The Jaws theme remains as powerful today as it did 41 years ago.
Sunday afternoon. It’s raining in Melbourne. Again. The boy and I have played with Duplo, completed jigsaw puzzles, put a shelf up, thrown a meal into the slow cooker, and rolled a ball past the dog with such frequency that he finally got up, punctured it, and casually returned to his bed. What next? Music and a game to go with it.
Right, time to introduce the precocious three-year-old to John Williams’s iconic Jaws theme. At such a tender age my son can already pick out John Lennon in a photo of the Beatles, regularly asks for David Bowie to be played in the car, loves Blur and calls Black Sabbath the “loud band”. We occasionally play classical music at dinner time – he tends to eat better with it on.
So, on went the Jaws score. The two notes of E and F from the classic main theme reverberated throughout the lounge room.
I asked him if he was in the water, which animal would the music he was listening to remind him of? Incredibly, he replied “a shark.” Before long, he was asking me to “Play the shark music again, Dad.”
A game was conceived where we sat on the couch and one at a time jumped off, pretending to swim around the room. When the score increased in intensity and reached its terrifying crescendo, whoever was out swimming would dash back and leap to the safety of the three-seater, ‘just in time’.
Without having seen Jaws (he’s probably not quite ready at three-and-a-half) and with no real knowledge of what a shark is (other than a simple shark-themed rhyme he learned at daycare), my boy had listened to Williams’s simple yet menacing score, and the theme – synonymous with Spielberg’s classic film – roused the primal fear in him. He understood that it signified approaching danger without understanding its context.
It’s a true testament to the power of Williams’s score. Some 41 years after it first frightened movie audiences away from the ocean, it remains potently effective.
We played for another 10 minutes before I got up, changed the music and put the kettle on. Five minutes later my lad, who was still sat on the couch, called out to me.
“Daddy, has the shark gone? Can I get off now?”