8 FEB 2022
The 90th Birthday of John Williams
Happy Birthday to a Great Man!
After school on 15 September of 1965, fellow 3rd graders and I were rolling down the hills in Abendroth Park, excited about the Black & White premiere of LOST in SPACE!
Will Robinson, our adventurer soulmate and the Robot! Wow! But the chill factor? This was the first time that I loved the Music from a TV show so much, that I looked for the Composer… “Johnny Williams.”
In the next September, of 1966, came ‘The Time Tunnel’, where “Johnny” did 1 episode. I LOVED History that 4th grade year with Mrs. Santoro, one of my favorite Teachers!
Then in 1968, came ‘Land of the Giants’, another favorite show for which John Williams again composed an episode as 1 of 9 composers on the project. By the early 1970s, I was going to the movie theater and taking note of Composers who wrote the Music… like ‘The Cowboys’ in 1971 and ‘The Poseidon Adventure’ in 72. Ah! John Williams! Yes! Then he would take us to ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Superman’ and ‘Jaws’, and on and on.
Those filmmakers OWE John Williams their careers!
Yet! Despite ALL of John Williams’ recognition around the world, I still believe him to be underrated! (That’s one for discussion over pizza.) His contributions in literally changing the world are immense.
On 8 Feb 1997, then the 65th birthday of John Williams, I composed FORBIDDEN FORTRESS as a tribute. The title comes from the Akira Kurosawa film, “Hidden Fortress,” which was the inspiration for George Lucas’ “Star Wars.”
Here is an excerpt from the Score Notes:
“8 February 1997
3:33 pm... excerpt from Personal Log
Today is John Williams' 65th birthday. I cannot tell you the number of people who have consciously and unknowingly been affected and influenced by this man... 20 years ago!... in a galaxy far, far away.
There is so much to tell about John Williams. I remember sitting in the pit at one of our Summer Youth Festival Musical rehearsals. Don't remember the play. No… it was WEST SIDE STORY!!! For those who have followed my fairy tale... well, you know!
Anyway, the tech guys were playing a new soundtrack over the auditorium system. It was the music from STAR WARS. A bunch of us who were there early to warm-up, sat in utter amazement.
Then, I was in NYC with a friend of mine... John Connely. We saw the marquee: STAR WARS. "Hey, let's go see this kids' movie," I said. "The music is really good."
Our first glimpse of STAR WARS happened at a ripe time in my life, and we saw it in just the right place... The Loew's Astor Plaza. The screen was huge... 4 stories high! The sound system was gigantic! We sat in the 4th row... I'll never forget... and I've been sitting in the 4th row ever since... ever since.
It was 12 noon when John and I went in and it was past midnight when we came out! We watched every showing! All in all, I paid 43 times to see STAR WARS and I have no idea about how many times I have watched it on television or video. Soon, I will pay to see it for my 44th time!
A major, major force in this movie was the Music. In fact, without John Williams' score, producers felt they had made a "flop" movie!
Like Erich Korngold, John Williams had reawakened Hollywood to the huge, Straussian Orchestral Film Score. So many people have continued in the practice which he, John Williams reinitiated. He is much like Korngold to me... honest and sincere and good.
This new "awakening" goes on today, and I'm sure a whole new generation will be affected by this wonderful... and I hardly ever use that word... Movie/Music. I mean WONDER and FULL.
I was in Boston, during my last year at Boston Conservatory when John Williams appeared as the conductor of the Boston Pops. No one at the conservatory knew who he was... do you believe it!? Just me. You see, I was deeply interested in the man who wrote the Music to the film that became a part of our culture.
I wish the timing worked out differently, but he came to Boston. I left.
I was just the right age... as Toshiko Akiyoshi points out... to be influenced and "impressed" by the
startling and unabashedly huge Music of John Williams!
And so, I would like to dedicate this chapter, FORBIDDEN FORTRESS to John Williams. You see, interestingly enough, it was the Akira Kurasawa film, HIDDEN FORTRESS that inspired STAR WARS! So you see, there are many circles of connection.
Music is deeply personal to me. Thank you for sharing in the special beauty of Music. Thank you for sharing this Music, humbly conceived, with your kids. You have given your life to a great and noble purpose... that of Music and the sharing of Music, as a Teacher. I honour you. Thanks and Godspeed! S”
‘Forbidden Fortress’ from CDCBaby on YouTube: https://youtu.be/i_D7LhHRPXA
‘Forbidden Fortress’, Chapter 6 from STORMQuest for Conductors here: https://stormworld.com/stormquest
Enjoy & Godspeed! S