In John Williams week within #Johnuary we now move on to one of his best loved soundtracks. E.T the Extra-Terrestrial from 1982.
Similar to Jaws and Star Wars, John Williams won the Oscar, Golden Globe, Grammy and BAFTA in the same year for the E.T. soundtrack. He is only person to have done this twice. Only six scores have won all four awards and Williams penned three of those. This was his fourth Academy Award.
This is a very comprehensive and complicated score. There are several major audio motifs and a few minor ones too, and a plethora of tracks. It is widely lauded by almost everyone and the flying scene in particular is often put on a pedestal as an example of how a good score can help to create “movie magic”.
I like how they even incorporated the E.T. theme into the Universal logo title screen. See the first track of the playlist below. Spielberg also actually changed the edit of the final chase sequence to match Williams’ audio cues.
Here is the famous “Flying” track
Here is the playlist of the full soundtrack.
“The Magic of Halloween” is a great track that utilises the Flying Theme leitmotif.
“Far From Home” introduces two of the other main motifs, the “wonder theme”, the double six note flute piece, and also the “alien theme”.
“Escape/Chase/Saying Goodbye” is just an incredible track that incorporates several of the main motifs.
In many ways I feel that this is one of Williams’ most complete soundtracks. It’s both gorgeous and beautiful, but also incredibly clever in how it works with the visuals that are happening on screen. It’s not just accompanying music and it’s not just musical foley. It’s arguably as complete a part of a film as any soundtrack can become.
Wikipedia states that “Many observers have noted that the E.T. theme music sounds extremely similar to a passage near the end of Czech composer Antonin Dvorak’s Dumky trio, leading some to accuse Williams of “stealing” the music. However, others have pointed out that it is not an uncommon practice for contemporary composers to borrow from classical music.”