John Williams – Theme from Jaws

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right or below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

An evening pause: Performed by the Boston Pops orchestra.

Hat tip to Phil Berardelli, author of Phil’s Favorite 500: Loves of a Moviegoing Lifetime. As Phil noted to me, “The audience seems to love it.” I think many of them had seen the film, and when they heard that first note couldn’t help feeling a deep down bit of squeamish nervousness about what it signified.



  • Edward

    As Jack Black’s character noted in the movie “The Holliday”:

    “Two notes, and you’ve got a villain.”

  • Phil Berardelli

    Thanks, Bob. Spielberg has told two stories about the creation of the “Jaws” theme. In the first, he described the first conference he had with Williams about the possible music for the movie. He said he had in mind something sinister and creepy, such as the score Williams had composed for Robert Altman’s “Images” in 1972 ( Williams reacted to the suggestion by saying, “No, no, no, dear boy! This is a pirate movie!” He meant that his concept for “Jaws” would convey a sense of high adventure, particularly in the second half of the movie, where it’s three men in a boat against the shark. Spielberg’s second story was about the day Williams invited him to hear what he had composed. Sitting in Williams’s living room, Spielberg heard Williams play the now-famous shark theme with two fingers on the piano, including the pauses. When Williams finished, Spielberg said he laughed and thought it was a joke. “No, no,” Williams said, again, “this is it.” I think we can safely say Williams was right on both counts. And as Spielberg eventually wrote about Williams for the movie score’s album cover, “He has made our movie more adventurous, gripping and phobic than I ever thought possible.” Indeed!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *