In thinking of great movies, we remember the actors and directors who made the films stellar. But rarely do we delve into the more technical aspects that bring them authenticity and trigger our emotions, especially the musical portion. To discuss the importance of music to films, Steven Spielberg and his composer collaborator of nearly 40 years, John Williams, talked to an audience of American Film Institute (AFI) fellows and concluded with a Q&A session for the first in a series of specials set to air on cable channel Turner Classic Movies (TCM).
Spielberg and Williams begin the feature by reminiscing on their favorite scenes from movies that influenced their craft. Williams points to the musical element of On the Waterfront and how the sound matches the ado of a fight scene, yet could stand on its own as performed by an orchestra. Spielberg notes the climactic end of Amadeus, where a mortally ill Mozart dictates to Salieri exactly how his composition should sound; the orchestration is paired to his rhythmic directions.
"No matter what we do to put all of our creative energy in cinematic arts, music takes it beyond anything we can expect," Spielberg says.
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The duo then discuss their own collaboration. Spielberg's 2012 release, Lincoln, will be their 26th joint effort. In the special they only discuss some of their best known works. For instance, would E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial have the same excitement without music as when Elliott and E.T. rise from the ground and glide across the face of the moon? More than likely, no, the thrill would be gone.
The partnership between Spielberg and Williams has produced five Academy Awards between the two. Spielberg won three for Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan. Williams won two Oscars for E.T. and Schindler's List.
"It's a working, comfortable process of give and take," Williams opines, "and familiarizing each other and trying to discover what that film should sound like."
TCM Presents: AFI's Master Class -- The Art of Collaboration premieres Tuesday, November 15, at 7 p.m.