John Williams, the music composer, received the American Film Institute lifetime award the other day, but it was an award that did not meet the criteria required. For the criteria states that "the recipient should be one whose talent has in a fundamental way advanced the film art.”
But John Williams simply didn’t do that. He didn’t change the movie world – he changed the entire world.
Like many people, I grew up enthralled by the movies of my youth. I watched aliens visit our planet. I watched impossible space battles that took place in galaxies far far away. I watched a man in a fedora and a bullwhip unearth the greatest treasures in history. I watched a boy wizard find his true calling. I watched as a man, once selfish end up giving everything he owned to bestow the greatest gift of life to 1200 desperate souls.
And at each one of those experiences, John Williams was there breathing life into my turbulent feelings. He gave sound to my silent tears, a heart-stopping beat to my nerves, a tender harmony to my quiet moments of reflection, a rousing crescendo to my triumphs, and a quiet sensitivity to my sadness. He gave voice to my emotions.
I don’t know much about music, but whether I listen to Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter or Schindler’s List, I’m not listening to the music – I’m feeling it in the deepness in my soul. The ability of John Williams is that he doesn’t provide sound to pictures – he provides sound to feelings. You don’t actually listen to a John Williams soundtrack – you experience it. And you feel it on levels that you didn’t know existed. He touches you emotionally.
From every interview I’ve ever seen with John Williams he comes across as a humble person whose joy of making music carries through to his compositions. He’s not a superman, and yet he makes everyone feel like they can be.
Movies can truly be a phenomenal delight as they take you on impossible journeys to places far from where you are, across time and across space and across dimensions. They thrill the mind and tease the senses of your eyes and ears, and with music they also take you on that emotional journey too.
John Williams has provided the soundtrack to our lives, because in his music the little boy you once were who sought adventure lives on. The old man reflecting on his life will continue to stare out into the distance.
But more important than anything else, he does something that society will tell you can’t be done. He makes the impossible possible. He makes the dreams of youth live on. He makes the hope that is all too easily extinguished burn forever.
Buildings may rise stretching into the heavens before falling down to earth in piles of dust and decay. Countries may grow powerful and strong…then slowly fall away to become small and weak. Wealth may come in waves of abundance and just as easily disappear in trickles of sparseness. But music… music lives on, because as long as people have the ability to feel with their hearts and with the souls, it will remain immortal.
John Williams, the man, may pass on one day, but his gift will live on forever inside us.