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Jurassic Park

Extract from an Interview with John Williams (from Total Film Magazine-1997):
You've composed hundreds of hours worth of film music; where do you get the ideas? 

John Williams: Writing a tune is like sculpting. You get four or five notes, you take one out and move one around, and you do a bit more and eventually, as the sculptor says, "In that rock there is a statue, we have to go find it". There's a story that says it all. Paul Hindemith, the brilliant German composer, was offered the chair at Yale University as the Professor for Composition. He turned it down. Then they offered him the chair of Professor of Music Theory, which he took. So they asked him why, and he said, "I can teach music theory. But only God teaches composition." […]

You [just] mentioned Schindler: did you write the music at the same time you scored Jurassic Park? 

John Williams: They were separated by a couple of months. Jurassic was a spring assignment and I composed Schindler at Tanglewood during the summer while conducting the Boston Pops. I loved Schindler for many reasons, not least of which was that it was an absolute contrast to what I had been doing all spring. The biggest problem in Hollywood, and the British film industry, is that you get typecast. If you do comedies, then you can spend your entire career doing nothing but that. It was a fantastic opportunity for music, but the procedure was so completely different. Jurassic Park has a 90-minute score. It pumps away all the time. It's a rugged, noisy effort - a massive job of symphonic cartooning. You have to match the rhythmic gyrations of the dinosaurs and create this kind of funny ballet. It couldn't be more different from Schindler's List, which was a fantastic opportunity for music and a singular honor for me.

Upon its release in 1993, Steven Spielberg’s revolutionary motion picture became the chart’s favorite within only a couple of weeks, earning over nine hundred million Dollars at the box office. For this twelfth project for which the composer had been working together with Steven Spielberg – a lasting collaboration and friendship for over 40 years, starting with Jaws in 1975 –, Williams began writing the Jurassic Park score at the end of February 1993 at George Lucas’ beautiful Skywalker Ranch in Nicasio, California. 

John Neufeld, Alexander Courage and Conrad Pope started orchestrating William’s already detailed musical 8-line canvas in parallel to the film’s sound editing process. However, John Neufeld did most of the job, leaving only 5 cues to his colleagues and soon the manuscript score was completed and recorded by the Boston Pops Orchestra on May 20, 1993 (from 1980 to 1993, Williams had succeeded Arthur Fiedler as the Boston Pops Orchestra's Principal Conductor) for MCA Records. The 60-minute album, produced by the composer, includes most of the film’s major cues, but mostly they were edited together into longer tracks, also featuring musical material which in the end was taken out from the movie. In addition to this, Spielberg made a lot of visual and screenplay “last-minute” changes regarding the final action scenes, which forced the original music to be cut into pieces, reedited and shuffled in a different order than William’s original conception. However, this frustrating move by the film director is nothing uncommon in the movie business and so many musical passages were taken out of the complete original soundtrack.

The Score
The score uses a large orchestra that often includes a variety of percussions, two harpsbaritone horns, and also a choir which sings without words. Some passages also call for unusual woodwinds such as shakuhachi and E piccolo oboe. Several prominent celesta solos (such as in "Remembering Petticoat Lane") add to the magic world author Michael Crichton has created with his pioneering novel. Two main themes accompany the audience throughout the movie: the main film’s theme, a slow, reflective sequence played by the strings, and the Park’s main ouverture, a smashing fanfare played by the trumpets. A third dark 4-note motive depicts the raptor’s presence in the film and mostly appears during scary and action-loaded scenes.

In March 2007, Lühl received a facsimile of Williams’ manuscript of the complete 90-minute very complex score and adapted his first complete original soundtrack for two pianos. Before that, since 2005, he had only worked on separate works and symphonic suites taken from the original movies scored by Williams. Within two months only the transcription was finished, a 154-page monster containing the entire symphonic score for four hands!

Extract from a radio interview with E-F. Lühl (2015):
After having already recorded the most difficult miscellaneous pieces by Rachmaninoff, your own works and many others, what is your new challenge with the re-recording process?

E-F. Lühl: Thankfully, having studied music thoroughly showed me that nothing really represents a challenge: it is just a matter of time until the project comes to an end; to me, so-called “challenges” only make the adventure more intriguing, but never more difficult. Since 2005, I started this collaboration with Mr. Williams by arranging his best scores for piano solo and two pianos, and after about 70 pieces and over 1,200 pages of music, I thought this might be a good opportunity to start recording my contribution to Mr. Williams’ already very impressive catalogue. Obviously, we started with Star Wars in 2013, continued with Harry Potter (the three first films scored by Williams) and now, well, it’s Jurassic Park’s turn for a more ambitious project. As for the re-recording project, I realized that, despite the fact that it requires the double amount of work – by studying both piano parts alone –, the final result is much more homogenous because I know exactly what I want to create around the two keyboards. Eventually, I also save a lot of time because I don’t need extra rehearsals with my partner to adjust his work to the original orchestral score he generally barely knows. Because of the extreme difficulty of the piano score, I soon learnt that unfortunately, many of my colleagues were not up to the task to accept the challenge and record my faithful transcriptions. I already made tests with Harry Potter, which we recorded in 2014; the results were absolutely stunning and we decided to stick to this process despite the huge double-shift I have to perform by studying both piano parts. This is where I really have the impression to be a pianist!

What is your secret recipe for creating such an atmosphere with “only” two pianos?

E-F. Lühl: First, of course I must work on the transcription itself by adapting the orchestral score for two pianos. Once this is done, I watch the movie a couple of times as a professional – meaning not necessarily enjoying the thickening plot, but listening to the musical tempi and write them down on my two-piano score to get as close as possible to the original orchestral part and Williams’ musical intentions. Then, I need to check on the transcription errors which may have slipped in during the adaptation process as well as the editing remix in the film due to last-minute changes of the script. At this point, I realized how much Williams’ original score had been altered, cut and adapted for the screen! As a composer, it’s a shame to endure this because you have conceived something coherent within your music which has now been deleted for the sake of the plot; as if Beethoven’s Fifth symphony were edited for a 10-minute piece of music!
After this, I get to the operating phase, the study of the score itself as a pianist. I study part 1 and 2 separately and adapt them both exactly to the final tempi by using a metronome with headphones. This enables me to plug into e global beat which will help synchronize the two piano parts in the editing process. It requires much more time when it comes to slowing down or accelerating the music in order to make it sound like a “live” interpretation. I increase or lower the beat step by step and bar by bar until I’ve reached the final dynamics. In the meantime, I constantly need to hear the other piano’s missing part inside my head for the general balance of both parts and make the final version sound like an orchestra.
Following this, we record each part alone and separately on different pianos to make it sound like two different persons. Think of it like acting in front of a blue or green screen instead of the real decorum: the actor knows precisely where he is and what’s behind him for the film during his acting performance, but there is nothing there! If the recording is too long, we must photograph the microphone’s exact positions in order to put them back where they were when we resume our recording session.
During the editing process, both parts are first cut separately, then superimposed and synchronized for a final recording track. This requires a lot of work, since even with the metronome’s help, it is impossible to perform that accurately. Therefore, every single bar needs to be adjusted for a perfect match of the two piano parts.

Journey to the Island :

The T-Rex Chase:

others coming soon