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#Odeum intervjuar: Emilio Audissino

Porträtt av Emilio Audissiono och John Williams. Foto.
Emilio Audissino och John Williams, december 2022. Foto: J. Richardson.

#Odeumintervjuar presenterar människor bakom Odeums kulisser och ger röst åt våra tre studentbaserade ensembler Akademiska kapellet, Lunds akademiska kör och Palæstra vokalensemble, samt inbjudna gäster.

Här intervjuas filmmusikologen Emilio Audissino, världsledande film- och medieforskare och docent vid institutionen för medier och journalistik vid Linnéuniversitet Kalmar Växjö, som specialiserat sig på John Williams musik. Emilio kommer att medverka vid båda våra konserterThe Music of John Williams!” som framförs av Akademiska kapellet den 6 maj i Universitetsaulan. Intervjun gjordes på engelska.

After your PhD in Film Studies from the UK and a PhD in the history of visual and performing arts from the University of Pisa, Italy, do you currently work at Linnaeus University as an associate professor at the Department of Media and Journalism? What attracted you there? The Swedes' film enthusiasm?

To be honest, I was not hired in the film department at Linnaeus University but in Media and Journalism, and I get to teach about media studies more than film studies, so I don’t think I am in the position to actually assess the Swedes’ film enthusiasm from what I do in my job post. But I have great admiration for Swedish cinema, especially the silent masterpieces – "Körkarlen" is an outstanding achievement, for example, as well as "Thomas Graals bästa film".

What was the starting point for you to take an interest in John Williams: what about the movies or the music?

Both. I started as an ardent fan of Spielberg’s films and, of course, one cannot not notice the music in them. "Jurassic Park" was the actual trigger for me. I was thirteen when I saw the film and I remember I kept sitting in the theatre at the beginning of the end credits to find out who wrote that splendid music, as I sat there mesmerised by the richness of the end-credits suite. I discovered that the man behind the music was one John Williams, and from that moment on, I started collecting and reading all about him, and I have never ceased to follow his career. In the end, it is both about the films and the music, because John Williams’s music is perfectly enhancing the film’s narration and at the same time is superb music also when one listen to it separated from the film.

What is it that makes John Williams' film score so outstanding without us wanting to reveal your 2021/2014 book "The Film Music of John Williams: Reviving Hollywood's Classical Style". How important is he to the history of film music?

The element I have previously mentioned – music that is excellently functional to the film and yet also great music per se – is the first ingredient of Williams’s greatness. But this is true for other leading figures in the history of film music – we can say the same about Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Ennio Morricone, Bernard Herrmann, Jerry Goldsmith, an many others… What is quite unique about Williams is how he managed almost single-handedly to revive the musical style in use in the old Hollywood, a style that was considered dead and buried in the 1960s and early 1970s, the first phase of Williams’s career. As the restorer of a piece of Hollywood musical history, he occupies a central nice of his own in the film-music pantheon, so to speak.

You describe in your book, among other things, the history of classical Hollywood music and John Williams' Neoclassicism. How are they connected and can you tell us more about the style and the tricks Williams uses in his most familiar works (Superman, Indiana Jones, Star Wars)?

This is indeed what I’ve mentioned about the revival enacted by Williams. In my book I isolate and describe the characterising traits of the style of film music that was in use in the so-called Golden Age of film music (1930s to 1950s). I call that style ‘classical’ because was the musical style employed within what is known in film historiography as ‘classical Hollywood style’. Then I demonstrate how Williams revived the stylistic traits of that then-defunct style, by updating and modernising them (for example, injecting dissonances or jazz-influenced harmonies), and I call that Williams style, consequentially, ‘neoclassical’. I am not referring here to categories in music historiography – as in Stravinsky’s or Respighi’s ‘neoclassicism – but I am using categories of the film historiography.

John Williams just turned 91 (February 8). What did you wish for the icon of film music on his birthday?

I sincerely wish he could be around for another 91 years and treat us with many more musical gems. To paraphrase "Star Wars", May the Health be with him, always! And having met him numerous times, I personally thank him for being not only an incomparable artist but also such an amiable, humble, and graceful human being.


Employment: Linnaeus University

Studied at: University of Pisa (Italy) and University of Southampton (UK)

Studie subject/area: Film Studies / Film history and analysis

Age: 42

Favorite composers: (apart from John Williams and the Bach-Haydn-Beethoven inescapable axis) I would say Prokofiev, Vivaldi, Stravinsky, Korngold, Mahler, Respighi.

Favorite piece(s): Too many. By Williams, I can share my top-five film scores: The Empire Strikes Back; Raiders of the Lost Ark; Dracula; E.T. The Extraterrestrial; Hook.

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