“Life is either a great adventure or nothing.”
“One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure.”
When we hear the name “John Williams,” we often think of the epic musical scores this Hollywood film composer has provided for blockbuster films such as Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Home Alone. But not only has Williams helped to make the movies an unforgettable experience, his musical genius has also shown us the adventure there is to be found in the monotonous details of everyday life.
Take the evening news, for example. For years, I joined my parents in watching the NBC Nightly News, a program which started out and ended with a sweeping musical score that could easily have been paired with a Hollywood film. Yep – you got it – in addition to his numerous Hollywood film scores, John Williams was the mastermind behind this news program’s daily theme song as well.
During an interview, the news anchor asked Williams what he thought of their current musical interlude, to which Williams simply shrugged. “Do you think you could do a better job?” the news anchor asked with a smile. Williams was confident that he could, which led to NBC hiring the legendary musician to compose a better theme song. And The Mission was born.
The number opens with a steady, bouncing pattern in the strings, a musical motif which Williams later told interviewers was inspired by the sound of a Morse Code Transmitter as it used short dots and dashes to transmit important news. It doesn’t take long, however, for the piece to move from this antiquated sound to a full orchestration with enough energy and excitement to make Indiana Jones envious.
A marching drumbeat drives the piece ever forward, remaining in the background even in the number’s quietest moments. Each time the piece reaches a climactic point, the announcement is heralded by trumpets and enveloped in the same bright, heroic sounds of brass that has kept the Star Wars soundtrack at the top of the charts.
As for the main melody, it is given to the French Horns, which have historically been thought of as “hunting horns” and are often associated with a grand chase. And, in this example of pure musical magic, Williams has taken something as ordinary and mundane as delivering the daily news and has transformed it into a wild adventure – with heroic reporters rushing off to hunt down leads and herald the information into our living rooms as if we were royalty, as the steady heartbeat of the clock continues to tick on in the background.
If ever there was a musical soundtrack that would inspire and motivate us to seek out the adventure in the midst of our own daily lives – this is it.
The Mission – John Williams