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John Williams' Music

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Is it just me, or has the quality of John Williams' music for Star Wars paralleled the quality of the films themselves?

The music for "Star Wars" (1977) and for ESB are brilliant, original, and alot of fun to listen to. Return of the Jedi is still good, but includes some some earlier music just played in a slightly different fashion, and themes that I just don't find as interesting for repeated listening.

The PT seems to have very few noteworthy or memorable themes. ROTS seems a bit more exciting, but it's basically because many of the themes from the OT are being used.

Even the playing of the opening theme seems to be more and more muted and less detailed. In the PT the theme seems to sound more like ROTJ. I had hoped that Williams would use some variation to make the themes for the PT sound more like an earlier version of the one used in Star Wars (1977).
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I agree, I think Williams' music went downhill on the PT. There were really no memorable themes, IMO, except for maybe Anakin's theme in TPM. I have to disagree with you about ROTJ, though. I thought the music was just as brilliant in that film as in the first two.

There were so many fantastic themes in the OT- Princess Leia's theme, Han Solo and the Princess, Yoda's theme, the Imperial March, and my favorite- Luke and Leia's theme.

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I've felt EXACTLY the same thing. With the exception of one or two pieces, the music is about as memorable as the movies themselves. That is to say...not very. I think Williams wasn't as engaged by, or moved emotionally, by the PT as he was by the OT. So much of the music seems cliche, and very un-Williams like. There's no heart and soul to it, just like the PT.
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I remember seeing ROTJ in the movie theater on opening day in 1983 (I think I saw it 2 more times that summer) and being so moved by Luke and Leia's theme, and the church-like music during Luke and Vader's duel (right after Vader tricks Luke into coming out of hiding by threatening Leia). I remember buying the LP of the soundtrack and being so disappointed that that duel piece wasn't on it. I was thrilled when the Star Wars Anthology CD-boxed set came out, and I was FINALLY able to listen to that piece on CD.

I guess I wasn't the only one, because Ben Burtt mentioned (in the DVD commentary, I think) how so many people mentioned that particular piece of music to him, and asked where they could get it.

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Compared to the OT, the PT has a sort of disconnectedness between the images on the screen and the music. This is due to several factors, but the most telling one, in my estimation, is the difference in the way the two trilogies were made. On the originals, the edit was pretty much locked down when it came time for the scoring sessions. The main visual difference between the final film and the one projected in the studio was an occasional unfinished effects shot. Williams could conduct the orchestra to keep important musical beats in sync with the action in the film.

With the prequels, however, large portions of the movie were extensively re-edited *after* the music was recorded. This necessitated the cutting of the music to make it (more or less) fit with the film or, in some cases, replacing the music written for a scene with a cue lifted from another sequence (or even another movie). Mix that with the different priorities that come into play when a sound designer is the editor, and you get a vastly different film-&-music experience.

Contrast this with the chase scene near the end of "E.T." The orchestra's best performance was on a take that was slightly off the timing of the film. Spielberg decided to use the music as it was, and tweaked the film editing to conform it to the score.
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Enzo is correct. Further, JW didn't want to do anymore Star Wars. He would've gotten out of it if he could, like he did Potter, but he really couldn't - for himself and for the franchise. But I was talking to his engineer shortly before they left for London and he was saying JW was not looking forward to it.

_Mike

View the Restoration and join the discussion at StarWarsLegacy.com!

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I do like the music for ROTJ, but just not quite as much as SW and ESB. Jabba's theme just doesn't demand repeated listening for me, but it is much more memorable than the themes in the PT. The music in some instances seems less detailed (seems to me to be fewer harmonizing instruments, more emphasis on the melody only) but nowhere near so as the PT music. When I saw ROTS I was surprised that the 20th Century Fox fanfare, and the opening title music were so quiet and had so little dynamic range. Based on my DVD, and seeing it on HBO-HD, it seems that this was the way it was intended to be.
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ROTJ Disc 2, Track 5 (Battle of Endor I) could be a college music theory semester by itself. And another semester on orchestration. I've transcribed most of ROTJ over the years, and this 12-minute piece alone has more raw ability in it than the entire PT, and more than just about every blockbuster of the last 5 years I can think of put together. ESB and definitely ANH, too, were scores on levels you basically don't hear anymore. Ditto most of his work from his "Golden Period."

_Mike

View the Restoration and join the discussion at StarWarsLegacy.com!

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The music John Williams created for the tense scene with Vader trying to flush out Luke from the shadows and the subsequent battle after has got to be the most wonderful thing he has written. Granted it is short and sweet, but it never fails to give me goosebumps. Every. Single. Time. His quality did not dip during ROTJ.

The man is a genius. He's work is the only redeming quality of the PT. Now, at some parts during ROTS it did sound like he was phoning it in (and I bet he was) but the theme music was great. I've got it on my MP3 player.

I may not like the PT but I do own all 3 soundtracks. Dual of Fate, Love theme, all wonderful music.
"I am altering the movies. Pray I don't alter them any further." -Darth Lucas
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Originally posted by: mverta
ROTJ Disc 2, Track 5 (Battle of Endor I) could be a college music theory semester by itself.


Just what I wanted to say... in fact all three "Battle of Endor"-cues form the best music that can be found in ROTJ. Still, I like TESB's soundtrack the best... the Hoth-battle, Yoda, Han & Leia... it can't be beaten.

Regarding the prequels I still think "Across the Stars" is the thing I like most. Oddly enough, considering that it's just a rip-off of Williams' own "Hook"-theme. But still, when I heard "Confrontation with Count Dooku & Finale" (and that was BEFORE I saw the movie), including the Imperial March, I had a film running in front of my mind's eye, that was just the PERFECT Episode 2... no cheesy crap, but a VERY dark and sinister end battle, with a proper emotional factor.

I agree that the PT didn't have many outstanding themes though... I didn't even like "Battle of the Heroes" that much, it was just too similar to "Duel of Fates", and a little to simple for my taste.

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I'm certainly no music expert. I'm just someone who's love of orchestral music started with seeing "Star Wars" in 1977. I'm listening to "The Battle of Hoth" from ESB as I write this. I don't know if it's worthy of a college course in music theory, but even after all these years, I still love listening to it.
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Like painters have their "blue periods" and whatnot, John Williams has also his periods where his compositions sounds almost the same. I think this is the largest reason why the PT and OT music feel so incoherent to eachother.
You could compare the soundtrack of ANH (1977) with that of Superman (1978). When I was a kid, I was a fan of both soundtracks and used to hum and whistle them constantly, but I often mixed them up.
I remember in 2002, some people from TFN's music forum went to see Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets only to get a hint of how AOTC would sound ... and they did!
You can hear similiarities between the music during the Bounty Hunter chase through Coruscant and the music during the Quidditch match.

John Williams is not perfect in the OT either. I don't know when Luke's theme became "The Force" theme, why you hear the "Han and Leia" theme during the end of ESB when it is Luke holding his arm around Leia and why you hear a variation of Yoda's theme during the skiff battle in ROTJ.

Btw, the PT music I like the most are:
* Anakin's Theme
* The funeral theme
* The Order 66 music
* Most of all: The merging of the funeral theme with the Imperial March, in ROTS when we see the Death Star.
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The Phantom Menace soundtrack is underappreciated in my opinion and can stand alongside the Original Trilogy Soundtracks.

The Attack of the Clones soundtrack is a mess with boring themes. The Imperial March should not have been used at all. Attack of the Clones is the only Star Wars soundtrack I don't own.

Revenge of the Sith's soundtrack could have used more cues and references from The Phantom Menace - Duel of the Fates and Anakin's Theme in particular. I probably like this soundtrack because it wasn't as bad as AOTC's.
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I think Williams did good music for I-III, but as someone said, you can barely hear it, or it's chopped up in a weird way or it's recycled for something it wasn't written for, or it's not used at all! It would be interesting to see a version of a prequel film cut TO the music, with the barest minimum of dialogue, like Sergio Leone style.
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Originally posted by: Darth Lars

John Williams is not perfect in the OT either. I don't know when Luke's theme became "The Force" theme...


It didn't. Ben's Theme became "The Force" theme.

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I saw John williams with the Chicago symphony thanksgiving weekend. there was plenty of star wars music on the program, although I was dissapointed that Luke and Leia's theme wasn't included. but surprise! he did it as an encore. it was great.

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Originally posted by: Gaffer Tape
Originally posted by: Darth Lars

John Williams is not perfect in the OT either. I don't know when Luke's theme became "The Force" theme...


It didn't. Ben's Theme became "The Force" theme.

Right- I saw an interview with John Williams many years ago, and he said that the main "star wars" theme is actually "Luke's theme" (note how it's gently played as we first see Luke when he emerges to help his uncle pick out droids).

Of all the PT films, TPM probably has the best score. However, the only PT soundtrack CD I own is for ROTS, because of the really cool bonus DVD that came with it. I've always wanted a set of "music videos" for some of my favorite SW themes- and was thrilled that they finally put one together (albeit, with shots from the SE...grrrr!) The bonus-DVD is the ONLY reason I bought it, though.

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Originally posted by: mverta
Enzo is correct. Further, JW didn't want to do anymore Star Wars. He would've gotten out of it if he could, like he did Potter, but he really couldn't - for himself and for the franchise. But I was talking to his engineer shortly before they left for London and he was saying JW was not looking forward to it.

_Mike

Really?! That's interesting. You can really hear it in the music, though. It sounds like he was uninspired.

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Too me, the PT score is competant but nowhere near as accomplished as his scores for the OT. Each score seems llike it only has one, maybe two really good memorable pieces in it. Sort of like tracks meant to be used as singles. But other than that, the rest of the scoe is unremarkable, especially for a Williams score. But we have to remember, William scores to what he sees on screen. If he gets a mediocre movie, he composes a mediocre score.

It just makes me wonder how Goldsmith wrote great scores for bad movies, though, like First Knight.
There's good in the Original Trilogy, and it's worth fighting for.
"People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."
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Originally posted by: MielrThe bonus-DVD is the ONLY reason I bought it, though.


I liked the bonus DVD as well, but there were a fews parts that I hated. Such as the Love Theme with all the shots from AOTC. You pretty much just hear music and then a little over half way through the music (maybe about 3 minutes in) during a softer cue of the music you hear Anakin shout out "Padme!" It scared the crap out of me, and I hated it. You are so wrapped up in just watching the music video and listening to the notes and then have someone yell at you... no sir, I don't like it.
"I am altering the movies. Pray I don't alter them any further." -Darth Lucas
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Originally posted by: Harlock415

It just makes me wonder how Goldsmith wrote great scores for bad movies, though, like First Knight.



Goldsmith used those kind of movies to experiment new things.

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Originally posted by: grifter
Originally posted by: Harlock415

It just makes me wonder how Goldsmith wrote great scores for bad movies, though, like First Knight.



Goldsmith used those kind of movies to experiment new things.


Or it could be he said, screw this movie. I'm just gonna ignore it and write a good score.
There's good in the Original Trilogy, and it's worth fighting for.
"People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."
http://www.myspace.com/harlock415
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Originally posted by: Invader Jenny
Originally posted by: MielrThe bonus-DVD is the ONLY reason I bought it, though.


I liked the bonus DVD as well, but there were a fews parts that I hated. Such as the Love Theme with all the shots from AOTC. You pretty much just hear music and then a little over half way through the music (maybe about 3 minutes in) during a softer cue of the music you hear Anakin shout out "Padme!" It scared the crap out of me, and I hated it. You are so wrapped up in just watching the music video and listening to the notes and then have someone yell at you... no sir, I don't like it.

I agree, they should have left the dialogue out of it.

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Originally posted by: Harlock415
Originally posted by: grifter
Originally posted by: Harlock415

It just makes me wonder how Goldsmith wrote great scores for bad movies, though, like First Knight.



Goldsmith used those kind of movies to experiment new things.


Or it could be he said, screw this movie. I'm just gonna ignore it and write a good score.


Goldsmith (RIP) must've been on another planet when he wrote his wonderful The Final Conflict.
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ROTJ had to have been my first huge dissapointment with JWs music. Much of it sounded like he composed it while watching TV or something. Too much discord and less of the melodic themes he was so well known for during the 70s to early 80s.

ESB sounded almost Mozartian.