John T. Williams8 feb 1932 (New York) -
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John Towner Williams (born February 8, 1932) is a prolific American composer, conductor, and pianist. In a career spanning six decades, he has composed many of the most recognizable film scores in the history of motion pictures, including those for Jaws, the Star Wars Saga, Superman, the Indiana Jones films, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Hook, Jurassic Park, Schindler's List, Home Alone, and three Harry Potter films. He has composed the music for all but two of director Steven Spielberg's feature films.
Other notable works by Williams include theme music for four Olympic Games, the NBC Nightly News, the rededication of the Statue of Liberty, the DreamWorks Pictures production logo, and the television series Lost in Space. Williams has also composed numerous classical concerti, and he served as the principal conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra from 1980 to 1993; he is now the orchestra's conductor laureate.
Williams has won five Academy Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, seven BAFTA Awards, and 21 Grammy Awards. With 45 Academy Award nominations, Williams is, together with composer Alfred Newman, the second most nominated person, after Walt Disney. Williams was inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame in 2000, and was a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors in 2004.
Early life and family
In 1948, Williams moved to Los Angeles with his family. Williams attended North Hollywood High School and graduated in 1950. He later attended the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), and studied privately with composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco. In 1952, Williams was drafted into the U.S. Air Force, where he conducted and arranged music for the Air Force Band as part of his assignments.
After his Air Force service ended in 1955, Williams moved to New York City and entered the Juilliard School, where he studied piano with Rosina Lhévinne. During this time, Williams worked as a jazz pianist in New York's many clubs and eventually studios, most notably for composer Henry Mancini. His fellow session musicians included Rolly Bundock on bass, Jack Sperling on drums, and Bob Bain on guitar—the same lineup featured on the Mr. Lucky television series. Williams was known as "Little Johnny Love" Williams during the early 1960s, and he served as music arranger and bandleader for a series of popular music albums with the singer Frankie Laine.
Williams was married to actress Barbara Ruick from 1956 until her death on March 3, 1974. The Williamses had three children: Jennifer (born 1956), Mark (born 1958), and Joseph (born 1960). Williams' younger son is one of the various lead singers the band "Toto" has had over the decades. John Williams married his second wife, Samantha Winslow, on July 21, 1980.
John Williams is an honorary member of Kappa Kappa Psi, the national fraternity for college band members.
Film and television scoring
While skilled in a variety of twentieth-century compositional idioms, Williams's most familiar style may be described as a form of neoromanticism, inspired by the same large-scale orchestral music of the late 19th century—especially the compositions of Richard Wagner and its concept of leitmotif—that inspired his film music predecessors.
After his studies at Juilliard, Williams returned to Los Angeles, where he began working as an orchestrator at film studios. Among other composers, Williams worked with Franz Waxman, Bernard Herrmann, and Alfred Newman, and also with his fellow orchestrators Conrad Salinger and Bob Franklyn. Williams was also a studio pianist, performing on film scores by composers such as Jerry Goldsmith, Elmer Bernstein, and Henry Mancini. Williams recorded with Henry Mancini on the film scores of Peter Gunn (1959), Days of Wine and Roses (1962), and Charade (1963). (Williams actually played the well-recognized opening riff to Mancini's Peter Gunn theme). Williams (often credited as "Johnny Williams") also composed the theme music for various TV programs in the late 1950s: The pilot episode of Gilligan's Island, the Kraft Suspense Theatre, Lost in Space (1965–68), The Time Tunnel (1966–67), and Land of the Giants (the last three created by the prolific TV producer, Irwin Allen).
Williams's first major film composition was for the B movie Daddy-O in 1958, and his first screen credit came two years later in Because They're Young. He soon gained notice in Hollywood for his versatility in composing jazz, piano, and symphonic music. Williams received his first nomination for an Academy Award for his film score for Valley of the Dolls (1967), and then was nominated again for his score for Goodbye, Mr. Chips (1969). Williams broke through to win his first Academy Award for his adapted score for the film Fiddler on the Roof (1971). By the early 1970s, Williams had also gained prominence as a composer for now–film producer Irwin Allen's disaster films, composing the scores for The Poseidon Adventure (1972), Earthquake (1974), and The Towering Inferno (1974).
In 1974, Williams was approached by director Steven Spielberg to compose the music for his feature directorial debut, The Sugarland Express. The young director had been impressed with Williams's score for the movie The Reivers (1969), and Spielberg was convinced that Williams could compose the musical sound that he desired for any of his films. They teamed up again a year later for Spielberg's second film, Jaws. Widely considered to be a classic suspense film, its film score's ominous two-note motif has become synonymous with sharks and approaching danger. The score for Jaws earned Williams his second Academy Award, his first one for an original composition.
Shortly thereafter, Williams and Spielberg began a long collaboration for their next feature film together, Close Encounters of the Third Kind (CE3K, 1977). In an unusual step for a Hollywood film, Spielberg and Williams developed their script and musical concepts simultaneously, as in the film these entwine very closely together. During their two-year-long collaboration, they crafted its distinctive five-note figure that functions both in the background music and as the communications signal of the film's extraterrestrials. Williams also used a system of musical hand signals in CE3K that were based on hand signs created by John Curwen and refined by Zoltan Kodaly.
During the same period, Spielberg recommended Williams to his friend and fellow director George Lucas, who needed a composer to score his ambitious space epic, Star Wars (1977). Williams delivered a grand symphonic score in the fashion of Richard Strauss and Golden Age Hollywood composers Erich Wolfgang Korngold and Max Steiner. Its main theme—"Luke's Theme"—is among the most widely recognized in motion picture history, and the "Force Theme" and "Princess Leia's Theme" are well-known examples of leitmotif. Both the film and its soundtrack were immensely successful—it remains the highest grossing non-popular music recording of all-time—and Williams won another Academy Award for Best Original Score. In 1980, Williams returned to score The Empire Strikes Back, where he introduced "The Imperial March" as the theme for Darth Vader and the Galactic Empire. The original Star Wars trilogy concluded with the 1983 film Return of the Jedi, for which Williams's score provided most notably the "Emperor's Theme," "Parade of the Ewoks," and "Luke and Leia." Both scores earned Williams Academy Award nominations.
Williams worked with director Richard Donner to score the 1978 film Superman. The score's heroic and romantic themes, particularly the main march, the Superman fanfare and the love theme, known as "Can You Read My Mind," would appear in the four sequel films. For the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark, created and directed by Lucas and Spielberg, Williams wrote a rousing main theme known as "The Raiders March" to accompany the film's hero, Indiana Jones. He also composed separate themes to represent the Ark of the Covenant, the character Marion, and the Nazi villains of the story. Additional themes were featured in his scores to the sequel films Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989), and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008). Williams composed an emotional and sensitive score to Spielberg's 1982 fantasy film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. The music conveys the film's benign, childlike sense of innocence, particularly with a spirited theme for the freedom of flight, and a soft string-based, harp-featured theme for the friendship between characters E.T. and Elliott. The film's final chase and farewell sequence marks a rare instance in film history in which the on-screen action was re-edited to conform to the composer's musical interpretation. Williams was awarded a fourth Academy Award for this score.
The 1985 film The Color Purple is the only theatrical feature directed by Steven Spielberg for which John Williams did not serve as composer. The film's producer, Quincy Jones, wanted to personally arrange and compose the music for the project. Williams also did not score Twilight Zone: The Movie, but Spielberg had directed only one of the four segments in that film; the lead director and producer of the film, John Landis, selected Jerry Goldsmith as composer. The Williams-Spielberg collaboration resumed with the director's 1987 film Empire of the Sun, and has continued to the present, spanning genres from science fiction thrillers (1993's Jurassic Park), to somber tragedies (1993's Schindler's List, 2005's Munich), to Eastern-tinged melodramas (2005's Memoirs of a Geisha, directed by Rob Marshall). Spielberg has said, "I call it an honorable privilege to regard John Williams as a friend."
In 1999, George Lucas launched the first of a series of prequels to the original Star Wars trilogy. Williams was asked to score all three films, starting with The Phantom Menace. Along with themes from the previous movies, Williams created new themes to be used as leitmotifs in Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005). Most notable of these was "Duel of the Fates," an aggressive choral movement utilizing harsh Sanskrit lyrics that broadened the style of music used in the Star Wars films. Also of note was "Anakin's Theme," which begins as an innocent childlike melody and morphs insidiously into a quote of the sinister "Imperial March" of the prior trilogy. For Episode II, Williams composed "Across the Stars," a love theme for Padmé Amidala and Anakin Skywalker (mirroring the love theme composed for the second film of the previous trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back). The final installment combined many of the themes created for the series' previous movies, including "The Emperor's Theme," "The Imperial March," "Across the Stars," "Duel of the Fates," "The Force Theme," "Rebel Fanfare," "Luke's Theme," and "Princess Leia's Theme," as well as new themes for General Grievous and the film's climax, entitled "Battle of the Heroes." Few composers have scored an entire series of this magnitude: The combined scores of all six Star Wars films add up to music that takes a full orchestra more than 14 hours to perform in its entirety.
In the new millennium, Williams was asked to score the film adaptation of the widely successful book series, Harry Potter. He went on to score the first three installments of the franchise. As with his Superman theme, the most important theme from Williams's scores for the film adaptations of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, dubbed "Hedwig's Theme," has been used in the fourth, fifth, and sixth movies in the series (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince), scored by Patrick Doyle and Nicholas Hooper twice, respectively. Like the main themes from Star Wars, Jaws, Superman, and Indiana Jones, fans have come to identify the Harry Potter films with Williams's original compositions.
In 2006, Superman Returns was completed under the direction of Bryan Singer, best known for directing the first two movies in the X-Men series. Although Singer did not request Williams to compose a score for the intentionally Donner-esque film, he employed the skills of X2 composer John Ottman to incorporate Williams's original Superman theme, as well as those for Lois Lane and Smallville. Don Davis performed a similar role for Jurassic Park III, recommended to the producers by Williams himself. (Film scores by Ottman and to a lesser extent Davis are often compared to those of Williams, as both use similar styles of composition.)
In 2009, Harry Potter producer David Heyman stated that, dependent on his schedule, Williams may return to compose the score for the two-part finale of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Subsequently, Alexandre Desplat was signed to compose the score for the first part of the film, but Williams' return to compose the score for the second part remained a possibility. It was later confirmed in September 2010 by Warner Bros. Brazil, that Williams was indeed chosen to score the soundtrack to Part II. 
Aside from Deathly Hallows: Part II, Williams will score The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn, the first film in the upcoming Tintin trilogy based on the comics by Hergé. This film continues his long-time collaboration with director Steven Spielberg, and he will work with producer Peter Jackson for the first time. Williams is also scheduled to score Spielberg's upcoming films War Horse (2011) and Interstellar (2012).
Conducting and performing
From 1980 to 1993, Williams succeeded Arthur Fiedler as Principal Conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra. Williams never met Fiedler in person but spoke with him by telephone. His arrival as the new leader of the Pops in the spring of 1980 allowed him to devote part of the Pops' first PBS broadcast of the season to presenting his new compositions for The Empire Strikes Back, in addition to conducting many Fiedler audience favorites.
Williams almost ended his tenure with the Pops in 1984. Considered a customary practice of opinion, some players hissed while sight-reading a new Williams composition in rehearsal; Williams abruptly left the session and turned in his resignation. He initially cited mounting conflicts with his film composing schedule, but later admitted a perceived lack of discipline in and respect from the Pops' ranks, culminating in this latest instance. After entreaties by the management and personal apologies from the musicians, Williams withdrew his resignation and continued as principal conductor for nine more years. In 1995 he was succeeded by Keith Lockhart, the former associate conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Pops Orchestra.
Williams is now the Laureate Conductor of the Pops, thus maintaining his affiliation with its parent, the Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO). Williams leads the Pops on several occasions each year, particularly during their Holiday Pops season and typically for a week of concerts in May. He conducts an annual Film Night at both Boston Symphony Hall and Tanglewood, where he frequently enlists the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, official chorus of the BSO.
Williams has written many concert pieces, including a symphony; a Concerto for Horn written for Dale Clevenger, principal hornist of the Chicago Symphony; a Concerto for Clarinet written for Michele Zukovsky (Principal Clarinetist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic) in 1991; a sinfonietta for wind ensemble; a cello concerto premiered by Yo-Yo Ma and the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood in 1994; concertos for the flute and violin recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra; and a trumpet concerto, which was premiered by the Cleveland Orchestra and their principal trumpet Michael Sachs in September 1996. His bassoon concerto, "The Five Sacred Trees," which was premiered by the New York Philharmonic and principal bassoon player Judith LeClair in 1995, was recorded for Sony Classical by Williams with LeClair and the London Symphony Orchestra. He is also an accomplished pianist, as can be heard in various scores in which he provides solos, as well as a handful of European classical music recordings.
In 1985, Williams composed the NBC News theme "The Mission" (which he performs at concerts to signal the final encore), the "Liberty Fanfare" for the rededication of the Statue of Liberty, "We're Lookin' Good!" for the Special Olympics in celebration of the 1987 International Summer Games, and themes for the 1984, 1988, 1996, and 2002 Olympic games. His most recent concert work, "Seven for Luck," for soprano and orchestra, is a seven-piece song cycle based on the texts of former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove. "Seven for Luck" was given its world premiere by the Boston Symphony under Williams with soprano Cynthia Haymon.
Williams makes annual appearances with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, and took part as conductor and composer in the orchestra's opening gala concerts for the Walt Disney Concert Hall in 2003.
In April 2005, Williams and the Boston Pops performed "The Force Theme" from Star Wars at opening day in Fenway Park as the Boston Red Sox, having won their first World Series championship since 1918, received their championship rings. For Game 1 of the 2007 World Series, Williams conducted a brass-and-drum ensemble through a new dissonant arrangement of the "Star Spangled Banner."
In April 2004, February 2006, and September 2007, he conducted the New York Philharmonic at Avery Fisher Hall in New York City. The initial program was intended to be a one-time special event, and featured Williams's medley of Oscar-winning film scores first performed at the previous year's Academy Awards. Its unprecedented popularity led to two concerts in 2006: fundraising gala events featuring personal recollections by film directors Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg. Continuing demand fueled three more concerts in 2007, which all sold out. These featured a tribute to the musicals of film director Stanley Donen, and had the distinction of serving as the opening event of the New York Philharmonic season.
The following list consists of select films for which John Williams wrote the score and/or songs.
Williams has composed music for four Olympic Games:
Celebration pieces and other concert works
John Williams has won five Academy Awards and four Golden Globe Awards. He has been nominated for 21 Golden Globes and 59 Grammys. With 45 Oscar nominations, Williams currently holds the record for the most Oscar nominations for a living person, and is the second most nominated person in the history of the Academy Awards, tied with late fellow film composer Alfred Newman and behind only Walt Disney's 59. Forty of Williams' Oscar nominations are for Best Original Music Score and five are for Best Original Song. He won four Oscars for Best Original Score and one for Best Adapted Score (Fiddler on the Roof).
Williams has received three Emmy Awards and five nominations, seven BAFTAs, twenty-one Grammy Awards, and has been inducted into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame and the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame. In 2004 he received a Kennedy Center Honor. He won a Classical Brit award in 2005 for his soundtrack work of the previous year.
Notably, Williams has won the Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition for his scores for Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Superman, The Empire Strikes Back, E.T. The Extraterrestrial, Angela'a Ashes (1999), Munich (2005), and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. The competition includes not only composers of film scores, but also composers of instrumental music of any genre, including composers of legitimate classical fare such as symphonies and chamber music.
Williams's richly thematic and highly popular 1977 score to the first Star Wars film was selected in 2005 by the American Film Institute as the greatest American movie score of all time. His scores for Jaws and E.T. also appeared on the list, at #6 and #14, respectively.
In 2010 Williams received the National Medal of Arts in the White House in Washington for his achievements in symphonic music for motion pictures, and "as a pre-eminent composer and conductor [whose] scores have defined and inspired modern movie-going for decades."
Golden Globe Awards
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Beethoven, L. van
Concerto for Violin & Orchestra
The Hague Philharmonic
Piano Concerto in F major
Keyboard Concerto in A minor, H403
Vienna Symphonic Orchestra
Piano Concerto in F major