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Hollywood Composer Patrick Williams Embraces Many Genres

Patrick Williams
Patrick Williams

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Music is a key part of film and television production, and in four decades in Hollywood, Patrick Williams has been a leading composer and arranger of musical themes and scores.  The Grammy-winning musician has also been active in the recording business, and he is taking his music online to explore new digital formats.

Williams has written themes and scores, the background music that dramatizes the action, for dozens of TV series, including Newhart, Lou Grant, and the Mary Tyler Moore and Tony Randall shows.

He has also done arrangements for the albums of top recording artists, including Natalie Cole's 2008 CD Still Unforgettable.

Williams has composed scores for about 70 feature films and even more television movies.  

One feature score brought him an Oscar nomination: the 1979 film Breaking Away is about a young man who hopes to become a cycling champion.  "You're a story-teller, and as a musician, you're almost a film psychiatrist because the music is dealing with the emotional underpinnings so often of what's actually going on in the story," he said.

Williams has won four Emmys for his television work and two Grammys for his recordings.

His composition Too Hip for the Room got a Grammy nomination in 1983.

Williams has worked as an arranger for some of the top names in the music business, including Frank Sinatra on two albums of duets with contemporary singers.

Working in so many different genres, Williams says his daily challenge is coming up with the right sound for a show, movie, or album. "In my experience, anyway, sometimes it just kind of pops into your head and you go with it.  Other times, it's much more of a struggle.  But I was always a great believer, and I learned this experientially, of trying to keep your mind open and receptive and not be judgmental too quickly because that shuts down creativity," he said.

Williams won a Grammy for this 1973 jazz release, called Threshold, and he says that since his college days, when he had his own student band, he has loved jazz and the big band swing sound with its brass, reed and rhythm sections. "It's an American invention.  We invented this thing.  And it's a great concoction.  And it's just wonderful to see, it's getting some rejuvenated time now," he said.

Williams will return to his musical roots for his next project, which will bring top big band musicians to Capitol Records in Hollywood for a recording of his compositions in late August.  He says the album will blend classical symphonic and big band jazz techniques, with a hint of Brazilian Samba.

He will distribute CDs and digital downloads through an online site called artistShare.com, providing yet another forum for his music.

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