Herbert W. Spencer, known professionally as Herb Spencer, (April 7, 1905 - September 18, 1992) was an Oscar-nominated composer and orchestrator, most widely known for his early work in film and television, and, later in life, his collaborations with composer John Williams as his principal orchestrator. Spencer's career in Hollywood spanned the 1930's through his death in 1992, with other projects including songwriting and arranging, his jazz big band, and work in musical theater. His work with Williams began in the 1960's with the feature film "The Valley of the Dolls," and encompassed nearly all of Williams' subsequent film scores, through "Home Alone" in 1990. Spencer orchestrated the original "Star Wars" trilogy, as well as numerous Spielberg-Williams collaborations, including "Jaws," "E.T.," the "Indiana Jones" series, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," and others. Prior to working with Williams, Spencer had orchestrated over one hundred feature films, including the classics "Cleopatra," "Gentleman Prefer Blondes," and "Scrooge," for which he was nominated for an Academy Award for best song arrangement.
Often overlooked by the filmgoing audience at large, the orchestrator is something of an unsung hero in the world of cinematic music. In spite of this, Williams has acknowledged Spencer's invaluable contribution to these legendary scores in interviews and documentaries. The orchestrator is given a condensed musical sketch to expand and notate for the full studio orchestra. Although Williams' sketches are highly detailed and leave little room for artistic license on the part of the orchestrator, the process requires a comprehensive knowledge of each instrument in the orchestra and a mastery of textural and coloristic craft, and is crucial to the timely completion of the score. Spencer's work is considered to be some of the best ever recorded for film, and his reputation among Hollywood composers and orchestrators remains without peer in the industry today.
Since Spencer's passing in 1992, Williams has worked frequently with orchestrators John Neufeld and Conrad Pope, as well as others.
- Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope (orchestration)
- Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back (orchestrations)