Modal Interchange and Semantic Resonance in Themes by John Williams


  • Tom Schneller Ithaca College



John Williams, film scores, harmonic analysis, mixed modes, semiotics


This article examines the semantic properties of several characteristic triadic shifts in the film and ceremonial music of John Williams. These shifts result from particular modal inflections in major keys, which include the mixolydian subtonic (associated with the heroic and/or patriotic), and the lydian supertonic (associated with magic, wonder and flight). My aim in examining Williams’ use of mixed modes is both to gain a more precise understanding of one particular aspect of his style, and to place it into the larger context of the musical tradition in Hollywood.

Author Biography

Tom Schneller, Ithaca College

Lecturer, Music History


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How to Cite

Schneller, T. (2015). Modal Interchange and Semantic Resonance in Themes by John Williams. Journal of Film Music, 6(1), 49–74.