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The University of Southampton
MusicPart of Humanities

The Importance of John Williams Seminar

Centre for International Film Research
29 October 2018
Lecture Theatre C Avenue Campus University of Southampton SO171BF

For more information regarding this seminar, please email Dr Corey Kai Nelson Schultz at .

Event details

All welcome.


There are many John Williamses. One is the “Jedi Maestro”, a figure idolised by a multitude of film-music fans, grateful to him for having brought music to such a foregrounded position in films, particularly with Star Wars. Another is the so-called “Plagiarist”, accused of having based his success on easy acts of stealing from the past masters. Another is the much respected “Hollywood Professional”, with an outstanding work ethics and innate writing fluency that have established him as one of the most sought-after and reliable practitioners in Hollywood. For many years, these three figures mostly represented how Williams was perceived in the different communities: fans, critics, and industry. The academic community, on the other hand, has been silent until recently, preferring composers like Ennio Morricone or Bernard Herrmann, whose style was (at a superficial glance) more adventurous and modernistic. The recent years have seen a reconsideration of Williams, who has finally been accepted as a worthy object of academic study. Other three Williamses, at least, have thus emerged. John Williams the “Accomplished Composer”, the one that has managed to achieve, both in his film-score and in his concert-hall output, a seminal fusion between late-romantic symphonism, twentieth-century atonalism, jazz harmonies, absolutemusik and gebrauchsmusik, helped by an exceptional mastery of orchestral writing and an uncanny sense of melodic balance. There is, then, Williams the “Conductor”, once maligned with particular vehemence, who is now recognised as a sensitive and insightful interpreted of other people’s music too. There is, finally, Williams the “Restorer”, the one who has single-handedly resurrected the film-music style of the Golden Age of Hollywood. The latter is what distinguishes Williams from all the other composers: no other, though talented, has arguably had this historical importance. The importance of John Williams lies above all in the recuperation of a part of the classical Hollywood film style that had long been dead and buried.

Speaker information

Dr Emilio Audissino, University of Southampton. A film scholar and a film musicologist, Emilio Audissino (University of Southampton) holds one PhD in History of Visual and Performing Arts from the University of Pisa, Italy, and one PhD in Film Studies from the University of Southampton, UK. He specialises in Hollywood and Italian cinema, and his interests are film analysis, screenwriting, film style and technique, comedy, horror, and film sound and music. He has published journal articles, book chapters, and encyclopedia entries on the history and analysis of films from the silent era to contemporary cinema. He has taught film history, technique and theory at the Universities of Genoa, Southampton, West London, and UNINT Rome. He is the author of the monograph John Williams's Film Music: 'Jaws', 'Star Wars', 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' and the Return of the Classical Hollywood Music Style (University of Wisconsin Press, 2014), the first book-length study in English on the composer, and the editor of the collection of essays John Williams: Music for Films, Television and the Concert Stage (Brepols, 2018). His book Film/Music Analysis. A Film Studies Approach (Palgrave MacMillan, 2017) concerns a method to analyse music in films that blends Neoformalism and Gestalt Psychology. He is also an active screenwriter.

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