John Williams is one bad muthaphucka. Not only has he created some of the most memorable musical experiences of your life, but at 79 years old, this man is still going strong. This is the man that wrote the music to Star Wars, Jaws, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones and my personal favourite, the music for Home Alone.
So it’s safe to say he knows his shit. The New York Times got to talk to the man himself recently and he’s got some interesting answers. Check it below.
- What pops out when one surveys your career is the sheer volume of music you have produced. Can you tell us about the creative process?
I developed from very early on a habit of writing something every day, good or bad. There are good days, and there are less good days, but I do a certain amount of pages it seems to me before I can feel like the day has been completely served. When I am working on a film, of course, it’s a six-day-a-week affair, and when I’m not working on films, I always like to devote myself to some piece, some musical project, that gives me a feeling that I’m maybe contributing in some small way or, maybe more importantly, learning in the process.
- So you just get up early, have a cup of coffee and go to the piano?
I do. I work early in the morning. I never worked at night. I was never one of these midnight oil composers. I would always stop in the early evening.
- Do you ever get (writers) block?
I never experienced anything like a block. For me if I’m ever blocked or I feel like I don’t quite know where to go at the next turn, the best thing for me is to keep writing, to write something. It could be absolute nonsense, but it will project me into the next phase of thinking. And I think if we ourselves as writers get out of the way and let the flow happen and not get uptight about it, so to speak, the muses will carry us along.
The wonderful thing about music is it never seems to be exhausted. Every little idea germinates another one. Things are constantly transforming themselves in musical terms. So that the few notes we have, 7, 8 or 12 notes, can be morphed into endless variations, and it’s never quite over, so I think the idea of a block is something we need to work through.
- And you work with pen and paper?
Antique tools. Not even a pen these days. Pencil and paper. In the film work I look at the film a lot. There is a cutting room, a viewing room so to speak, within the building I work in, and I can look at a scene I am working on for two or three days and see it as often as I need to see it. I can write a few bars, then go look at it. People who have computers and work at synthesizers have that in front of them all the time. I don’t have a synthesizer or computer. I haven’t been educated in that technology. When I was studying and learning music, these things didn’t exist and I’ve actually been too busy in the intervening years to retool and learn it all. And I find that at least for me pencil and paper introduces a process of working that’s as much part of it, it becomes part of the conceptual routine or process of working. It’s tangible. It feels good to hold a pen or pencil in your hand and dirty up paper. I suppose It must seem to young composers a completely antediluvian or old-fashioned way of doing it.
- What do you listen to for inspiration?
I don’t listen a lot, because I’m working all the time on something and listening to music is not a particular help. It’s difficult to go to concerts and often one is listening to music that is better than one’s own and that isn’t particularly encouraging either. My work, particularly the film work, puts me into a particular setting, and it isn’t helpful to be jarred out of that. Also, people will put music on when they have a dinner party, and I can’t do that. Or listen to music in the car. Because I start listening into the music. I think that D could be a little more sharp, or it’s a little flat or whatever, and before you know it, I’ve lost the dinner table conversation entirely. Or I’m risking driving off the road. If you were to ask me what would I hear just for pleasure, I’d probably say Haydn. Even more than Mozart in my case.