John Williams’s Action Music in the 21st Century


This chapter focuses on John Williams’s music for action cinema since 2000. The turn of the millennium marks a crucial inflection point in American filmmaking, one with ramifications for action scoring as significant as any other industry change during Williams’s career. The two most important developments in this respect are: the ascendency of digital filmmaking and a transformation in how music follows action and illustrates character, especially through musical themes. The chapter offers a quick overview of John Williams’s action style in terms of its formal characteristics. While Williams’s refusal to relinquish exaggerated and literal-minded synchronization as a musical aesthetic can be interpreted as a reaction against the prevailing overall scoring paradigm, his post-2000s output nevertheless is typical in its reliance on loops, ostinati, and minimalistic repetition. Thematic evaporation and reconstitution offers up several avenues of critical interpretation. It is clearly indicative of a more general attenuation of Williams’s thematic attention-span for action cues.

%d bloggers like this: