The Jaws theme has a lot of similar elements of the finale of Dvorak's New World Symphony. They both begin with alternating minor seconds.

  • 1
    The second movement of the Dvorak also begins with alternating minor seconds
    – PiedPiper
    Nov 20, 2019 at 11:46
  • @PiedPiper - Oh, right! I didn't notice that! Why not you add this in your answer?
    – user7708
    Nov 22, 2019 at 2:27

2 Answers 2


John Williams would almost certainly have heard Dvorak's "New World" Symphony, but it's very unlikely he deliberately copied it. This rising semitone motif has been used in numerous other works. Dvorak even uses this motif earlier in the "New World Symphony" at the beginning of the second movement.

  • That’s giving John Williams a lot of credit. When you hear Symphony No.9 in e minor “allegro con fuoco”-Antonio Dvorak’s opening it’s identical. Aug 4, 2022 at 22:51
  • @RussellAllen Williams has shown across his body of work that he does actually deserve lots of credit, and I doubt he'd ever need to copy. It's not really a big deal that similarities can be found here; lots of things in classical music are so similar as to sound nearly identical. Listen to the opening bars of Debussy "La Mer" (L.109) 3rd movement "Dialogue of the wind and the sea" and I'm sure you'll hear echoes of the Jaws theme there, too. A more interesting question would be to dig in on the psychology of why these particular types of sounds are perceived as so threateningly ominous.
    – mlibby
    Aug 10, 2022 at 14:15

Williams gives a nod to Debussy’s La mer but not to Dvorak. Given that his New World Symphony is one of the world’s most popular symphonies, and the 4th movement literally sounds like the Jaws theme, it’s hard to imagine Williams wasn’t influenced (subliminally or not). Why he wouldn’t admit or recognize Dvorak’s influence when he acknowledged Debussy is a mystery.

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