The Music of the Prequels

**Update 5/31** Just saw this article with John Williams saying he would be more than willing to be the composer for Episode VII.  Good news!

“We’ve certainly talked about that, and I’m happy and willing to do it,” he confirms. “J.J. Abrams, who will be the director, seems excited about the idea. I have to say that J.J. is a much younger man than I, but I will try to keep up with him as much as I can!”

Full article here: http://bit.ly/11tOeek

——————–

This is a post long, long overdue and it’s so long (no pun intended) that I had to cut it into two parts, so bear with me.  Props if you read through the whole thing.

John Williams is amazing.  So amazing that when I was in high school, I burned a whole CD of main themes by John Williams (not including Star Wars, of course, since I owned all the soundtracks already) and I still listen to that CD today.  It includes Harry Potter, E.T., Jaws, and Jurassic Park to just name a few.  I was thinking about Episode VII this week and wondering if he will create the music for that movie as well.  I figured I’d be happy if he created the music for at least VII and then passes the baton onto other composers, but if he could at least start the new movies off on a good foot, it would be good enough for me.

Williams has a power that only a lucky few have.  He is responsible for changing our worlds all around us with just his music and that, my friends, is something else.  Think about it – how many times you have been swimming stealthily under water and been humming the Jaws theme as you sneak up on your little brothers?  Okay, maybe that’s just me, but I’m sure it’s played in your head once or twice while swimming or when you started thinking about sharks.  Or how about putting on a hat and the Indiana Jones theme pops into your head, creating a huge smile on your face?  Personally, I love listening to that tune when I’m feeling blue…it turns my whole day around.

John Williams-2

Most importantly, do you ever just break out into the theme of Star Wars?  I mean, you can’t help it right?  Did you get a promotion?  BA-BA-BADADADA-DUH! (that’s what the main theme sounds like in my head)  Or you finish a run and feel triumphant?  BA-BA-BADADADA-DUH!  Or you just wake up feeling like YOU are EFFING AWESOME.  BA-BA-BADADADA-DUH!

Twice in Boston I have seen Williams in concert, directing music that he composed himself from the movies, as well as directing other movie themes.  Both times I had tickets as far away as you could get, but it was still an amazing event that I always have remembered.

The funny thing about John Williams is that he may be great at what he does, but he has no memory for real plot points.  He messed up on a lot of descriptions, such as, “This is the piece of music I composed while Harry Potter was flying on the monster thing in the second movie.”  Sigh.  That was the hippogriff and it was in the third movie.  “This is the scene with the giant ball space station in the 6th movie and the next piece will also be from the sixth movie, the asteroid scene.”  Oy.  It’s a Death Star and the asteroid sequence was in ESB.  Oh, well.

So, yes, we have established that John Williams is the man.  But this is where I designed a little competition with Me, Myself, and I, to go through each movie in the Star Wars saga and pick the best (my personal favorite) track/piece of music from it and give two runners up for each (yes, I really couldn’t decide on just ONE best track).  Keep in mind that I am not including the main theme in this because that is obviously a-to-the-mazing.

John Williams-1

The Phantom Menace

Best Track: Duel of the Fates.  You can’t deny it, I’m sorry.  This is hands down one of the best tracks in the Star Wars saga.  The choral work that streams throughout conveys anger, tension, and invokes some fear inside of you as well.  And who can forget Obi-Wan’s shout of anguish during this music when he sees Qui-Gon stabbed through the stomach by Darth Maul?  The lyrics are sung in Sanskrit but are based off an old Welsh poem Cad Goddeu, which means Battle of the Trees.  I didn’t know that until researching it for this snippet, but I love how Williams took in some Welsh and they sung it in Sanskrit?!  Wow.

Second place: Queen Amidala and the Naboo Palace.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LNGPKSECJeg  I love the deep strings in this piece and the royal element in conveys.  The piece starts off low and threatening and turns happier in the middle, ending with a more apprehensive feeling.
Third place: Anakin’s Theme.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cdi_bKjg1U  A little happy, a little melancholy, slightly teasing what is to happen to this young boy’s fate.  The killer is at the end of the theme, when the last three notes are played…the last three notes that are actually part of the Imperial March!  Booyah.

Attack of the Clones

Best Track: Across the Stars.  Mostly known as the “love theme” of Episode II, I find it hauntingly beautiful.  Where the actors failed at displaying their doomed love, Williams succeeded in pulling out an exquisite, but aching piece of music.  The beginning theme is played by the oboe, with a background of strings and a harp.  I used to play oboe horribly, so I love hearing when they are played perfectly, because they no longer sound like a dying duck but a melodic instrument.  George Lucas describes this piece perfectly when he said “Their love is complicated – pure yet forbidden, personal but with profound ramifications for an entire galaxy. Somehow, John has managed to convey all of that complexity in a simple, hauntingly beautiful theme.” (No joke – I didn’t know that George would use the same words as I did to describe this piece.  Awesome.)

Second place: Yoda and the Younglings.  It’s just so youthful!  And I loved the scene it accompanied because…I don’t know…did you ever think of Yoda as someone who had interaction with little ones?  He always seemed so serious!  Yet here he was, cracking jokes with little younglings.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhUb4JhDN4A
Third place: Jango’s Escape.  About five seconds into this piece, it gets exciting with the brass blaring and repetitive notes (one of John Williams common touches in his music).  I remember my brother and I used to run up and down the stairs singing this music at the top of our lungs and pretending to shoot blasters at each other.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HWzgrb9Z4U

Revenge of the Sith

Best track: Padmé’s Ruminations.  Creepy.  Sounds like music that should be from a horror movie.  According to dictionary.com, “ruminate” means “to meditate or muse; ponder.”  During this track, we see Padmé just wandering around her apartment thinking and Anakin wrestling with himself as he tries to figure out what path he should take.  This whole track has an obvious feeling of dread.  If you listen closely, at one point there’s the “Across the Stars” playing ever so lightly in the background.  Oooo, shudder.  I really want to watch the movie again and see what part that actually comes in.  Is it as she’s staring at the Temple burning?  Or is it when the tear is running down Anakin’s face?

Second place: Battle of the Heroes.  The combination of brass, strings, and vocal work tie this piece of music into a nice transition between Prequels and Original Trilogy.  Though it’s a definite war/battle track, at times it sounds almost like something you would find in Return of the King or a fantasy movie.   The anger and resentment portrayed throughout leads it to become a piece of epic proportions.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GW-E0dOfdoc
Third place: Anakin’s Betrayal.  Oh, the tears, the tears…whenever I go to midnight showings of movies, I usually cry at some point because I’m so tired and it’s about 3:00AM and there is no more emotion control.  This piece always reminds me of how I was crying in the movie theater with these scenes.  This is more than a “betrayal”; I feel like it should be rightly titled as “Anakin’s Massacre.”  Slight vocal work at just the right moments enhances the music and doesn’t oversaturate it.  I can just hear mothers crying all over when they hear their little Jedi babies are dead and this music wrenches my heart.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=evRJGVn6ikk

Ok, so those are my thoughts for the prequels.  I know that not everyone listens to the Star Wars soundtracks back to front, but if you’re a fan who has seen the movie at least more than five times, you should be recognize some of the music I gave above.  Stay tuned for the Original Trilogy music next week.  I’ve noticed throughout my life that the music differs a lot, with A LOT of brass in ANH, then by ROTJ, Williams adds more strings.

Advertisements

5 thoughts on “The Music of the Prequels

  1. I am also super John Williams-obsessed. In high school I bought a two CD “greatest hits” collection that never left my CD player. I’m not as familiar with the prequel soundtracks (except Duel of the Fates, which is the highlight of Ep I for me), so this was really interesting for me. Looking forward to your thoughts on the OT music!

    • Hi Mei-Mei! Glad that you, too, are obsessed with JW. I wasn’t sure how many people actually go out and buy the soundtracks and listen to them back to front like I do. This post took a surprisingly longer time than I thought!
      Did you listen to any of the tracks I put in this post? I agree – Duel of the Fates really does rock my socks and is a-to-the-mazing.
      I’ll do the OT next week so stay tuned!

  2. My favorite overall soundtrack is for Episode III, because it subtly brings in threads from other films while adding new melodies. Listening to the soundtrack is a grander journey than the movie itself.

    • I’m actually thinking of doing a post on which soundtrack is actually my favorite now that I’ve listened to so much of the music over and over again. These posts took longer than I thought because I had to rehash the past and see which tracks I loved and which I could do without…and some of them are 8 minutes long! The horror of classical music! 😉
      I do like Episode III a lot as an overall soundtrack, but I have to do some more thinking on that front.

  3. Pingback: But the Female Lead Theme Music… – Star Wars Anonymous

Use Your Comlink...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s