Annotated Bibliography


Irena Paulus, International Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music, Vl. 31, No. 2 December 2000, pp. 153-184

In this review, the author deeply focuses on the link between operas of Richard Wagner and the music of John Williams by analyzing the score of Star Wars. This is an excellent guide to the musical language and composition technique of Williams as well as of Wagner.

The review contains comprehensive information about leitmotif, recurring musical theme linked to some characters, concept or idea, by which the author compares the way both composers use this technique in order to achieve their common goal of a unified musical form. The author classifies Williams as an Avant-garde film composer using a whole web of mixed leitmotif, dense layers of harmony and all types of tonality to construct the score of Star Wars.

The review consists of eight titles in which the author compares the composition techniques and the musical languages of both composers in parallel with the concept of opera and film. Here she argues how they differ in terms of the structures of their harmony. The core of Wagner's operas is based on complex harmony and endless melodies and vague musical form. In contrast, the nature of film brings limitations to composers and Williams has to adapt his music with a relatively simple approach. It is obviously a common difference between opera and the film music composers. But what makes this review interesting is that the author's one to one comparison in light of 'music for drama' gives the reader intensive information about opera and film music

Paulus argues that Wagner was influenced by Beethoven's symphonies and established a distinctive bridge between tonality and atonality. Wagner looked back to the past and to the future creating a new approach to the music while Williams used Wagner’s technique with his style and conveyed it into the film music.

Kathryn Kalinak, New York-London W W Norton & Company, 2002, Settling The Score: an academic study of scoring for film.

This book is based on the historical and theoretical analysis of the Hollywood film scores of Steiner, Hermann, Raskin, Williams and others. Chapter Eight of Kalinak's book is devoted to John Williams and contains an analysis of his score for Star Wars: Episode V "The Empire Strikes Back", in conjunction with his use of the structure of late-romantic style.

Kalinak's introduction allocates a considerable number of pages about the history of film scores from the 1950's to the mid the 80's. She provides a brief overview of the gradual disappearance of the classical scores of Steiner, Hermann and Raksin in the late 50's while the jazz and pop influences were increasingly becoming popular. This introduction is particularly helpful to understand where Williams’ scores stand in film music history. Furthermore, the author classifies Williams' music of the 70's, like "Jaws", as a return to the epic sound of classical film scores for modern Hollywood.

The author profiles Williams as a traditional composer who adapted his style from Steiner and Korngold as well as the 19th-century master Richard Wagner. Then she explains Williams' composition and orchestration technique by analyzing in detail the three Star Wars themes; the main title, Darth Vader's leitmotif and the ice battle on the planet Hoth.

This book is extremely useful in terms of being both informative and analytical. It is a comprehensive study carried out in the light of historical and technical concerns over film music in general as well as the score of Williams.

Morag Reavley, John Williams, The Music of John Williams: 40 Years of Film Music

From accessed on 24/10/2008

This brief review by Morag Reavley is based on the soundtrack CD, The Music of John Williams: 40 years of film music. We understand that the release of the album is for the fortieth birthday of John Williams consisting of a large collection of his music. The author enlightens the readers about the content of four CDs, the first two having the soundtracks for Steven Spielberg's films and the rest of the other directors.

Reavley defines the great scores of John Williams such as Jaws, The Empire Strikes Back and Indiana Jones as a classic. However, she also reminds us his relatively less known early works of The Rare Breed and Jane Eyre Family Plot. Variety of the characters of the themes revealed by the author proves again that Williams composed a vast range of scores, from folksy to Gothic, fantasies to jazz.

However, we understand from this review that the album is a reproduction of the original recordings and performed by the City of Prague Philharmonic. This might be very informative for the real fan of John Williams to avoid possible disappointment.

The initial argument by the author comes from his comment on the collection that it can not convey the depth of individual scores' but 'proclaims the astonishing variety and sheer quality of his achievement'. This could be an agreeable perspective of view, as the readers would expect more in-depth from such a large collection. However, the concept of a collection tends to rule out serious expectations most of the time.

Francine Stock Interview with John Williams 4 April 2006

From: accessed on 24/10/2008

The brief introduction of the interview contains music clips of Williams, either emotional or adrenalin kicking, for the movies like Schindler's List, ET, Superman, Star Wars, Lost Ark and Jaws. Stock overviews the numbers of musical awards the composer either gained or was nominated for and his long-term relationship with director Steven Spielberg.

In the interview, Williams explains how a simple motif can be effective to create the mood of the film and gives the example of Jaws where a section of music gets faster and louder forming the most critical part of the score. Then a similar use by Bernard Herrmann in the film "Psycho" is given as another example of this concept. It is followed by the conversation on how important the topic of a film is for Williams in order to compose emotionally powerful themes such as Schindler's List and Munich.

The composer then talks about his use of leitmotif with Wagnerian influence in Star Wars and other films. He describes leitmotif, a melodic identification of the characters and places, as a composing technique that allows repetition and makes the whole structure work by means of forming integrity of the aural against the dominance of the visual over the audience. Using the main theme in the background in ET, Williams explains how building up the emotions slowly and the delivery of the expectancy at the peak moments manipulate the mood of the audience.

This is a comprehensive primary source about the music of Williams, his composition techniques and experiences. All the examples given are accompanied by their original recordings which assist the listener to absorb the conversation well.

David Thomas, Total Film Magazine, 1997 - Issue 8 (9/97), pp. 74-79, John Williams Interview

In the prologue, the author overviews some of the well-known scores of John Williams, such as "Jaws", "Star Wars", "E.T.", "Empire Of The Sun" "Jurassic Park", "Close Encounters" and "Schindler's List”.

Even though the article was published eleven years ago, it still throws a light to the present time. It is informative and covers most of Williams’ scores. The first three paragraphs of the article emphasize composer's powerful theme writing skill that is instantly recognizable. Later in the article, the composer compares the concept of tune writing to sculpting and denotes that he spends more time to create motives than anything else.

The author summarizes the background of Williams and gives some examples of his early works. It is emphasized that after the mid-70s, Spielberg and Williams's partnership became a household name. Perhaps that has been the greatest opportunity for both to establish their prestige in Hollywood. Their genius approach to the movie production without genre boundaries has always been compatible. Certainly, this is the key point to the spectacular success of the couple.

The author gives an example of 'Jurassic Park' and comments on 'how the emotional tempo of the action is carried by his music'. This is a very common compliment to Williams by many critiques that initiates his unique ability to manipulate the mood of the audience e.g. 'how to feel, what to expect, when to be uplifted and when to be very scared'. Williams explains that he pays great attention to the total unification of music and picture by getting the right balance between them. He also emphasizes the importance of the melodic identification of the character and places to form the score.


Powrie, P and Stilwell, R (2006) Changing Tunes: The use of Pre-existing Music in Film (England: Ashgate Publishing Limited) Page 124

Kassabian, A (2001) Hearing Film (New York: Routledge) Pages 3, 47, 51, 92, 104

Kompanek, S (2004) From Score To Screen (Schirmer Trade Books: New York) Pages 58, 107, 146

Donnelley K, J (2001) Film Music (Edinburg: Edinburg University Press) Page 13, 25, 50

Goldmark, H, Kramer, L, Leppert, R (2007) Beyond The Sound Track (California: University Of California) Pages 12, 151

Davis, R (1999) Complete Guide to Film Scoring (Boston: Berklee Press) Pages 15, 43, 55, 58/60, 81, 111, 145, 170, 173, 225, 267, 274, 297, 330

Kalinak, K (1992) Settling The Score (USA: The University Of Wisconsin Press) Pages 13, 31, 73, 75, 100, ch 8, 205

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