Play Jurassic Park Theme Songs On Piano
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Jurassic World: Dominion premiered on June 10th and delighted moviegoers once again with our prehistoric predecessors. Dominion is the third installment in the Jurassic World trilogy and the sixth film in the Jurassic Park franchise. The film emerged from opening weekend with a decisive box office triumph. Critics, on the other hand, were less impressed with Dominion, giving it a 30% on Rotten Tomatoes. However, music lovers in the audience were fixated on another “score” altogether—that of composer Michael Giacchino. Giacchino has been the successor to legendary film composer John Williams for the Jurassic franchise since 2015. In today’s Quick Tip, PWJ instructor Joshua Foy will teach you how to play the John Williams’ classic 1993 Jurassic Park movie theme song on piano as well as Giacchino’s Jurassic World theme song. This lesson covers:
- Iconic Movie Theme Songs & Composers
- Jurassic Park & Jurassic World Movie Theme Song Comparison
This lesson will strike a chord with piano students and teachers, composers and movie lovers everywhere.
Describing the essence and impact of an iconic movie theme song is difficult to overstate. In fact, motion pictures are massive multimedia cultural artifacts that blend storytelling, performing arts and visual arts. And while an estimated 10.8 million domestic moviegoers viewed Jurassic World: Dominion on opening weekend, the reach of a mega franchise like Jurassic extends far beyond the big screen. Just consider that the short list of Universal Pictures’ promotional partners for Dominion includes Jeep, Barbasol, Dr. Pepper, Keebler, Trolli, General Mills, Progressive, China Glaze, and Carl’s Jr. In fact, one social media post lamented that “John Williams’ massively regal score…has been reduced to a mega-loud “1-7-1” over any scenario or harmonic context.” That just goes to show how recognizable and permeable movies themes are in popular culture. It’s only fitting then that we get to know a bit about the composers.
John Williams (1932–present) is a well-known, widely prolific, and highly awarded American composer who has scored over 100 films. Particularly, his collaborations with director Steven Spielberg have produced some of the most iconic movie themes in cinematic history, including Jaws (1975), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), E.T. (1982), the Indiana Jones collection (1981, 1984, 1989, 2008), Jurassic Park (1993), Schindler’s List (1993) and Saving Private Ryan (1998). However, he is perhaps best known for his musical contribution to George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise (1977–2019). John Williams’ extensive impact on American film is best evidenced by his 52 Academy Award nominations. In fact, this colossal achievement is exceeded only by Walt Disney, who received 59.
Michael Giacchino (1967–present) is an American composer who writes music for film, television and video games. In fact, Giacchino’s significant film collaborations in the 21st century are comparable to John Williams’ dominance in the 20th century. Giacchino composed the scores to The Incredibles (2004), Up (2009), Jurassic World (2015), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016), Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) and War for the Planet of the Apes (2017). Michael Giacchino has also partnered with director and producer J.J. Abrams on hit television series Alias (2001–2006) and Lost (2004–2010) and films Mission Impossible III (2006), Super 8 (2011) and Star Trek (2009). Michael Giacchino is highly awarded and received the 2010 Academy Award for Best Original Score for his work on Up.
Michael Giacchino’s task of following behind John Williams to score the final three installments of the Jurassic franchise is about as colossal as a Giganotosaurus. Yet Giacchino has received praise for his “highly enjoyable stylistic mixture of his own compositional style and flurries of John Williams-y mannerisms.”¹
In today’s lesson, Josh Foy performs the main theme song from Jurassic Park and Jurassic World on piano. In fact, these piano arrangements are available from the MusicNotes product link located at the bottom of this page. As a composer himself, Josh shares his unique perspective regarding the creativity and continuity between these two iconic movie theme songs. But first, let’s take a moment to listen to each movie theme song as orchestrated by the composers themselves. All examples are presented in the key of B♭ major.
“Jurassic Park Theme Song” (1993)
“Jurassic World Theme Song” (2015)
Jurassic Park Theme Song Analysis
In analyzing the 1993 Jurassic Park theme song, Josh draws our attention to the musical elements Williams employs to elicit a sense of awe from the audience. In particular, Williams leans on major chords arranged in a hymnal texture (SATB) to convey a majestic quality. Harmonically speaking, Williams also borrows from religious music through his prominent use of plagal cadences (IV→I). For example, the plagal sound frequently occurs in hymnody to harmonize the text, “A-men.” Williams’ orchestration makes further reference to the sublime with the entrance of choral backgrounds (“oohs”) upon the second statement of the theme. In addition, Williams uses dotted-eighth/sixteenth rhythms in the melody to give the theme the stature of a fanfare.
Jurassic World Theme Song Analysis
Perhaps the most obvious difference in Giacchino’s 2015 theme is the seeming absence of the 1-7-1 melodic cell (think: “do-ti-do”) that weaves itself throughout Williams’ theme. (However, this motif is not gone entirely, as we will see later.) Giacchino, in fact, introduces a brand-new melody for Jurassic World while maintaining strong continuity with the 1993 theme. One particular difference in Giacchino’s theme is that he expands the harmonic palette slightly to include sparing use of minor and diminished diatonic chords.
Giacchino’s brilliance on Jurassic World, however, is his ability to creatively repurpose Willliams’ material. Keep in mind, the task before Giacchino is not merely to make a new and different theme. That would be rather simple. Instead, he must craft a new theme that is in keeping with Williams’ preexisting work. In other words, Giacchino’s theme must be a sort of “offspring” of Williams’ theme. They must share the same DNA…and indeed they do!
Giacchino has carefully embedded several of Williams’ compositional elements into Jurassic World to create a theme that is both new, and yet familiar.
Earlier, we mentioned that John William’s theme makes use of plagal cadences. A plagal cadence is harmonic movement from the subdominant (IV) chord to the tonic (I) chord. The sketch below outlines the William’s opening chord progression in B♭ major.
Next, let’s examine and listen to Giacchino’s opening chord progression. The sketch below shows that Giacchino’s theme contains the same plagal DNA as Williams’ theme.
Williams’ stately Jurassic Park theme song is punctuated throughout by dotted rhythms, often moving with stepwise motion. The following excerpt illustrates this melodic character.
To create a new, “like-kind” theme, Giacchino skillfully weaves dotted rhythms throughout his melody. Note the similar use of stepwise motion in the excerpt below.
The single most identifying feature of John Williams’ theme is its prominent 1-7-1 melodic motif. The excerpts below highlight this melodic cell in the context of Williams’ writing.
One can only imagine the challenge this posed for Giacchino in scoring Jurassic World. To include this motif in a forthright manner would amount to parroting. Yet this melodic gesture is so embedded into Williams’ original work that it begs the question—can you truly have a Jurassic movie theme without it?
Giacchino’s solution is to include the 1-7-1 fragment while delaying its arrival as long as possible. In fact, this melodic cell is the last three notes of Giacchino’s theme.
As a result, the audience senses that this is indeed a Jurassic theme— familiar, but not contrived.
Descending Triad Motif
Earlier we noted that Giacchino follows Williams’ use of dotted rhythms with stepwise motion. However, there is another melodic shape over a dotted-eight/sixteenth rhythm that Giacchino repurposes from Williams. It’s the shape of a descending triad. Consider the following melodic fragment from Williams’ theme:
Now compare the following fragment from Giacchino’s theme:
Giacchino’s metrical placement of the descending triad motif is certainly different than Williams’—perhaps even “disguised” you might say. Yet, the resemblance is unmistakable.
“Bugler’s Dream” Motif
The “Bugler’s Dream” motif is another significant melodic cell that Giacchino repurposed in his Jurassic World theme. And while John Williams used this gesture in his 1993 Jurassic Park theme song, the motif is not original to him. In fact, the motif can be traced to French-American composer Leo Arnaud’s “Bugler’s Dream” (1958). ABC began using “Bugler’s Dream” in their broadcast of the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, and the tune became widely known as the “Olympic theme,” at least for a time. Then, John Williams was commissioned to compose a new theme song for the Summer Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984. That entirely different tune is “Olympic Fanfare and Theme.” However, in 1996, NBC combined Arnaud’s and Williams’ works for their broadcast of the Summer Olympics in Atlanta. This tradition has continued to the present day.
The motif from Arnaud’s “Bugler’s Dream” that Williams and Giacchino reference contains a specific melodic shape that occurs as the harmony moves from I to V. The shape of the motif is a downward leap followed by a stepwise ascent. In the case of Arnaud and Williams, the melodic fragment features scale tones 3–1–2 in the primary key, where the arrival the V chord aligns with scale degree 2. Giacchino’s usage features the same shape but uses scale tones 4–1–2 instead. The following clips isolate the “Bugler’s Dream” motif in each piece.
Taken together, Giacchino’s choice of chord progressions, rhythmic gestures and melodic shapes allow the audience to experience the latter film not so much as a different Jurassic movie, but rather another one.
In scoring Jurassic Park and Jurassic World, both Williams and Giacchino have each created an iconic and enduring movie theme song. As we have seen, neither composer approaches the compositional process in a vacuum. Rather, their refined instincts are enabled by proper homage to their predecessors, both recent and past.
If you enjoyed today’s Quick Tip, then you will love the following resources from our library:
- Film Improvisation (Levels 2 & 3)
- How to Play Piano Like Hans Zimmer (Level 2)
- Geeking Out on Jazz and John Williams
- 5 Techniques to Write Scary Piano Music (Level 2)
- 5 Sad Piano Chord Progressions (Level 2)
- Contemporary Progressions and Improv (Level 2, Level 3)
- Artist Interview Featuring Joshua Foy
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Blog written by Michael LaDisa / Quick Tip by Joshua Foy
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Michael LaDisa graduated from the University of North Texas with a major in Music Theory & Composition. He lives in Chicago where he operates a private teaching studio and performs regularly as a solo pianist. His educational work with students has been featured on WGN-TV Evening News, Fox 32 Good Day,...
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