“Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes?”
That infamous quote can be from only one movie: “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Steven Spielberg’s 1981 cinematic homage to old-fashioned cliff-hanger adventures, featuring a memorable score by John Williams and starring Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones.
To celebrate the film’s 35th anniversary, Pacific Symphony will show “Raiders of the Lost Ark” on a large screen while performing the score live this Saturday, Aug. 13 at Irvine Meadows as part of its summer concert season.
“In creating the character Indiana Jones, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg introduced an enduring and much-loved figure into the pantheon of fictional movie heroes,” said Williams. “‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’ was illuminated by the superb comedy-action performance of Harrison Ford and enlivened by the spirited direction of Steven Spielberg. Speaking for myself, I must say that the experience of composing the music for this film, and for the subsequent installments in the series, was a very happy one, and offered me a wild and truly joyous ride.
“I’m especially delighted that the magnificent Pacific Symphony has agreed to perform the music in a live presentation of the movie,” added Williams. “I know I speak for everyone connected with the making of the ‘Raiders’ in saying that we are greatly honored by this event… and I hope that the audience will experience some measure of the joy and fun we did when making the film 35 years ago.”
Williams has created the soundtracks to some of the most iconic movies ever made, including all seven “Star Wars” films, the first three “Harry Potter” films, “Superman,” “Memoirs of a Geisha,” “Home Alone,” “Schindler’s List,” “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” “Jaws,” “Jurassic Park,” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.”
Pacific Symphony tuba player Jim Self has played on many of those soundtracks. He played the five famous notes of the mother
ship in “Close Encounters,” and said that the experience of recording movie soundtracks has changed over the years, although he joked that it was still “90 percent boredom and 10 percent fright. There’s a lot of waiting around, although John Williams rehearses the orchestra pretty thoroughly.”
Self said Williams emails the score to the musicians ahead of the recording saession, which is better than some composers who may not complete their score until the night before the session.
“Back in the old days, there would be a large screen in the back of the studio, and the conductor would look at the film and freely conduct it, which is a risky thing to do,” said Self. “These days everything is perfectly timed out.”
During his busy Hollywood years, Self would work a double session at MGM Studio and finish at 5 p.m., teach a student for one hour, and then drive Segerstrom Center for a rehearsal or performance.
Self recalled the time when several symphony musicians played on a recording session in Los Angeles that went until 6 p.m., and they had to be at Segerstrom Center by 7 p.m.
“The six of us rented a helicopter that picked us up at Johnny Carson Studio and took us to Orange County,” laughed Self, who admits it was risky, but they made it just in time.
Self isn’t quite the risk taker these days, although he certainly keeps busy. He performs with various orchestras, teaches at USC, is active in composing (he has written 60 pieces for orchestras and smaller ensembles), and has 13 of his own CDs, mainly jazz, available on his website at bassethoundmusic.com.
“I am a musicaholic, that’s what I do,” admitted Self. “I get up and spend the day making music.”
The “Raiders of the Lost Ark” concert and movie starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25-$108. For more information or to purchase tickets or pre-order picnic boxes, call (714) 755-5799 or visit PacificSymphony.org.