John Towner Williams

John Towner Williams

This is Biography John Towner Williams (Floral Park, 8 February 1932) is an American composer, arranger, conductor and multi-instrumentalist, famous and acclaimed for his numerous film scores. He has worked extensively for film directors Steven Spielberg (whose 50-year association is the longest in film history, having composed the entire soundtrack for 28 of his 35 feature films), George Lucas, Oliver Stone, Delbert Mann, Jean-Jacques Annaud, Mark Robson, Robert Altman, Mark Rydell and Chris Columbus and is the winner of five Academy Awards for Best Score. With 54 Oscar nominations, he is the second most nominated individual in film history, after Walt Disney (59). His compositions are considered the epitome of film music, and he is therefore regarded as one of the greatest composers in history. John Williams His name is linked to many of Hollywood’s most famous melodies, where he made his mark with a style characterised by themes of great immediacy and suggestiveness, as well as with a brilliant, magnificent and imposing orchestra. Williams is credited with bringing the music in the film from a secondary position of commentary and accompaniment to a leading role, which was also decisive for the success of the film itself.

Among the music he composed for numerous successful films are the Star Wars saga, Schindler’s List, The Adventures of Tintin – The Secret of the Unicorn, Hook – Captain Hook, Lincoln, Indiana Jones, E.T. The Extraterrestrial, Jaws, Jurassic Park, Seven Years in Tibet, Empire of the Sun, Saving Private Ryan, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman, Harry Potter, The Cowboys, The Terminal, Mama, I Missed the Plane, for a total of 366 soundtrack albums. All in all, he has won five Oscars, twenty-six Grammys, three Primetime Emmy Awards, four Golden Globes, sixteen SFMAs, one BMI, one Kennedy Award, four Critics’ Choice Movie Awards for Best Score, two Golden Lion Awards, three Emmys, nine Saturn Awards, four Classic BRIT Awards and seven BAFTA Awards just to name a few of the many awards (in total he has been honoured 182 times and nominated 321)

.Williams has also composed numerous classical concertos and other works for orchestral ensembles and solo instruments. He served as principal conductor of the Boston Pops from 1980 to 1993 and is its winning conductor. Other works by Williams include the main theme for the 1984 Summer Olympics,NBC Sunday Night Football, the theme “The Mission” used by NBC News and Seven News in Australia, the television series Lost in space produced from 1965 to 1968, and the television series Land of the Giants and the incidental music for the first two seasons of Gilligan’s Island. Williams announced his retirement from composing soundtracks after the release of Indiana Jones and the Quadrant of Destiny in 2023; however, he later reversed his decision.He is considered an icon of American musical culture, often regarded as the greatest film score composer as well as the creator of the Millennium Soundtrack (i.e. the soundtrack for the well-known Star Wars films). Each of his concerts has a maximum of three encores already prepared. At the end of each concert he humorously brings his hands together at face height, as a sign of sleep. That is the signal that the concert is definitely over.Williams at the age of seven began to study music and play the piano, trombone, trumpet and clarinet. He showed precocious talent, first composing for school bands and then for the US Air Force during his military service. At the age of nineteen, he received his first award for an original composition, a piano sonata. After studying composition in Hollywood, he returned to New York, where he enrolled in the piano course at the Juilliard School of Music. During this period, in the years 1956 and 1958, he began working as a jazz pianist in various New York clubs and later as an arranger and conductor for several jazz record labels. He began his career as a composer for some television programmes in 1960, already winning two Emmy Awards. He returned again to Los Angeles, where a promising career as a composer in the Hollywood scene awaited him. He initially found work as a pianist, collaborating on TV series and films such as Peter Gunn, South Pacific, Some Like It Hot and To Kill a Mockingbird. At the age of 24, Williams joined the arranging staff at 20th Century Fox orchestrating scores. Williams also collaborated with a number of pop music stars, such as Vic Damone, Mahalia Jackson and Doris Day.Between the 1960s and 1970s, Williams resumed his career as a composer and arranger for soundtracks, making his debut as a composer of film music, as he had only composed for television until then. Some of the soundtracks from this period are Heidi, Jane Eyre in Rochester Castle and Because They’re Young. The seventies and eighties would be the peak of John Williams’ success, earning him the title of King of Catastrophic Movie Soundtracks from critics for the films Earthquake, The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure for which he would receive nominations for two Golden Globes and two Oscars for Best Score, attracting the attention of Steven Spielberg who called him to compose the music for the film he was developing: Sugarland Express. From this moment on, Williams would begin a solid friendship with the director and an ongoing collaboration. 

After the success of Jaws, with which Williams won an Academy Award for the second time, came the great success with the soundtrack for which he won his third Oscar: Star Wars. After this great victory Williams would once again prove his talent with the music for Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman and Raiders of the Lost Ark. His fourth Oscar would come from the soundtrack of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial in 1982. In the 1990s, Williams was still very successful, with the music for Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, Mama, I Lost the Plane: I’m Lost in New York, Seven Years in Tibet and Saving Private Ryan. In 1999 he started the Star Wars prequel trilogy with Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, with which Williams rekindled the creativity that had enlightened him in the 1970s with the old trilogy and that he would carry over into Chris Columbus’ Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. For the Harry Potter saga he only composed the music for the next two chapters, while in 2002 and 2005 he composed the music for the last two chapters of the Star Wars prequel trilogy and The War of the Worlds, Munich and the last chapter of the Indiana Jones saga: Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. In 2002, in honour of the 20th anniversary of the making of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Williams set a record: during the screening of the remastered and restored film, he conducted a live orchestra, playing the entire soundtrack in synchronisation with the film. From 2010-2015, Williams composed the music for the films War Horse, Lincoln and The Story of a Book Thief, winning Oscar nominations for each. In December 2015, the Star Wars saga returned to screens with the film Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which also marked Williams’ return to the soundtrack. He also composed the score for the following chapters, namely Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.On 18 and 19 January 2020, he conducted the Vienna Philharmonic with Anne-Sophie Mutter on solo violin in concert, performing music from soundtracks he composed (e.g. Harry Potter, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park). The recording of the concert, John Williams in Vienna, released by Deutsche Grammophon, became the best-selling album of orchestral music in 2020, reaching number one in the charts in many countries.

From 14 to 16 October 2021, Williams conducted the Berliner Philharmoniker (with Bruno Delepelaire as cello soloist) for three concerts; this was Williams’ second engagement with a European orchestra (following his engagement with the Vienna Philharmonic the year before) and his debut with the Berlin Philharmonic. The concerts were recorded, like those of the year before, by Deutsche Grammophon and the resulting album, John Williams: the Berlin Concert will be released in February 2022 as part of a series of celebrations marking the composer’s 90th birthday. On 12 and 13 March, he returned to the Musikverein in Vienna to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic again.On 12 December 2022, at the age of 90, he conducted his first historic concert in Italy, at the Teatro Alla Scala in Milan.Williams’ music genre is considered by critics to be a form of neo-romanticism. His output, which consists of no less than 366 soundtrack albums, ranges from films to Olympics and TV series, as well as symphonic pieces and concertos for solo instruments. He has written all of director Steven Spielberg’s film scores, except for those of Duel, The Twilight Zone, Bridge of Spies, Ready Player One, and some of The Colour Purple. Particularly interesting is the soundtrack composed for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial; the last track, about fifteen minutes long, was composed in close collaboration with the director, who at some points made specific cuts and edits to fit the musical and emotional crescendo.The musical contribution produced for the 1977 Star Wars saga is fundamental; the success of the completely symphonic soundtrack gave great impetus and momentum to the subsequent use of symphonic music (sometimes relying on famous orchestras) in films. He also composed the music for the other films in the Star Wars saga in 1980, 1983, 1999, 2002, 2005, 2015, 2017 and 2019, also composing the theme for the 2018 spin-off and the 2022 TV miniseries. In 2019, Williams composed a score for the Star Wars theme park called Galaxy’s Edge that earned him a Grammy Award the following year.From January 1980 to December 1993, he was the nineteenth conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, bringing his works from the field of film music to the stage of Boston Symphony Hall annually. He still conducts the BPO once a year as a special guest conductor. Also notable are the soundtracks for such blockbusters as Superman, Jurassic Park, the Indiana Jones saga as well as the theme music for Harry Potter. Williams is also responsible for the famous music for the first two chapters of the Jaws saga, and films such as A.I., Born on the Fourth of July, The Terminal, Seven Years in Tibet, War of the Worlds, Saving Private Ryan and Try and Catch Me. The film Close Encounters of the Third Kind is probably one of the very rare cases in which the music was composed before the film was made. In 2010, he composed the music for The Adventures of Tintin – The Secret of the Unicorn, War Horse and Lincoln, earning Oscar nominations for Best Score for each film.

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