May 2013

Music from "Jurassic Park"

by John Williams

We introduced John Williams back in May 2009. He's a modern film composer (still alive and still writing), and, in my opinion, perhaps the greatest film composer of all time, and the greatest composer of the 20th century.

In June of 1993, the world was introduced to a new film directed by Steven Spielberg, "Jurassic Park". Spielberg had gotten a reputation for his ability to deliver a scary and suspenseful movie back in 1975 with the movie "Jaws" (which John Williams did the soundtrack to as well). "Jaws" was a film about a killer great white shark. "Jurassic Park" was a story about an island that was set up to be an amusement park. Dinosaurs were brought back to life through advanced cloning techniques, and visitors to the island could see them. Although the visitors would be protected by high-voltage fences and other protections, in the film, these systems would fail, and the dinosaurs would run loose.

"Jurassic Park" would go on to have two more sequels: "Jurassic Park II: The Lost World" and "Jurassic Park III". It is also my understanding that "Jurassic Park 4" is scheduled to be released in June of 2014.

Jon's Introduction to This Piece:

Becky and I went to see Jurassic Park at the Trolley Corners theater in Salt Lake City in the summer of 1993. I remember feeling very stressed afterward. In fact, as I recall, I said something to the effect of, "I almost wet my pants!"

I do remember the music. I had already come to love John Williams and I was excited to see what he would come up with for this. While most of his work in the film was atonal (I'll explain that in a minute), I greatly enjoyed two grand themes that showed up throughout the film.

"Atonal" (pronounced AY-TOH-nahl) is a style of music introduced in the 20th century. Western music had been built up over 1,000 years with various scales, chords, rules and structures. While these had been expanded on over the years, there was a movement in the early 20th century to "break free" from these shackles. A lot of atonal music that was introduced was, in my opinion, of little value. The 1950s introduced a lot of composers that went out of their way to produce music that was "weird for the sake of weird". But composers like Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schönberg, would show the world that you could represent raw emotion and color through the use of atonality. It's this style that is heavily used in movies and TV today. The next time you're watching a movie and something suspenseful or scary happens, listen to the music in the background. You'll hear what I mean.


The "Jurassic Park" soundtrack will include a lot of atonal tracks. While those are interesting, I really wanted to focus on the two grand themes that came from the movie. Both of these themes are captured in a single track called "Welcome to Jurassic Park". The first half of this piece focuses on what's called the "Theme to Jurassic Park". The second half is almost a march and a very memorable theme, too. Enjoy the presentation and variations on these two themes!

"Welcome to Jurassic Park" from "Jurassic Park" by John Williams (7:55)

For those interested, this recording is from the Original Soundtrack to "Jurassic Park". John Williams conducted, but the there's no mention of the name of the performing group.

Jon's Interpretation:

Once again, John Williams is the man. As captivated as I am with works like "Star Wars", "Indiana Jones", and "Superman", I often forget about "Jurassic Park". Yet, every time I sit down to listen to it, I marvel. The two grand themes are magical and bring out such great emotion.

My friend, Joel Jacobs, once comically started singing to the second theme: "jur-AH-sic-PARK! jur-ur-AH-ah-ah-sic-PARK!" Now I can never hear that theme without thinking of it.

These two themes embody triumph and majesty.

Extra Credit:

Here again, this was a hard one to think of a good extra credit. Certainly, one extra credit would be to watch the movie (parental guidance STRONGLY advised).

We've come far enough in the John Williams franchise that I think it's time to share a favorite song. Before I do, I want to quickly introduce you to three more themes that we haven't covered.

The first is a theme from Steven Spielberg's 1977 film "Close Encounters of the Third Kind". This is a film about aliens coming in contact with humans for the first time. One of the unique ideas from the film is that communication is established through music. Here's the main theme from that communication (the low pitches [mostly a tuba] represent the alien attempt to reply):

Excerpt from "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" by John Williams (0:51)

Next is a theme from Steven Spielberg's 1982 film "E. T.: The Extra-Terrestrial". This is, again, a film about aliens coming in contact with humans. This time, the aliens accidentally leave one creature behind. A young boy befriends him. This is the main theme.

Excerpt from "E. T.: The Extra-Terrestrial" by John Williams (0:18)

The last theme is from Steven Spielberg's 1975 film "Jaws". This is the main theme. The basses represent the swishing tail of the shark and as the notes get faster and louder, you know the shark is about to attack:

Excerpt from "Jaws" by John Williams (0:46)

So, here's the ACTUAL extra credit. A Utah-based acapella group called "Moosebutter" have a song they call "Star Wars". This song celebrates the "Star Wars" movies and tells many of the stories, but they use music from OTHER John Williams scores to tell the story. You never hear any music from Star Wars, but you do hear the following themes:

"Star Wars" by Moosebutter including music by John Williams (4:12)