John Williams: Welcome to Jurassic Park
Composed for the 1993 Steven Spielberg film Jurassic Park, the theme to the film has remained one of John Williams’ most iconic works. The soundtrack was conducted a month after its composition, with Williams conducting a large proportion of the recording. However, after sustaining a back injury during this time, some of the recordings were conducted by Artie Kane, though he is not formally credited.
Williams composed and edited the soundtrack in Skywalker Ranch in California, and he took much inspiration from sound designer Gary Rydstrom’s noises for dinosaurs. Williams described these noises as “a rugged, noisy effort – a massive job of symphonic cartooning”. Williams wrote music that matched the “rhythmic gyrations” of the dinosaurs, which in turn helped him to create such effective music.
As with many film soundtracks, Williams uses a large orchestra throughout the soundtrack, plus a variety of other forces such as a choir, extensive percussion and multiple harps. Williams also uses a selection of much rarer instruments such as baritone horns, synthesizers, a piccolo oboe, celeste and a shakuhachi.
The original theme to Jurassic Park is heard as the film begins. The melody is taken and used throughout the whole soundtrack, making it also one of Williams’ most repetitive scores. Welcome to Jurassic Park is an example of this kind of scoring. As one of the longest tracks in the film, Welcome to Jurassic Park is heard both when Dr Sattler, Dr Grant and Dr Malcolm see their first ever dinosaur, as well as in the end credits of the film.
A solo piano starts off Welcome to Jurassic Park, with a delicate play through the main Jurassic Park theme. This theme is used throughout the film, as well as being the main focus in the Main Titles. This delicate re-casting of this theme is poignant and adds a different dimension to the film’s score entirely. As woodwind and a collection of strings begin to enter, Williams layers the textures, which soon become rich in colour and harmony.
The use of percussion here is also notable, with sparkling chimes and bells ringing to show the jubilant atmosphere which translates into the awe on screen. The music from the main titles is then played out with the full orchestra in tow now. Led by the brass, the theme is bold and powerful and this again resonates with the scientists seeing the first dinosaurs walking in herds.
A counter cello theme is heard as the piece begins to piece together the melody. From the opening horn solo to the counterpoint string theme. The piano emerges once again with the theme, this time accompanied by static strings. There is a sense of emotion and warmth here, which soon rumbles back into the other famous theme from Jurassic Park. This brass-heavy theme showcases Williams’ incredible talent for melodic writing.
As the climax of the piece is reached, the piano returns once more bringing serenity to the music. Now joined by a solo cor anglais, the two intertwine with the main theme. An ominous lower brass interlude then emerges, silencing the piano. Dissonant strings emerge and then slowly fade away, leaving a mysterious atmosphere.
Welcome to Jurassic Park encapsulates all of the best bits in John Williams’ score for Jurassic Park. This extended underscore is used in two main areas, and is heard in its entirety in the closing credits. The delicate piano solo paired with the full orchestral passages creates such an effective piece of music.
Ⓒ Alex Burns