John Williams’s Film Music Is A Great Read

Oscar-winning composer John Williams prior to “Behind the Score: The Art of the Film Composer” presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Monday, July 21, at the LACMA Bing Theater. Photo credit: Todd Wawrychuk/©A.M.P.A.S.

John Williams’s Film Music, written by Emilio Audissino, was published in 2014 but this John Williams book is an important contribution to film history canon.

John Williams's Film Music
University of Wisconsin Press.

Williams is among the greatest composers in the history of film music. He is the second-most nominated individual in Oscar history next to Walt Disney. This only speaks to his contributions to cinema. And like the book notes, he certainly has his detractors. However, I am not one of them. Whenever my phone rings, his music is playing.

I’m a fan of classical films. What I did not realize until reading this book is just how much he pays homage to that era. John Williams singlehandedly made symphonic music cool again when it comes to cinema. Thanks to both Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, Williams has contributed to some of the biggest films in history. Obviously, Williams’s contributions go beyond these two filmmakers. He got his start during the end of the studio system, which may explain why his work is considered neoclassical.

Audissino certainly knows what he is talking about. The man has interviewed the maestro a countless number of times. While the main focus is Jaws, Star Wars, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, other films and projects certainly are not ignored. But again, it’s amazing how he pays tributes to the classical composers. By classical, I mean classic Hollywood composers. Part of the book works as a study of these three films in particular. Other parts of the book work as a biography of the man. And let’s face it, there are too few works when it comes to Williams himself. This is surprisingly the very first book on Williams in the English languague.

Before diving into the work of John Williams, Audissino sets up the scene. What the other does is introduce us to the classic film composers. Max Steiner, Bernard Hermann, and Erich Wolfgang Korngold are among the standout composers. If you pay attention to their works, you’ll notice how Williams honors them throughout his work. Take Hook, for instance. What Williams manages to do is pay homage to the classic swashbuckler films. In Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Williams adds a Steiner homage to Angels with Filthy Souls 2. How about that for film trivua?

The other thing here is that Audissino reworks a thesis paper from its academic routes. I mean, I’m not really one for reading an academic paper but this book doesn’t feel like one. It’s a very readable book. I’ll put it like that. You don’t even have to be a musicologist to enjoy the book. As long as you’re a fan of film music, you won’t be able to put down John Williams’s Film Music.

There’s a new edition of the book due out this July, The Music of John Williams. It may be under a different title but I’ll be curious to see what sort of changes there are.

John Williams’s Film Music is available in stores.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.