The Music of John Williams: Jaws, Jurassic Park, Star Wars… and more

Brandeis University

Gil Harel is a musicologist and music theorist who lectures widely at Brandeis University and additional venues on topics ranging from renaissance motets to atonal opera. A piano accompanist and vocal coach, Professor Harel’s musical interests range from western classical repertoire to musical theater and jazz. Previously, he has served on the faculty at the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics in Chengdu, China, and at CUNY Baruch College, where he was awarded the prestigious “Presidential Excellence Award for Distinguished Teaching.”



Perhaps no composer in the canon of cinematic music has had a more prolific career than John Williams. Indeed, over the past seven decades, this remarkable artist–known for his frequent collaborations with director Steven Spielberg–has scored films spanning a veritable cornucopia of genres. What, can we surmise, is the secret to his success? Among his many gifts as a composer, John Williams is a master of the musical leitmotif – melodic cells that provide an aural reference to a character, place, object, or idea in a given story. Whether capturing the looming threat of a menacing shark, a bicycle suspended against the backdrop of a moonlit firmament, imagination-defying colossal dinosaurs, or iconic lightsaber-wielding warriors, Williams has demonstrated an uncanny ability to craft infectious musical lines that seem perfectly suited to the material. During this lecture, Professor Gil Harel will provide an analysis of several scores, demonstrating how his music is of paramount importance to the films they frame.



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Doug Schallau

Just ok

Very music techie stuff. Was hoping for more about the most prodigious composer in history. Period. Disappointed.

1 year ago

Accurate Title for content

Interesting discussion on how Williams effectively used the leitmotif in his film music, and how his works are so very familiar to us.

1 year ago

John Williams

Excellent lecture. I’ve always enjoyed the music scores of John Williams and now I know why. Mr. Harel does a great job of breaking down the musical elements.

1 year ago
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