Week 1 was a great starting point for my project. Monday’s meeting with Dr. Moser yielded some interesting questions. These questions will remain unanswerable, but I believe they will guide me as I look to write my own music for Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope…
I found that Williams’s influences for the film score were largely classical in nature.
If John Williams had approached the score knowing it would be part of a huge saga, I believe Darth Vader’s theme would have been affected greatly. Although Williams created one of the most iconic sounds for “evil,” he was unaware that Vader would become a tragic, and eventually, redeemed character. His character arc over the course of six movies is that of hero, fallen hero, villain, and eventually, redeemed hero, and Williams’s “Imperial March” only reflects the villainous side of Vader. Interestingly, Vader did not even gain this iconic theme until The Empire Strikes Back. Although unconfirmed, one source I found mentioned that Williams’s theme for Vader in A New Hope was inspired by the ancient Samurai.
Besides Vader’s theme, I believe Williams should have given themes to important characters such as Han Solo and Chewbacca. This is something I plan to do in my scoring of the film that he did not. Leia has less screen time than Han, but she gets a theme, so I believe it’s important to include him in my writing of themes. At this point, I have written down theme ideas for the following: Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Darth Vader, the Rebel Alliance, the Empire, Grand Moff Tarkin, the Death Star, Jabba the Hutt,Han and the Princess, and a Space/Flight theme.
Although his application is not perfect, Williams’s score for Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope represents Wagner’s idea of leitmotifs more than any other composer at the time. In his book on the matter, Matthew Bribitzer-Stull writes, “Leitmotif, then, is not just a musical labeling of people and things; it is also a matter of musical memory, of recalling things dimly remembered and seeing what sense we can make of them in a new context.” Wagner put an emphasis on the emotional meaning of his leitmotifs, more than just a “calling card” when a character appears. I believe Williams does this very well, crafting his themes and arranging them in a way that would make Wagner proud.
In a recent interview, John Williams admitted his lack of knowledge regarding the plot and important details of Star Wars Episode VIII. This caused us to wonder just how involved Williams was in the filmmaking process, and how much control he had over the use of his music in the film. In the original film, Williams seemed to have a great deal of say with George Lucas regarding the use of his music. He scored specifically to the scenes of the film, which is evident in the timing of many of his cues. For example, his original music for “Binary Sunset,” one of the most famous cues in Star Wars, was written to be timed specifically to that scene. He actually wrote a different piece of music for that scene originally, before George Lucas asked him to change it.
I read that most film composers choose to write music for the most emotional scenes of a film first, followed by the action scenes, and then the dialogue scenes of lesser importance. I made a list of what I believed to be the most emotional scenes in Star Wars Episode 4: A New Hope, “Binary Sunset,” “Torched Homestead,” Luke’s Decision,” “Obi-Wan vs. Vader,” “They Let Us Go,” and “Medal Ceremony.” I plan to score these scenes first, starting either next week (May 23, 2016) or the week after (May 30, 2016). I also took notes on what Williams chose to do in these scenes, and what I plan to do. In some cases, he and I will have similar plans for the scene, but in most cases, my plans look fairly different from his. I think this is important, because I don’t want my score to simply be an imitation of his Star Wars, I want it to be entirely my own.