Legacy Conversations Video Series Ep.2: Emilio Audissino

Distinguished author and scholar discusses the second edition of his acclaimed book The Film Music of John Williams: Reviving Hollywood’s Classical Style, reflecting upon the current status of the academic studies of John Williams’ music and the composer’s place in the history of film music

Featuring Special Guest Frank Lehman

Hosted by Maurizio Caschetto and Tim Burden

Audio-only version:

It’s not many years that the music of John Williams has been the object of serious academic studies by scholars and researchers across the globe. Italian-born film scholar and film musicologist Emilio Audissino was one the very first members of serious academia to devote a large part of his field work and research study to the music of Maestro Williams, starting when the subject of film music wasn’t already a darling among academic scholars and professors. With strength and convinction, Audissino mined several aspects of John Williams’ musical persona to investigate more profoundly on his unique qualities as a composer for film, choosing to focus specifically on Williams’ revival of the classical symphonic score as the favourite musical accompaniment of Hollywood’s spectacular blockbusters as revived by a new generation of such pioneering filmmakers as Steven Spielberg and George Lucas between 1975 and 1984.

John Williams conducting at Symphony Hall, Boston (ca. early 1980s)

Audissino’s field work first produced a PhD thesis that was used as the basis for his 2014 book then titled John Williams’s Film Music: Jaws, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark and the Return of Hollywood’s Classical Style and published by the prestigious University of Wisconsin Press. The work was surprisingly the first-ever book published in English language dedicated to the music of John Williams, but it was was an absolute landmark in the study of the composer and his opus even beyond that. Audissino applied a thorough and precise investigative look upon the composer’s role in the history of Hollywood’s film music, but also shining a spotlight on Williams’ unique sensitivity as a symphonic composer who chose cinema as his field of artistic expression. One of the thesis of Audissino’s work is to define John Williams as the composer who, more than any other, has revived the classical symphonic style typical of Hollywood’s golden era (the 1930s and ’40s), whose ripple effect are still visible in today’s film music. Audissino aptly called Williams’ approach as neoclassical, not in pure musicological sense, but more in a film-centered one, where the “classical period” of American cinema is usually referred as the 1930s and ’40. Another characteristic aspect of Audissino’s original book was the impassioned tone of recognition toward John Williams as a serious composer, which the author called “almost an act of rebuttal” against the often biased prejudice of many music critics and academic scholars over the years.

Photo by Samantha Winslow

Now in 2021 Audissino’s book has been updated, revised and more succintly re-titled for a long-awaited second edition. The Film Music of John Williams: Reviving Hollywood’s Classical Style furtherly expands upon the original content of the 2014 edition, redesigning some of the overall structure and adding two more chapters: one is dedicated to Williams’ completion of the Star Wars film series, while the other is devoted to a thorough and very interesting film/music analysis of the 1979 John Badham-directed version of Dracula, surely one of the Maestro’s lesser-known masterworks. The result is a book that is again a cornerstone in the study of John Williams as a composer and artist, but also a pivotal reading for the film music connoisseur.

Audissino continued to devote ample time of his academic life and also his activity as a writer to the study of John Williams’ music over the years. In 2018, he curated the volume John Williams: Music for Films, Television and the Concert Stage (Brepols), an impressive collection of in-depth essays penned by distinguished international scholars; in 2019, Audissino wrote a chapter dedicated to John Williams’ jazz-oriented film scores for the volume Cinema Changes: Incorporations of Jazz in the Film Soundtrack (Brepols) that he curated with musicologist Emile Wennekes; and John Williams is frequently mentioned in his ponderous volume Film/Music Analysis: A Film Studies Approach (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). Emilio currently resides as a film scholar at the Linnaeus University in Sweden.

In this new episode of the Legacy Conversations Video Series, Emilio Audissino talks with The Legacy of John Williams about the new edition of his John Williams’ monograph, including the new chapter on the film/music analysis of Dracula. Audissino also reflects upon the composer’s unique place in the history of cinema and film music and offers his own view on the current status of the academic studies dedicated to John Williams’s music. Joining the conversation is music theorist Frank Lehman (Associate Music Professor at Tufts University, Music Department), another scholar who devoted a large amount of his academic studies to John Williams and film music.

Emilio Audissino (Linnaeus University, Sweden) is a film scholar and a film musicologist. He holds an M.A. in Film Studies from the University of Turin (IT), one PhD in History of Visual and Performing Arts from the University of Pisa (IT), and one PhD in Film Studies from the University of Southampton (UK). He spent research and study periods in Boston (USA), Paris (FR), and was Visiting Scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (USA). He has taught film history and analysis at the Universities of Genoa (IT), Southampton, West London (UK), UNINT Rome (IT), and Utrecht (NL).

Official Website: https://www.emilioaudissino.eu