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|Film score by|
|Released||April 21, 1992|
|John Williams chronology|
The original soundtrack for Jaws was released on LP by MCA in 1975, and as a CD in 1992, including roughly a half-hour of music that John Williams redid for the album. In 2000, two versions of the score were released: one in a re-recording of the entire Jaws score by Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Joel McNeely, and another to coincide with the release of the 25th anniversary DVD by Decca/Universal, featuring the entire 51 minutes of the original score. In 2005, it was ranked No.6 in AFI's 100 Years of Film Scores, a list which compiles the greatest American film scores.
John Williams composed the film's score, which earned him an Academy Award, his second win and first for Original Score, and was later ranked the sixth greatest score by the American Film Institute. The main "shark" theme, a simple alternating pattern of two notes—variously identified as "E and F" or "F and F sharp"—became a classic piece of suspense music, synonymous with approaching danger (see leading-tone). Williams described the theme as "grinding away at you, just as a shark would do, instinctual, relentless, unstoppable." The piece was performed by tuba player Tommy Johnson. When asked by Johnson why the melody was written in such a high register and not played by the more appropriate French horn, Williams responded that he wanted it to sound "a little more threatening". When Williams first demonstrated his idea to Spielberg, playing just the two notes on a piano, Spielberg was said to have laughed, thinking that it was a joke. As Williams saw similarities between Jaws and pirate movies, at other points in the score he evoked "pirate music", which he called "primal, but fun and entertaining".The primal opening notes are developed from the opening foreboding tone of Ravel's La Valse.  Calling for rapid, percussive string playing, the score contains echoes of La mer by Claude Debussy as well of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring.
There are various interpretations of the meaning and effectiveness of the primary music theme, which is widely described as one of the most recognizable cinematic themes of all time. Music scholar Joseph Cancellaro proposes that the two-note expression mimics the shark's heartbeat. According to Alexandre Tylski, like themes Bernard Herrmann wrote for Taxi Driver, North by Northwest, and particularly Mysterious Island, it suggests human respiration. He further argues that the score's strongest motif is actually "the split, the rupture"—when it dramatically cuts off, as after Chrissie's death. The relationship between sound and silence is also taken advantage of in the way the audience is conditioned to associate the shark with its theme, which is exploited toward the film's climax when the shark suddenly appears with no musical introduction.
Spielberg later said that without Williams's score the film would have been only half as successful, and according to Williams it jumpstarted his career. He had previously scored Spielberg's debut feature, The Sugarland Express, and went on to collaborate with the director on almost all of his films.
Track Listing for the 1975 MCA Records album
- Main Title (Theme From 'Jaws') – 2:18
- Chrissie's Death – 1:39
- Promenade (Tourists on the Menu) – 2:46
- Out to Sea – 2:26
- The Indianapolis Story – 2:23
- Sea Attack Number One – 5:23
- One Barrel Chase – 3:04
- Preparing the Cage – 3:23
- Night Search – 3:29
- The Underwater Siege – 3:31
- Hand to Hand Combat – 2:32
- End Title (Theme From 'Jaws') – 2:18
Total Time: 35:12
Track Listing for the 2000 Varèse Sarabande re-recording
- Main Title – 1:19
- Into the Estuary – 2:49
- Out to Sea – 0:56
- Man Against Beast – 5:15
- Quint's Tale – 2:30
- Brody Panics – 1:16
- Barrel Off Starboard – 1:38
- The Great Chase – 3:02
- Three Barrels Under – 2:05
- From Bad to Worse – 0:53
- Quint Thinks it Over – 1:08
- The Shark Cage Fugue – 2:00
- The Shark Approaches – 0:42
- The Shark Hits the Cage – 1:45
- Quint Meets his End – 1:08
- Blown to Bits – 3:11
- End Title – 1:56
Total Time: 51:08
Track Listing for the 2000 Decca Records album
- Main Title and First Victim ** – 3:27
- The Empty Raft * – 1:23
- The Pier Incident * – 2:23
- The Shark Cage Fugue – 1:59
- Shark Attack *† – 1:17
- Ben Gardner's Boat – 3:31
- Montage – 1:31
- Father and Son *† – 3:42
- Into the Estuary * – 2:50
- Out to Sea – 2:58
- Man Against Beast – 5:33
- Quint's Tale – 2:40
- Brody Panics * – 1:10
- Barrel Off Starboard * – 1:30
- The Great Shark Chase **† – 3:28
- Three Barrels Under *† – 2:05
- Between Attacks *† – 2:06
- The Shark Approaches ** – 2:40
- Blown to Bits – 3:03
- End Titles – 1:52
* = Previously unreleased
** = Includes unreleased music
† = Includes music not used in the film
Total Time: 51:12
- "Academy Awards Database - Joh Williams - Awards and Nominations"[permanent dead link], AwardsDatabase.oscars.org, Retrieved November 30, 2015
- "The 48th Academy Awards (1976) Nominees and Winners". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 2011-10-02.
- "AFI's 100 YEARS OF FILM SCORES". American Film Institute. Retrieved 2012-01-02.
- Matessino, Michael (1999-09-24). "Letter in response to "A Study of Jaws' Incisive Overture To Close Off the Century"". Film Score Monthly. Archived from the original on 2006-10-17. Retrieved 2006-12-17.
- Tylski, Alexandre. "A Study of Jaws' Incisive Overture To Close Off the Century". Film Score Monthly. Archived from the original on 2006-10-23. Retrieved 2006-08-26.
- Friedman 2006, p. 174
- Chaundy, Bob (2006-11-06). "Spies, sports, and sharks". BBC News. Retrieved 2006-11-06.
- Bouzereau, Laurent (1995). A Look Inside Jaws ["Music by John Williams"]. Jaws: 30th Anniversary Edition DVD (2005): Universal Home Video.
- Scheurer, Timothy E. (Spring 1997). "John Williams and film music since 1971". Popular Music and Society. Archived from the original on 2005-04-29. Retrieved 2006-08-09.
- Berardinelli, James (2002). "Jaws". Reelviews. Retrieved 2006-08-06.
- Cancellaro 2006, p. 170