Saturday, January 23, 2016

Star Wars (Williams, 1977)

Star Wars Ep. IV:
A New Hope
Star Wars Ep. V:
The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars Ep. VI:
Return of the Jedi

     John Williams' masterful score to George Lucas' first (but obviously not last) Star Wars movie looked backwards to the romance-adventures of Erich Wolfgang Korngold's scores for Errol Flynn as a model ("The Sea Hawk", "King's Row", etc...).  However, it also set a template for Hollywood blockbuster film music of the following 30 years (at least).  Much of the film music of the 70s was heading towards experimental textures or pop-oriented material, but "Star Wars" essentially revived the "traditional", theme-based orchestral score.  The compositional material doesn't break any new ground musically (basically drawing from early 20th-century Late Romanticism, Neo-classical and Impressionism), but as a film score it's a pinnacle of the art form, and is also possibly the most well-known (and best-selling) orchestral soundtrack of all time.

     The score for "Star Wars" (soon to be known as "Episode IV: A New Hope") was recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra over 8 sessions in March 1977, with Williams himself conducting. The score was orchestrated by Williams's frequent associate Herbert W. Spencer.  The music for "Star Wars" has been released in several forms, with the most complete being the Special Edition double CD released in 1997 (also re-packaged in 2004 and just recently in a digital collection, but both without the excellent liner notes).  The initial version of this score was a double LP, in which Williams re-combined and re-sequenced cues to create a "listening experience".  The 1997 Special Edition is basically in film order, with some concert arrangements and bonus tracks placed at the end of Disc 1 and the beginning of Disc 2, and this is what I'll be describing below.

     The most important themes introduced in Episode IV are Luke's theme, Leia's theme, the Force theme (or sometimes referred to as Ben's theme), and the Rebel fanfare (chordal and closely linked to the melodic Imperial motif, since the Rebels and the Empire are basically fighting a civil war).  Leia's theme has its own concert arrangement (beginning of CD 2), and Luke's theme is basically the "Star Wars theme".

Trk Dur Title Film Action and Themes
1 0:23 20th Century Fox Fanfare
(Alfred Newman, 1954)
  • 0:00: 20th Century Fox logo (1954 recording of Newman fanfare)
2 2:14 Main Title STAR WARS logo followed by scrolling text (Luke theme, brassy and noble):
  • 0:00: Fanfare
  • 0:07: Luke theme
  • 0:26: Luke "B" theme (hint of Leia theme)
  • 0:48: Luke theme
  • 1:24: Spacescape pan (piccolo melody over high piano/celeste scales - "musical twinkling stars")
Rebel Blockade Runner 
Princess Leia's Corellian corvette ship is pursued by a massive Imperial Star Destroyer
  • 1:38: Rebel fanfare motifs ending in dissonant brass/percussion accents
  • 1:56: Rebel fanfare on trumpets over militaristic Imperial rhythm motif
3 6:43 Imperial Attack
  • 0:00: Corvette interior w the droids R2D2 and C3P0 - "We're doomed. There'll be no escape for the Princess this time." (muted Rebel fanfare on horns/strings over Imperial rhythm motif)
  • 1:07: Imperial troops burn into the ship interior, followed by a shootout with Rebels (fast strings w brass and percussion accents using Imperial motif fragment, Rebel fanfare)
  • 2:00: Vader appears (gong hit and brass cadence)
  • 2:17: Leia gives R2 the secret plans (Force theme, Leia theme at 2:31)
  • 2:57: Rebels captured - "Where are those transmissions you've intercepted?" (rhythmic brass, becoming narrative figures)
  • 3:38: Stormtroopers hunt and capture Princess Leia (Leia fragment on flute, then later Rebel motif)
  • 4:24: Droids escape in a pod - "I'm going to regret this." (lush strings and soft horns leading to climax)
  • 4:54: Leia before Vader, discussion about the plans (Imperial motif, first in low winds and strings)
  • 6:18: Death Star motif (4 chord cadence)
4 5:02 The Dune Sea Of Tatooine
  • 0:00: Threepio crosses the desert of Tatooine alone (oscillating winds, brass and strings) 
Jawa Sandcrawler
  • 0:57: Jawas stalk and capture Artoo (oboe/cor anglais figures over plucked strings rhythm, becoming a wind/brass-driven march/promenade at 1:35)
  • 3:07: A suction device descends from the Jawa sandcrawler (descending strings) and Artoo is sucked inside, finding Theepio and other bizarre droids (march reprise with variations and a new wind excursion)
  • 4:43: Imperial troops find droid tracks (Imperial motif in horns/timpani)
5 2:25 The Moisture Farm
  • 0:00: The Jawa's sandcrawler stops and unloads - "Do you think they'll melt us down?" (winds dialogue, then march resumes)
  • 1:24: Luke appears (Luke theme on horn, then winds/strings)
  • 1:58: Luke prepares to clean up the new droids (winds, brass and plucked strings playful dialogue)
6 4:08 The Hologram
  • 0:00: Leia's hologram is projected by Artoo - "Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope." (low strings and flutes)
  • 0:31: Leia theme on oboe, flute, horn and back to oboe, supported by harp/piano scales ("I think she was a passenger on our last voyage, a person of some importance I believe.")
Binary Sunset
  • 1:53: Luke leaves the dinner table in disappointment - "Where are you going?", "Looks like I'm going nowhere." (Luke theme in flute, then clarinet, modulated key)
  • 2:20: Luke stares wistfully out over the desert during the binary sunset (Force theme on horn and then full orchestra, yearning)
  • 2:53: Luke finds out that Artoo has run off (Rebel fanfare on flutes, Luke on clarinet, Force theme on flute/horn with celeste/chime accents)
7 3:21 Landspeeder Search
  • 0:00: Luke and Threepio in a landspeeder search for Threepio, observed by Tuskan Raiders (bouncy horns over plucked strings, with Luke theme on flute, interrupted by percussive/brassy Tuskan Raider texture using tuned logs, slap sticks, steel plates, etc...)
Attack Of The Sand People
  • 1:27: Tuskan Raider attacks and knocks Luke out (Tuskan percussion texture, followed by suspense brass/winds)
  • 2:08: Obi-Wan scares off the Raiders with an animal cry (swooping string/horn figure followed by flute/bending horns pattern)
  • 2:37: Obi-Wan reveals himself - "Hello there.  Come here my little friend." (rising harp/glockenspiel glissando leads into Force theme on bassoon/horns)
8 4:28 Tales Of A Jedi Knight
  • 0:00: Luke asks Ben about Obi-Wan Kenobi - "Obi-Wan Kenobi…Now that's a name I've not heard in a long time…" (mystical strings and celeste lead to Force theme on cor anglais and cello)
  • 0:44: Tuskan Raiders begin to return (muted horn, piano, bongo), retrieval of Threepio - "I must have taken a bad step…" (mournful strings, sheepish winds)
  • 1:40: Back at his home, Ben tells Luke about Darth Vader and the Force - "How did my father die?" (Imperial motif on clarinet, descending flutes, Force theme on horn/harp)
Learn About The Force
  • 2:40: Artoo plays back Leia's message to Obi-Wan (Leia theme on oboe, flute over strings and strummed harps)
  • 3:30: Ben asks Luke to go with him to Alderaan - "I'm getting too old for this kind of thing…  You must learn about the Force, Luke." (pensive cellos lead to Force theme on clarinet/bassoon)
  • 4:12: Cut back to Imperial Destroyer approaching Death Star (Death Star chords)
9 2:50 Burning Homestead
  • 0:00: A destroyed Jawa sandcrawler is found (mournful trumpet leads strings)
  • 0:47: Luke races back home but is too late (low strings building in urgency, Force theme on trombones, then horn/strings climb, leading to...)
  • 1:26: Skeletons (dissonant cluster chord, Force theme on cello, horns lead to...)
  • 1:49: Death Star chords - Leia about to be interrogated with a big needle (Imperial motif into Leia theme, piercing strings/winds lead to portentous timpani)
10 2:16 Mos Eisley Spaceport
  • 0:00: Luke agrees to join Ben and learn about the Force (clarinet/cor anglais and strings, Force theme on horn)
  • 0:45: Traveling to Mos Eisley - "You will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. We must be cautious." (traveling horn music into a brass entrance fanfare)
  • 1:06: Entering Mos Eisley and encounter with Imperial troops (horn, piano and percussion figures, then Imperial motif, followed by "mystic" strings and ending in the Force theme on flutes - "These aren't the droids you're looking for."
11 2:47 Cantina Band
  • 0:00: Luke is harassed in the cantina - "I have the death sentence on 12 systems!" (detuned faux-jazz with steel drum percussion)
12 3:55 Cantina Band #2
  • 0:00: Negotiations with Han Solo and Chewie - "It's the ship that made the Kessel run in less than 12 parsecs.", Han's confrontation with Greedo
13 16:59 Binary Sunset
(1st version)
  • 0:00: Unused initial version of Binary Sunset (no major thematic material)
  • 2:20: (silent gap begins)
  • 5:01: Bonus track: Main Title (5 raw takes, later edited together to make the final version)

Trk Dur Title Film Action and Themes
1 4:27 Princess Leia's Theme Concert arrangement of Leia's theme:
  • 0:00: Intro
  • 0:16: 1st cycle on horn
  • 1:12: Transition on winds
  • 1:30: 2nd cycle on flute
  • 2:04: Transition on flute
  • 2:25: 3rd cycle on violins with more counter melodies
  • 3:00: 4th cycle tutti variation and climax
  • 3:48: Coda on flute and violin solo
2 3:51 The Millennium Falcon
  • 0:00: Droids hide from stormtroopers (low figures on winds (bass clarinet, contra-bassoon, etc...) and strings, brass)
  • 0:30: Luke sells his landspeeder to pay for Han's fee (Luke theme)
  • 0:43: Ben and Luke are followed by a mysterious character (alternating trombone chord/percussion texture and Luke theme)
  • 1:20: Luke sees the Millennium Falcon - "What a piece of junk!" (tremolo strings)
Imperial Cruiser Pursuit
  • 1:34: Stormtroopers arrive and the Falcon escapes Mos Eisley port - "Oh my, I'd forgotten how much I hate space travel!" (Imperial motif, Force theme fragment on horns)
  • 2:13: Falcon pursued in space by 2 Imperial star cruisers as Han makes calculations for a hyperspace jump (Force theme on strings and trumpet over ascending brass figures, followed by horn/strings dialogue with brass attack figures (2:34) and throbbing low rhythm)
  • 3:30: Leia is brought before Governor Tarkin (Death Star chords)
3 1:33 Destruction Of Alderaan
  • 0:00: Tarkin asks Leia where the Rebel base is (portentous dialogue-driven figures)
  • 0:46: Tarkin destroys Alderaan with the Death Star - "Commence primary ignition" (brass and percussion accents lead to trembling strings)
4 3:34 The
Death Star
  • 0:00: A TIE fighter lures the Falcon towards the Death Star - "That's no moon.... I have a very bad feeling about this." (suspenseful low brass, then strings, based on Imperial motif)
  • 0:55: The Falcon is tractor-beamed into the Death Star (Rebel fanfare over heavy martial percussion)
The Stormtroopers
  • 1:38: The heroes emerge from hiding (Bernard Herrmann quote from "Psycho" here) and disguise themselves as stormtroopers (Force theme fragment on cor anglais/bassoon, Imperial motif on muted trumpets/flutes, leading to narrative-driven accents ("thumps") and figures)
  • 3:11: The heroes take over a bay command station (brass, percussion and string accents lead to brief Luke fragment)
5 4:01 Wookie Prisoner
  • 0:00: Luke and Han escort Chewie as a prisoner through the Death Star in order to go rescue Leia (winds/plucked strings suspense music, then muted brass, piano and percussion, brief Imperial rhythm motif)
  • 1:10: Vader senses Obi-Wan's presence (bassoon and bass clarinet figure), as the heroes enter the detention block (Luke's theme).
Detention Block Ambush
  • 2:01: Chewie goes out of control, the heroes secure the prison control center in a shootout (brassy trumpet action cue based on Luke theme), followed by Han's intercom talk (low strings and timpani)
  • 3:20: Han's awkward conversation ends - "Luke, we're going to have company!" (Rebel fanfare)
  • 3:28: Luke rescues Leia - "Aren't you a little short for a Stormtrooper?" (Leia motif, Luke theme on horn to trumpet), Vader reports sensing his old master, Obi-Wan Kenobi (low wind chord).
6 3:48 Shootout In The Cell Bay
  • 0:00: Vader searches for Ben/Obi-Wan (low winds lead to timpani roll and accents)
  • 0:13: Stormtroopers enter the prison station as the heroes retreat deeper into the cell bay, and dive into a garbage chute - "This is some rescue!  You came in here, and you didn't have a plan for getting out?  Into the garbage chute, flyboy!" (Imperial motif on brass, then Rebel fanfare on oboe/trumpet to horn (0:32), rhythmic pulses, accent figures, leading to Imperial motif on horn and then trumpet (1:31), ending with slow descending chords)
Dianoga (unused)
  • 2:12: Encounter with the serpent-like Dianoga in the trash compactor (re-purposed in 1997 for the approach to Mos Eisley SE scene) (suspense-building texture based on rising wind ornaments and brass accents)
7 3:06 The Trash Compactor
  • 0:00: The heroes are threatened by the shrinking walls of the trash compactor (trilling winds and brass chords builds suspense - developing themes from Dianoga, mostly unused)
  • 0:47: Stormtroopers find the droids (Imperial motif)
  • 1:29: Luke attempts to have the droids shut down the compactor - "One thing's for sure, we're all going to  a lot thinner." (suspense-building texture continue from before, with added string and flute figures, leading to brass)
8 5:18 The Tractor Beam
  • 0:00: Ben begins shutting down the tractor beams. (suspenseful, muted strings with isolated piano/percussive rolls)
  • 0:44: Luke, Han and Leia squabble - "No reward is worth this…" (strings, horn and winds dialogue)
  • 1:23: Ben hunted by Stormtroopers (suspense texture returns from before with more percussion)
  • 2:01: The heroes see the Falcon - "You came in that thing? You're braver than I thought." (Luke theme on brass, followed by tremolo strings)
  • 2:24: Seen by stormtroopers and chased (back and forth) through corridors (brass chords, a brief pause, then...)
Chasm Crossfire
  • 2:34: Luke, Han and Leia are pursued by stormtroopers (Imperial motive over motoric strings and timpani)
  • 2:59: Luke and Leia hit a chasm - "I think we took a wrong turn..." (pause and then string rhythm continues into suspense chords).   
  • 3:23: During a shootout, Luke comes up with an idea (Luke theme, including "B" theme (hint of Leia theme))
  • 4:08: Leia kisses Luke "for luck" as they swing across the chasm on a rope (Leia theme fragment on trumpet).  Ben, the droids, Han and Chewie all converge towards the Falcon (Luke theme, Imperial motif)
  • 4:55: Ben encounters Vader and prepares to duel (timpani rolls)
9 3:51 Ben Kenobi's Death
  • 0:00: Ben allows Vader to strike him down in order to distract the guards - Leia: "Luke, it's too late!" (Force theme fragment, then Leia theme motif)
  • 0:36: Luke hears Ben's voice "Run, Luke, run!", the Falcon takes off from the Death Star (Rebel fanfare)
  • 1:01: Leia comforts Luke - "I can't believe he's gone." (Force theme on various winds (oboe, flute, clarinet scale, horn, oboe))
Tie Fighter Attack
  • 1:32: TIE fighters pursue the Falcon - "Come on buddy, we're not out of this  yet." (tremolo strings and "tip-toe" bass build tension)
  • 2:03: TIE fighters engaged - "Here they come." (Brassy TIE fighter attack theme based on Rebel fanfare motifs)
  • 3:01: Luke destroys a TIE fighter - "Great, kid! Don’t get cocky." (swirling textures, leading to various contrasting dramatic figures)
  • 3:28: Han destroys the last TIE fighter (brass climax and timpani roll)
10 9:07 The Battle Of Yavin: 

Launch from
the 4th Moon
  • 0:00: Luke and the Rebel X-Wing fighters take off from the Rebel base on Yavin on a mission to destroy the Death Star (string harmony leads to variations with added horns and military snare rolls)
  • 0:54: The fighters approach the Death Star (Death Star chords, followed by cymbal hits)
Draw Fire
  • 1:10: Red Leader leads squadron down in order to draw ground fire (trumpet canon figures based on Force theme, leading to rhythmic statement over swirling strings)
  • 1:49: Vader orders TIE fighters to engage, back in the skirmish Porkins is shot down (low brass and winds play Imperial motif, eventually returning to more brassy trumpet action)
  • 2:25: Tarkin monitors the Death Star's approach to firing range of the Rebel base (piano, strings winds), Luke hears Ben's advice in his head (Rhythmic variations of Luke theme fragment at 2:46)
  • 2:56: TIE fighters engage the Rebel fighters (reprise of brass canon figures based on Force theme, mixed with Death Star chords, Luke theme, Rebel fanfare, etc...)
"Use the
  • 4:33: After Vader shoots down Red Leader, Luke prepares for his trench run.  Tarkin and the Rebels monitor the situation (brass fanfare leads to suspenseful wind figures and plucked "tic-toc" strings)
  • 4:49: Luke, Biggs and Wedge begin their attack run (fast string runs punctuated by brass fanfares, etc...using TIE fighter attack (Rebel) motifs), final Imperial motif interrupts at 5:10
  • 5:36: Vader's interceptor squadron approaches, Wedge is hit and forced to withdraw (rhythmic, building "countdown" music)
  • 6:17: Vader shoots down Biggs (low mournful brass/contrabass, followed by Luke theme, brass/cymbal accents)
  • 6:47: Obi-Wan's voice tells Luke to "Use the Force" (lush Force theme, followed by Luke theme over churning rhythm)
  • 7:22: Artoo is hit and the Rebel base comes into the Death Star's firing range (Luke theme "bent", then a timpani solo - "You may fire when ready"-  followed by Luke theme in thick diminished key chords)
  • 8:06: The Falcon destroys Vader's pursuit squadron in a surprise attack - "You're all clear, kid! Now let's blow this thing and go home!" (stabbing brass chords)
  • 8:27: Luke succeeds in destroying the Death Star - "Remember, the Force will be with you, always." (timpani hit, glockenspiel and lush strings, brass, Rebel fanfare)
11 5:37 The Throne Room Luke, Han and Chewbacca proceed down a throne room auditorium to get medals from Leia and the Rebellion leaders.
  • 0:00: Throne room fanfare
  • 0:17: Force theme (brassy, militaristic)
  • 0:48: Throne room fanfare reprise
  • 0:56: Han gets his medal and winks at Leia (Luke B theme variations (Leia))
  • 1:12: Luke theme
  • 1:29: The Heroes are greeted with applause (Luke B theme variation)
End Title End Credits:
  • 1:45: Luke theme and Rebel fanfare
  • 2:24: Luke theme, Luke B theme, Luke theme
  • 3:20: Leia theme on cello, with Rebel fanfare ornaments on flute/piccolo
  • 4:00: Luke theme on brass with climbing strings cadence
  • 4:38: Rebel fanfare and variation on trumpets
  • 4:59: Rebel fanfare and variation on strings
  • 5:11: Throne room fanfare and final cadence

     Much more information about John Williams' trend-setting score to Star Wars can be found in the liner notes to the various releases of this soundtrack:
     Another highly useful resource is Doug Adams' article "Sounds of the Empire" on the themes of Star Wars in Film Score Monthly Vol 4, No 5 (June 1999).

YouTube Playlist of Star Wars Episode IV Special Edition Soundtrack
Wiki entry
Recording the Star Wars Saga (Chris Malone)

John Williams Wiki
John Williams Fan Network forum 
The John Williams Collection (Markus Hable site)

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