Why does the JAWS soundtrack still resonate with us, almost 45 years after we first heard those two notes?
Just listen to the main theme, and you’ll be reminded of how it made you feel. Steven Spielberg credited much of the blockbuster movie’s success to composer John Williams and his Academy Award®-winning score, saying in 1975, “John Williams has made our movie more adventurous and gripping than I ever thought possible.”
In a 2012 interview with the Film Music Society, Williams described the shark motif as "so simple, insistent and driving, that it seems unstoppable, like the attack of the shark." He explained, "I just began playing around with simple motifs that could be distributed in the orchestra, and settled on what I thought was the most powerful thing, which is to say the simplest. Like most ideas, they're often the most compelling."
This Boston.com article about the impact of the JAWS soundtrack includes insights from Jack Freeman, professor of film scoring at Berklee College of Music. Freeman explained that by the 1970s, film scores involving a classical orchestra weren’t popular anymore because it was cheaper to produce pop tunes and profitable to sell them as soundtracks. John Williams not only bucked the trend with the score for JAWS, he completely reversed it, setting a high bar for what blockbuster movies required in a soundtrack, and also bringing a legitimacy back to film music in the classical world. Freeman observed, “It just justified again how effective…and powerful that is when you have the full orchestra.”
The power of a full orchestra – live! – will be felt on Friday, August 9 when the Cape Symphony, conducted by Jung-Ho Pak, plays the iconic score of JAWS along with the movie. This unforgettable experience is part of the inaugural Beach Road Weekend on Martha’s Vineyard. Tickets are on sale now at beachroadweekend.com.