Intelligence Report: John Williams, Music (Part 23 of 26)

Posted on April 1, 2011

John Williams

John Williams has composed some of the best scores ever written. While Jerry Goldsmith has earned my admiration through some more playful scores such as Poltergeist and Gremlins, Williams has produced some emotional and dramatic scores that can’t be beat such as Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List and Jaws for Spielberg and quite a few memorable scores for other films.

In A.I. Williams produced the most unique and best piece of work he’s ever composed. The usual string orchestration that had been essential to most of his work in the past was gone. There was more focus on the piano and electronic forms of music. Williams like practically everyone who worked on this film had to do something completely original and unlike anything they’d ever worked on before. “I think the thing that’s unique about A.I., for me at least, is the essential spiritual aspect of what it’s examining. The idea that to love someone is what defines humanity. He (David) is able to die at the end of the film and thereby achieve his humanity.” Williams expresses one particular view here which isn’t as far as Haley Joel Osment is willing to admit his character went. Throughout the crew we get different variations on the theme but Williams like everyone else was crucial in bringing this tale to life. Due to the fact that this film is a fairy tale music would automatically be exponentially more important than it would be in a conventional motion picture. The film’s running time is two hours and twenty-five minutes and there is no music playing for only twenty-five minutes. It’s one of Williams’s longest scores and his most impressive.

Williams comments that it’s a “Very eclectic score, a very voluminous score as opposed to the things Steven and I have done before with the possible exception of Close Encounters.” While Williams also had to create his own style of music he himself had to honor one of Kubrick’s wishes and he did so by mixing the piece of music he wanted with his score in one particular scene. “Der Rosenkavalier Suite, Opus 59” by Richard Strauss was used to accompany Williams’s music when Joe and David were riding along the bridge into Rouge City. “Rosenkavalier by Strauss was the one piece of music that Stanley asked Steven to leave in the film and we don’t know why.” That’s a little mystery we’ll probably never unravel. It’s a very triumphant and jubilant piece of music that works well with that image and Williams did a wonderful job of incorporating it as he did with the score as a whole.

The theme that begins to play when David finds himself abandoned plays on the menu to the DVD and it’s music you can just listen to over and over again. It’s so evocative of perilous adventure and so entertaining it’s hard to resist. John Williams was up for his 40th and 41st Oscar nominations this year for this film and for Harry Potter and he didn’t get it. Why is that? Does it get old to have him win? Someone should listen to this film and try to justify that decision. The story comes through just as powerfully in the music as it does in the acting and in the cinematography.

Note: This is a recapitulation of a paper I wrote in film school. It is being posted here in installments. This is part 23, part one can be read here.

Artificial Intelligence: A.I. will be released on Blu-Ray on April, 5th 2011.

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Posted in: Paper, Theory