John Williams: Raiders March

Context

Also known as the ‘Indiana Jones Theme’, John Williams’ Raiders March was originally used in the 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark. The 1981 recording was conducted by Williams and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. Williams’ score was nominated for an Academy Away for ‘Best Original Score’, however it lost out on the award after Vangelis’ score for Chariots of Fire won that year. Raiders March is one of Williams’ most recognisable works and remains one of the most famous themes for a film franchise. 

 

The Music

Opening with a bold and powerful brass fanfare, this opening theme is the central idea for the piece. The march-style is established from the start, with the woodwind accompanying the brass with march-like figures. The strings then take over the theme as the texture becomes richer as more instruments join the mix. 

Quick woodwind flourishes decorate the bold brass fanfares and rolling string motifs. The excitement is high and after a small tutti climax that shadows earlier material, the music seamlessly drops into a lyrical section. Led by the lower strings at first, this new theme has a different character to the first. Long string melodies are decorated by twinkling upper woodwind and tuned percussion. This emotionally-driven section showcases a classic John Williams style of rich harmonies and orchestrations.

A small segue led by the horns and woodwind reinstate the opening march theme. The brass emerge and the trumpets lead on playing the main theme once more. The tension is raised by the use of short percussion interludes to drum up anticipation. Now fully-realised as a theme, the orchestra have now united to play the theme one final time. Raiders March comes to its conclusion after a bold brass fanfare leading to five-note tutti explosion.

 

Final Thoughts

John Williams’ Raiders March is one of his most-recognisable works. From the bold brass fanfare to the contrasting lyrical central section, this theme encapsulates what these films are all about – adventure and exploration!

 

Happy Reading!

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