John Williams‘ musical score for Jaws might be one of the most familiar pieces of film music in the history of cinema. And while it’s brilliant in its simplicity, it’s hard to deny that it is indeed a relatively simple tune. Essentially, it’s just two chords played back to back at varying tempos. And while it’s hard to imagine a visitor to Amity Island getting swallowed up by a great white shark without that ditty playing in the background, the truth is that Jaws director Steven Spielberg thought the tune was a joke when Williams first presented it to him.
As The Hollywood Reporter notes, Spielberg was interviewed in a previously released making-of DVD feature in which he admitted that he was momentarily taken aback by the theme. “I expected to hear something kind of weird and melodic, something tonal, but eerie; something of another world, almost like outer space under the water,” Spielberg explained. “And what he played me instead, with two fingers on the lower keys, was ‘dun dun, dun dun, dun dun.’ And at first, I began to laugh. He had a great sense of humor, and I thought he was putting me on.”
When Williams, who celebrated his 90th birthday earlier this week, made it clear that he was as serious as a shark attack with his composition, Spielberg gave it another listen—this time without giggling. “It suddenly seemed right,” Spielberg said. “And John found the signature for the entire movie.”
That streamlined, and definitely-not-a-joke, score earned Williams his second of five Oscars for Best Score. “I think the score was responsible for half of the success of that movie,” Spielberg said.
(Via The Hollywood Reporter)