack of `Easy Rider' in 1969. That's when the `needle-drop' soundtrack became popular, collages of old hit songs that made movies sound like top-40 radio stations. The last great old-style score before John was `Spartacus' in 1960, a film that represented the end of an era in several respects. Elliptical films, vignette films became popular, and the big entertainments that the movies had created to compete with television were over. I had to stop buying movie soundtrack albums because there weren't any I wanted to hear anymore!''

''Well, don't forget `Lawrence of Arabia,''' Williams chimed in - conversations between the two men tend to spin a glittering thread through the mazes of movieland.

The first film score recorded in Boston was ''Duel in the Sun'' in 1946. Mention of this led Spielberg to add that his California home was formerly owned by that film's producer, David O. Selznick, who married its star, Jennifer Jones, in the back yard.

''The house has an amazing history,'' Spielberg said. ''Selznick commuted to make `Gone With the Wind' from that house, and that's one of the reasons I bought it. I've seen the guest books from that era, and I feel the presence of many revelers in that house.''

This led Williams into a favorite Selznick story, which in turn led to a merry-go-round of stories about Alfred Hitchcock's preferred composer, Bernard Herrmann, who was a mentor and friend to Williams. Spielberg met Herrmann on the very last day of the composer's life. ''I complimented him extravagantly on all the great music he'd written and how much of an inspiration he had been to me, and he let me talk on and on before he said just one thing. `How come you're using John Williams all the time?'''

''Saving Private Ryan,'' which also stars Matt Damon, represents the third time Williams and Spielberg have recorded a soundtrack in Symphony Hall. Music for the reedited version of ''Close Encounters of the Third Kind'' was recorded here, as was most of the ''Schindler's List'' score.

''The session players we have in Los Angeles are fantastic, and they have amazing skills,'' Spielberg said. ''Half of them are graduates of the Tanglewood Music Center,'' Williams added, proprietarily.

''But there are also advantages to working with an orchestra that has played together for years,'' Spielberg said, to explain why the decision was made to come here for ''Saving Private Ryan.'' ''This is a movie about a company of soldiers, and it seemed appropriate to use an experienced company of musicians who are all virtuosos. Also we really wanted the sound of this room, Symphony Hall. On a soundstage you can get acoustically correct sound, but you don't hear the air. Here you get a rich, warm sound off the walls and ceiling, and you do hear the air; Symphony Hall is an instrument too. On `Sciindler's List,' we did some cleanup work in a studio in Hollywood, and even to my untrained ear the difference between the two kinds of sound was night and day, and I've wanted to come back ever since. Both of us felt this was the right film to bring to Boston.''

The orchestra's long familiarity of working with Williams was also a factor. ''I've never seen John leap to a take after so little rehearsal,'' Spielberg said with admiration. ''Of course John still likes to hone the takes until the music sounds just the way he wants it to.''

Coaxing the right sound

And Williams does know how to coax the sound he wants out of his players. Other film conductors work with clicktracks; Williams had a monitor showing the film at his feet and a huge stopwatch ticking away next to the podium, but he conducted freestyle, allowing the players more expressive freedom. ''Play it quietly - but loving it,'' he said to the cellos. ''That's it! The color you just got is the thing,'' he said.

''Saving Private Ryan'' is scheduled for release in July. By then Williams will be in residence at Tanglewood, where he and Andre Previn will supervise a seminar on film composing. Spielberg said that after finishing the film, he plans to take a year and a half off. ''I want to relax with my family and lead a normal life, to the extent that is possible in Hollywood.''

Neither man can say whether the revolution and restoration they created will be permanent, or whether they will one day be perceived as dinosaurs themselves. ''Well, if that happens, John will be the most commercially successful dinosaur in history,'' Spielberg quipped. The director of ''Jurassic Park'' knows whereof he speaks. ''Well, this dinosaur's tail is not so long,'' said Williams, wryly, ''and his teeth are not so sharp any more,'' and you wouldn't believe him for a second.

Boston Pops Concert 98 - Richard Dyer - 1998

WEEKEND STARTS ON HIGH NOTE AT POPS

THE BOSTON POPS, John Williams, conductor laureate at Symphony Hall last night

By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, page C5, May 23rd, 1998

John Williams made his seasonal return to the Boston Pops last night, and it was clear that the conductor laureate has not outworn his welcome. The audience was happy to see him, and once again Williams went about everything he did with a thoughtful seriousness of purpose that made the fun seem somehow substantial. Last night's program was connected to two works-in-progress, the song-cycle ``Seven for Luck,'' and an album he is recording with violinist Joshua Bell. Some of the program will be taped for television's ``Evening at Pops'' tonight.

``Seven for Luck'' was composed as a commission for Kathleen Battle to sing at the Kennedy Center, but the soprano passed on it; lucky Cynthia Haymon sang three of the songs last night and will sing the premiere of the entire cycle at Tanglewood this summer. A few years back Williams's friend Andre Previn composed an orchestral cycle on new texts by Toni Morrison, ``Honey and Rue''; Williams followed suit by choosing seven poems by former poet laureate Rita Dove. The three heard last night were ``Song'' (about youth, ``when the stars rhymed''), ``Chocolate'' (about chocolate -- and falling in love), and ``Black on a Saturday Night'' (which is about dancing, and attitude, ``. . . there is only / Saturday night, and we are in it''). Williams's music is charged with African-American rhythms and orchestral colors, and the vocal line clings to the soprano voice like a silk dress to a runway model. Haymon sang with involvement and fervor, but in the middle and lower registers she had trouble getting the words and even tone across; compensation came in the Saturday night glamour of her high notes.

The chorus, ``Dry Your Tears, Afrika,'' comes from Williams's music for Steven Spielberg's film ``Amistad,'' one of his finest scores. The song speaks, in the African language Mende, of hope and homecoming; both the melody and the pulsing rhythmical accompaniment are haunting. The children of the GNE Children's Chorus sang it sweetly and truly. They remained onstage for a group of spirituals arranged by the Pops' favorite Gospel Night conductor, Charles Floyd, who put ``Angels Watching Over Me'' and ``Swing Low, Sweet Chariot'' into counterpoint, and sent Haymon's soprano soaring to the heavens at the end of ``This Little Light of Mine.'' The children hung in there, not always exactly in place.

Bell offered a tribute to Gershwin, a new fantasy on themes from ``Porgy and Bess'' arranged by Alexander Courage. This listener found too much routine medley and not enough fantasy in this potpourri, which is merely a medley awkwardly stitched together -- the transitions between numbers are often clumsy (the best ones came in solo violin cadenzas, the worst were orchestral), and the tunes simply alternated fast and slow rather than following the order of the opera or the emotional progress of the story. Jascha Heifetz's famous ``Porgy'' transcriptions remained within a Gershwin style; here we kept leaving Catfish Row for the alien world of the Russian violin concerto. The manner worked most effectively in showoff arrangements of ``It Ain't Necessarily So'' and ``There's a Boat That's Leavin' Soon.'' The tragedy of ``My Man's Gone Now'' could not register in this listen-to-me context, although Bell did manage to make ``Summertime'' affecting through eloquent inflections of line. You heard the words when he played, which ought to be a lesson to all those automatons who go around playing Sarasate's ``Carmen'' Fantasy without a clue as to how the music goes. Thinking of the witty lyric to Bell's encore, ``Embraceable You'' did no favors to the dreadful, smoochy arrangement.

Another ghastly arrangement followed, the love theme from ``Titanic,'' drowned in some of the most famous bits of Debussy and Ravel. Williams could keep his dignity intact even in this, but one knew why The New Yorker's critic found himself rooting for the iceberg.

JW many facets - Richard Dyer - 1998

JOHN WILLIAMS'S MANY FACETS

BOSTON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, John Williams, conductor, at Tanglewood, Saturday evening

By Susan Larson, Globe Correspondent

The Boston Globe, page C10, July 27th, 1998

LENOX -- A concert of entirely 20th-century music is not likely to win the general approval of the picnicking thousands on Tanglewood's lawn, but Saturday's concert by the BSO and Boston Pops conductor laureate John Williams took that risk. Williams, who has reintroduced us to the symphonic movie score (``Star Wars,'' ``Superman,'' ``Schindler's List,'' and, as of last week, ``Saving Private Ryan'') is one of the few conductors with enough personal cachet to lure the unwary concertgoer into listening to modern music, and what's more, liking it.

Granted, his program tapped the more conventional end of 20th-century music -- no electronic noises, nothing by Babbitt. But it was all strong, accessible, beautiful music, and two of the compositions were by Williams. For a teaser, Williams and the Boston Symphony Orchestra trotted out Samuel Barber's Overture to ``The School for Scandal,'' Op. 5. This amusing, gossipy piece is rhythmically slippery, and the orchestra found itself skidding on the sharper turns. If Williams slighted the overture in rehearsals to favor his own works, who's to blame him?

In Williams's violin concerto, written more than two decades ago, we get to see another side of the Hollywood composer. Movie music has to be simpler and less rhetorical than concert music, which is written to engage your ear in intensely nuanced conversation.

This first performance by the BSO, with the superb violinist Gil Shaham, rewarded the attentive ear at every turn, making this somber, personal, and rather introverted concerto live and breathe.

Shaham's limpid cantilena in the solo introduction, his breathtaking sotto voce playing, and his stunning passage-work (never merely grandstanding, always sensitive to whatever material he was decorating) soared over orchestral textures that glowed witheerie phosphorescence. Shaham shared the poignant songs of the slow movement with Elizabeth Ostling's flute, passing melody between them as harmonies cleared out to simple (never schmaltzy) triads. The motor rhythms of the final movement, with its haunted reminiscences of earlier material, had you hurtling forward while looking backward. Bravos and enthusiastic applause followed the stretto coda.

The world premiere of Williams's symphonic song cycle ``Seven for Luck,'' on poems by Rita Dove, former poet laureate of the United States, brought the poet herself to the stage (carmine-gowned and looking like a diva) to read her texts. The radiant American soprano Cynthia Haymon sang Dove's poems about woman's life and love, which tell it like it is in a decidedly different tone than Robert Schumann's ``Frauenliebe'' cycle. Haymon has a crystal chime of a voice and endless, high, floaty pianissimos. She inhabited Dove's gorgeous poetry and Williams's high-flying melodies, showing us a child's wonder at the world, a girl's sexual awakening as summer street lights ``ping into miniature suns'' (accompanied by Jacques Zoon's sensual flute and cellist Martha Babcock's portentous pizzicato ``pings'').

Spontaneous and heartfelt applause followed every song, especially the Caribean-lilting, food-lusting ``Chocolate''; the nervous-ironic confessions of ``Expecting,'' the real skinny on being pregnant; and the quietly menacing ``Serenade,'' introduced by Ann Hobson Pilot's eloquent harp solo. The evening closed with Stravinsky's 1919 ``Firebird'' suite, in which Williams found just the right tempos and character in a high-mettled performance that was sharp, clean, and invigorating.

Students learn from Master - Richard Dyer - 1998

COMPOSERS LEARN FILM MUSIC FROM THE MASTER

By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, page E5, August 20th, 1998

LENOX -- John Williams has been coming to Tanglewood for 19 years and since his retirement as Boston Pops conductor has held the title of artist in residence there. Over the years he has regularly offered to meet with the composing fellows at the Tanglewood Music Center, who have always been eager to talk to him, but until this summer he has not been made to feel entirely welcome -- it was as if his activities in Hollywood and the world of commercial music made him somehow suspect.

He himself has been critical of ivory-tower musicians whose work depends entirely on subsidy, and without sacrificing idealism and commitment to quality, he brings a pragmatic, real-world perspective to everything he does. ``Not everyone can expect to compose the `Missa Solemnis,' '' he says.

This summer, however, Williams has led a seminar in film music at the center; this invitation came as part of Seiji Ozawa's renovation and restoration of the Boston Symphony Orchestra's summer institute for advanced musical training. Future summers will bring seminars for composers in such other collaborative disciplines as dance and opera.

Williams brought along his editor from Hollywood, Ken Wannberg (a collaborator for 35 years), some technical equipment, and sequences from three movies, ``Empire of the Sun,'' ``Jaws,'' and ``Fatal Attraction.'' The five young composers studied these scenes with Williams, and each was assigned to write music for one of them.

Tuesday night brought the close of the seminar, a public event during which the new scores were rehearsed and performed by the center's orchestra in synchronism with the film clips. The evening was highly instructive for the audience, as the experience must have been for the composers, who learned something about technique and technology and had the valuable experience of hearing their music in performance almost as soon as they had composed it.

Williams hosted the evening, paying tribute to the students and their earlier work this summer with Henri Dutilleux and Maurico Kagel, as well as to two historic Tanglewood figures who worked in the movies, Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein. He spoke of the disciplines of his own art, where music is subjugated not only to image, but to dialogue and sound effects.

Williams described each scene before we saw the film clips without music, dialogue, or sound effects, and a neglected aspect of his mastery of his craft was immediately apparent. In addition to his musical abilities and mastery of the professional disciplines, Williams is a superb reader of film. He understands images, what they mean, how they communicate, what they need to enhance, reinforce, refine, and contradict their message. Earlier in the day the great German collaborative pianist Hartmut Hoell was demonstrating that behind his own art lies an extraordinary, intuitive, and educated understanding of poetry; Williams speaks the same language when he displays a comparable understanding of visual imagery.

In his description of the sequence from ``Empire of the Sun,'' Williams noted how a boy's maroon jacket set him apart from the crowd of prisoners, how the real airplanes and the toy airplanes represented the absence of gravity and the dream of flight; the key image for him was of a toy airplane flying over a barbed-wire fence. This is a complex, Spielbergian sequence -- in just a few minutes there is a lot of action within the frame, a lot of camera movement, more than 30 cuts. In speaking of the music, Williams pointed out how details of performance -- timbre, dynamics, balance -- and gestures of construction can illuminate the images, can affect the audience's perception and responses.

The first score, by Gregory Mettl, caught something about the time, place, and situation; it also felt authentic because the composer seemed to be writing his own music rather than something called film music. Kenneth Lampl's score for the same sequence was more romantic in feeling, and more generically ``Hollywood'' -- his music was attractive, but it could have worked as well in just about any movie as well as it did for this specific sequence.

This genre feeling also affected Matthew Guerrieri's music for a sighting of the shark in ``Jaws.'' This was fast, loud, exciting, and technically adroit, but one wondered if the ``Ride of the Valkyries'' wouldn't have done the job just as well.

The most complex sequence was the famous bathroom scene at the end of ``Fatal Attraction.'' Upstairs, Glenn Close stalks Michael Douglas's wife; downstairs Douglas makes a pot of tea while the fan whirs, the fireplace crackles, and the dog laps up the water dripping through the ceiling from the overflow upstairs. One thought of Arnold Schoenberg's famous response to a movie mogul who was trying to sell him on ``The Good Earth.'' As the mogul described the climactic sequence -- childbirth in the rice paddies during a thunderstorm -- Schoenberg said, ``At a moment like that, who needs music?''

Richard Whalley's musical response was highly professional but also a bit obvious. It comes out of Ligeti crossed with Bernard Herrmann; upstairs is represented by high strings, downstairs by low strings. Marita Bolles's choices were the most original and arresting, perhaps too much so because her score called attention to itself. She worked with contrasts between sound and silence, with unconventional timbres (the popping of bubble wrap, percussionists scraping knives together), and with imaginative interaction with the sound effects (the whistling of the tea kettle was anticipated and mirrored by the strings). Bolles is only 28 and hasn't brought everything together yet, but she seems to have the metier; she has an ear and a sense of dramatic timing.

Mettl, Lampl, and Guerrieri conducted their own scores, which must have been a terrifying and instructive experience for them; Stefan Asbury led Whalley's and Bolles's with assured and confident professionalism. Williams made no evaluative comments but contributed several helpful suggestions out of his own experience -- moving a crescendo by a couple of bars made a big difference; ``the trumpets are self-conscious -- I think they are too heavy for what I see on the screen''; ``you should be careful about the rimshots and slapsticks because they are so loud -- when the sound people bring them down to level, you will lose a lot of detail in the other instrumental writing.''

The end of the evening came without fanfare, but everyone left with new ears. There had been only one reference to John Williams's own music -- before ``Jaws,'' a cellist had intoned Williams's famous two-note theme. Williams said, ``I'm glad he didn't put that in!'' If they are smart, the students will bring the seminar to another conclusion by making a trip to the video store, to discover what Maurice Jarre accomplished in ``Fatal Attraction'' and to hear the contribution made to ``Empire of the Sun'' and ``Jaws'' by Williams. ``Music is subjugated in film,'' he said, ``and that makes musicians unhappy. Most film music does its job and disappears. But out of these disciplines and limitations has also come some wonderful art.''

1999

The Making of TPM - Laurent Bozerau - 1999

THE MAKING OF THE PHANTOM MENACE

por Laurent Bouzereau & Jody Duncan

Music is an important element in all movies, but especially in films of George Lucas. "When I write the script," Lucas said, "I hear the film more in music than in terms of sound effects. I really hear it in my head. I give much attention to music even during the early stages of writing. The Star Wars films are essentially silent films because they are stories that are told visually, and in silent films the relationship between image and music is everything. Much of the story and are told a lot of emotion through music. It is one of most important elements of the film. "

John Williams would compose the musical score for Episode I, as he had done to the original three Star Wars movies, Indiana Jones trilogy, Jaws, ET: The Extra-Terrestrial, Schindler's List, and other fifty-nine movies. His scores for film composer did win five Academy Awards and some amazing thirty-six nominations for the Oscars, and they contain some of the most recognizable musical themes in movie history.

In the first week of February 1999, John Williams, George Lucas and Rick McCallum returned to England to write the film - but Williams was already at work for several months by then. "I saw a montage of the Episode I for the first time in early October 1998," Williams said. "It was a little raw and all the special effects were not yet there, but all ages were there. I was anxious to begin as soon as he could. We had to record the song in February, so by then I had only four months to prepare a score that had a duration of two hours. "

Williams came to the first viewing of the film with the music of the first trilogy in the head. "The music was already existing in my head," Williams explained, "because they were thematic identifications with characters and ideas in history. The next step was to create a series of melodic motifs that were new for this movie and that coexist with old ones." The way the existing themes and motifs were mixed with new ones, would be one of the biggest challenges and one of the most interesting of the new score. When composing the theme song for the character of Anakin, for example, Williams felt compelled to include a touch he had composed the theme for Darth Vader in the original trilogy. "Anakin's theme definitely has a series of musical cues that people may recognize as the music of another person who we have met before."

New musical themes include those for the characters of Jar-Jar and Qui-Gon. "The theme of Jar-Jar was funny, because that is their role in history. But the theme of Qui-Gon has to do with nobility, because he is a teacher, a teacher, a moral conscience for the young Jedi. Also There is a march for the army of the evil Trade Federation, which is nothing like Darth Vader music from previous films, although the same function. It creates the same kind of weight and has a great force behind it. "

After seeing the film for the first time Williams has two days to review it with Luke at his side. "We call it a" Spotting Session "," Williams said. "We saw the movie without the temp track and must decide where to begin and end the song. George explained what would be the dramatic function of music, scene by scene. A spotting session is the starting point for the director, the composer and the designer sound to begin to realize where they should be softer or not, where do we speed up or slow down. It is a general discussion about how music will work with the sound effects and dialogue. At the end of this session, I went away, and four months later, I came back with two hours of orchestral music to accompany the film. "

Luke did not hear this music until the recording sessions in late January. "Some directors, Steven Spielberg, for example, like to appear as these ideas to compose and hear," Williams said. "But George did not. On the one hand he was in San Francisco and I was in Los Angeles. Another reason was because a film like this, there is a huge task of musical design - and I write for myself every note, without a group of people with me. When you ask an architect to build a giant building - especially in just four months - it's best you go away, leave him alone, let him do his job, and expect the building to stand when is finished. That's what George did. "

Williams began the score in the middle of the film, composing music for the scenes between Anakin and his mother. "I wanted to find the human aspect of the story before going to action sequences," Williams said. "I also wanted to ground the music in the action scenes look more human and emotional theme." Williams then moved to the end of the film. "It was important to know where I was walking, so that I could work on it."

Williams, Lucas, McCallum, and the London Symphony Orchestra joined the Abbey Road Studios in London, where the recording sessions would take place over eight days. As with many veterans of the Star Wars films on the film, Episode I was a family reunion for John Williams. "Working on this movie was like writing for an old friend," Williams said. "For me, it seemed to me like the experience I had twenty years ago, even though the characters were different. There was a family connection, a bond of family union for it all."

Making 'Star Wars' sing again - Richard Dyer (Boston Globe article) - 1999

In London, Williams puts sound to Lucas's next adventure

By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff, 03/28/99

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LONDON - "John Williams communicates so beautifully," says George Lucas, "that I can make a silent movie."

The Phantom Menace, the eagerly awaited first film in Lucas's new prequel trilogy to Star Wars, isn't a silent movie. But neither were films of the "silent" era, which depended on musical accompaniment to make their full effect. Lucas knows his film history, and will quote the great Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein's dictum that "film is music."

No one can think of the Star Wars movies without hearing John Williams's music. Williams's score has even gone beyond the films to become part of the soundtrack to people's lives. In February, Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra were back in EMI's Abbey Road Studios to record the music for The Phantom Menace; Lucas was there to hear his new movie for the first time.

Lucas says he loves music, and it's clear he does. He remembers the music in the films he grew up with - Liszt's Les Preludes introduced the old Flash Gordon serials, which were a primal source for Star Wars. He calls the trilogy his "space opera," and there are many narrative and mythic parallels to Wagner's Ring cycle. He writes his scripts while he's listening to music; he listens to music when he's filming; he edits to a dummy track of existing music that gives each sequence the emotional charge he's looking for.

"You have no idea what John's music contributes to the films," says actor Anthony Daniels, who plays the golden tin man, C-3PO. "The first time I saw any of Star Wars, Ravel's Bolero was still on the soundtrack."

It is easy to believe Daniels. In the first trilogy, Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia was flat-voiced, as plain, prosaic, and practical as a can opener, but from the moment the flute begins to intone her theme, she becomes pure romantic enchantment. The success of the film, and of Williams's music, helped restore the romantic symphonic movie score to popularity. The gadgetry in the film, and the technology that makes it possible, are futuristic, but the story is built on classic patterns - and, the scroll at the opening reminds us, that it takes place "long ago" in a galaxy far away. Now there is an even older story to be told in image and music. Most of the time, Williams meets with the directors of the films he's going to score to "spot" the scenes that are going to need music; with Lucas, he knows, "we are going to play through everything." There were 16 three-hour recording sessions to set down 900 pages of score, two full hours of music. The sessions were intense, exhausting, and utterly professional. As in every business, time means money, even though music represents only a modest proportion of the film's $115 million budget.

Despite the necessary tension and attention, everyone was casually dressed - Lucas in jeans and cowboy belt, Williams in his usual pairing of dark pants and dark turtleneck - and there was the feeling of a family reunion. Williams was surrounded by some of his longtime associates, including sound producer Shawn Murphy and Kenneth Wannberg, who has worked as Williams's editor since Valley of the Dolls in 1967.

Some of the actors dropped by to listen for a while, including Ewan McGregor, who plays the young Obi-Wan Kenobi; Ian McDiarmid, who plays the evil Senator Palpatine; and Daniels, as neat as C-3PO, but not as fussy. McGregor, clean-cut and idealistic in the film, looks scruffy and unshaven in the studio, but that's because of a stage role he is playing every night. One day he brings his young daughter to the sessions, and under his breath advises her that George Lucas's jeans are not the best place to wipe fingers covered with melted "chockies." Star Wars runs in the family: McGregor's uncle, Denis Lawson, appeared as a fighter pilot named Wedge in the first trilogy.

There's another special visitor. Williams introduces him to the orchestra - "Look who's here - the man who tamed dinosaurs and taught them to speak and act" - and the players applaud Steven Spielberg, whom they have already recognized with a gasp. Lucas cracks a joke at the expense of his friend since film-school days: "I just know he's going to take over ..."

Spielberg has helped Lucas make these weeks a difficult time for their old friend, whom both filmmakers address as "Johnny." Williams had completed his score to an earlier cut of the film. After consultation with Spielberg, though, Lucas had recently re-edited the sixth and final reel, the last 20 minutes of the film, which present simultaneous actions converging on the climax.

Williams tries to be philosophical about the pickle this has dropped him into. "If I hit the ground running," he says, "I can write two minutes of music a day. If I were to have started all over again on the last reel, I would be ready to record in July - with the picture already in the theaters! So I've been making the music fit as we go along. That's why I'm constantly telling the players to drop measures 7 to 14."

Gizmos and planetscapes

This is not the place to reveal secrets about The Phantom Menace. The chases, duels, battles, and action scenes look exciting, and there are plenty of new gizmos, including a nifty double-edged light saber; there is comic relief from curious extraterrestrial creatures and humans alike; there are gorgeous images, cityscapes and planetscapes, and giant ships slice through space - the images directly reflect and expand upon the ones of the earlier films. There also seems to be a richer emotional texture: We are learning more about this story, who these people are, and how they got that way.

In the surge of pre-opening publicity, some of the Phantom Menace secrets aren't so secret anymore - in fact, they haven't been secret for a while. Lucas has described the first trilogy, as the story of the redemption of Anakin Skywalker, a.k.a. Darth Vader. The three new films tell the story of how the golden child Anakin went over to the Dark Side.

Lucas says he had to know the backstory in order to write the original trilogy, but admits with a sigh that it's unlikely that he will get around to writing and filming the third trilogy he used to mention as a possible sequel.

"It's taken nearly 30 years to get this far, and there are two more films to go," Lucas says, "that will take six more years." Later, he makes a film maven's comparison to Orson Welles's Citizen Kane. "We've seen the sled, Rosebud, and now we're back to telling the story, which across the six films and 12 hours of screen time covers 50 years. Each of the six films is a short story, not a novel. When we began, all I hoped was that we could get the first Star Wars to pay for itself - and it was a very thin hope. I didn't make the movie as part of a business plan or because my intention was to make a hit movie. I made it because I liked it. And then it turned out to be a hit movie."

Asked why there was such a long delay between the two trilogies, Lucas says, "I wanted to do some other things with my life besides this. I wanted to raise my family." (Lucas's daughter Amanda, now 17, was adopted near the end of his marriage to Marcia Griffin; Lucas is also the single adoptive parent of Kate, 11, and Jet, 6.) Lucas had to wait for some of the necessary technology to be developed - by his own galaxy of companies, which were financed in part by the profits from the Star Wars trilogy.

From the start, Lucas had a conception of the big story he wanted to tell. Williams, on the other hand, says that back in 1977 he had no idea that he was beginning the score for a trilogy - let alone a sextet. "I'm afraid I thought of it as a Saturday-afternoon movie," he says. "A good one, though." Richard Wagner wrote the text to his Ring cycle rather the way Lucas wrote the Star Wars films, working backward, but he did have the advantage of composing the operas in order, an advantage that Williams has lacked.

The Phantom Menace contains many of the familiar Star Wars themes - it was a thrill to hear the most famous of them all appear in the trumpets again - but there are also new themes for new characters. The old themes and the new ones combine as they range across the spectrum of cinematic experience. There is scary music, exciting music, tenderhearted music, comic music, noble funeral music, and music of heroic resolve.

The 8-year-old Anakin has a theme that Williams says "is the sweetest and most innocent thing you've ever heard." That's how it sounds, though alert ears will be uneasy when they realize it is built on a chromatically unstable 12-tone row. But wait a minute - isn't there something familiar about this? The principal horn player voices the question: "Isn't this Darth Vader's music?" Later in the film there is a big celebration in some kind of coliseum. There's some funny music, a children's chorus, a march. "It's struggling to be the Imperial March," Williams says. Then he shoots a rare grin. "And it's going to get there."

Composing in red and blue

As it happens, not many Phantom Menace secrets were revealed during close observation of four days of recording sessions. Scenes from the film were projected out of sequence and without dialogue; the color registration was off; and most of the special effects were not in the work print yet (and music editor Wannberg points out that there are 2,000 special effects in this film, which works out to an average of almost 17 special effects per minute). More often than not the images were incomplete, with a live actor appearing in front of what looked like an architectural drawing, or an old print by Piranesi. These drawings, or just plain squiggles, represented what computers and special-effects wizards will fill in.

One of the new alien creatures in The Phantom Menace is called Jar Jar Binks, who looks like a friendly cross between a horse and a kangaroo; Jar Jar has eyes in the middle of his (or her) ears. (Lucas says he imagines his new species, then keeps on describing them to artists until they are able to draw what he has in mind; the process sounds a little like what police artists do in trying to create a suspect's portrait.) This may be a bit of subconscious tribute to Williams, whose superiority as a film composer lies not only in his musical ability but in his skill at reading an image and at sensing the rhythmic and emotional relationships images create in movement. Williams reads a piece of film and feels the music in it the way Schubert or Benjamin Britten heard music when they read poetry.

The condition of the work print may have been responsible for Williams's one misjudgment - about 4 seconds in the first hour of music he recorded.

The young Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) stares out of a palace window; she sees a tower with spacecraft circling around it. Everything looks red, and when we see the tower, Williams's music surges triumphantly. Lucas doesn't cry "Cut!" the way directors do in the movies. But he does speak quietly to Williams in the control booth. He is quite clear about the emotional texture he wants. "I thought of this as a quieter, more romantic moment," Lucas says. "She's very sad. Sad and romantic - the story of my life, the story of everyone's life. The actual color here is not as red as that - it's more blue." Williams listens thoughtfully. "I was too red," he admits, "when I should have been blue. I'll fix it tonight."

Lucas is full of praise for Williams's versatility and skill. "John's music tells the story. Each character has a theme that develops and interacts with the themes of the other characters; the musical themes connect the themes of the stories and make them resonate. He also creates an emotional context for each scene. In fact you can have it both ways, because you can play a scene against the emotions that are in it because the music is there to tell you the truth. The music can communicate nuances you can't see; it says things the film doesn't say."

And Williams is confident enough with Lucas to spring some surprises of his own. Unlike Spielberg, who enjoys coming into Williams's studio at Amblin Productions in California to sit on the piano bench and listen to the music as it emerges, Lucas usually doesn't hear Williams's score until it's being recorded.

One day 88 professional singers from London Voices arrive to record two episodes with chorus. One is funeral music for one of the film's emotional climaxes; the other is for the closing credits, a terrifying, primitive pagan rite that makes even Stravinsky's Les Noces sound tame. Lucas loves this dark, driven music so much he shows off the recording for Spielberg when he arrives. Spielberg says to Williams, "I'm glad I didn't drop around for a cigar on the day you wrote that." Lucas says Williams doesn't know it yet, but this music will accompany a crucial scene in the third new film.

The words the chorus is singing in this dark, demonic cue are clear, but the language is unfamiliar. It turns out it's Sanskrit. ("Sanskrit!" Lucas exclaims when Williams tells him. "That'll give the fans something to figure out.") Williams had been strongly affected by a phrase from an old Welsh poem by Taliesin, "The Battle of the Trees," that the poet Robert Graves had cited and translated in "The White Goddess." "Under the tongue root, a fight most dread, /And another rages behind in the head" seemed to fit the evil ritual. Williams arranged to have these English words translated back into the original Celtic and into other ancient languages. "I chose the Sanskrit," he says, "because I loved the sound of it. I condensed this into 'most dread/inside the head,' which seemed both cryptic and appropriate. For the funeral scene, I had my own words, 'Death's long sweet sleep,' translated into Sanskrit too."

At the close of the day, Lucas, Spielberg, and Williams line up against the wall in front of a Star Wars poster for a television interview.

"They call you Johnny," the interviewer remarks.

"You should have seen how young I was when they met me," Williams responds.

Getting F-sharp right

High tech will be everywhere on the screen, and in the studio there's far more of it than anyone could have imagined 22 years ago, when this adventure began. Williams's score is in a computer, which produces the parts for the players; even the speakers in the control room look like `droids from the movie. "They have all this new stuff," Williams observes, a bit ruefully. "But we're all still down there trying to make sure that F-sharp is in tune."

Williams knows that not every F-sharp will be heard; he's a team player, and Lucas praises him for that. "John knows the movie has to come first. Each participant in a movie is like a musician in an orchestra. Everybody - the sound people, the photographers, the special effects artists - has to be just as good as a soloist - but no matter how good he is, he can't be a soloist. It's my job to be the conductor."

Whether anybody will hear that F-sharp or not in the final film isn't a problem Williams lets himself worry about. Instead he concentrates on getting it right. The effect he is after may be subliminal and hidden behind dialogue, or the ricochet of light-sabers, but it is still there.

The process for each musical cue is the same. The orchestra reads the passage through- and the LSO is famed above all other orchestras for its sight-reading. Then Williams rehearses the music, sometimes repeatedly. When it is ready, the passage is recorded, sometimes several times;

Williams and the orchestra listen to the advice of the producer. Williams goes into the control room to listen to the takes, often accompanied by key members of the orchestra. Then they go out again and work until they get it the way they want it. And then they move on to the next cue. It's an exhilarating and exhausting process.

Nothing seems to ruffle Williams's composure or the old-fashioned courtesy that seems fundamental to his nature - not even 10 successive takes of the same passage. "Thank you," he says to the players after a problematic reading. "I have learned some more things that I needed to know. I think we can get it together better, and I know I can conduct it better." "Let's see if we can make a more noble sound," he will say to the brass and percussion, including himself in the equation. His experience shows in everything. "It's not too loud," he says, "but the sound is too close; it will obscure the dialogue." "Could you menace without getting louder?" he asks. "The audience should feel this rather than hear it." "Let me ask the harp not to play here - I think the sound of the harp will take the eye away from what it needs to see right here." "I'd love to take it that slowly," he says, looking at the screen, "but I can't."

Williams cannot conceal his delight, however, at how some things are turning out. He will deftly sidestep a compliment: "That's my homage to old man Korngold," he says, paying tribute to the great Viennese prodigy Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who fled from Hitler and wound up in Hollywood writing the scores to classic Warner Bros. adventure movies like The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk, and Captain Blood. After the tremendous, charging rhythmic excitement of one cue, Williams jokes, "That ought to be enough to scare the children of the world."

When the music soars, Williams seems to soar a little too. "I'm a very lucky man," he says, smiling. "If it weren't for the movies, no one would be able to write this kind of music anymore."

2000

Angela's Ashes - Richard Dyer - 2000

WILLIAMS REFLECTS ON 'ANGELA'S ASHES'

MAESTRO CHOOSES A 'UNIVERSAL APPROACH' TO AN IRISH STORY

By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, page D15, January 28th, 2000

John Williams was about to head off to the dentist's, but he sounded cheerful anyway Tuesday afternoon when he called in from California to chat for a while about his score for the film "Angela's Ashes." The soundtrack album appears on a current CD for Sony Classical. The CD has the advantage of clocking in at 59 minutes, while the film lasts 2 1/2 rain-soaked, heavy-duty hours. One of the "Evening at Pops" programs planned for taping next spring is an "Angela's Ashes" segment, with Williams conducting, author Frank McCourt appearing as narrator, and Yo-Yo Ma taking over the prominent solo cello part.

Williams's music for McCourt's story of grinding Irish poverty does not rely on references to folk or commercial Irish music. Nevetheless, Williams makes allusions to the feel of traditional Irish music in the intervals of the melodies and in certain aspects of the harmony, and the presence of the harp in the scoring also evokes Ireland. In addition to the harp, Williams also highlights the piano, oboe, and cello. The orchestration is strongly string-oriented, and the main themes suggest the melancholy, steadfast character of Vaughan Williams's beloved "Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis." The music supplies warmth to a chilling tale, continuity to an episodic narrative; a pizzicato interlude even adds to the mordant humor of the moment when McCourt's father and brothers join him in trying to stomp the fleas out of a mattress. At the end, as McCourt's boat sails past the Statue of Liberty into New York harbor, the music surges and swells, and a mournful harmonic progression we have heard throughout the film turns triumphant.

"I thought that using a sort of Irish vernacular music might narrow the piece down," Williams says. "Another way of going was to take a more universal approach, a more emotional approach, if you like, with the orchestra expressing the broad, human aspect of the experience. There was no need, I felt, for the music to emphasize the specifically Irish or Catholic aspect of the story."

Williams had never worked with director Alan Parker, who wrote a testimonial to Williams for the CD booklet.

"Before I finished filming `Angela's Ashes,' I received a message that John Williams had agreed to do the score," Parker wrote. "For a filmmaker, of course, this is akin to winning the lottery, and once I had a first cut of the film together, I nervously showed it to him. I have to say that however knowledgeable one is of maestro Williams's massive talent, it is still an extraordinary experience to watch him work. His sensitivity, wisdom, graciousness, and total, effortless control of the task of scoring for film is awe-inspiring. If I sound too gushing, I make no apoloiges; the man is brilliant."

In conversation, Williams returns the compliment. "I enjoyed him very much. He's a blue-collar Englishman, and I mean that in the nicest possible way. He's an unpretentious, workmanlike chap."

For this film, Williams broke one of his usual rules: He read McCourt's

book. Usually he tries not to do this, because he wants to come to a film with no preconceptions. "I like Frank McCourt's book very much, and I spoke to him about the film after he'd seen it. So often when an author writes something, or when a reader reads something, the subsequent film never matches the original mental picture. But McCourt said he genuinely loved the film, and felt that it represented his mother and his siblings in a way that seemed true and real. I don't think the movie makes any departure from Frank McCourt. What I love is the Irish lilt that lifts the story away from the bleakest tragedy - that line near the end, for example, when he says, `There are three things an Irishman is allowed to love: God, children, and a horse that wins.' Color and humor like that help define a land in which the two great institutions are the church and the pub, both of them offering solace but not solutions. The Irish are good at writing, at poetry - and at acting. Alan Parker found such wonderful people for all the little parts in the film - the teachers, priests, functionaries, and bureaucrats. And I thought Emily [Watson] was extraordinary as the mother."

Williams produced the CD himself; the disc exists in two versions. In English-speaking countries, actor Andrew Bennett speaks a connecting narration, as he does in the film; in the rest of the world, the record appears without the narration. "There's a broad foreign market for soundtrack recordings, and people felt the narration would be a problem there." Williams is full of praise for the solo instrumentalists on the album and says he has drawn Seiji Ozawa's attention to the special qualities of oboist John Ellis. But he also makes an almost-shy confession. The film opens with a solo piano line. On the album, Randy Kerber is credited for the playing, which is sensitive throughout, but some of the sensitivity comes from Williams. "I did some of the playing myself - that was my little effort for this thing. I started off the picture with the piano by itself, playing a single line - I thought the simplicity, the directness of the voice, would be useful and good."

The film also includes some "source music" - Nat Gonella & His Georgians contribute "The Dipsy Doodle" from 1938, and McCourt and his family listen to Billie Holiday singing "Pennies From Heaven" on the radio. "Alan Parker started out using a reprise of `Pennies From Heaven' at the end of the film," Williams recalls, "but finally opted for a more opulent, orchestral ending. The orchestra creates the final resolution."

Another bit of "source music" heard in the film (although it doesn't appear on the CD) is "Bi mir bist du schoen," the Yiddish theater song that became a big hit for the Andrews Sisters in 1937. "When I heard it on the temporary soundtrack, I wondered what it was doing there in the middle of Ireland," Williams admits. "But then Parker told me a cute story - everybody knew that song back then. As a kid growing up in Great Britain, he knew the song, although he didn't have any idea of its Yiddish origins. He and his little friends thought the title had something to do with `Mr. Shane'!"

Williams is very pleased with plans to showcase "Angela's Ashes" on "Evening at Pops." "I've talked with Frank McCourt on the telephone, and he's agreed to come and visit us and to read some of his text, instead of the actor who does it on the CD. I'll expand on some of the music, probably the piano part, and particularly the cello solos, because Yo-Yo Ma will come to join us. It should make for a very nice evening in Symphony Hall, and also for television."

Williams is an artist who works in a business, so he was careful to ask how audiences in Boston are responding to "Angela's Ashes" and what kind of box office it's doing.

"I think this film is going to do best in the cities and among people with literary interests, and especially among people who love the book, who are not going to be disappointed. Maybe it is not a broad, general family picture that is going to be tremendously possible, but I believe it is a film that will find its own audience."

JW listens to a song of a tree - Richard Dyer - 2000

JOHN WILLIAMS LISTENS TO THE SONG OF A TREE By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff

The Boston Globe, page N2, July 2nd, 2000

John Williams has composed a new concert work for the opening weekend at Tanglewood, "TreeSong" - a work inspired by the composer's favorite tree in the Public Garden. Williams, violinist Gil Shaham, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra will premiere the work during Saturday night's concert in the Shed.

When Williams was in town a few weeks ago to conduct the Pops, he posed for photographs next to his beloved dawn redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides, and came to lunch to talk about the piece, and about some of his other recent activities.

"For years," Williams said, "I loved to take walks in the Public Garden, and I grew infatuated with this Chinese tree, the dawn redwood, which stands in the southwest corner. It not only looked lovely, but it seemed animate, even intelligent."

A "serendipitous" experience followed for Williams. Through the Boston Symphony's physician, Dr. Eng-Hwi Kwa, he met Dr. Siu-Ying Hu, a retired Harvard University botanist. One afternoon, he was taking a walk through the Arnold Arboretum with Hu. "I was speaking to her about the tree I loved so much in the Public Garden when she stopped me. `Is it like this one?' she asked, pointing to a nearby tree. I said it was, and she said, `I planted them, back in the 1940s.' "

Until 1945, Metasequoia was thought to be extinct; it was known only in fossil specimens. "But then, in the western part of China, near Tibet, some standing forests of these trees were discovered," Williams said - fewer than 1,000 of them, according to botanists. "When Dr. Hu came to America, she brought a pound of seeds and the trees have flourished here; she helped insure this survivor from the Jurassic era."

Last season, Shaham recorded Williams's Violin Concerto for Deutsche Grammophon. There has been considerable discussion about what to use to complete the CD; Williams rejoiced in the opportunity to write "TreeSong" about his favorite dawn redwood. The 18-minute piece is in one continuous movement divided into three sections. The first is his response to Hu and the Metasequoia; the second evokes the "trunk, branches, and leaves" of the tree; the third is called "The Tree Sings." Williams says there is nothing in the music to suggest the Asian origin of the tree, "but I hope people will hear that there is a sylvan atmosphere! The orchestration calls for 2 harps, 2 keyboards, and 4 flutes, along with a lot of delicate percussion. I hope the Tanglewood stage will be good for it."

Williams's most recent film score was for "The Patriot," which opened last week. "We finished about two weeks before I came to Boston for the Pops. I think it is a wonderful film, and a useful film - I think most of us are better-informed about the Civil War than we are about the Revolutionary War. It's a big score, about 100 minutes of music, and I spent about three months on it."

The next picture will be "AI" (for "Artificial Intelligence"). "This was a script that Stanley Kubrick was working on. Steven Spielberg knew about it, and at one point, Kubrick said to him, `You know, you should direct this picture.' After Kubrick died, Steven bought the material; he's going to start shooting next month, and the picture will be out a year from now.

"A lot of other things are in the works, but I'm not free to talk about them yet," Williams continued. "You can never predict what you're going to get when you embark on a film project. You think you have controlled everything and then an extra element creeps in, the elusive part of the magic. If you could control that factor, every film would be a masterpiece. In music, sometimes a player brings less than what you had imagined in your mind's ear; then there are those occasions when the player brings you more than you had ever imagined."

He plans to spend most of the summer in the little cottage he rents near Tanglewood. "I will do one concert at the Hollywood Bowl, but I've planned a light summer for performing. After the opening weekend concert with the Boston Symphony, I will do two Pops concerts later in the season. One of them will be a film night, and the other an end-of-summer concert."

For film night, Williams hoped to revive one of his major projects of last year, "Millennium 2000," which was performed on New Year's Eve in Washington, D.C., with a prestigious narrator, President Clinton. "I met Hillary Clinton in Washington at the time of the premiere of `Amistad,' and she talked to me about working with Steven Spielberg to create some special event for the millennium. A year went by and we heard no more about it, but early last year we got the go-ahead to develop a 20-minute film about America in the 20th century. The film is in several tableaux. The first section is about building - the Empire State Building, the interstate highway system, and things like that. The second was about the wars of the century, and Steven found some spectacular footage of aerial battles during World War II. There was then a section about entertainment and sports that featured everybody from Joe DiMaggio to Mark McGwire. The film closed with civil rights and women's issues. All of us agreed that the film would stress flight as the greatest achievement of the century. Some of the text came from Lincoln and other great figures, but we also asked for new texts by three contemporary poets, Robert Pinsky, Rita Dove, and Maya Angelou."

Williams led excerpts from his score with the Pops, but thinks it unlikely that he will be able to carry through his plan to link film to score at Tanglewood. "Most of the footage became available to Steven on a one-time-use basis, and at the special request of the White House. It's not possible to use it again, even for a fund-raising event, although I'm still trying. Fortunately, the score is performable without the film, and I've recorded it for Sony with a freelance orchestra in LA. In Washington, we wound up with the Baltimore Symphony because neither the National Symphony nor the Boston Symphony was available. The Baltimore Symphony is a very good orchestra."

The forthcoming Sony CD will also include some of Williams's other occasional music. "It will have the variations on `Happy Birthday' that I wrote for the `Three Birthdays' concert at Tanglewood - Yo-Yo Ma's 40th, Itzhak Perlman's 50th, and Seiji Ozawa's 60th - and a piece I wrote for Seiji's worldwide satellite hookup from Japan, and another piece called `Jubilee 350.' "

One of Williams's most prestigious premieres was the Cello Concerto he composed for Yo-Yo Ma to play at the opening of Seiji Ozawa Hall in 1994. Ma has recorded many of the concertos written for him, but not yet Williams's. The composer is now ready for it to happen - dissatisfied with the original finale, Williams has written a new one. "When the opportunity to perform the work at the opening of the hall arose, I was in a frenzy to finish it in time. Once I heard it, one of the things I wanted to do was reduce the orchestration and adjust the balances. When Yo-Yo was engaged to play the concerto with Leonard Slatkin in Washington, D.C., I worked on it, and then embarked on a major rewrite of the finale, putting in more extended lyrical themes, more opportunities for Yo-Yo to play singing, cantilena lines. I am now much happier about the piece. I hope we can record this for Sony within the next year."

Williams plans to keep composing throughout his Tanglewood summer. He has two major commissions for concert works to complete: He's writing a horn concerto for Dale Clevenger and the Chicago Symphony, and Seiji Ozawa has asked him to compose a Concerto for Orchestra to mark his farewell as music director.

"There's always a lot to do," Williams says, and from the sound of it, having a lot to do is what makes him happy.

2001

Williams casts spell for `Potter' score - Richard Dyer - 2001

Williams casts spell for `Potter' score

By Richard Dyer - The Boston Globe

Published November 15, 2001

LONDON -- Air Lyndhurst may be a recording studio, but from the outside, this converted church in Hampstead could be taken for the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, especially when its stone turrets, stained-glass windows, and high Gothic arches are lit up at night.

Inside is a state-of-the-art facility.

For a week and a half in September, the studio sounded just like Hogwarts because John Williams was in residence, recording the score he composed for the film of the first of J.K. Rowling's books about Harry Potter, the child wizard who must master his craft in order to fulfill his destiny.

"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" is a modest volume of just over 200 pages. The movie is a big movie, and Williams has written music for all but about 10 minutes of it -- 142 minutes of music in all, more than 4,000 bars. This is longer than many operas -- only about half of it made it onto the "first edition" soundtrack album that has now arrived in stores. Some of Williams' melodies are already familiar from their use in the trailers; before long, every child and most adults in the Western world will know them, and hearing them will summon up visual memories. And if the film is as successful as many expect it to be, the music will enter the permanent soundtrack playing in our heads.

Music tells the story

The process of scoring the film began back in the United States, when Williams and director Chris Columbus "spotted" the film. That is, they watched the first cut together, and decided what parts needed music.

Then Williams went to work in his office/studio in Los Angeles, and over the course of four months composed all the dozens of cues he and Columbus had settled on -- from "The Arrival of Baby Harry" all the way up to the end, "The Face of Voldemort" and "Leaving Hogwarts." Williams composes with videos of the film at his side, and also with the movie as it is set down in two large volumes bound in black leather, like a book in the Hogwarts library, "From Egg to Inferno: A Dragon-Keeper's Guide."

These are the music breakdown books, kept in the care of Ken Wannberg, Williams' music editor for 40 years. The books divide the film into every reel and shot, with exact timing. A bit of one page, describing the sequence where Harry finally sees the sorcerer's stone, looks like this:

4:56:06 The stone as the camera moves in

4:58:40 Harry looking down at the stone

5:02:64 Camera holds on stone; we see a fire flickering out of it

5:04:14 Harry's hand comes in to pick up stone.

It is Williams' job not just to mirror these movements and images in music, but to give them a precise emotional coloration. The music tells the story of the film, using its own language, adding its own meanings and implications, sounding its own resonances.

Eight themes

The basis of Williams' work, his raw material, is a series of principal themes -- eight in this film. There is a longing theme for the idea of family. A lopsided-grin waltz theme, sprinkled with the magic dust of celesta and fluttering strings, heralds the appearance of Hedwig the Great White Owl and the transition between our world, the magicless world of the Muggles, and the world of enchanters and enchantment. There's a theme for Harry, of course, and a theme for his nemesis, the evil Voldemort, music that turns and twists in on itself.

These melodies are individually memorable and susceptible to a variety of orchestral colorations and formal developments; they can combine and contrast with each other, even morph into each other in a vast storytelling Wagnerian tapestry, although the glistening sound world is closer to that of Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker."

Williams said he didn't start out with a table of themes. Often he works against expectation, avoiding cliche. During a scene of celebration where another composer might bring on the trumpets and drums, for example, Williams unfurls Harry's theme in a noble Elgarian setting that suggests the cost of victory and the depth of the emotional issues involved.

The composer has been quick to seize on the potential of this material for furthering the cause of musical education. During the days before the recording sessions, he organized themes from the score into an eight-movement suite that shows off the various instruments and sections of the orchestra; connected with a narration, it will serve the same purpose as Benjamin Britten's "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra."

Williams deliberately "hoarded" time at the end of each session to record this suite based on the "Harry Potter" themes. He knows this music will have an afterlife and take on its own identity independent of the film.

During months of work, the score moved from Williams' imagination onto the page. About 30 people have been involved in the process -- computer experts, music editors, copyists, proofreaders, librarians. After all of this, recording the score took only nine days. Fourteen boxes of music -- 415 pounds of it -- were shipped to London, where a group of the city's best freelance musicians gathered every day in Air Lyndhurst, the studio built by Beatles producer George Martin.

Director Columbus was around most of the time, eager to hear what Williams had come up with.

In the studio Williams worked on a music stand that has been padded to make it noiseless. The score is not recorded in sequence, and the short film cues aren't easy to follow if you don't already know the story -- they're out of order, there is no dialogue, and many of the 500 or so special effects are not yet in place. Far from it. You can see how some things were actually filmed -- harnesses aid flying and stairs move on casters the public will never see. In its way, this feels no less magical than the final result.

Williams is totally professional and focused. He creates a pleasant working atmosphere but does not let anything get past him; he may address people as "angel" or "baby" or even "angel baby," but they jump when he asks for something.

In this business, time is money, big money. Like every musician, Williams concerns himself with countless details of intonation, phrasing, dynamics, articulation, rhythm and balance.

The dark side

Sometimes he turns to metaphor. During some slithering, chromatic Voldemort music he says, "Nasty, isn't it? Spidery. It should feel as if a spider is crawling all over you, and you can't get him off you." ("I love it when John crosses over to the Dark Side," exclaims Wannberg.)

The recording studio phase of the work is not a place for improvisation. But Williams delights in spontaneous impulse. This time he's concerned about a brief scene in which three ghosts sing a Christmas carol.

This has been set up to "Deck the Halls," but Williams is not happy with this choice, even though it is a secular carol chosen to avoid giving offense to any religious group.

"Why should there be anything from the Muggles world at Hogwarts?" he asked. So at night, he wrote a little tune for a new carol, and then he amused himself by producing the lyrics too.

Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, ring the Hogwart bell,

Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas, cast a Christmas spell . . .

Find a broomstick in your stocking, see the magic on display.

Join the owls' joyous flocking on this merry Christmas day.

Later he was delighted to learn that his lines would need to be translated into six languages.

At one point Williams looks around and tries to put things into perspective by making a joke. "All this work -- and it's only a movie." Of all people, he knows better.

2002

The Movies's Music Man - Timothy Mangan - 2002

The movies' music man

John Williams writes the music that makes 'Star Wars' memorable or 'Minority Report' transparent. It's all in the role of the film composer.

July 7, 2002 By TIMOTHY MANGAN - The Orange County Register

The interviewer will have no leisurely lunch with John Williams.

John Williams does not do leisurely lunches. He doesn't even do leisurely breakfasts. At 70, the prodigious and prolific film composer is still much too busy for such things and plans to keep it that way.

Therefore, he arranges to answer questions via phone, at 8:45 a.m., before going off to the studio for a day's work.

"It's a very difficult schedule, as you probably know," says Williams, understating the case in impeccable mid- Atlantic tones. He's got two films in theaters now - George Lucas' "Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones" and Steven Spielberg's "Minority Report" - with two more on the way before year's end - the next episode in the "Harry Potter" series and another Spielberg opus, "Catch Me If You Can." No courtroom dramas here, these are action-adventure pictures all, a genre typically painted with a generous musical brush by Hollywood.

"Many of these films I have been doing lately have over two hours of music in them," Williams says. "Which is, if not in quality, quantitatively I guess equal to a lot of operas. And we have to do this in about three months.

"So I find that I have to average about a minute and a half to two minutes of music a day, which is very, very difficult."

That may not sound like much to the uninitiated, Williams says, until one considers how he writes: for full orchestra, in full score.

"If you took an average minute of music for orchestra and reckoned how many notes were there, it would be quite staggering to people."

He doesn't use orchestrators like many Hollywood composers, either, and doesn't hand off themes to a team of arrangers. An industry unto himself, he's responsible for every note, every noise, in his scores.

"The orchestration is conceived at the moment of composition; it's one of the most salient aspects of what we do, because the timbral and textural qualities of each scene really determine whether the music is going to live effectively with the dialogue and sound effects or not.

"I mean, to put it very grossly, it's a major difference between what works and what does not work if the dialogue is accompanied by an oboe solo or a trumpet solo - it's a huge difference.

"On the page it will look like one line but from a timbral point of view and ultimately then a dramatic point of view, the selection of instrumentation is of the essence."

And having someone else make that selection will not do.

A supporting role

Williams has been nominated for 41 Academy Awards, more than any living person, and he's won five, which is more than most. Born in Floral Park, Long Island, and a pianist since age 8, he moved to Los Angeles in his teens, where he studied with pianist-arranger Bobby Van Eps. He served in the Air Force, conducting and arranging for bands, and spent a year at Juilliard, working with legendary pianist Rosina Lhévinne. Back on the West Coast, he enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles, and studied composition privately with Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco.

From there it was a short hop to television and film, where he took on a variety of jobs, as arranger, conductor, orchestrator, pianist, working with stalwarts of the old guard such as Bernard Herrmann (a big influence, Williams says), Dmitri Tiomkin and Alfred Newman.

It is fair to say that "Jaws" put him on the map as a film composer (that semi-tone du-da-du-da-du-da became stamped on the nation's consciousness), but Williams had several impressive film credits to his name by that time, including a robust Western score for "The Cowboys" and a trio of disaster blockbusters, "The Poseidon Adventure," "The Towering Inferno" and "Earthquake."

It was his score for "Star Wars" that put him in the history books, though. In a single stroke it not only defined the musical style for a genre of film that would flourish for decades, but it resuscitated the dormant symphonic film accompaniment itself, which had fallen into disfavor in the '60s and '70s. As startling as "Star Wars" looked and felt in 1977, it sounded just as fresh. The main theme, as well as several subsidiary motifs, have become as much a part of the collective musical memory as many a pop tune.

Typically low key, Williams confesses not to having seen "Star Wars" in "many, many years," and he doesn't find it especially easy to assess his contribution to it. "I don't sit at home at night listening to music I wrote 20 years ago, or even two years ago," he says.

He views the success of his music to that film as largely not of his own doing.

"There's an element of chance in that, an element of luck, the moment of reception in the marketplace, if I can put it that way, so many factors that are almost sociological and beyond the competence of someone like me to analyze for you ... . I've been very fortunate to be associated with some films that have found their way into that place and that the music can go successfully along with it and support it."

Williams says that, simply put, with his "Star Wars" film score he was just doing what he always does: "I was writing what that kind of genre piece would require."

His latest effort, the score to Spielberg's "Minority Report," required something completely different. Spielberg, in his liner note to the recording, thinks of it as Williams' first score in "black and white."

"There are some films where music can play a major role, a major melodic voice," Williams says. "And there are types of films where not only doesn't it, but it shouldn't. And that's as simple as that." "Minority Report" is of the second type, he says.

Before writing the score for "Minority Report" - which Spielberg calls a combination of film noir and whodunit - Williams sat down with the director to screen and "spot" it, deciding where the music should go, and what type it should be.

"That particular film is almost a genre film in a way," Williams says, "and it's the sort of film that seemed to me, and also to Steven Spielberg, that would be best served by music that would reflect in some way that particular genre, to be dramatic and compelling and rhythmically energetic.

"But there wouldn't be a place for a long lyrical line in a film like that. It would be out of place, I felt."

The result - rhythmic, insinuating, darkly impulsive but almost entirely devoid of melody - may work so well in supporting the film that viewers won't notice or remember it; they certainly won't be leaving theaters humming it.

"Most of what I write is meant to be exactly accompaniment to something else," Williams says. "If you take that something else away it's like playing the Mendelssohn concerto without the solo line."

And so, when Williams hears that someone hasn't noticed his music in "Minority Report," how does he feel?

"To expect otherwise is to be unrealistic," he says. "I will go to a film and if I become engrossed in it I won't hear every note of the accompaniment, either. ... We're talking about a reality that I've lived with all of my life. And it's a reality that doesn't require any kind of an emotional response from me any longer."

His classical chops

It's a situation that goes some way in explaining Williams' other career as a composer for the concert stage. The author of concertos, symphonies and many occasional pieces - a recent Sony disc features music written for cellist Yo-Yo Ma, including an ambitious Cello Concerto - thinks of his concert work, in part, as a way to allay the limitations, and anonymity, of writing for film.

"Most of the concert music I've written has been, from my personal point of view, experimental, and an area where I've sought -- I will even use the word -- entertainment or distraction from the film music world; where I've been able to make some experiments and apply perhaps a denser kind of structuring and texturing because I might have an audience that would pay attention."

Now, his first opera could be on the way. As part of the grand designs of Plácido Domingo at Los Angeles Opera, the supertenor announced that an opera by Williams was in the works. But the composer says it's a long way off.

"It's been something that Plácido Domingo has asked me to do, which gratifies me very much. And I've said to him - and he understands - that it's something that takes a couple of years to do and I'm not sure that I'm going to have time. But the first thing we both need to do is to find a project that is exciting enough for all of us to commit the kind of time and energy that a task like that would take." But Williams says that, though there was one promising prospect that didn't pan out, a suitable subject has not been found.

"So we're still at pretty much square one. I'd love to do it if it's possible."

Does the idea of writing an opera intimidate him? "Absolutely, yeah, it's daunting. But that's part of why you do it. There's a mountain there and you climb it. Or try to."

In the meantime, whether the opera project materializes or not, Williams will have plenty to do. Before running off to work for the day, he rattles off the contents of his date book for the next few weeks: Finish "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets"; appear at Tanglewood with Yo-Yo Ma in a tribute to Seiji Ozawa; conduct there a concert of his own film music; sit down with Spielberg to screen "Catch Me If You Can"; write score to said film; record score in the fall.

Williams works in his own studio, a small building in Spielberg's Amblin complex, itself on the Universal Studios lot. The studio consists of a composing room with a piano and a kind of drafting board beside it on which he composes; a kitchen; and a third room in which he views the film. Williams does not compose, as some film composers do, while he watches the film. Instead, he'll view a scene, then go back to the piano to compose in peace, the visuals only in mind. Another difference: He doesn't compose a piano score first, then orchestrate, but writes for full orchestra from the first draft.

Williams likes to screen a film for himself before having a director in to view it with him. With Spielberg and Lucas, two of his most fruitful collaborators, he'll then spot a particular film, taking a day to decide where the music will go and of what mood and style. Spielberg will visit every week or two during the compositional process, to hear what's up. "I sometimes go to the piano and play him a theme, or play him a theme or two or three if I have something." Sometimes Spielberg will guide him toward a choice. "But he's never dictatorial about it."

On the other hand, after the spotting session, Williams won't see Lucas much. Typically, the next time will be on the recording stage. "Occasionally he'll ask for a change when we're recording, and it's something I can usually accommodate in a day or two. But that's a rare occurrence. It's been a very pleasant and cooperative kind of collaboration also."

Williams is already signed up for "Indiana Jones 4" and "Star Wars Episode III" with Spielberg and Lucas, as well as "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," projects taking him into 2005.

He does it all willingly.

"My working life has been the central part of my life and I have no reason to want to change that. Any senior musician that you will ever speak to will always tell you the same thing, that the more years we work in music, the more fascinated we become in it and with it. And we don't ever tire of it."

So he'll keep on plugging, creating about a minute and a half to two minutes of music a day.

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The force is with him - Stephen Moss (The Guardian) - 2002

He is the world's most successful film composer. John Williams talks to Stephen Moss about music, movies - and 'marriage' to Spielberg

The Guardian, Monday 4 February 2002 01.22 GMT

You might expect John Williams to be a tortured soul. The world's most successful writer of film scores - including Jaws, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and ET - he also produces occasional concert pieces. So is he a frustrated Beethoven forced to earn a living in a battery-hen world?

Williams will have none of it. "I think of myself as a film composer," he says in his measured, professorial way. "I'm not a frustrated concert composer, and the concert pieces I've done have been a small part of my work. What I've sought there is instruction, variation from the demands of film and relief from its restrictions."

The composer is 70 this year, as productive as ever and apparently beyond ego. That must come when you have won five Oscars and been nominated 30 or so times. But he accepts that traditionalists see film scores as a very inferior form of classical music. "We have to be hopeful," he says, "that if there is a musical genius in the future, that individual is someone who has a connection with film and doesn't regard the old division between fine arts and media arts as rigidly as we do."

Williams, New York-born and Los Angeles-based, is in London to record the anthem he has written for Friday's opening of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and the music for the latest episode of the Star Wars cycle. He is already booked up for the next two years - Harry Potter II and III, Minority Report, yet another Star Wars movie and Catch Me If You Can. What if he gets an idea for a string quartet whilst in the middle of the latest Star Wars or Harry Potter score? Would he risk running late?

"It doesn't really work that way," he says. "Once in a while I will make some sketches for something that may be a future project, but rarely. I'm focused on what I have to do that particular day. The demands of the schedule are so great that you have to keep pace with it."

Isn't this Trollopian approach to writing music - each quarter-hour accounted for - the opposite of the classic notion of inspiration? "The romantic notions of how inspiration comes are just that - notions," he says. "Composing music is hard work. Any working composer or painter or sculptor will tell you that inspiration comes at the eighth hour of labour, rather than as a bolt out of the blue. We have to get our vanities and our preconceptions out of the way and do the work in the time allotted."

Placido Domingo has asked Williams to write a work for the Los Angeles Opera. Surely this will be an irresistible opportunity to test a new musical muscle? He is oddly cool about the project. "It would take a couple of years and I'm not sure whether I will have the time, but I might do it. It'll depend on the subject and how I feel about the libretto he is preparing. Even if I do say yes, I would do it with a sense of reticence in that I'm not a theatre person or particularly a vocal composer."

Why not do it instead of more Star Wars? "Star Wars is something I would like to complete if I can. I've enjoyed adding tunes to the collection of melodies and melodic identifications that go with the characters. But I would also say that there are sometimes commitments in life that are the result of relationships that are in place."

Star Wars guru George Lucas is one of those relationships; Oliver Stone another (Williams wrote the scores for Born on the Fourth of July, Nixon and JFK). But the central relationship of his working life is with Steven Spielberg. He has written the score of every Spielberg film except The Color Purple; his spine-tingling music for Jaws in 1975 took him into the big league after 20 years of solid film and TV work; and three of his Oscars were for Spielberg movies - Jaws, ET and Schindler's List.

He likens his relationship with Spielberg to a marriage - and is clearly still besotted. "Steven is a very warm, sweet man. The success of his films is not so much the result of craft and artifice. Rather, it's because of his basic humanity. He's a fantastic person, and that is what's delivered to the audience. It's been a very happy relationship over 30 years, though I take nothing for granted: there are a lot of composers in the world and he may wish to use some others." Somehow, though, you rather doubt it.

Williams was born with a score in his hand: his father was a musician with the CBS Radio Orchestra in New York and later with 20th Century Fox in Los Angeles. He studied composition privately and went to the Juilliard school in New York to study piano. He worked as a jazz pianist in New York before returning to Los Angeles to play with the Columbia Pictures Orchestra. He started doing orchestrations, then TV scores and finally films.

It's hard to tell whether Williams has a life beyond composing. His antidote to work appears to be more work - conducting the Boston Pops Orchestra. He was its chief conductor from 1980-93 and still appears with the orchestra about 20 times a year. "It's a familial kind of connection," he says. Movie-going is less of a preoccupation. "I live with films every day - I have in my working room a copy of the films that I'm working on and I look at the scene I'm doing half a dozen times that day. So it's not my habit to go home at night, pack up, and go out and watch a movie."

Of Spielberg's movies, he picks out Close Encounters - "it was more than just Cellophane going through a projecting machine, it had a kind of life" - and Schindler's List, which he says was "one of those rare occasions where you can run the whole film, stop it anywhere and find something quite beautiful in it".

"When he showed me Schindler's List," says Williams, "I was so moved I could barely speak. I remember saying to him, 'Steven, you need a better composer than I am to do this film.' And he said, 'I know, but they're all dead.' " That's a joke. Probably.

· American Journey, which includes the theme for the Winter Olympics, is released today on Sony Classical. On March 4 Sony will release a disc of Williams's cello music. The next episode of Star Wars will be released in the spring.

Schubertizing the Movies - James R. Oestreich - 2002

NY Times

Schubertizing the Movies

By JAMES R. OESTREICH

Published: June 30, 2002

IT is to be a summer of synergy, we are told, between the promotion of movies and the marketing of merchandise. Product commercials will push films, and films will trumpet brand names.

You may have already seen the latest television commercial for Lexus. Or is it for "Minority Report," the hot new futuristic film starring Tom Cruise and directed by Steven Spielberg? "Minority Report," as it happens, raises another question, not unrelated. Might there be some role for classical music in all of this mutual back-scratching?

Quaint notion. Not that films or, for that matter, car commercials are allergic to classical music. Quite the contrary. But its appointed role nowadays, it seems, is simply to be used, if not abused.

John Williams's evocative, thoroughly modern score for "Minority Report," spare, dark and moody, is interlaced with striking snippets of masterworks: the big second theme from Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony, which was admitted into mainstream culture so long ago, it's now dated even as a pop item; an organ arrangement of the Bach chorale known to classical and crossover audiences alike as "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring," from Cantata No. 147; the lopsided Waltz in 5/4 from Tchaikovsky's ''Pathétique'' Symphony; and the Minuet from a Haydn string quartet (Op. 64, No. 1)

Even by the cautious standards of modern-day classical programming, these examples from the 18th and 19th centuries are a staid lot. They seem especially odd in the context of a glossy action film set in 2054, with a score to suit.

"You feel it more than you hear it," Mr. Spielberg says of Mr. Williams's music in notes about the production. He calls it Mr. Williams's "first black-and-white score . . . more experimental." But the ear clings to the strains of Bach, Haydn, Schubert and Tchaikovsky, even though the average filmgoer may not recognize them or know that they are classical music.

Why are they here at all? To support Mr. Spielberg's ''black and white'' conceit by dint of their very antiquity? For sheer novelty value, to tickle jaded ears? To add ironic warmth to the cool, cruel climate of a society in which a high-tech precrime police division discovers and arrests potential murderers before they can act? To evoke time-honored humanistic values of the kind that ultimately prevail over authoritarian tendencies in the film, if not in the Philip K. Dick story on which it is based? Or, perversely, are they intended to abrade contemporary sensibilities in the same way that classical music is used at the Port Authority Bus Terminal and Pennsylvania Station, to repel vagrants by driving them to distraction?

"I don't have the answers," Mr. Williams said in a recent interview. He went on to explain that in keeping with standard Hollywood practice, he had no hand in selecting most of the "source music," as such extraneous pieces are called, whether pop or classical. To anyone not immersed in film lore, this must come as an astounding revelation in itself: that even so canny and consummate a master of his craft as Mr. Williams is not consulted in the choice of music that will butt against his.

Mr. Williams did choose the Haydn, he added, to give the sense of a radio playing in the greenhouse of the dowdy Dr. Iris Hineman (Lois Smith), the scientist whose work gave rise to the precrime unit. "It seemed to me to be the kind of thing a woman like this would play on the radio," he said. (By what can only be coincidence, another Haydn string quartet, the "Chase," reportedly figures in the new Adam Sandler-Winona Ryder comedy "Mr. Deeds," directed by Steven Brill, with music by Teddy Castellucci.)

For the rest, Mr. Williams could only speculate as to the rationale. The working script, he said, depicted the Cruise character, Chief John Anderton, as someone who liked to listen to classical music and to work to it. (The script mentioned Strauss, he added, without specifying Richard, Johann or any other.) And it is true that the Schubert appears, twice, as Anderton is deeply involved in case analyses, "scrubbing" holographic images projected by his gloves with gestures vaguely resembling a conductor's.

The Bach is also woven into the plot, supposedly played by the jailer, Gideon (Tim Blake Nelson), on the organ of the mausoleumlike prison. The Tchaikovsky? Who knows? "They are some writer's conception of what this character might have listened to," Mr. Williams said of the various pieces. And ultimately, the choice must have been Mr. Spielberg's.

For whatever reasons they're there, those worthy composers do their bit, as so often, without complaint. But what, in a synergistic world, is in it for them and for the field they represent? Common wisdom nowadays says that classical music, starved for young listeners and new audiences, should be grateful for whatever bone popular culture sees fit to toss its way. This is the constant refrain of marketers of cheesy crossover records and stadium concerts: maybe classical music can sneak in under the radar, subtly inject itself and infect the listener. Someone hearing one of these pieces (more typically, part of one of these pieces) for the first time may be grabbed and moved to explore the original work complete, and eventually others, too.

If so, the uninitiated have their work cut out for them in "Minority Report." Near the top of the closing credits, again in time-honored Hollywood fashion, a single line seems almost intended to discourage further curiosity: "Music by John Williams." Anyone who suspects that there may be more to the matter -- after all, there are familiar pop tunes as well -- will have to linger another seven minutes, and this after a film running some two and a quarter hours. Finally, after a blur of credits, including "Commercials" (Revo Sunglass Model, AMEX Polynesian Woman, Guinness Man), comes "Songs," and the musical excerpts are identified, as patrons for the next showing jostle for seats that had been vacated long minutes before.

Even this is better than the situation with television commercials, where classical music is appropriated (and often butchered in the editing) without any acknowledgment at all. The countless pieces now or recently in use include Bach's Lute Prelude in C minor, Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and "Moonlight" Sonata, Copland's "Rodeo," Delibes's "Lakmé," Grieg's "Holberg" Suite, Saint-Saëns's "Carnival of the Animals," Satie's "Gymnopédie" No. 1, Strauss's "Also Sprach Zarathustra," Tchaikovsky's "1812," Vivaldi's "Summer" and "Ride of the Valkyries" from Wagner's "Walküre." They represent beef, a mouthwash, sporting goods, lumber, a car, an airline, a credit card, a bank and any number of other products or enterprises.

None of these practices are anything new; every time many of us hear Rossini's "William Tell" Overture, the Lone Ranger rides again. They can obviously do no economic harm to long-dead composers. But for good or ill, they attach new meanings to works. Mahler's Adagietto and Barber's Adagio were both conceived with romantic connotations. But since Luchino Visconti's film "Death in Venice" (1971), the Mahler has evoked last things; and since Oliver Stone's "Platoon" (1986), the Barber has summoned the melancholy and horrors of the Vietnam War. Richard Strauss's contemplative "Also Sprach Zarathustra," or its first minute and a half (who knows the other 32 minutes?), permanently moved from the mountaintop to outer space in Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" (1968).

Such appropriations, when they demean or trivialize the music, can erode a composer's public standing. A prime current example is a television commercial that replaces Schiller's "Ode to Joy" in the finale of Beethoven's Ninth with the numbing text "Movies, movies, movies, movies, movies, movies, moooo-vies." At any rate, it is all a little shameless and not a little curious in a culture that otherwise pays classical music scant heed or respect.

Nor, I suspect, is there any significant payoff here for classical music. It may be that hearing a stray lick of Schubert in an anomalous setting like "Minority Report" will steer an unwary X Games enthusiast toward classical music; it is, after all, a great lick.

But that possibility runs counter to my own experience as a latecomer to serious music. Having often heard the odd melody without giving it much thought, I was grabbed by classical music only in my 20's, when I actively listened to choice examples in a college seminar. Suddenly, after hearing the likes of Berlioz's "Symphonie Fantastique" and Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring," I had no choice but to give them full attention, so compellingly gritty and visceral was the experience. From there, it was full immersion. I soaked up everything available, which was considerable at a time when classical radio stations and record companies still took their self-appointed missions seriously.

The idea that the target audience for "Minority Report" -- males, if television reports are to be believed, and younger ones, it seems to this older one -- will buy into Schubert and the rest on the spot seems dubious. The ubiquitous Bank of America commercial using the Satie "Gymnopédie" in a romantic setting with a sardonic twist is something else again. But it won't help any neophyte who doesn't know or can't find out what the music is.

In any event, classical music owes popular culture no great debt of gratitude, and American culture owes classical music more. Is it too much to ask the makers of television commercials to identify the music, at least in fine print. Certainly, there is every reason to expect a medium with its own pretensions to art, like film, to treat the musical art with respect and to give prominent credit, above and beyond the legalities, where it is due.

As for attracting younger listeners, you may stand a better chance with a more direct assault. Somehow stir their innards. Do some real head-banging. Coax them into a room with a good recording of "The Rite of Spring," Varèse's "Ionisation" or Janacek's "Sinfonietta," and pump up the volume.

work in progress

Thanks Incanus, 1998 article added

Thanks Maurizio, 1999 article added

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GREAT idea! Thanks!

Here's another good one:

Making 'Star Wars' sing again - Richard Dyer (Boston Globe article) - 1999

In London, Williams puts sound to Lucas's next adventure

By Richard Dyer, Globe Staff, 03/28/99

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LONDON - "John Williams communicates so beautifully," says George Lucas, "that I can make a silent movie."

The Phantom Menace, the eagerly awaited first film in Lucas's new prequel trilogy to Star Wars, isn't a silent movie. But neither were films of the "silent" era, which depended on musical accompaniment to make their full effect. Lucas knows his film history, and will quote the great Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein's dictum that "film is music."

No one can think of the Star Wars movies without hearing John Williams's music. Williams's score has even gone beyond the films to become part of the soundtrack to people's lives. In February, Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra were back in EMI's Abbey Road Studios to record the music for The Phantom Menace; Lucas was there to hear his new movie for the first time.

Lucas says he loves music, and it's clear he does. He remembers the music in the films he grew up with - Liszt's Les Preludes introduced the old Flash Gordon serials, which were a primal source for Star Wars. He calls the trilogy his "space opera," and there are many narrative and mythic parallels to Wagner's Ring cycle. He writes his scripts while he's listening to music; he listens to music when he's filming; he edits to a dummy track of existing music that gives each sequence the emotional charge he's looking for.

"You have no idea what John's music contributes to the films," says actor Anthony Daniels, who plays the golden tin man, C-3PO. "The first time I saw any of Star Wars, Ravel's Bolero was still on the soundtrack."

It is easy to believe Daniels. In the first trilogy, Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia was flat-voiced, as plain, prosaic, and practical as a can opener, but from the moment the flute begins to intone her theme, she becomes pure romantic enchantment. The success of the film, and of Williams's music, helped restore the romantic symphonic movie score to popularity. The gadgetry in the film, and the technology that makes it possible, are futuristic, but the story is built on classic patterns - and, the scroll at the opening reminds us, that it takes place "long ago" in a galaxy far away. Now there is an even older story to be told in image and music. Most of the time, Williams meets with the directors of the films he's going to score to "spot" the scenes that are going to need music; with Lucas, he knows, "we are going to play through everything." There were 16 three-hour recording sessions to set down 900 pages of score, two full hours of music. The sessions were intense, exhausting, and utterly professional. As in every business, time means money, even though music represents only a modest proportion of the film's $115 million budget.

Despite the necessary tension and attention, everyone was casually dressed - Lucas in jeans and cowboy belt, Williams in his usual pairing of dark pants and dark turtleneck - and there was the feeling of a family reunion. Williams was surrounded by some of his longtime associates, including sound producer Shawn Murphy and Kenneth Wannberg, who has worked as Williams's editor since Valley of the Dolls in 1967.

Some of the actors dropped by to listen for a while, including Ewan McGregor, who plays the young Obi-Wan Kenobi; Ian McDiarmid, who plays the evil Senator Palpatine; and Daniels, as neat as C-3PO, but not as fussy. McGregor, clean-cut and idealistic in the film, looks scruffy and unshaven in the studio, but that's because of a stage role he is playing every night. One day he brings his young daughter to the sessions, and under his breath advises her that George Lucas's jeans are not the best place to wipe fingers covered with melted "chockies." Star Wars runs in the family: McGregor's uncle, Denis Lawson, appeared as a fighter pilot named Wedge in the first trilogy.

There's another special visitor. Williams introduces him to the orchestra - "Look who's here - the man who tamed dinosaurs and taught them to speak and act" - and the players applaud Steven Spielberg, whom they have already recognized with a gasp. Lucas cracks a joke at the expense of his friend since film-school days: "I just know he's going to take over ..."

Spielberg has helped Lucas make these weeks a difficult time for their old friend, whom both filmmakers address as "Johnny." Williams had completed his score to an earlier cut of the film. After consultation with Spielberg, though, Lucas had recently re-edited the sixth and final reel, the last 20 minutes of the film, which present simultaneous actions converging on the climax.

Williams tries to be philosophical about the pickle this has dropped him into. "If I hit the ground running," he says, "I can write two minutes of music a day. If I were to have started all over again on the last reel, I would be ready to record in July - with the picture already in the theaters! So I've been making the music fit as we go along. That's why I'm constantly telling the players to drop measures 7 to 14."

Gizmos and planetscapes

This is not the place to reveal secrets about The Phantom Menace. The chases, duels, battles, and action scenes look exciting, and there are plenty of new gizmos, including a nifty double-edged light saber; there is comic relief from curious extraterrestrial creatures and humans alike; there are gorgeous images, cityscapes and planetscapes, and giant ships slice through space - the images directly reflect and expand upon the ones of the earlier films. There also seems to be a richer emotional texture: We are learning more about this story, who these people are, and how they got that way.

In the surge of pre-opening publicity, some of the Phantom Menace secrets aren't so secret anymore - in fact, they haven't been secret for a while. Lucas has described the first trilogy, as the story of the redemption of Anakin Skywalker, a.k.a. Darth Vader. The three new films tell the story of how the golden child Anakin went over to the Dark Side.

Lucas says he had to know the backstory in order to write the original trilogy, but admits with a sigh that it's unlikely that he will get around to writing and filming the third trilogy he used to mention as a possible sequel.

"It's taken nearly 30 years to get this far, and there are two more films to go," Lucas says, "that will take six more years." Later, he makes a film maven's comparison to Orson Welles's Citizen Kane. "We've seen the sled, Rosebud, and now we're back to telling the story, which across the six films and 12 hours of screen time covers 50 years. Each of the six films is a short story, not a novel. When we began, all I hoped was that we could get the first Star Wars to pay for itself - and it was a very thin hope. I didn't make the movie as part of a business plan or because my intention was to make a hit movie. I made it because I liked it. And then it turned out to be a hit movie."

Asked why there was such a long delay between the two trilogies, Lucas says, "I wanted to do some other things with my life besides this. I wanted to raise my family." (Lucas's daughter Amanda, now 17, was adopted near the end of his marriage to Marcia Griffin; Lucas is also the single adoptive parent of Kate, 11, and Jet, 6.) Lucas had to wait for some of the necessary technology to be developed - by his own galaxy of companies, which were financed in part by the profits from the Star Wars trilogy.

From the start, Lucas had a conception of the big story he wanted to tell. Williams, on the other hand, says that back in 1977 he had no idea that he was beginning the score for a trilogy - let alone a sextet. "I'm afraid I thought of it as a Saturday-afternoon movie," he says. "A good one, though." Richard Wagner wrote the text to his Ring cycle rather the way Lucas wrote the Star Wars films, working backward, but he did have the advantage of composing the operas in order, an advantage that Williams has lacked.

The Phantom Menace contains many of the familiar Star Wars themes - it was a thrill to hear the most famous of them all appear in the trumpets again - but there are also new themes for new characters. The old themes and the new ones combine as they range across the spectrum of cinematic experience. There is scary music, exciting music, tenderhearted music, comic music, noble funeral music, and music of heroic resolve.

The 8-year-old Anakin has a theme that Williams says "is the sweetest and most innocent thing you've ever heard." That's how it sounds, though alert ears will be uneasy when they realize it is built on a chromatically unstable 12-tone row. But wait a minute - isn't there something familiar about this? The principal horn player voices the question: "Isn't this Darth Vader's music?" Later in the film there is a big celebration in some kind of coliseum. There's some funny music, a children's chorus, a march. "It's struggling to be the Imperial March," Williams says. Then he shoots a rare grin. "And it's going to get there."

Composing in red and blue

As it happens, not many Phantom Menace secrets were revealed during close observation of four days of recording sessions. Scenes from the film were projected out of sequence and without dialogue; the color registration was off; and most of the special effects were not in the work print yet (and music editor Wannberg points out that there are 2,000 special effects in this film, which works out to an average of almost 17 special effects per minute). More often than not the images were incomplete, with a live actor appearing in front of what looked like an architectural drawing, or an old print by Piranesi. These drawings, or just plain squiggles, represented what computers and special-effects wizards will fill in.

One of the new alien creatures in The Phantom Menace is called Jar Jar Binks, who looks like a friendly cross between a horse and a kangaroo; Jar Jar has eyes in the middle of his (or her) ears. (Lucas says he imagines his new species, then keeps on describing them to artists until they are able to draw what he has in mind; the process sounds a little like what police artists do in trying to create a suspect's portrait.) This may be a bit of subconscious tribute to Williams, whose superiority as a film composer lies not only in his musical ability but in his skill at reading an image and at sensing the rhythmic and emotional relationships images create in movement. Williams reads a piece of film and feels the music in it the way Schubert or Benjamin Britten heard music when they read poetry.

The condition of the work print may have been responsible for Williams's one misjudgment - about 4 seconds in the first hour of music he recorded.

The young Queen Amidala (Natalie Portman) stares out of a palace window; she sees a tower with spacecraft circling around it. Everything looks red, and when we see the tower, Williams's music surges triumphantly. Lucas doesn't cry "Cut!" the way directors do in the movies. But he does speak quietly to Williams in the control booth. He is quite clear about the emotional texture he wants. "I thought of this as a quieter, more romantic moment," Lucas says. "She's very sad. Sad and romantic - the story of my life, the story of everyone's life. The actual color here is not as red as that - it's more blue." Williams listens thoughtfully. "I was too red," he admits, "when I should have been blue. I'll fix it tonight."

Lucas is full of praise for Williams's versatility and skill. "John's music tells the story. Each character has a theme that develops and interacts with the themes of the other characters; the musical themes connect the themes of the stories and make them resonate. He also creates an emotional context for each scene. In fact you can have it both ways, because you can play a scene against the emotions that are in it because the music is there to tell you the truth. The music can communicate nuances you can't see; it says things the film doesn't say."

And Williams is confident enough with Lucas to spring some surprises of his own. Unlike Spielberg, who enjoys coming into Williams's studio at Amblin Productions in California to sit on the piano bench and listen to the music as it emerges, Lucas usually doesn't hear Williams's score until it's being recorded.

One day 88 professional singers from London Voices arrive to record two episodes with chorus. One is funeral music for one of the film's emotional climaxes; the other is for the closing credits, a terrifying, primitive pagan rite that makes even Stravinsky's Les Noces sound tame. Lucas loves this dark, driven music so much he shows off the recording for Spielberg when he arrives. Spielberg says to Williams, "I'm glad I didn't drop around for a cigar on the day you wrote that." Lucas says Williams doesn't know it yet, but this music will accompany a crucial scene in the third new film.

The words the chorus is singing in this dark, demonic cue are clear, but the language is unfamiliar. It turns out it's Sanskrit. ("Sanskrit!" Lucas exclaims when Williams tells him. "That'll give the fans something to figure out.") Williams had been strongly affected by a phrase from an old Welsh poem by Taliesin, "The Battle of the Trees," that the poet Robert Graves had cited and translated in "The White Goddess." "Under the tongue root, a fight most dread, /And another rages behind in the head" seemed to fit the evil ritual. Williams arranged to have these English words translated back into the original Celtic and into other ancient languages. "I chose the Sanskrit," he says, "because I loved the sound of it. I condensed this into 'most dread/inside the head,' which seemed both cryptic and appropriate. For the funeral scene, I had my own words, 'Death's long sweet sleep,' translated into Sanskrit too."

At the close of the day, Lucas, Spielberg, and Williams line up against the wall in front of a Star Wars poster for a television interview.

"They call you Johnny," the interviewer remarks.

"You should have seen how young I was when they met me," Williams responds.

Getting F-sharp right

High tech will be everywhere on the screen, and in the studio there's far more of it than anyone could have imagined 22 years ago, when this adventure began. Williams's score is in a computer, which produces the parts for the players; even the speakers in the control room look like `droids from the movie. "They have all this new stuff," Williams observes, a bit ruefully. "But we're all still down there trying to make sure that F-sharp is in tune."

Williams knows that not every F-sharp will be heard; he's a team player, and Lucas praises him for that. "John knows the movie has to come first. Each participant in a movie is like a musician in an orchestra. Everybody - the sound people, the photographers, the special effects artists - has to be just as good as a soloist - but no matter how good he is, he can't be a soloist. It's my job to be the conductor."

Whether anybody will hear that F-sharp or not in the final film isn't a problem Williams lets himself worry about. Instead he concentrates on getting it right. The effect he is after may be subliminal and hidden behind dialogue, or the ricochet of light-sabers, but it is still there.

The process for each musical cue is the same. The orchestra reads the passage through- and the LSO is famed above all other orchestras for its sight-reading. Then Williams rehearses the music, sometimes repeatedly. When it is ready, the passage is recorded, sometimes several times;

Williams and the orchestra listen to the advice of the producer. Williams goes into the control room to listen to the takes, often accompanied by key members of the orchestra. Then they go out again and work until they get it the way they want it. And then they move on to the next cue. It's an exhilarating and exhausting process.

Nothing seems to ruffle Williams's composure or the old-fashioned courtesy that seems fundamental to his nature - not even 10 successive takes of the same passage. "Thank you," he says to the players after a problematic reading. "I have learned some more things that I needed to know. I think we can get it together better, and I know I can conduct it better." "Let's see if we can make a more noble sound," he will say to the brass and percussion, including himself in the equation. His experience shows in everything. "It's not too loud," he says, "but the sound is too close; it will obscure the dialogue." "Could you menace without getting louder?" he asks. "The audience should feel this rather than hear it." "Let me ask the harp not to play here - I think the sound of the harp will take the eye away from what it needs to see right here." "I'd love to take it that slowly," he says, looking at the screen, "but I can't."

Williams cannot conceal his delight, however, at how some things are turning out. He will deftly sidestep a compliment: "That's my homage to old man Korngold," he says, paying tribute to the great Viennese prodigy Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who fled from Hitler and wound up in Hollywood writing the scores to classic Warner Bros. adventure movies like The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Sea Hawk, and Captain Blood. After the tremendous, charging rhythmic excitement of one cue, Williams jokes, "That ought to be enough to scare the children of the world."

When the music soars, Williams seems to soar a little too. "I'm a very lucky man," he says, smiling. "If it weren't for the movies, no one would be able to write this kind of music anymore."

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This story ran on page N01 of the Boston Globe on 03/28/99.

© 1999 Globe Newspaper Company.

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YES!!!!!!!!!!! :)

A lot of those articles weren't available online anymore, so having them here is fantastic!

I'll add them to the main site as soon as I can.

Thanks!!!

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Great work, Mr. Freeze. I'll have to take some time off one of these days, make myself a cup of coffee and read through them all. Always in the search of some tidbit of JW info we weren't already familiar with.

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I love how Dyers hard hitting interview technique always get Williams to say more then he wanted.

It's Frost/Nixon!

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I love how Dyers hard hitting interview technique always get Williams to say more then he wanted.

It's Frost/Nixon!

:lol:

If anything Dyer's interviews are pretty pleasant in style. Sympathetic and courteous so Williams answers in kind. Dyer also seems to ask all the right questions so there is usually something more personal and new in these interviews which is not the usual PR Q/A stuff Williams (and most other celebrities) fall back on. But it is not like Dyer puts Williams' back against the all and forces the answers out of him with thumb screws.

Oh and thank you again guys for posting these.

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Richard Dyer is considered to be one of America's best music critics (he's now retired). Like many others, he was pretty curious about this Hollywood composer being drafted to a prestigious music institution like the BSO back in 1980. He had a very open mind and embraced him totally from day 1. He has always been one of his greatest admirers and the various interviews conducted with him during Williams' Pops tenure were always pretty informative and even personal.

I think Dyer would be a great writer of a Williams biography.

Back to the interviews/articles, I've collected quite a number of them over the years, including some great stuff like the glorious 1978 interview by Derek Elley published on Films & Filming. Most of them are scans and/or xerox copies however, so it would take me some time to pull them out and putting them in text format. Here's a bunch of another good ones btw:

Star Wars 20th Anniversary: Interview with John Williams - Craig L. Byrd - 1997 (originally published on FSM print edition)

Interview by Craig L. Byrd

Craig L. Byrd: How did the Star Wars project first come to your attention? How did you become involved?

John Williams: My involvement with Star Wars began actually with Steven Spielberg, who was, in the '70s when these films were made, and still is, a very close friend of George Lucas's. I had done two or three scores for Steven Spielberg before I met George Lucas, Jaws being the principal one among them. I think it was that George Lucas, when he was making Star Wars, asked his friend Steven Spielberg who should write the music, where will he find a composer? The best knowledge I have is that Steven recommended me to George Lucas as a composer for the film, and I met him under those circumstances, and that's how it all began.

CB: How did you feel when you were first contacted about this project? Was it about one film at the time, or all three?

JW: The first contact had to do only with Star Wars. I didn't realize that there would be a sequel and then a sequel after that at that time. I imagine George Lucas planned it that way and perhaps even mentioned it to me at the time, but I don't remember. I was thinking of it as a singular opportunity and a singular assignment.

CB: What was your reaction when you read the script?

JW: I didn't read the script. I don't like to read scripts. When I'm talking about this I always make the analogy that if one reads a book, a novel, and then you see someone else's realization of it, there's always a slight sense of disappointment because we've cast it in our minds, and created the scenery and all the ambiance in our mind's imagination. There's always a slight moment of disappointment when we've read a script and then we see the film realized. Having said that I don't even remember if George Lucas offered me a script to read.

I remember seeing the film and reacting to its atmospheres and energies and rhythms. That for me is always the best way to pick up a film—from the visual image itself and without any preconceptions that might have been put there by the script.

CB: When you first saw an assemblage of footage, what were you looking at and how did that inspire your work?

JW: I think the film was finished when I first saw it, with the exception of some special effects shots that would have been missing. I remember some leader in there where it would say "spaceships collide here," "place explosion here," this kind of thing. But they were measured out in terms of length so that I could time the music to what I hadn't in fact specifically seen.

The first chore I really had was to spot the music of the film with George Lucas, which is to say sitting with him deciding where we would play the music and what its particular function would be for each scene.

CB: The film set any number of standards. How do you explain the Star Wars phenomenon as it occurred back in 1977?

JW: Well, along with others involved with the film, I was surprised at what a great success it was. I think we all expected a successful film. In my mind I was thinking of it as a kind of Saturday afternoon movie for kids really, a kind of popcorn, Buck Rogers show. A good, you know, sound and light show for young people, thinking that it would be successful, but never imagining that it would be this world-wide international success, and never imagining and even expecting that the sequels would (a) be along and (b) be as successful as they all were.

I can only speculate about it along with others. I remember Joseph Campbell, the great mythologist and teacher and author, who was a friend of George Lucas's and who went to Skywalker Ranch and talked to George Lucas about the films. He began to write about the mythology, or pseudo-mythology if you like, that formed the basis of these films. I learned more from Joseph Campbell about the film, after the fact, than I did while I was working on it or watching it as a viewer.

Having said all that, I think the partial answer to your question is the success of this film must be due to some cross- cultural connection with the mythic aspects of the film that Campbell described to us later. The fact that the Darth Vader figure may be present in every culture, with a different name perhaps, but with a similar myth attached to it. The films surprised everyone I think—George Lucas included—in that they reached across cultural bounds and beyond language into some kind of mythic, shared remembered past—from the deep past of our collective unconscious, if you like. That may be an explanation as to why it has such a broad appeal and such a strong one.

CB: You would also have to assume that the hero's journey then would be a part of that.

JW: That's right. All of these aspects of journey and heroic life and aspiration and disappointment, all of the great human subjects that this seems to touch and tap in on, must be one of the reasons for its great success. I suppose for me as a composer for the film, these forces that I'm struggling to put my finger on must have been at work subconsciously. The music for the film is very non-futuristic. The films themselves showed us characters we hadn't seen before and planets unimagined and so on, but the music was—this is actually George Lucas's conception and a very good one—emotionally familiar. It was not music that might describe terra incognita but the opposite of that, music that would put us in touch with very familiar and remembered emotions, which for me as a musician translated into the use of a 19th century operatic idiom, if you like, Wagner and this sort of thing. These sorts of influences would put us in touch with remembered theatrical experiences as well—all western experiences to be sure. We were talking about cross-cultural mythology a moment ago; the music at least I think is firmly rooted in western cultural sensibilities.

CB: It's interesting that you brought up opera and Wagner. On a certain level it seems like the three scores are almost your "Ring Cycle." How did it become so interwoven when you originally were only scoring one film?

JW: I think if the score has an architectural unity, it's the result of a happy accident. I approached each film as a separate entity. The first one completely out of the blue, but the second one of course connected to the first one; we referred back to characters and extended them and referred back to themes and extended and developed those. I suppose it was a natural but unconscious metamorphoses of musical themes that created something that may seem to have more architectural and conscious interrelatedness than I actually intended to put there. If it's there, to the degree that it is there, it's a kind of happy accident if you like.

That may be sound deprecating—I don't mean it quite that way—but the functional aspect and the craft aspect of doing the job of these three films has to be credited with producing a lot of this unity in the musical content the listeners perceive.

CB: The album itself was in the top 20 on Billboard's charts. That was relatively unheard of for a non- pop score. How did you respond to that?

JW: I don't think we ever had in the history of the record industry or a film business something that was so non-pop, with a small "p," reach an audience that size. I have to credit the film for a lot of this. If I had written the music without the film probably nobody ever would have heard of the music; it was the combination of things and the elusive, weird, unpredictable aspect of timing that none of us can quite get our hands around. If we could predict this kind of phenomenon or produce it consciously out of a group effort we would do it every year and we'd all be caliphs surrounded [laughs] with fountains of riches.

But it doesn't work that way, it's a much more elusive thing than that. Any composer who begins to write a piece would think, "this will be a successful piece." But you can't and we don't pull them out of the air that way. It also reminds us that as artists we don't work in a vacuum. We write our material, compose it or film it or whatever, but we're not alone in the vacuum, the audience is also out there and it's going to hit them. With all the aspects of happenstance and fad, and the issue of skirt length for example, which is to say style and fad, and what is à la mode? When all of these things come together and create a phenomenon like this, we then, as we're doing now, look back on it say, "Why did it happen?" It's as fascinating and inexplicable to me as to any viewer.

CB: It's also got to be intensely gratifying.

JW: It's enormously gratifying and it makes me feel very lucky. I'm not a particularly religious person, but there's something sort of eerie, about the way our hands are occasionally guided in some of the things that we do. It can happen in any aspect, any phase of human endeavor where we come to the right solutions almost in spite of ourselves. And you look back and you say that that almost seems to have a kind of—you want to use the word divine guidance—behind it. It can make you believe in miracles in any collaborative art form: the theatre, film, any of this, when all these aspects come together to form a humming engine that works and the audience is there for it and they're ready for it and willing to embrace it. That is a kind of miracle also.

CB: It also changed the shape of film music. A lot of filmmakers had really abandoned the idea of big full orchestral scores.

JW: Well, I don't know if it's fair to say the Star Wars films brought back symphonic scores per se. We've been using symphony orchestras since even before sound. Anyone interested in film knows that music seems to be an indispensable ingredient for filmmakers. I'm not exactly sure why. We could talk about that for days, but mood, motivation, rhythm, tempo, atmosphere, all these things, characterization and so on—just the practical aspect of sounds between dialogue that need filling up. Symphony orchestras were enormously handy for this because they're elegant and the symphony orchestra itself is one of the greatest inventions of our artistic culture. Fabulous sounds it can produce and a great range of emotional capabilities.

I think if the use of symphony orchestras went out of fad in the '50s and '60s for some reason it was just that: it was out of fad. Someone would have brought it back. It's too useful and too successful not to have it back. I think after the success of Star Wars the orchestras enjoyed a very successful period because of that—wonderful, all to the good. I don't think we can claim that it was a renaissance really, more than just a change of fad if you'd like.

CB: Or a little goose if nothing else.

JW: Right. A little helping push.

CB: All three scores were recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra. Was there a particular reason why that orchestra was chosen?

JW: We decided to record the music for the films in London. I say we, I think George Lucas decided that. He shot some of the film in Africa and England and did some of his post-production work there. It was part of the plan that we would record there and that was fine with me. I had done Fiddler on the Roof and some other large- scale productions in England and I knew the orchestras very well and liked them; I was very comfortable recording there.

We were going to use a freelance orchestra, as I had done with Fiddler and other films. I remember having a conversation with the late Lionel Newman, who was then the music director of the 20th Century Fox studios, and we were talking about the practical plans of when to record and where and so on, booking facility stages and the rest of it. He suggested to me, "Why don't we just use the London Symphony Orchestra for this recording? We won't have to be troubled with hiring freelance players, we'll just make one contractual arrangement with the London Symphony."

It also happened at that time that our friend from Hollywood, Andre Previn, was then the music director of the London Symphony. I rang him up and said, "How would it be if we borrowed your orchestra for this recording?" Andre was very positive and very excited—he had no idea what Star Wars was going to be about or what the music would be like, but just the idea that the orchestra would have that exposure seemed to be a good plan for him. So, it was a combination of a lot of nice things. I had worked in England for years and knew the orchestras well; I knew the London Symphony well. They had played a symphony of mine under Previn's direction a few years before, and played other music of mine in concerts and so on. It was a coming together of a lot of familiar forces in a nice way and I had a good time.

CB: At the risk of sounding like someone from Entertainment Tonight, it sounds like the Force was with everyone involved.

JW: [laughs] The Force did seem to be with us, yes.

CB: How do you see the scores changing from one film to another, through the three films?

JW: The scores do seem unified to me, now that I look back on the four, five or six years involved in making the films, with the distance of time making it seem to be one short period now in my mind. The scores all seem to be one slightly longer score than the usual film score. If that contradicts what I said earlier about writing one at a time, I hear that contradiction, but given the distance of time now I can see that it's one effort really. The scores are all one thing and a theme that appeared in film two that wasn't in film one was probably a very close intervalic, which is to say note-by-note-by-note, relative to a theme that we'd had.

I mean we would have the Princess Leia theme as the romantic theme in the first film, but then we'd have Yoda's music, which was unexpectedly romantic, if you like, in the second film, but not such a distant relative, musically speaking, intervalically/melodically speaking, to Princess Leia's music. So you can marry one theme right after the other. They're different, but they also marry up very well and you can interplay them in a contrapuntal way, and it will be part of a texture that is familial.

CB: I'd like to touch on some of the characters' themes. A lot of people remember the Darth Vader theme. What was the idea behind Darth Vader and how do you see his theme?

JW: Darth Vader's theme seemed to me to need to have, like all of the themes if possible, strong melodic identification, so that when you heard it or part of the theme you would associate it with the character. The melodic elements needed to have a strong imprint.

In the case of Darth Vader, brass suggests itself because of his military bearing and his authority and his ominous look. That would translate into a strong melody that's military, that grabs you right away, that is, probably simplistically, in a minor mode because he's threatening. You combine these thoughts into this kind of a military, ceremonial march, and we've got something that perhaps will answer the requirement here.

CB: And then also the hero, Luke Skywalker. What about his theme?

JW: Flourishes and upward reaching; idealistic and heroic, in a very different way than Darth Vader of course, and a very different tonality—a very uplifted kind of heraldic quality. Larger than he is. His idealism is more the subject than the character itself, I would say.

CB: And Han Solo?

JW: I would make similar comments there about Solo's music. Although they overlap a lot; I mean it's one thing really in my mind, a lot of it. And of course the Luke Skywalker music has several themes within it also. You'd be testing my memory to ask me how I used them all and where [laughs].

CB: At the Star Wars Special Edition screening in December, when the main theme came on, the audience responded. What were you looking for in the main theme?

JW: The opening of the film was visually so stunning, with that lettering that comes out and the spaceships and so on, that it was clear that that music had to kind of smack you right in the eye and do something very strong. It's in my mind a very simple, very direct tune that jumps an octave in a very dramatic way, and has a triplet placed in it that has a kind of grab.

I tried to construct something that again would have this idealistic, uplifting but military flare to it. And set it in brass instruments, which I love anyway, which I used to play as a student, as a youngster. And try to get it so it's set in the most brilliant register of the trumpets, horns and trombones so that we'd have a blazingly brilliant fanfare at the opening of the piece. And contrast that with the second theme that was lyrical and romantic and adventurous also. And give it all a kind of ceremonial... it's not a march but very nearly that. So you almost kind of want to [laughs] patch your feet to it or stand up and salute when you hear it—I mean there's a little bit of that ceremonial aspect. More than a little I think.

The response of the audience that you ask about is something that I certainly can't explain. I wish I could explain that. But maybe the combination of the audio and the visual hitting people in the way that it does must speak to some collective memory—we talked about that before—that we don't quite understand. Some memory of Buck Rogers or King Arthur or something earlier in the cultural salts of our brains, memories of lives lived in the past, I don't know. But it has that kind of resonance—it resonates within us in some past hero's life that we've all lived.

Now we're into a kind of Hindu idea, but I think somehow that's what happens musically. That's what in performance one tries to get with orchestras, and we talk about that at orchestral rehearsals: that it isn't only the notes, it's this reaching back into the past. As creatures we don't know if we have a future, but we certainly share a great past. We remember it, in language and in pre-language, and that's where music lives—it's to this area in our souls that it can speak.

CB: Can you tell me what it was like working with George Lucas on these three movies?

JW: Working with George Lucas was always very pleasant. For a great innovator and a great creative artist and a great administrator, he's a very simple, very accessible man. Now people will hear that and they'll say he's a very private man, he's very inaccessible. I suppose that is also true. But when you're working with him as a colleague sitting in the room, he's very informal, very approachable, very reachable, and communicates very well.

In discussing the spotting of the music for the film he's very particular in a way. He would say, "The music could get bigger here, or would be softer there"—you would think these ideas would be obvious, and sometimes they are, but sometimes it's very helpful to articulate the obvious. Especially in this interpersonal way that he's able to do it, he has made it a very comfortable thing for me. When he first heard the music he liked it very well, it was encouraging—I felt positive reinforcement always with George. A lot of people will say, "Don't go in that direction"; it's always "Don't do this, don't do that." With George, my experience with him was, "That's right, keep going." With that kind of collaboration, we get better results I think. He has the secret of this naturally.

He was even then, when he hadn't done a lot of films, a very experienced filmmaker and a very serious and assiduous student of filmmaking. He brought a lot of knowledge to it and a lot of knowledge about how music could be used.

I found him pleasant, a good communicator, a good leader and an expert filmmaker. And it's quite a combination of good, positive things I think.

CB: Are there any scenes that stand out for you?

JW: Well I have stand-outs in my mind because of the music that we play in concerts more recently: the asteroid field I remember from, I think it was the second film. It had a musical piece that was like a ballet of flying spaceships and asteroids colliding. That was a very effective and successful scene in my mind both musically and visually.

I remember the finale of the first film, which had that stately procession, where I made a sort of processional out of the middle theme of the main title music—for the beginning, I took the second theme of that and made a kind of imperial procession. And that was a very rewarding musical scene also. So many things, but I would say those two just right off the top of my head.

CB: A lot of people have said that their favorite scene is the cantina scene in the first film. And they often speak of the music.

JW: The cantina music is an anomaly, it sticks out entirely as an unrelated rib to the score. There's a nice little story if you haven't heard this, I'll tell you briefly: When I looked at that scene there wasn't any music in it and these little creatures were jumping up and down playing instruments and I didn't have any idea what the sound should be. It could have been anything: electronic music, futuristic music, tribal music, whatever you like.

And I said to George, "What do you think we should do?" And George said, "I don't know" and sort of scratched his head. He said, "Well I have an idea. What if these little creatures on this planet way out someplace, came upon a rock and they lifted up the rock and underneath was sheet music from Benny Goodman's great swing band of the 1930s on planet Earth? And they looked at this music and they kind of deciphered it, but they didn't know quite how it should go, but they tried. And, uh, why don't you try doing that? What would these space creatures, what would their imitation of Benny Goodman sound like?"

So, I kind of giggled and I went to the piano and began writing the silliest little series of old-time swing band licks, kind of a little off and a little wrong and not quite matching. We recorded that and everyone seemed to love it. We didn't have electronic instruments exactly in that period very much. They're all little Trinidad steel drums and out- of-tuned kazoos and little reed instruments, you know. It was all done acoustically—it wasn't an electronic preparation as it probably would have been done today.

I think that may be also part of its success, because being acoustic it meant people had to blow the notes and make all the sounds, a little out of tune and a little behind there, a little ahead there: it had all the foibles of a not-very- good human performance.

CB: In the Special Editions there's some added footage. Did that require any rescoring?

JW: George has changed the lengths in some of these films for the reissue because of his improved animatics and so on. It required some changes in the music, mostly additions and subtractions of a small sort. This was all attended to by Ken Wannberg who was originally a music editor and still is today.

The only thing I had to re-record was a short finale for Return of the Jedi, the very end of the film where George created a new scene of Ewoks celebrating. He had some ideas for new music and gave me a film without any sound but with a tempo, with Ewoks dancing and reacting and reveling in their success. You and I are now talking in January 1997; just a few weeks ago, the end of '96, I went over to London and recorded that music for the new finale. And as a matter of fact this very day that we're talking, George is dubbing that new music into the final reel of the reissue.

CB: These films are classics. Why tinker with them now?

JW: Well, this is a very interesting question. If the Star Wars Trilogy is a kind of classic, why would we want to tamper with it? I'm not particularly in favor of coloring all the old early films in black and white and might come down on the side of saying, leave things alone. That's one side of the argument.

The other side of it is true for music also. For example, every time Brahms went to hear one of his symphonies played, he would go in the audience and listen to the symphony, and the next day he would go to the Bibliotheque in Vienna, get the original score out and make changes—he never could leave it alone. Some sage said that a work of art is never finished, it's only abandoned. That's really true of all of us; it's like one of our children. You never finish trying to groom it; the child could be 60 years old, and you're still saying, "Well you look better if you dress this way."

So I think George is well within the predictable and understandable and probably correct area of an artist's prerogative to continue to try to want to improve what he's done. He complained that he didn't have the animatics 20 years ago and he wants to do it now. So I think on the one hand don't tamper with it, and on the other an artist can, should and, I think, must be excused for wanting to continue to improve his or her work. That's the two answers.

The third answer could be for those traditionalists who want the original the way it is—it's there. They don't have to go; they can listen to the Brahms without his latest edition. So they can see the original version and they can also see the new, updated George Lucas wish-list for his work.

I think it's a wonderful question and the answer has to admit all of these possibilities for us to be fair.

CB: The original negative for Star Wars was in horrible condition.

JW: I didn't know that.

CB: Because of the stock that they were using at the time. What is your take on the whole idea of film preservation and how that affects both the films themselves and the scores?

JW: I can't speak with an expertise about film preservation, but I can talk emotionally and not as a serious art historian. I would make this observation: In the last 20 years or so, I've been very heartened—I guess we all have—by the consciousness that has emerged about preservation.

We're suddenly realizing as the 20th century comes to a close, one of the greatest cultural legacies, especially American but around the world also, is our filmmaking, and that we need to be very serious about preservation and about the archival aspects of all of these things that we do. It isn't only film, it's also music. The horror stories are myriad about the great MGM library that had Doctor Zhivago original music and Singin' in the Rain original music and musicals from the '30s and '40s—all these scores and orchestra parts that people want to perform now were all destroyed in the fire after some real estate company took over the physical lab of the studio.

The American Film Institute and other interested people, their preservation sentiments are wonderful in film and I think they should extend to original scripts that people have their marginalia on, and the original scores and sketches and orchestra parts of all this material. Imagine our grandchildren fifty, a hundred years from now, the interest that they would find in being able to take the orchestra parts to Wizard of Oz and sit down and play the whole score.

That is something devoutly to be wished. I don't confuse popular arts with high art. That's another discussion not suitable for this kind of time. But, however you evaluate the popular art of American filmmaking, as a high, middle, low, wherever you place it in your mind, doesn't alter the fact that this preservation task is desperately needed. I'm just delighted that we're seeing in the recent period of years people being very conscious of it, especially young people.

CB: I understand that George Lucas is in pre-production for the first three films. Can we look forward to another John Williams/George Lucas collaboration?

JW: Oh, I very much hope I can do the new trilogy, or as much of it as I'm granted the energy and time to do—I would welcome the opportunity and hope I will be able to do it. There's no reason why I shouldn't be able to. And I would look forward to it and I hope that that happens.

CB: Has there been a conversation about it?

JW: Well George is—yes, we talk about it all the time. It's more in the area of George threatening to say, you know, I'm going to get these three things done so get ready. So the conversation is kind of on that level, and he knows I'm ready and willing and hopefully able and certainly keen to do it.

CB: It sounds like the ultimate hurry up and wait. Thank you very much.

JW: Thank you.

The force is with him - Stephen Moss (The Guardian) - 2002

He is the world's most successful film composer. John Williams talks to Stephen Moss about music, movies - and 'marriage' to Spielberg

The Guardian, Monday 4 February 2002 01.22 GMT

You might expect John Williams to be a tortured soul. The world's most successful writer of film scores - including Jaws, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and ET - he also produces occasional concert pieces. So is he a frustrated Beethoven forced to earn a living in a battery-hen world?

Williams will have none of it. "I think of myself as a film composer," he says in his measured, professorial way. "I'm not a frustrated concert composer, and the concert pieces I've done have been a small part of my work. What I've sought there is instruction, variation from the demands of film and relief from its restrictions."

The composer is 70 this year, as productive as ever and apparently beyond ego. That must come when you have won five Oscars and been nominated 30 or so times. But he accepts that traditionalists see film scores as a very inferior form of classical music. "We have to be hopeful," he says, "that if there is a musical genius in the future, that individual is someone who has a connection with film and doesn't regard the old division between fine arts and media arts as rigidly as we do."

Williams, New York-born and Los Angeles-based, is in London to record the anthem he has written for Friday's opening of the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City and the music for the latest episode of the Star Wars cycle. He is already booked up for the next two years - Harry Potter II and III, Minority Report, yet another Star Wars movie and Catch Me If You Can. What if he gets an idea for a string quartet whilst in the middle of the latest Star Wars or Harry Potter score? Would he risk running late?

"It doesn't really work that way," he says. "Once in a while I will make some sketches for something that may be a future project, but rarely. I'm focused on what I have to do that particular day. The demands of the schedule are so great that you have to keep pace with it."

Isn't this Trollopian approach to writing music - each quarter-hour accounted for - the opposite of the classic notion of inspiration? "The romantic notions of how inspiration comes are just that - notions," he says. "Composing music is hard work. Any working composer or painter or sculptor will tell you that inspiration comes at the eighth hour of labour, rather than as a bolt out of the blue. We have to get our vanities and our preconceptions out of the way and do the work in the time allotted."

Placido Domingo has asked Williams to write a work for the Los Angeles Opera. Surely this will be an irresistible opportunity to test a new musical muscle? He is oddly cool about the project. "It would take a couple of years and I'm not sure whether I will have the time, but I might do it. It'll depend on the subject and how I feel about the libretto he is preparing. Even if I do say yes, I would do it with a sense of reticence in that I'm not a theatre person or particularly a vocal composer."

Why not do it instead of more Star Wars? "Star Wars is something I would like to complete if I can. I've enjoyed adding tunes to the collection of melodies and melodic identifications that go with the characters. But I would also say that there are sometimes commitments in life that are the result of relationships that are in place."

Star Wars guru George Lucas is one of those relationships; Oliver Stone another (Williams wrote the scores for Born on the Fourth of July, Nixon and JFK). But the central relationship of his working life is with Steven Spielberg. He has written the score of every Spielberg film except The Color Purple; his spine-tingling music for Jaws in 1975 took him into the big league after 20 years of solid film and TV work; and three of his Oscars were for Spielberg movies - Jaws, ET and Schindler's List.

He likens his relationship with Spielberg to a marriage - and is clearly still besotted. "Steven is a very warm, sweet man. The success of his films is not so much the result of craft and artifice. Rather, it's because of his basic humanity. He's a fantastic person, and that is what's delivered to the audience. It's been a very happy relationship over 30 years, though I take nothing for granted: there are a lot of composers in the world and he may wish to use some others." Somehow, though, you rather doubt it.

Williams was born with a score in his hand: his father was a musician with the CBS Radio Orchestra in New York and later with 20th Century Fox in Los Angeles. He studied composition privately and went to the Juilliard school in New York to study piano. He worked as a jazz pianist in New York before returning to Los Angeles to play with the Columbia Pictures Orchestra. He started doing orchestrations, then TV scores and finally films.

It's hard to tell whether Williams has a life beyond composing. His antidote to work appears to be more work - conducting the Boston Pops Orchestra. He was its chief conductor from 1980-93 and still appears with the orchestra about 20 times a year. "It's a familial kind of connection," he says. Movie-going is less of a preoccupation. "I live with films every day - I have in my working room a copy of the films that I'm working on and I look at the scene I'm doing half a dozen times that day. So it's not my habit to go home at night, pack up, and go out and watch a movie."

Of Spielberg's movies, he picks out Close Encounters - "it was more than just Cellophane going through a projecting machine, it had a kind of life" - and Schindler's List, which he says was "one of those rare occasions where you can run the whole film, stop it anywhere and find something quite beautiful in it".

"When he showed me Schindler's List," says Williams, "I was so moved I could barely speak. I remember saying to him, 'Steven, you need a better composer than I am to do this film.' And he said, 'I know, but they're all dead.' " That's a joke. Probably.

· American Journey, which includes the theme for the Winter Olympics, is released today on Sony Classical. On March 4 Sony will release a disc of Williams's cello music. The next episode of Star Wars will be released in the spring.

A Career of Epic Proportions - Jon Burlingame (LA Times) - 2002

John Williams has taken knocks for his movie scores, but as the composer turns 70, he isn't defensive. He enjoys film work.

February 03, 2002

John Williams is a busy man. Almost too busy to notice his birthday.

On Friday, the composer of "Star Wars" and "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial" turns 70. He will not be commemorating the occasion with, say, a quiet dinner for family and friends. Instead, he'll be celebrating at a slightly bigger party: conducting the Utah Symphony and the 350-voice Mormon Tabernacle in his new Olympic theme, "Call of the Champions," at the opening ceremonies in Salt Lake City before a worldwide television audience of, oh, a billion or so.

Just a week ago, he finished recording 110 minutes of music in London for "Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones" (due May 16). On Saturday, he will again conduct his Olympic music, and other pieces, in the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City. In three weeks, he'll lead the Los Angeles Philharmonic in a special birthday concert, with Yo-Yo Ma performing his Cello Concerto. A few days before that, Sony Classical will release a new CD of that work and several more performed by Ma.

"Turning 70 doesn't feel any different than 40," Williams says. His neatly trimmed beard is snow white now, as is most of his wispy hair. "My schedule now is probably not any heavier than it's been for the last 10 or 15 years," he adds. "Most of these commitments are fairly long-standing, so I'm kind of in the rhythm of doing these things."

And doing them pretty well. Four of the top five money-making films of all time, six of the top 10 and eight of the top 15 have music by John Williams. With five Oscars (plus 34 nominations), four Emmys and 18 Grammys, he's the most honored film composer currently working in Hollywood. He is also the highest paid, with fees reportedly exceeding $1 million a picture and the bonus of profit participation on some, meaning extra money if the film is a hit.

Which is a strong possibility. Besides the "Star Wars" movies and "E.T.," think "Jurassic Park," "Home Alone," all three Indiana Jones movies, "Saving Private Ryan" and "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." Think "Jaws."

Without its ominous shark theme, says the film's director, Steven Spielberg, "'Jaws' would have been half as successful."

Spielberg, who has worked with Williams on 17 films, describes himself as "more awestruck by John today than I was when I first met him." That was back in 1973, on his first feature, "The Sugarland Express."

"I've often made a fool of myself, hanging over his piano weeping after he's played me something," says the director, referring to the music for "E.T." and "Schindler's List."

Then there is Williams' career outside of Hollywood--as a conductor, including 14 years at the helm of the Boston Pops, and as a composer of serious music. He has written several concertos, a song cycle, two symphonies, and assorted celebratory works, such as his four Olympic themes. Despite some mixed reviews, the commissions and conducting invitations continue to multiply.

His friend Andre Previn, a composer who had his own bumpy trajectory from the film business to the concert hall, just wishes he'd concentrate more:

"I keep telling him, 'For God's sake, stop writing for those cornball movies and go be a composer.'

"John is much too good a musician to stay satisfied with that forever," Previn continues. "I hate to see him spend so much time doing, you know, 'Home Alone' or whatever. It's so beneath him. But it's a pointless argument, because he likes doing it, and he does it very well."

Williams' writing space looks exactly like a composer's study should. Dozens of pages of musical sketches, neatly notated in pencil, are scattered across the lids of two baby grand pianos with a pair of drafting boards strategically placed around one bench.

Ceiling-high bookcases on both sides of the room are jammed with music books--biographies of the great composers, histories, orchestration texts--and seemingly endless rows of leather-bound scores. A portrait of George Gershwin, together with a canceled check signed by the great American songwriter, is framed on one wall. Williams has been writing music here since 1970, in a corner of the Westwood home he shares with his wife, Samantha, of 21 years. (He has three grown children by a previous marriage and five grandchildren.)

It's the night before he is to leave for Boston, en route to his London "Star Wars" recording dates; he still has to finish composing the closing-credit music for "Attack of the Clones" and pack for the trip. But the soft-spoken Williams shows no signs of strain, segueing into philosophical asides and peppering his conversation with references to T.S. Eliot, John Kenneth Galbraith and Virgil Thomson.

On the question of the concert hall versus the movie theater, he's conciliatory. "The gulf that's existed between the Hollywood music community and our fine arts community has been deeper than any of us would have liked," he says. But attitudes are changing, he believes, and film composers are now more welcome in the concert hall than they were 20 years ago.

Concert music, however, is not about to become his priority.

"Although I enjoy working in the concert field enormously, I do feel that it is in the area of film music that I can perhaps be most contributive," he says mildly.

Besides, he just can't say no to certain projects. He loved the book "Angela's Ashes," so he wanted to score the movie. He liked the early-American period of "The Patriot," hence the desire to write music for the Mel Gibson action film. He became enamored of J.K. Rowling's books and so was pleased to set "Harry Potter" to music. Decisions about which film to accept, he says, are made "on a case-by-case basis."

He is proud of most of the work that has made him a household name. "It's wonderfully gratifying to think that I can go into a concert and play 'Indiana Jones' or 'Superman' or even 'Schindler's List' to people, and they'll know the music completely. It's flattering and rewarding on the deepest level. And it speaks to the power of film to bring music to an audience larger than any ever imagined in the previous history of music."

Williams speaks of "the challenges of concert music, the opportunities of having great artists performing for a discerning and sophisticated public." He adds with a smile that "there's a wonderful sense of freedom in writing concert music which isn't there when we look at a cue sheet [for a film] and know that we have to be off the stage in three minutes and 10 seconds."

Critics describe his concert works as mostly accessible, more modern in idiom than the familiar romanticism of much of his film music, and sometimes drawn on models ranging from Elgar to Stravinsky. The New York Times found his bassoon concerto "slightly less derivative than his film scores ... a comfortably familiar stew," while the Boston Globe praised his song cycle "Seven for Luck," based on the poems of Rita Dove, for its "flexible rhythms, pungent harmonies and bold gestures."

"When you start to write for film, you have a lot of help," he explains. "You have a script, actors, an ambience, a texture, a time and place. But when you write a purely abstract piece, you start out with a lot less. You have to create that yourself, either through a programmatic suggestion or through some other sense of design. Some composers think about nature, some look at paintings--rarely is music created in a complete vacuum. It's challenging at a different level than film music."

But, he insists, film work is no less creatively satisfying. "Every time I look at a picture that's a new assignment, it's daunting. It never seems easy. I think, 'Can I do this well?' I don't think anyone [who composes for film] ever gets blase because we're basically too insecure for that. It's like running a race for an athlete; every single time is the toughest. It's still that way."

Spielberg says he has been able to return to Williams over and over for 30 years because of the composer's versatility. "John can change his style based on his impressions of the movie that he's about to write," he says, citing the melancholy of "Schindler's List" and the sophistication of "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

"Many people--I was one of them--misjudged him as a composer," Boston Symphony Orchestra music director Seiji Ozawa says on the phone from Paris. The two first met when Williams arrived in 1980 to take charge of the Boston Pops. "But I found out when I studied his pieces. His knowledge and background and training, how he does his music [demonstrates] a very high standard and deep musicianship."

Born in New York, the son of Johnny Williams, a jazz drummer, Williams moved to L.A. with his family in 1948, studying at Los Angeles City College, UCLA and, back in New York, at Juilliard. He began his career in 1955 as a studio pianist for conductors such as Alfred Newman at 20th Century Fox and Morris Stoloff at Columbia. (The "Johnny T. Williams" playing the jazz solos on Henry Mancini's original 1958 "Peter Gunn" album is the future film composer.)

"I began to be a little bit dissatisfied with the role of an orchestra pianist," Williams recalls. He shifted first to orchestration, for such composers as Adolph Deutsch ("The Apartment") and Dimitri Tiomkin ("The Guns of Navarone"). He also arranged albums for artists such as Frankie Laine and Mahalia Jackson. Then Revue Studios (later Universal Television) placed Williams under contract as a composer.

"It was a slow evolution from the piano bench to the podium," he says.

Churning out weekly scores for hourlong dramas such as "Checkmate," "Alcoa Premiere" and "Kraft Suspense Theater," he learned the basics of crafting music for film. "Every week was a different kind of challenge: a comedy, a western, a war film, a love story, whatever. It was a great training ground," he says. He learned to write music, often as much as 20 minutes a week, on demand, and to conduct the studio musicians.

By the mid-1960s, he was getting regular feature film assignments. His first Oscar nomination was for adapting Andre and Dory Previn's song score to the infamous 1967 "Valley of the Dolls"; his first Oscar win was for the 1971 adaptation of music for the film version of "Fiddler on the Roof."

A growing reputation as a disaster-film specialist (with scores for "The Poseidon Adventure," "Earthquake" and "The Towering Inferno"), along with a clear facility for musical Americana ( scores for "The Reivers" and "The Cowboys") prompted Spielberg's first call--made Williams bankable.

"Jaws," in 1975, sealed the deal. "I was very excited by that film. I thought it was a great picture. I still do," says Williams, whose music for it won an Oscar. But he wasn't able to enjoy it--his first wife, singer-actress Barbara Ruick, had died the previous year of a cerebral hemorrhage at the age of 43. "I was in a state of shock that year and the year after, so when all of these accolades were going on, I was barely aware of it," he recalls.

It was on Spielberg's recommendation that George Lucas hired Williams for "Star Wars"--a decision that Lucas calls easily as important to the film's success as casting or script.

The score sold an unprecedented 4 million double albums, but, says Williams, the "real result of that for me was the opportunity to conduct the Boston Pops." He substituted for an ailing Arthur Fiedler in 1978, and the Pops asked him to succeed Fiedler after his death in 1979.

Richard Dyer, music critic for the Boston Globe, witnessed Williams' growth as a conductor during his 14-year tenure at the Pops. "I think John took the Pops job for a reason," Dyer says. "He wanted to establish the 'musical legitimacy' of film music--and he succeeded in that." He retired from the Pops in 1993 but is now its laureate conductor, and he still spends every summer at Tanglewood, summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, teaching, conducting and writing.

"The most significant thing in my life and development was that the success of 'Star Wars' made it possible for me to be associated with one of the greatest orchestras in the world," he says.

Once his 70th birthday month is past, Williams' schedule doesn't get any lighter. In March, he'll perform the "E.T." score live with the film at the Shrine Auditorium; in March and April, he is slated to compose the score for Spielberg's "Minority Report"; in May, he conducts a series of concerts in Boston; and in the summer, there's conducting at the Hollywood Bowl, in Cleveland and at Tanglewood. In the fall, he plans to score Spielberg's next film, "Catch Me if You Can," and possibly the next "Harry Potter" movie.

At the same time, he will be pursuing the kind of work that Previn and company are demanding.

He is excited about a commission to write a horn concerto for Dale Clevenger of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which is due in May 2003. Beyond that, he speaks of writing "a choral and orchestral piece of a fairly extended nature"; a "large-scale piece for orchestra"; another collaboration with Dove; and new pieces for Ma and violinist Itzhak Perlman.

Placido Domingo has announced that Williams will compose a work for L.A. Opera, although Williams says he is reluctant: "I'm an instrumental composer not a vocal composer." Ozawa too says he has been "seriously pushing for him to write an opera" that Ozawa would conduct.

Says Dyer: "Even when he's being a ventriloquist, as he sometimes has to be as a film composer, I don't think he's ever written a dishonest note. Like everybody else, some things worked out better than other things did. But I don't think it's a mechanical process for him. He can write music of heroic resolve because he feels heroic resolve. He's drawing on his own inner life and creating additional dimensions in the movies. And that's what makes the concert music work too."

For his part, Williams is both modest and realistic about his successes. "I've been fortunate in the assignments that I've been given and in the collaborators with whom I've shared the stage," he says.

"The more you work in music, the more years you spend with it, the more in love with it you become," he adds. "It's not like a job that's distasteful. It's the opposite of that--more seductive, more interesting.

"It's been a long journey, a greatly rewarding one in every way," Williams says. "An almost always happy one, and a continuing one. I don't feel any differently about the need to work, and to work well, than I ever did. I don't feel any differently about challenging every note I write any more now than when I was 35."

*

Ricard likes this

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Just read "Where is JW coming from - Richard Dyer - 1980"...does anybody know about the "atonal" score for a Ray Bradbury television project? I don't recall every hearing about that.

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I think he's referring to The Screaming Woman, which was based on a short story by Ray Bradbury.

True.

It's not a very good film, but it's an interesting concept. And Williams' score is full-on avantgarde. Deserves a release!

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I had many of those articles on my old website. Glad to see them posted here.

What happened to your old site, by the way?

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It will be interesting to see when and by whom John Williams biography will be written...

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SF1-Freeze,

danke für den besten und wichtigsten John Williams thread, den es jemals gab.

Habe 9 Stunden lang jedes einzelne Interview genau gelesen und bin begeistert.

Jetzt weiß ich mehr als zuvor.

Danke!

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I had many of those articles on my old website. Glad to see them posted here.

What happened to your old site, by the way?

It was part of the network run by Andreas. When he had the need to take it down, I didn't look for another host, as the site was terribly out of date. Of course I have all the data, and some files, namely many of this articles, are still on the original host, a free space from a Portuguese ISP.

At the time, I translated most of them to Portuguese, but posted some in English that can still be checked here: http://johnwilliams.home.sapo.pt/artigos/art3.htm

I guess most, if not all of them, are already on this thread.

As for my site, I've been toying with the idea of putting it back on-line, but have to find the time to do that...

Richard Dyer is considered to be one of America's best music critics (he's now retired). Like many others, he was pretty curious about this Hollywood composer being drafted to a prestigious music institution like the BSO back in 1980. He had a very open mind and embraced him totally from day 1. He has always been one of his greatest admirers and the various interviews conducted with him during Williams' Pops tenure were always pretty informative and even personal. I think Dyer would be a great writer of a Williams biography. Back to the interviews/articles, I've collected quite a number of them over the years, including some great stuff like the glorious 1978 interview by Derek Elley published on Films & Filming. Most of them are scans and/or xerox copies however, so it would take me some time to pull them out and putting them in text format.

I have the two issues of "Films & Filming" where the Williams interview was printed, and can post scans over the weekend.

As for Dyer, he had a close connection with the BSO, and in the 80's, he was the voice of many Boston Pops televised concerts. He also wrote the liner notes for a few of the Philips Classics releases of Williams with the orchestra.

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SF1-Freeze,

danke für den besten und wichtigsten John Williams thread, den es jemals gab.

Habe 9 Stunden lang jedes einzelne Interview genau gelesen und bin begeistert.

Jetzt weiß ich mehr als zuvor.

Danke!

If you want to communicate with a member in the public area do it in English, please. Otherwise use the PM.

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Obrigado para o melhor e o mais importante segmento de John Williams, nunca houve.

Acabo de ler 9 horas cada única entrevista e estou emocionado.

Agora eu sei mais do que antes.

Obrigado!

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LOL! Just fooling around with Bing translator.

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Repeating an offense directly after the owner of the site told you to knock it off is not a good idea. My finger is hovering over the Suspend button, so be careful

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Sorry, LeBlanc. Situation is settled already after having a good chat with Ricard.

I didn't set out to upset anybody. But some people seem to sit in the hot chair

today. No reason for barking.

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These articles are fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing, I've got such great reading material for a while now :)

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Doesn't Jon Burlingame quote long stretches of it in his liner notes for the Images release? I also remember that the article was available on JWFan quite a while ago.

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Anyone here got the interview with Williams on IMAGES? I think it was from the late 70s.

Here it is:

John Williams on Images - Irwin Bazelon (published on the book Knowing the Score) - 1975

Excerpt from original interview by Irwin Bazelon

Transcript by Ricard L. Befan

Irwin Bazelon:

The credits on the screen say music by John Williams and sound by Stomu Yamashta. I don't know whether he improvised these sounds or whether he composed them, but you get the feeling that there were two composers involved in this score. Who wrote what?

John Williams:

Well, there's a long and interesting history to this music. It was a Robert Altman film -script by him. Altman had been talking to me about this script for years. It was one of those rare things where he said, "Write a piece of music first, and I'll film the score." That didn't happen. I didn't have time to write the music, and he went off on another picture, and the whole thing matured a couple of years later. But I'd been thinking about it and thinking about the schizophrenic quality of this film and this character. Here was a girl who one moment was in touch with reality and the next moment went out of touch altogether. And it seemed to me that the music should be done in two parts and it should have a duality for those reasons.

So two or three years went by, and I went to see another of Altman's films in London last February. And when I looked at the film I instantly remembered the sculptures of Baschet. He had his sculptures here at UCLA about six years ago, and he had his associates and his family with him, and they performed on the sculptures. He played things like Viennese waltzes and "Flight of the Bumblebee" -it wasn't very interesting musically, but the noises these instruments made.

Irwin Bazelon:

Were they metallic?

John Williams:

Well, most of his sculptures (Baschet is a serious sculptor, not a musician) are made to look at, they're made to see. And the noises they make are kind of adjunct to them. They're stainless-steel surfaces sculpted like floral petals. Some of them are sixteen feet high; they're prominent visual works, and he has attachments of sawed-off glass rods that vibrate, and the vibrations go through a wire and activate these planes of steel, making the most unearthly sounds, wonderful noises. Dissolve.

Two or three years later at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, I walked in o-ne day and there was the whole ground floor covered with Baschet, and if o-ne put a dime in the little machine, he could pick up a headset and hear these noises created by Baschet. I forgot all about this, but when I saw in Altman's film exactly this thing, I thought now is my chance to put the music and his sculpture into a musical thing like a score.

So I called André Previn and asked him about Baschet -he said, "Oh yes. Yamashta (the Japanese percussionist) plays them." And I knew Yamashta because he'd done a film for Ken Russell, "The Devils", and he's a very great percussionist -American trained. So I rang up Yamashta, who lives in Paris, and he said, "Come over; we'll talk." So I went to Paris and asked him if he'd like to perform the percussion in this score. And he said yes, he would. And he showed me his percussions, his Japanese bells, etc., and there's kind of this zanylike quality in this film anyway, and the whole thing began to take shape. For the other side of it, I knew I wanted to do a kind of pastoral, bucolic -something or other with lutes and strings.

Irwin Bazelon:

There's also a piano background in the opening. Are you playing that?

John Williams:

That's right. Yes, I played all the keyboard, and Yamashta played all the percussion. He agreed to play, and we went to Baschet's studio; Yamashta was tremendously skilled even o-n conventional instruments, but he gave the most wonderful demonstration on these Baschet things, and I thought, "Aha, that's terrific."

So I picked out two large instruments and o-ne or two smaller ones to rent from Baschet, and that was the end of it. We shook hands, and Stomu showed up the session, so to speak, as a playing musician, and he brought his gear with him.

When I was in Paris, I made little notes for myself about the instruments: what they would do; what we would call them; a little, simple method of graph notation to time out these percussion effects with either the conventional music of the film action it was to correspond with.

Where the credit business comes in -I was so pleased to have Stomu; he's such a well known percussionist. I wanted to give him credit, to say, "Percussion played by Stomu Yamashta," and he said, "I'm trying to get away from the percussion; I want to expand my activities; I'd rather it be 'Sounds produced by...' " So I think, perhaps, it was a kind of contractual agreement with him. He wanted that screen credit, and I wanted to give it to him -in the same way as if you wrote a violin concerto for somebody in a film, you would say, "Violin by so-and-so." I felt in this case, in a sense, that I was writing a percussion concerto with strings. So as Stomu's request, the idea of "sounds" was put on the film, and when you're doing things people don't usually think all that much about, who's going to take notice? It just seemed natural; that's what he wanted; we agreed. Stomu functioned as a percussionist; if it would be a concerto for percussion, this is how it would be described and perhaps should have been.

Irwin Bazelon:

But there were other percussion instruments. I heard chimes, wind chimes, bells, also blowing air through the flute.

John Williams:

That's right. It wasn't all on the Baschets. We had the Inca flute and Kabuki percussion instruments. Then there were the Baschets -principally the four larger pieces of sculpture and a few smaller pieces- plus all the conventional gear, which included timpani, hand drums, blocks, bells, marimbas -all these things, as well as a few tricks of his own- little shaking things, little sticklike Kabuki noises.

Irwin Bazelon:

But he did not improvise anything to the visuals?

John Williams:

There are a few sections that are improvised within the context of a prepared timing -almost if one would do an aleatory bit of music. I might hit a chord with the orchestra and the score might indicate dashes for ten seconds on such and such an instrument -crescendo into double forte- that sort of thing.

Irwin Bazelon:

I never thought it was improvised. I always thought it was very well organized.

John Williams:

Now, the way it was accomplished is of interest. I wanted to use all textures and strings and nothing else -the o-nly thing added would be Stomu's voice. He does it in his concerts of some of Henze's pieces. So it was the Japanese style of the percussion, the resonance of the instruments, and his chest -he might even say "ouch" in Japanese.

What I have o-n the score is just an aural noise, so his voice is a contribution. So there is, in fact, an immense creative contribution, because his performance is outstanding, I think, and deserving of every credit he has. I don't want to detract from Stomu's participation, but I felt very strongly that we have the discipline of the written symbol, timed to the film in its dramatic application, and that, I think, is what gives it its unique sense, rather than haphazardness, of taut discipline.

So I reckoned percussion, keyboards -which I wanted to play all myself- and string orchestra. We began by recording -I wrote the score in the normal way- the string orchestra here, the keyboards here, and the percussion here. And the keyboards -I might play a particular section piano or piano twice, banging here, improvising something here, or playing something written here. The keyboard might be o-n three lines, which would require -since I was going to play it all- three overdubs o-n the piano; the percussion is almost always four or five lines.

You would hear Japanese woodblocks, you would hear Baschet-sculpture percussion, you might hear timpani, etc., in one sequence. My idea was to make the most personal, idiosyncratic thing, have one man play everything, rather than have four percussionists, which I could have done -let Stomu play everything.

So the first thing I did was recording the string orchestra for a whole day -all the traditional music, all of this material, and to time it exactly when the legitimate orchestra stopped and Stomu and I started with either our written notes or whatever we were going to do. And then we would select one, i.e., the woodblocks and the piano first. It was done o-n sixteen-track tapes, so we put the string orchestra left, center, and right; that left me thirteen tracks of tape to play around with. And we proceeded in that way. Stomu would take line one and play that, then line two, putting on the earphones to hear what he just recording on line one. Then on line three he heard lines one and two back. And I drew on the score -where, if you play pa pa, I play ta tee; I'm taking my notes from your cue. In this case he would just follow the arrows, which are indicated on the percussion production notes. And he followed himself with his own timings and made a wonderful effect.

Irwin Bazelon:

Also, the instruments have tremendous presence, as though they're amplified and reverbed and echoed all over the place.

John Williams:

Yes, some of these Baschet instruments -I wish you could see them- instantly make wonderful noises. A lot of these noises Stomu pointed out of me; if you out your ear on the right place of the plane, the buildup would be most beautiful or the sonority would be the most attractive.

© 1975 by Irwin Bazelon

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Thanks Maurizio! Excellent to have it here. :)

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You're welcome :)

Here's another really good one:

Interview from the book "Once Upon a Galaxy: A Journal of the Making of The Empire Strikes Back" - Alan Arnold - 1980

(thanks to elvisjones, who posted it several years ago!)

LOS ANGELES

Saturday, November 17 (1979)

Alan Arnold: You have a tremendous amount of music to compose for "The Empire Strikes Back" in a matter of weeks.

John Williams: Yes. "Empire" will require 107 minutes of underscore, although some of this will involve quotes from my original score for "Star Wars". We plan to reprise the Star Wars March, for example. But I will still have about 102 minutes of new music to write between now and mid-January. You could say it's the equvalent of several Lisztian tone poems.

AA: Or a couple of symphonies.

JW: Yes, except that it's not really a fair comparison, because this kind of incidental music is quicker to write than an organic piece like a symphony.

AA: Would you describe yourself as a romantic composer?

JW: Film composing is a very special kind of craft and you have to adapt your style constantly. So when you ask I am a romantic, I have to answer that in doing incidental music for films one has to be a chameleon. My nonfilm music - my more serious efforts at compositiong - is far less romantic than my film

scores.

AA: Do you sometimes feel that your work for films takes time away from other things you would like to do?

JW: Yes. Film composers can be frustrated fellows. Usually, like me, they not only write for film but do their own composition outside of it. I think that's important. Nevertheless, I wouldn't want to give up my film work because I think it is a wonderful medium for a composer. Millions of people go to the cinema, and it's stimulating to hear people whistling your tunes. That is a wonderfully supportive thing. I fully recognize, however, that popularization is something that can be damaging to any desire may have to be considered a serious composer.

AA: There are many examples of respected composers such as Johann Strauss whose work has survived and who were popular in their own day.

JW: I agree. The public taste needn't always be mistrusted. If the public likes something, that doesn't necessarily mean it's inferior.

AA: What new themes are you developing for "The Empire Strikes Back"?

JW: There is a new theme for Yoda, the teacher of the Jedi Knights. His theme begins in a kind of piquant way and develops into a more profound, more noble piece. There will be a new theme that could be called the Love Theme developing from the love interest between Princess Leia and Han. There will be a new piece of music for Darth Vader who plays a more important role in this film. In "Star Wars" he had what you could call a musical fragment, but in the new picture there will be a Grand Imperial March. In addition to those three principal themes there is new thematic material for the ice-planet battle sequences. The Force Theme from "Star Wars" will be more widely used and developed. Finally, the "Star Wars" march, which is associated with Luke and the good side of the Force, will be newly presented.

AA: How do you get your inspiration?

JW: I supposed the unconscious mind works on the time on one's problems. Sometimes themes come very painfully after hours of holding my head in my hands at the piano. Days can go by and I'll think it is never going to come. Then I'll sit down at the piano and it sort of pops into my mind. After two weeks of frustration it just appears out of nowhere. Other times I might think about a theme for a character and get it straight off. It is a strange and mysterious and frustrating process, almost impossible to describe.

AA: With "Star Wars", "Superman", and "Close Encounters", you have had an amazing series of successes. Isn't there a limit to the amount of film music one can compose in such a relatively short time?

JW: I would like to rest after "Empire". I have some concerts to conduct, and I find conducting more invigorating and energizing than anything else. But I like to feel that my composing improves all the time. I don't say that in an egotistical way. I am not a religious man, but I think the source of our inspiration is infinite. So it's not a question of how much one writes, but of being convinced that there is steady improvement. The longer one lives and experiences, the more there is to draw on creatively.

AA: What would you cite as your influences in composing the scores for the "Star Wars" films?

JW: My influences, like those of all musicians, came from wide range of sources and I acknowledge them freely. In the case of "Star Wars" I made a conscious decision to try to model and shape the score on late nineteenth century, romantic orchestral scores. The idea was that the music should have a familiar emotional ring so that as you looked at all those strange robots and other unearthly creatures, at sights hitherto unseen, the music would be rooted in familiar traditions.

AA: I suppose that in being as prolific as you have been the danger of repeating yourself is always there.

JW: Yes, I suppose so. In a way, one is always a bit haunted by one's own music. Ocassionaly, while I am working, a phrase may pop into my mind from something I wrote ten or more years ago. Memory traces are a strong part of everything we do. Inevitably, every composer has characteristic themes that recur and personify his work. Film composing is very different from composing for the concert hall; it is bound to be more repetitious. For the "Star Wars" films I have had to write active music which can be orchestrated with a flourish, a lot of decoration, a quick tempo. As these are heroic films, the music necessarily reflects the heroic element. It must underlie the emotional content and have an epic sweep to it. It's not a crutch but a sustaining element in films of this kind - and it's very stimulating to compose.

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Amazing, Maurizio! Thank you. Exactly my cup of tea.

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Anyone here got the interview with Williams on IMAGES? I think it was from the late 70s.

Here it is:

John Williams on Images - Irwin Bazelon (published on the book Knowing the Score) - 1975

This isn't the complete interview. I have the Bazelon book, and will scan it and post it as soon as I can.

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Great! I've never had the feeling that I've learned more about John Williams - as a person -

than by all those articles and interviews that you provided here so generously.

Today, he's just this icon. And, content-wise, interviews after 2001 tend to be superficial

and lazy. Nothing to learn. Maybe because of PR intervention. You hardly get any insights

into the working process today.

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Or maybe because he isn't interviewed by proper music critics like Dyer. Of recently, I always enjoy Brian Bell's interviews for WGBH.

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