John Williams is so much more than Star Wars, that uber-popular outer space adventure serial he’s been scoring since 1977. But for better or worse, Star Wars is the first line in Williams’ biography and the primary reason he’s one of the only film composers in history to become a household name. In pop culture history there is Before Star Wars and there’s After Star Wars, and Williams’ big, brassy, neo-romantic music capitalized on (and arguably helped propel) the unprecedented cinematic blastoff on that sunny Wednesday in May not so long, long ago. The sheer cultural infiltration of these films meant Williams’ earworm themes were worming their way into millions upon millions of ears, and the potent combination of his unsurpassed talent as a composer and the phenomenal reach of the films turned the series’ main themes into post-Vietnam American folk tunes.
With The Martian coming out today—the best film Ridley Scott has made since Gladiator, and one of his best ever—I thought it timely to hear what the great auteur has to say about film music. I had the chance to interview Scott last winter in anticipation of Exodus: Gods and Kings… specifically about its score and the music for his films. I found his take illuminating. (Side note: Harry Gregson-Williams’ score for The Martian is aces.)