For the past 4 decades, John Williams has been a household name as a composer for films. His music can be heard on the loved Star Wars Saga Series, Jaws, ET, Harry Potter, Memoirs of a Geisha, Superman, Munich, and many many others. However there is a larger picture that most are not aware about John Williams. He composes music of the Classical Genre (or Music for the Concert Stage; the true name of the genre).
John Williams is a classically trained and well rounded musician who studied at UCLA and the Juilliard School with a degree in Bachelor and Masters of Music respectively. He had gained much knowledge of music of all ages, which is the foundation of his musical output. He mainly studied piano, but went on to becoming a composer rather than a performer for the duration of his life’s work.
Most of his classical music are Concerti ranging from a Violin Concerto, a Flute Concerto, and several others. A noted concerto he composed is for the bassoon and orchestra, a commission for the New York Philharmonic for their 100 year anniversary. The musical composition is titled The Five Sacred Trees. It has five movements where the bassoon is represented by a different tree in each movement. The story is inspired by Robert Graves’ book The White Goddess, also a well known book among the Neo- Pagan Community. He composed a Cello Concerto for notable cellist Yo yo Ma and a Violin concerto called Treesong for Gil Shaham. Additionally, He composed solo violin and cello pieces for both these performers.
Williams is a true composer in the realms of American Music. Much of his works has the “American Sound” that was defined by Aaron Copland. Williams was the conductor for two of the recent Olympic journeys to the USA. He was commissioned to compose music for the events. One of which became the “official” music for the Olympics, Summon the Heroes for the Atlantic 1996 Summer Games and Call of the Champions for the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Games. These also triggered several other “American Sounds” in his music including American Journey, Jubilee 350, and Celebrate Discovery. These were also composed in relation to the Olympic Games and can be heard in the two Olympic Sony Records Summon the Heroes and American Journey, both of which can be downloaded from iTunes.
Very recently, Williams was commissioned to compose music for Obama’s Inauguration. That morning, after Aretha Franklin’s amazing performance of the American Anthem, was the premiere of Air and Simple Gifts for Chamber Ensemble. Simple Gifts is an American Folk Song which has the “true” deep rich sounds of American music. The first time this folk song was used in a musical composition was by Aaron Copland in Appalachian Spring.
John Williams is a true American Composer. He is both an accomplished Film Composer and an accomplished composer of the music for the concert stage. The music mentioned in this blog are those that can be found on iTunes or at a local record store. There are still many others that he has composed that have never been recorded. When I was an undergraduate at Cal State Northridge one of my professors had found several scores to some compositions by Williams in the style of Schoenberg, a technique called the 12 tone row. It is not a surprise that Williams has composed and studied that style of music as he was trained not only in the university, but the university that Arnold Schoenberg himself taught. He will be one composer that will be among those remembered centuries from now. I would highly recommend for anyone to listen to his musical compositions for the concert stage. They are integrate and passionate, full of life and magic.
List of Musical Works
Summon the Heroes
The Olympic Spirit
Call of the Champions
Happy Birthday Variations
Olympic Fanfare and Theme
The Cowboys Overture
The Mission Theme (From NBC News)
The Star Spangled Banner
Song for World Peace
For New York (variations on a theme by Bernstein)
Sound the Bells
Hymn to New England
The Five Sacred Trees (Concerto for bassoon and Orchestra)
Treesong for violin and Orchestra
Elegy for Cello and Orchestra
Concerto for Viola and Orchestra
Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra
Tango (Por Una Cabeza) for solo Violin and orchestra
Concerto for Horn and Orchestra
On Willows and Birches (Concerto for Harp and Orchestra)
Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra
Seven for Luck (Song Cycle)
Rosewood for Solo Cello
Air and Simple Gifts for Violin, Cello, Clarinet and Piano
Three pieces for Solo Cello
Duo Concertante for Violin and Viola