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Why Steven Spielberg initially hated the 'Jaws' soundtrack

Whenever people are asked to name some of the most iconic soundtracks of all time, one of the most common answers that inevitably emerges as the winner is John Williams’ inimitable score for Steven the 1975 thriller Jaws by Steven Spielberg. It left a deep impact on most audiences who experienced the film, immortalising it in movie history.

Jaws cemented Spielberg’s status as a promising creative force and is now referred to as the first proper summer blockbuster. While the production was a huge success eventually, it wasn’t smooth sailing at first with multiple disruptions due to Spielberg’s insistence on shooting on the ocean as well as the repeated failures of the mechanical sharks that were constructed specifically for Jaws.

The film turned out to be one of Spielberg’s finest, a highly effective commentary on our fundamental fear of human mortality as well as our undeniable isolation. The world that Jaws created was bound together by the special score that John Williams had composed, a riveting soundtrack that constantly subverted the expectations of the audience.

According to Williams, he wanted to engineer the theme song in such a way that it would make the audience feel as if the music was “grinding away at you, just as a shark would do, instinctual, relentless, unstoppable”. Williams maintained that his soundtrack worked so well only because of what Spielberg managed to do with the film.

Spielberg would also go on to say that Jaws would be nothing without Williams’ score but the burgeoning director did not like the music at all when he first heard it. In fact, he thought that Williams was playing a joke on him because the composer was known to mess around. As he kept listening to it, the music suddenly felt perfect to Spielberg.

“I expected to hear something kind of weird and melodic, something tonal, but eerie; something of another world, almost like outer space under the water,” Spielberg said. “And what he played me instead, with two fingers on the lower keys, was ‘dun dun, dun dun, dun dun.’ And at first, I began to laugh. He had a great sense of humour, and I thought he was putting me on.”

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