Revisiting John Williams’ Score for Jaws, 45 Years Later | Features

When the men are on the boat in the second half, the score introduces the fugue and the pirate themes through a sense of male bonding and the excitement of chasing the shark, both being introduced when Brody first catches sight of it. The fugue is used as a call to arms of sorts, scoring the trio’s frenzied actions as they get ready to face the shark, with the pirate music coming in as Quint fires his first barrel and the chase begins. Both themes interject as the hunt goes on, but after the shark goes down with three barrels, the fugue comes back in a big way as they build the cage, where Hooper is attacked but not eaten. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Quint.

By the time Brody goes mano-a-mano with the shark, Williams uses the fugue as a combative theme for our surviving hero, and places it in direct contrast with the shark theme as the final showdown begins. As the shark explodes and the carcass sinks, the dreamy harps return, this time in a final affirmation that we can feel calm, a notion further pushed by the beautifully serene end title rendition of the Orca theme.

John Williams returned for “Jaws 2,” writing a thrilling theme for young sailors out on their catamarans, and while his theme stayed for the next two pictures, he did not. British TV composer Alan Parker, whose biggest claim to fame was as a session guitarist for the likes of Donovan and Bowie, scored “Jaws 3-D” and did a good job, although very nearly ended up with a love song for the starring dolphins. Scoring the final film in the saga, “Jaws: The Revenge” (aka the one with Michael Caine), was storied composer Michael Small. Small’s previous work included “Klute” and “Marathon Man,” so while his fish tale was an obvious step down he wrote an admirable score with an eerie electronic motif for the shark. All of the scores have been made available on CD, giving them a life away from the source material like so many others.

But it’s “Jaws” that always remains ahead of the pack. Now that audiences can watch it in super high-def and 12.1 sound, they could do worse than paying attention to John Williams’ score and listening out for the parts without that theme. 

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