Summon the Heroes
About this Piece
John Williams has become closely associated with epic storytelling ever since his giant orchestral scores for '70s disaster movies like Earthquake and The Towering Inferno. The popularity of Star Wars nearly single-handedly jump-started the use of the lush, Romantic orchestra used perennially in Hollywood's "Golden Age" of the 1930s and '40s. Errol Flynn-worthy themes composed for contemporary mythic characters like Superman, Indiana Jones, and, more recently, Harry Potter, have become part of our collective unconscious. It stands to reason that Williams would have been approached to compose themes for the real-live athletes competing on an epic scale in the Olympic Games. Williams has composed works for the competitions on several occasions over the last two decades: his first, and still immensely popular, Fanfare and Theme for the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles, The Olympic Spirit commissioned by NBC Sports for the Olympics in Seoul Korea in 1988, and this evening's work Summon the Heroes for the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta. In an interview with William Guegold (author of 100 Years of Olympic Music), Williams eloquently connects the mythic scale of athletic competition and his own creative endeavors: "I remember seeing a photograph of a female athlete suspended above the ground, every fiber of her being stretching for a ball just beyond her reach... captured in a shot, freezing time and denying gravity. There is unquestionably a spiritual, non-corporeal aspect to an athletic quest such as this that brings us close to what art is all about."
As with his Liberty Fanfare, Summon the Heroes is representative of Williams' more recent work which favors more complex, even dissonant harmonies, heard most in the unaccompanied brass gestures which follow the opening statement of the work. Some of the chords seem to hearken back to Williams' roots as a jazz pianist. There is no shortage, however, of the Americana quality that has helped Williams carry the legacy of composers Aaron Copland and Leonard Bernstein.
— Christopher Anderson-Bazzoli