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  • Stefan Riedlinger

Jurassic Park - John Williams - Soundtrack Review

The idea to discuss this week John Williams’ “Jurassic Park” might a little surprising because there is not a new movie in this franchise announced, but I was attending a live performance in the Royal Albert Hall in London, so I thought this soundtrack is a good choice for this week. The Royal Albert Hall has a series of movies to been seen, but the special part is that the soundtrack is played live during the screening of the movie. I attended “ID4” with David Arnold, watched “Jurassic Park” and last week, I saw “Aliens”, and the most surprising fact was that James Cameron, Anne Gale Hurd and Sigourney Weaver were coming to the stage after the performance. They all showed their respect to James Horner who died last year in his plane crash.

The movie

“Jurassic Park” was always one of my favourite Steven Spielberg movies, and even after 13 years, it is still such a great one. I personally do not care that “Jurassic World” has the better Special Effects, it is just the way how Spielberg directed it and build up suspense. Remember the scene in the car..., and the camera is just focussing on the two cups of water, and then you hear the noise of the approaching footsteps of the T-Rex… Here is a trailer:

Michael Crichton wrote a fantastic novel, for me his best, and that the movie is so good, it is for sure also because of his screenplay that he wrote with David Koepp together. I heard that Crichton was a very difficult character to deal with and that he was mostly unhappy with the films based on his novels. Some directors were complaining about his way of dealing with people, but anyway, here is not the way and time to discuss this.

For 1993, the Special Effects were astonishing. With an excellent cast – Richard Attenborough, Jeff Goldblum in a great performance, Laura Dern and Sam Neill with some great lines, a rough sense of humour and especially a great amount of shocking moments, this movie became the highest grossing until “Titanic”. “Jurassic Park” is a little bit like a modern version of Spielberg’s “Jaws”, and you can see how good he is a director of horror scenes. If you think of that Spielberg finished “Jurassic Park” while shooting “Schindler’s List”, also with John Williams composing the music, you can really imagine what these two people achieved with these two movies.

The music

John Williams created one of his best main themes for the movie, a theme that is majestic like the typical Williams’s theme. Since the movie starts with a shocking scene, there is no real main title, we just have an opening “bang” of the drums in “Opening Titles” that last just 30 seconds. With “Theme From Jurassic Park”, we finally have the main theme, played on the horns, with later the strings coming in... just a beautiful piece of music.

Here is a video with the composer conducting his own music:

This score combines the typical majestic themes, but also Williams' ability to compose very rude and sometimes brutal orchestral action music. During all this action, there are still some moments of piece in the score. Williams said in an interview that similar to “Close Encounters Of The Third Kind”, he felt the need to write "pieces that would convey a sense of 'awe' and fascination" given it dealt with the "overwhelming happiness and excitement" that would emerge from seeing live dinosaurs. Williams described the score as "a rugged, noisy effort - a massive job of symphonic cartooning", saying that while trying to "have to match the rhythmic gyrations of the dinosaurs" he created "these kind of funny ballets".

I do not want to go through all the tracks of the soundtrack album. The original album had 16 tracks, and the 20th Anniversary soundtrack added four more. An absolute highlight is track 4 “Journey to the Island” when the cast arrives at the island, seeing this track performed live was just amazing. With track 3 “The Raptor Attack”, we have the first great action piece that introduces another third theme of the score, some people call it the panic theme, and with is growling brass, it is a scary piece that reminds you of the darker moments of “Jaws”. I still have some trouble with this kind of fiercing music Williams like to compose, they have a great result in the picture but listening to them on the score is not always fun.

The next highlight is for me the track “Welcome To Jurassic Park” when the team starts the tour. It also features some of the quieter musical moments of the score with a lovely theme. We have a lot of quieter moments such as track 8 “My Friend, The Brachiosaurus”, but I have to say, for me, the highlight is the next track “Dennis Steals the Embryo” because I really like how Williams uses the percussion here, in a way that is very usual for his composing style. This track was not just the perfect cue for the scene in the movie, I really like to listen to this track because it is just impressive how Williams builds up the suspense here.

Here is a piano performance of the main theme:

We have a lot of shorter tracks before we come to the showdown with “T-Rex Rescue & Finale”, a track typically for Williams’ action tracks, very brutal in some ways of the composing, a lot of percussion and loud brass, for the best action scene in the movie.

With the lovely “End Credits” the original album comes to an end. I personally do not understand why for the 20th Anniversary release, the four additional cues were just put in the end. They should be integrated in the album.

Anyway, “Jurassic Park” is one of the best scores of John Williams, astonishing in his composing style and the mixture of majestic themes and the great rude action tracks. This score has one of Williams’ finest themes for one of Spielberg’s best action films. Especially when you compare this soundtrack to latest action scores, you will understand how much force of action a real orchestra can produce, with a composer of Williams’ talent who is able to give you a hell of a listening experience – amazing movie music at his best.

Copyright © Stefan Riedlinger, 2017, all rights reserved. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Stefan Riedlinger.

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