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MUSIC OF THE SAVAGE OCEAN


Film score collectors have been historically quite adamant in their demands for complete releases of soundtracks, namely for the scores of John Williams, which so often leave out highlights of the music and place them into confusing suites.  The latest of the composer's works to receive the expanded treatment is his first blockbuster (in fact, the first summer blockbuster movie ever), JAWS.  To some, this may seem a bit unneeded, due to the fact that the original 35-minute LP album featured a great majority of the score, with a few of the shorter cues actually expanded into suites.  Still, for the 25th anniversary of the film, Decca saw fit to rescue the entire musical work, minus the album expansions for a 51-minute CD release.  Is this a significant improvement over Williams' original presentation?  Not really, although it plays as a completely different listening experience that is at least as good as the album.  Fans will be elated due to the inclusion of almost 30 minutes of new material, including fantastic cues not used in the film, which make up for the loss of the infamous original album developments.  Decca's sound quality is a great improvement, however, with the use of CEDAR's De-Hisser 2 mixing console (the same one used for their restoration of the Solti set of Wagner's Ring cycle).  It's not quite perfect, though - there are a few noticeable flaws, none of which take away from the listening experience.  

Of course, the score itself is a gargantuan masterpiece, the absolute highlight of Williams' pre-Star Wars scoring and one of the most exciting, terrifying, and fun scores of the 20th Century, featuring the indelible main theme - not even a theme or motif really, simply a passionless, mechanical chromatic ostinato used in innumerable classical works.  Still, it was a stroke of genius to utilize this device to represent the shark, making the film even more horrifying, even with the monstrosity absent from the screen.  The rest of the music is equally masterful, featuring some of the most exciting action music to grace a score, as well as enough horrifying dissonance to make the public cringe.

Decca's release presents something of a conundrum - it is a completely different score from that of the original LP (see the analysis for "Man Against Beast" for just one example), yet it functions just as well as a listening experience.  My advice would be to own both releases, since they compliment each other, with each housing merits absent from the other.  For those reluctant to purchase both, go with the Decca expansion as a first choice - as much as I love the other version, this is simply a superior score.


Track by Track Analysis:

{original album titles noted in braces - those with no braces are previously unreleased}

1. Main Title and First Victim (3:30) {Main Title (expanded to 2:16) and Chrissie's Death}

Williams' immortal main title begins, of course, with the distant chromatic rumblings of a double bass, gradually coalescing into the droning march for the shark, offset by dissonant seventh chords.  

Example 1: Shark Ostinato

Example 2: Seventh Motif

As this reaches a climax, we segue suddenly into the composer's first example of Herrmannesque horror scoring with echoes of the seventh motif in harp and vibraphone, along with surreal rumblings of the shark theme. As the shark takes its first chomp, the score unleashes with savage brass and string dissonances that comprise the majority of the rest of the cue, intercut with more tranquil moments for shimmering harp.

2. The Empty Raft (1:23)

The second attack features more horrific variations on the shark ostinato and seventh motif, along with one of the highlights of the score - the absolutely ferocious string glissando as Spielberg's camera zooms in on Brody.  Williams' action music, of course, is immensely varied and exciting.

3. The Pier Incident (2:22)

Another of the score's highlights opens this track, an ominous expansion of the seventh motif for woodwinds.  Following this is another attack scene, which features the ostinato gradually approaching from a distance, continually built upon by the orchestration.  However, just as it seems it will climax into more malicious dissonance, the music fades out into nothingness.

4. The Shark Cage Fugue (2:00) {Preparing the Cage (expanded to 3:24)}

The most blatantly non-chronological track on Decca's album, this interrupts the flow of Williams' thematic development, utilizing two themes that have not even been introduced yet - the jovial sea chanty to characterize Quint and the rest of the adventurers, as well as the theme of the cue's namesake.  

Example 3: Sea Chanty #1

This is an almost unbearably suspenseful fugue that emphasizes the composer's complex style that had not yet fully matured until this point - definitely the most compositionally masterful addition to the score, as well as a magnificent theme.

Example 4: The Shark Cage Fugue

5. Shark Attack (1:18)  (RealAudio Sound Clip Available)

I KNEW this music sounded familiar, yet I couldn't connect it to either the film or the original LP.  It turns out it was used in the theatrical trailer.  Shark Attack is for me the highlight of the new expansion - easily the most savage and uncompromising music of the score, turning the shark ostinato into a fortissimo cloud of terror.  Following a subdued bassoon opening, a dissonant brass chord gives way to the ostinato, now with immeasurably huge orchestration, building into a passionate cry of pain and shock punctuated by Psycho-like flute/piccolo glissandi.  The incredulous brass and string recoilings on top of the ostinato (actually a reversal of the attack motif, which barely appears until the out-to-sea scenes, further evidence toward the fact that this was meant to underscore Quint's death.) are what I remembered most, however.

6. Ben Gardner's Boat (3:31) {Night Search}

Williams composes an evocative, ominous searching cue that features an alien, morose tone conveyed through ascending string notes, harp flourishes, and chromatic flute triads.  Hints of the shark ostinato and seventh motif play throughout, finally climaxing in a huge synthesizer tone and chopping, dissonant string music.

7. Montage (1:31) {Promenade (expanded to 2:46)}

Perhaps the most charming and upbeat cue, this presents a Baroque-styled melody complete with harpsichord.  The lengthy expansion of this section found on the LP is one of the most noticeable omissions.

8. Father and Son (3:43)

Following a gloomy horn solo, Williams hints at the desert music from his later Star Wars score through impressionistic, chromatic horn triads.  Following this is a delicate, thematically unconnected passage featuring warm cluster chords on harp, celeste, and piano.  Williams ends the cue with some classic unused suspense scoring featuring rumbling piano bass, high dissonant strings, and impressionistic clarinet meanderings.  One of the most noticeable effects in this section is the Stravinsky-like bitonal flute assaults.

9. Into The Estuary (2:51)

This is another of the classic shark attack cues, beginning with distant rumblings of the ostinato, with each iteration coming closer in dynamics and orchestration.  The most noteworthy thematic example of this cue is the introduction of an ugly recoiling figure that often accompanies the shark ostinato - the attack motif (actually a chordal version of the seventh motif).

Example 5: Attack Motif

Williams only subtly hints at it here, saving the majority of its uses for the later out-at-sea scenes.  The composer intercuts these moments of imposing terror with hilariously overdone slithering string dissonances underscoring long shots of various body parts floating in the water.  The final seconds hint at Williams' mature style with uncertain string passages.

10. Out To Sea (2:58) {Out to Sea (expanded to 2:27) - Decca's version adds another cue to the end}

The tone that ended Into The Estuary continues in this cue with horns, introducing vaguely the sea chanty that features prominently into the rest of the score, mainly in the end titles.

Example 6: End Title Chanty

Out To Sea's bulk, however, is given to another new sea chanty on flutes that lasts about 15 seconds, as opposed to the 1:30 of the original LP.  

Example 7: Out To Sea

The short cue at the end is the main highlight, however, since it introduces for the first time the suspenseful Shark Cage Fugue that would come to fruition later in the score.  Another interesting new aspect that was completely lost to the LP is an introduction of the lilting string motif that would later shape the foundation of the end credits - upon further listening it turns out to be a major-key permutation of the shark ostinato.

11. Man Against Beast (5:34) {Sea Attack Number One (5:24)}

Out of all the cues in the score, Man Against Beast is the magnum opus, combining all the themes heard thus far into an exciting tour-de-force of adventure scoring.  Following a dissonant opening featuring the Out to Sea theme against rapidly ascending string tremolos, the Jaws ostinato appears in full force, but when it reaches the point at which it would usually descend into dissonant horror scoring, Williams magnificently adds a Maestoso string/brass fanfare to the theme as the shark reveals its full expanse.  

Example 8: New Fanfare for Shark Ostinato

By placing this theme into the concert arrangement of the main title, the LP completely spoils the moment for the listener - in the full score it plays as a stunning revelation, but on the LP it plays as almost a banal retread of a familiar theme.  The Shark Cage Fugue serves as the foundation for the cue's midsection, at which point Williams stunningly interpolates the sea chanties counterpuntally.  The remainder of the track plays as an almost unbearably exciting action scherzo based completely on the library of themes heard thus far.  The only drawback to the film version is its somewhat lackadaisical tempo - even then, however, it races through the masterful material.

12. Quint's Tale (2:41) {The Indianapolis Story (2:25)}

One of the most unsettling sequences of the score - even though it never features the shark motif - this houses a collection of unearthly string dissonances with atonal harps and several interpolations of the seventh motif.

13. Brody Panics (1:10)

Another of the exciting unreleased tracks, this features a typical, straightforward shark attack sequence with a suspenseful build-up of the various shark motivs.

14. Barrel Off Starboard (1:31)

The ostinato and seventh motif begin this cue, which promptly dives into low string underscore.  Abruptly in the last few seconds, dissonant brass flourishes erupt into the ostinato.

15. The Great Shark Chase (3:28) {One Barrel Chase}

Serving as a counterpart to Man Against Beast, this opens with the Shark Cage Fugue over the chromatic shark ostinato, and, after a few seconds of action scoring, the adventure aspect takes over again, now based on a traditional sea chanty as well as the usual themes - another highlight of the album.

16. Three Barrels Under (2:05)

Another showcase of the shark ostinato, this possesses a more exotic tone than several other tracks.  Midway through the cue, a new thematic idea enters - based on a series of chromatically ascending string triads - and transforms the music into a thrilling action section, soon back to the library of themes with the shark ostinato and end credit chanty.

17. Between Attacks (2:06)

After an ominous hint of the seventh motif and shark ostinato, the Out to Sea motif takes over for a lengthy sequence of complex underscore.  Soon, the Fugue enters into the underscore, and Williams briefly interpolates a jovial sea chanty ("Fair Spanish Ladies," the song that Quint continually sang in the film.) amidst the morose strings.

18. The Shark Approaches (2:41) {The Underwater Siege}

Williams bases another cue completely around the versatile shark ostinato, which, after a cunning predatory introduction, soon becomes the foundation of another exciting atonal action cue.  A highlight is the lengthy passage for frenetic harp glissandi, paying homage to Herrmann's Beneath the Twelve Mile Reef.

19. Blown To Bits (3:03) {Hand to Hand Combat}

Visceral, nonthematic orchestral dissonance sets the foundation for this climactic action cue, with the frantic 6/8 introduction hinting at the composer's mature action music of later years.  Hints of the ostinato and end credit chanty pop up periodically, as well as the shark cage fugue as the shark finally meets its doom.  After a climactic timpani note, warm cluster chords take over, and Williams underscores the shark's bloody death with gentle descending harp.

20. End Titles (1:52) {End Title (expanded to 2:18)}

Incredibly, Williams' End Titles contain only one theme - the tranquil sea chanty.  Pay close attention to the string accompaniment - it appears to be a major key permutation of the shark motif.

In summation, Decca's expanded JAWS is an essential purchase, even if you already own the original album.  Those without the original album, buy this first.


Jaws Expanded: The Final Score
Music Rating 10/10
   
Packaging/Liner Notes 8/10
Sound Quality 7/10
Length 10/10
Orchestral Performance 9/10

Jaws is Copyright 2000 by Decca.  Article Copyright 2000 by Andrew Drannon.  All Rights Reserved.

JAWS POLL

Results:

Truthfully, which JAWS album is the best representation of the score?

2000 Decca Release: 86%

1975 MCA LP: 8%

I hate 'em both!  John Williams is a hack!: 4%