John Williams Themes, Part 5 of 6: Theme from Jurassic Park — 6 Comments

  1. The character John Hammond (the genius behind Jurassic Park) and the composer John Williams (the genius behind the music of Jurassic Park) look very similar.

    Coincidence? I think not.

  2. I enjoyed your analysis of the theme from Jurassic Park. I was a bit surprised that you did not include any references to the English symphonic style of the late 19th century/early 20th century, especially Williams’ use of Gustav Holst’s orchestrational and harmonic style in “The Planets.” The use of the flatted leading-tone chords you referenced (Ab major in the key of Bb) is not infrequent in the music of Holst, Vaughan Williams, and others. Like Holst’s depiction of the immensity of the solar system, Williams chooses this tonal language to convey the immensity of the dinosaurs and something of their regal nature as well. The subtext, in my opinion, is that these beasts were kings of their realm, as Holst’s planets, all named for Roman gods, “rule” their domain in their immensity and grandeur. The music also implies our relatively puny stature next to theirs. Finally, the lowered seventh conveys an exotic mode, rather than the common-practice major/minor system (primarily the Mixolydian), implying a world removed from our own (and perhaps even a sense of anachronism, just as the dinosaurs are an anachronism in today’s world).

    Just my two cents’ worth. Again, thanks for your diligent work!

    • Thanks for sharing these insights, Lester. Yes, surely there is a good deal of Holst, Vaughan Williams, and other composers of that era in Williams. And you make a good case for the similarity between the larger-than-life feel of both Holst’s planets and Williams’ dinosaurs. The thing about Williams is that his music is such a cohesive fusion of so many influences and styles that it is difficult to tease them all out and to say exactly which comes from where. But you’ve given us a glimpse of a likely influence in this case. I agree that the Mixolydian seventh he writes adds an archaic, otherworldly sound, especially given that we’ve been hearing the major seventh up to that point, so its entrance is heightened by the contrast. Also being a sus (or quartal) chord thrown into the context of a very triadic piece, the same note is even couched in a harmony that somewhat stands out. (Though there are a few other such chords before this, these others sound more like triads with dissonance rather than chords unto themselves.) Thanks again for your comments. Cheers.

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