With The Rise of Skywalker, composer John Williams has completed his own musical cycle, putting the final coda on a rich musical glossary he started to work on 42 years earlier. When the composer wrote and recorded that film score in 1977, he couldn’t imagine how big the impact of his music would have been, and how long it would have resonated with audiences throughout the subsequent decades. As he told recently to film journalist and film music historian Jon Burlingame:
“Forty years ago, if you said to me, ‘Here’s a project, John, and I want you to write 25 hours of music,’ I would have dropped my pencil case and said, ‘It’s impossible. No one can do that,’”
Yet the composer was able to return to that musical world always with the same amount of enthusiasm, creativity, and devotion for all the subsequent scores he penned for the intergalactic space opera initiated by George Lucas, which now covers a time span of almost half of his life.
One of the elements of the music that resonated more than others throughout the years is the inner sophistication of Williams’ orchestral writing. His scores are among the finest examples of symphonic music applied to film ever produced in the history of this discipline. However, his music is able to speak directly to the viewer/listener, with a language that is simple yet sophisticated. Williams has always been very grateful for the success he received for scores such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Superman, E.T., Jurassic Park, and has always showed a particular reverence for the orchestra players who perform for him. In the case of Star Wars, he has been particularly fond of the high level of musicianship that the members of the London Symphony Orchestra gave in the recordings of the original trilogy scores, and how much their virtuosity inspired his writing for these scores. Even very recently, the composer recollected with joy the first sessions with the LSO back in 1977 for the original score (at 0:39):
The brilliance of the playing of the LSO, especially their legendary brass section, is certainly one of the key ingredients of the success of the original film’s score, but it’s even more inspiring to sit back and look at the whole picture how much throughout the decades to realize Williams’ craftmanship in writing, coupled with the quality of the playing of the orchestra, has inspired generations and made them fall in love with the sound of the symphony orchestra. There are countless stories and anecdotes of musicians deciding to go for a career in music after hearing the music of Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Superman, or E.T. and Jurassic Park. Among those people, there are excellent and incredibly talented musicians who then had the true privilege to perform under John Williams in film recordings and concerts, including many now playing regulary in studio orchestras in Los Angeles for film recordings. LA-based trumpet player Dan Rosenboom is one of them, and he recently shared a lovely memory on his Instagram account about the final days of recording the score for The Rise of Skywalker.
When I was 11, Jurassic Park came out in theaters. I’d been playing trumpet for about a year, and it was the first time I’d ever really noticed trumpet in a movie score in a big way. I saved my allowance money to go see the movie several times at the local dollar theater and then come home and try to play the themes on my trumpet. Fast forward to the present…on the last day of recording The Rise of Skywalker, the Maestro himself John Williams was gracious enough to make his way around the orchestra to have a brief moment with each section before we started recording. It was the end of recording this whole new trilogy […] for us, and it was one of the greatest honors of my life to be a small part of this titanic legacy and to work with this living legend. The trumpet section of Jon Lewis (principal), Barry Perkins, David Washburn, Rob Schaer, and me were simply the best of colleagues, and I’ve got to thank Jon Lewis for snapping this photo while I expressed my thanks to John Williams.
It’s particularly thrilling to notice how much The Rise of Skywalker features some incredibly brilliant trumpet playing, especially in the virtuosic space battle sequences, and it’s even more thrilling to realize that some of the people now performing it were touched by the immense evocative power of Williams’s music when they were kids.
One of the goals of this website is to celebrate the people who decided to spend a lifetime studying music, practicing it, and fine-tuning a true artform. So, on the eve of John Williams’s historic conducting debut in continental Europe at Vienna’s Musikverein for a concert with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and Anne-Sophie Mutter, this small, but profound glimpse of gratitude showed by one of his orchestral players is another testament of Williams’ incredible ability to light up our imagination, both as listeners and as musicians. As a modern herald, he’s able to summon the most joyful creative spirit lying in all of us, inspiring us to achieve great results.