John Williams and Raiders of the Misplaced Ark

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There’s a moment in Hunter of the lost treasure where the Nazis took the Ark of the Covenant from the transport ship and we have no idea where our hero is. Suddenly a crew member points out the hull of the enemy ship and John WilliamsThe indelible “Raiders March” sets in with all the necessary pomp and circumstances; We’re back in the game, pumped up and ready to fight. This is why Williams’ score is so important and provides not only the heart but also the courage behind the man named Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones, Jr.

When Indy was first introduced in the now forty-year-old Thrill-A-Minute Adventure, his engaging theme was never far behind, quickly defining him and his antics, as Williams previously did with The Terror of the Shark in Jaws (1975) had done. and the innate heroism of Superman (1978). Indy is cut from the same fabric as BogartFred C. Dobbs and Charlie Allnut’s, and what defines them is their accomplishments and the stamina to keep up with them – remember, it’s not years, it’s mileage. Williams being like that Steven Spielberg and George Lucas The little golden idol realizes this and brings a healthy dose of wit to Indy’s adventure by expanding his theme from major to minor and using all sorts of tricks to keep the audience busy.

The story of the origin of the Raider March is as mythical as the story of the lost ark itself. Williams played director Spielberg two tunes and asked him to choose one; a cheeky heroic look back at Max Steiner and even the daring days of Erich Wolfgang Korngold and The Sea Hawk (1940), or a driving phrase that fits easily to avoid the pitfalls and booby traps that headlines our favorite “rare antiques collector” job description. In an ingenious act, Spielberg chose both – the first as the main theme and the second as the bridge and B theme – and they work perfectly together, a musical engine that drives Indy’s spirit forward at every moment, even when the flesh is spongy and bruised .

Raiders of the Lost Ark once again illustrated John Williams’ overtly frightening talent when it comes to theme composition. The love theme for Indy and Marion Ravenwood sounds almost like a sister piece to Williams’ love theme from The Empire Strikes Back last year; But while this was made for lovers of mist, Marion’s theme perfectly matched the 1930s setting – not reality, but the movies and that gorgeous and lush sound from romantic scores like Korngold’s Anthony Adverse (1936). Far from Han and Leia’s finer pieces, it’s on the verge of lust as it builds and builds, and whether or not the resolution is really fulfilled depends on how much sleep Indy had.

Speaking of letting go, the Ark of the Covenant topic screams “unlimited power,” but it is really about the warnings that come with trying to control it. Spielberg and Lucas have always encouraged Williams to come up with some of the darkest materials of his career, and here the Ark theme is a biblical ghost story that does justice to their terrifying mythical fairy tales – what could be better? For most of the frame, the Ark theme is in an ominous setting, its melodic tendrils reaching to the Almighty, but when its power is unleashed, Williams introduces a majestic refrain that underscores its power and threat.

Perhaps the greatest scene in the film, whether musical or not, is when Indy sneaks into the map room in the city of Tanis to find the place of the fountain of souls where the Ark of the Covenant is hidden with the staff of Ra. While figuring out where to put the staff, Williams teases the mercilessly doomed nature of the Ark theme, underscoring that it may not be a good idea for him to do so at all, but when the morning sun comes and the well of the Souls, Williams is deeply into displaying the beautiful religious fury of the subject. Take note of the warnings.

Williams even manages to anticipate this with his almost mathematical music when Indy tries to take the idol at the beginning of the film with an identical rhythm, although it is not nearly as far as replacing it with a sandbag. The resulting hightail – complete with the infamous boulder chase – is as exciting and hilarious as Williams canals Carl Stalling and Scott Bradley before bringing out the main theme while Indy swings in the river. The film is full of those set pieces where you can tell that Williams has the time of his life, such as the “basket game” in which Indy searches for Marion in a market square full of wicker baskets, which the composer has with an adorable, swirling maze scores with woodwind motif.

Of course, the bigger action scenes are nearing the end of the film, and the genius part is how Williams uses them as the beating heart of our frankly broken hero. For example, when Indy lets the plane fight the giant Nazi mechanic, Williams plays Raiders March in a resigned and laconic mood, while Indy says, “I have to fight this giant guy? Okay, just wait a second and let me catch my breath. ”Musically, it’s an exciting sequence where those giant brass phrases are used like the blades of the plane and snippets of Indy’s theme are used to make his quick wins.

Williams then outdoes himself with the desert chase sequence, with a powerful motif propelling the Nazis and the Ark forward, while using numerous quotes from the Raiders March to gauge Indy’s progress. He also emphasizes Indy’s overconfidence. When he is shot and pulled behind the truck by his bull whip, we are right there when he comes back into action. What’s spectacular about it is that he uses the B-Theme as his own little action motif that keeps pushing our hero as he finally takes control of the truck – it’s just amazing. While the desert hunt is technically divided into three separate cues, it is an eight-minute mammoth action piece that is exciting at every turn.

As the entire score really is, and as long as Indiana Jones is there to be thrown into outrageously difficult and dangerous situations, John Williams is there to meet him. Nobody but him knows what the future films will bring, musically or otherwise, but until then we always have Raiders of the Lost Ark. And that’s the real miracle.

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