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karelm

Star Wars ep 4-6 versus 1-3 Action Music

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Very succinctly put, Incanus. You know your Star Wars action music. In Revenge of the Sith, there are a few spots like the Yoda battle where the music is from Empire and it just doesn't feel right. The style switch seemed a bit jarring. I also think the melodic material in 4-6 is more involving than 1-3 but this is a matter of taste. Perhaps younger people who were introduced to JW's Star Wars music through the prequels will think these newer melodies superior to the oldies.

Counting the number of new themes in each movie chronologically you get:

Star Wars A New Hope: 8

Empire Strikes Back: 6

Jedi: 5

Total: 19

Phantom Menace: 4

Attach of the Clones: 1

Revenge of the Sith: 2

Total: 7

I get that as the films progress chronologically, there is a body of themes from which to draw on that reduces the need for new material, but I also recall an interview where JW said Phantom Menace was 90% new material. Since these films are all so heavily scored, it might explain why the prequels feel less thematically interesting. And to your point, it is probably because the style changed as well.

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Nicely explicated by Mikko, these differences -- and our attempts to apprehend and reconcile them -- are essentially written into the DNA of this site. Certainly Williams's return to scoring in 1995 with Sabrina and Nixon seemed to mark a kind of shift already, but a brand new Star Wars score in the late '90s sealed the deal. With AOTC and ROTS in the rearview mirror, TPM arguably represents a bridge of sorts -- maintaining a broad commitment to leitmotif and the longform melodic setpiece while trafficking in something increasingly episodic and fragmented in structure. In a way, if Williams had been more of a color commentator before, he was now increasingly invested in the play-by-play, in the immediacy, in the now. It's not that Williams became more of a mickey-mouser, but that as the propulsive rhythms came to the fore, they seemed to diminish a sense of continuity and provide less of a context in which the viewer could situate himself emotionally.

For the last fifteen years or so we've been debating these changes in terms of compositional maturation, artistic decline, cinematic technology, Lucas's insanity, and industry trends. With yet more Star Wars pictures in the offing and Williams ostensibly committed to all three, I pray we can continue do so.

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Interesting conversation. I don't think I would agree with the idea that Williams has sacrificed emotional content for active content. I'll do a bit more thinking and try to post about it later. But for now I'll say that cues like Duel of the Fates, Battle of the Heroes, Anakin's Dark Deeds, Anakin's Betrayal (technically action music), Chase Through Coruscant, etc., are just as emotional as anything from the OT.

My gut reaction is that JW went from a sense of nervous but fun anticpation to something darker in mood/more intense, and from something more melodically oriented to something more rhythmically oriented. But again I need to give this a bit more thought to properly formulate my thougths. Good thread idea!

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In RotS you have Battle of the Heroes, Grievous Theme and Anakin's Betrayal.

Not to forget the 5 note Sith motif, the recurring Dark Side string figure, the two chord fate motif and the Mustafar theme. All brief but extremely effective - especially that chordal motif, which serves as a thread for the entire score.

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Phantom Menace: 4

Attach of the Clones: 1

Revenge of the Sith: 2

Total: 7

There are more themes than you posted in the PT, especially in Episode 1. Phantom Menace has 7 primary themes: The "Trade Federation March", "Duel of the Fates", "Anakin's Theme", "Jar Jar's Theme", "Shmi's Theme", "Qui Gon's Theme" and the "Funeral Theme".

AoTC and RotS have fewer themes but in general more motifs and many single scene motifs. The main recurring material are in the case of AOTC the Separatist Theme, Across the Stars and the Kamino motif. In RotS you have Battle of the Heroes, Grievous Theme and Anakin's Betrayal.

Fair enough. I got the list of themes from Wikipedia which of course isn't always the most accurate source. I will add though that if the one time use themes are included, you'd have to include the Asteroid theme (not used anywhere else) the Cloud City theme, Luke's test in the cave, etc. so you would scale the numbers accordingly but probably end up with a very similar ratio in the films.

I suppose when we get the next trilogy, we'll have a better sense if the original trilogy or the prequel trilogy were the anomalies or if there is a grand design. Though I have no evidence for this, I would predict JJ prefers the original sound given his nostalgic fandom for it.

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In RotS you have Battle of the Heroes, Grievous Theme and Anakin's Betrayal.

Not to forget the 5 note Sith motif, the recurring Dark Side string figure, the two chord fate motif and the Mustafar theme. All brief but extremely effective - especially that chordal motif, which serves as a thread for the entire score.

Can you point out which cues those appear in?

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In RotS you have Battle of the Heroes, Grievous Theme and Anakin's Betrayal.

Not to forget the 5 note Sith motif, the recurring Dark Side string figure, the two chord fate motif and the Mustafar theme. All brief but extremely effective - especially that chordal motif, which serves as a thread for the entire score.

You are of course right, but i only listed the primary recurring material. The motifs you posted only appear in very short statements and often only in specific sections of the score.

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In RotS you have Battle of the Heroes, Grievous Theme and Anakin's Betrayal.

Not to forget the 5 note Sith motif, the recurring Dark Side string figure, the two chord fate motif and the Mustafar theme. All brief but extremely effective - especially that chordal motif, which serves as a thread for the entire score.

You are of course right, but i only listed the primary recurring material. The motifs you posted only appear in very short statements and often only in specific sections of the score.

And mostly in the unreleased bits.

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I will add though that if the one time use themes are included, you'd have to include the Asteroid theme (not used anywhere else) the Cloud City theme, Luke's test in the cave, etc. so you would scale the numbers accordingly but probably end up with a very similar ratio in the films.

Probably if you add up themes and motifs. But in general the PT contains more single scene and action motifs and less themes than the OT. The OT of course has a larger number of fully fletched themes. That's probably also out of necessity with many of the old themes reappearing in the PT and especially in ROTS preventing opportunities for new material.

In terms of action material i have to say that i enjoy both approaches or styles. From Lost World onwards JW shifted to his modern action writing. As many posters before already explained he put the emphasis on rythmic/kinetic motifs and percussion. The crown jewel of this approach would be "Chase through Coruscant" which for me is the pinnacle of his modern action writing. I would like to know if anyone else composing today has the skill to compose such a staggering track. On the other hand JW still composed masterpiece level action tracks in his old style like "Quidditch, Third Year", "Escape from Coruscant" or "The Tide Turns".

The interesting thing for me is that in War Horse JW seemingly transitioned to yet another style of action writing. With "The Dash Across No Man's Land" he composed one of my all time favorite Williams tracks. It's still so fresh and epic, man do i adore the cue.

So the big question concerning the ST will be if JW continues the War Horse action approach or if he falls back to his old and/or modern action writing.

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I'd say the transition to his modern style--at least actionwise--occurred with Jurassic Park, not TLW. Something like "T-Rex Rescue and Finale" is definitely closer to prequel action than OT action.

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On 10.2.2014 at 6:12 AM, indy4 said:

I'd say the transition to his modern style--at least actionwise--occurred with Jurassic Park, not TLW. Something like "T-Rex Rescue and Finale" is definitely closer to prequel action than OT action.

I would not entirely concur as it is in general still more reliant on themes than purely kinetic aspects but signs are there.

The Prequels also had one pecualirity that is not present in the OT. Two of the main thematic ideas Duel of the Fates and Battle of the Heroes are both essentially action themes in and on themselves and the entire finales of Episode I and III (or large parts of them) are constructed around them. The OT uses all the established themes to portray the conflicts (along with setpiece specific motifs) but PT has entire new thematic ideas devoted to these single sequences. These two themes also embody the more dramatic and emotional side of action in these films and I guess it could be said that the personal character conflicts are the central focus at these moments and more emphasized than at other times (Coruscant chase, battling Grievous).

 

But this is rationalizing their meaning in hindsight. Also both are almost entirely exclusive to the finales of their respective films and there is not a lot of foreshadowing that Williams likes to do so often with his themes, at least not quite in the familiar way he introduces thematic fragments and puts them all together in the final reel. They sort of exist in a bubble outside the rest of their respective scores. Duel of the Fates travels a bit after the first film yes but it is not used with strict leifmotivic consistency in Episodes II or III. Lucas loved the theme and reportedly thought it would be perfect for the finale confrontation between the Sith and Jedi for Episode III but in the end it was just one small portion of the finale where we hear it (and even there half-mangled token appearance).

 

In a way Williams wrote himself into a corner with DotF or at least he and Lucas treated the theme with that specificity and never allowed it to become much more than "finale duel music". Battle of the Heroes would inevitably be confined in Episode III and is indeed specific to the duel of Anakin and Obi Wan (emotionally loaded with all the dramatic meaning it is to have to the SW universe).

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A main issue is that DOTF was so epic that it proved hard to compose something even bigger and more powerfull.

BOTH lacks that enormity, and it doesnt have the lyrical or rhythmic qualities to make me prefer it.

Its a step down...

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I wonder if with DotF and BotH if the major difference between this and old trilogy action themes is in the theme itself or the treatment of it. For example, if the theme of BotH was given less ostinato and more balletic/theatrical treatment like Empire's Clash of the Sabers where it has a feel of being less of a drop in that can go in any battle because the moods and shifts that happen while still serving the overall drama. It would be interesting to hear "Duel of the Fates/Battle of the Heroes" given an Empire style treatment with less ostinati and more overt motific and dramatic shifts plus a constant sense of building to a climax.

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It would be interesting to hear "Duel of the Fates/Battle of the Heroes" given an Empire style treatment with less ostinati and more overt motific and dramatic shifts

Interestingly, DOTF was used much less in the actual score of the film, but was "emphasized" in the editing room.

There are a lot of variations in the actual cues, that are better IMO than the concert version.

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I remember liking a variation for the beginning of the plasma column scene. I believe it was 'The Duel Continues', but I could be wrong. It had sustained choir chords, with the rhythm hammered out in low piano, cellis, basses, low brass and timpani.

It is the Great Duel (or Great Dual as the sheet music visible in one of the SW documentaries show) and it is indeed brilliant. On the whole Williams does so much more interesting stuff with the orchestration in the actual cues so plastering the concert version all over the place was a great disservice to his music.

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That was good! For those of us unaware of the various edits of the OST, is this "Superlative Edition" the same as the "ultimate edition"?

No. It is probably put together from OST, Ultimate Edition and music culled from various video games.

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Also there is a kick-ass percussion heavy version of Duel of the Fates, which incidentally is also the concert version I have heard played live, where JW adds a good deal more driving force into the piece.

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I still listen to Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, and Return of the Jedi.

I still do not listen to the prequels much if at all. I would say I prefer Star Wars, ESB, and Rotj.

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Maybe it's because I've been listening to Star Wars since the mid-80's, but I don't listen to anything from the original trilogy anymore ...

but I LOVE Escape from Naboo (I can have that on repeat for 10 minutes), the Battle of Naboo (fan edit), and Chase through Coruscant.

You know, Chase Through Coruscant is what I always play in my head whenever I watch a chase in a modern movie, most recently the chase in Lego: the Movie.

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Is this thread even real? Is there any question that The Last Battle, Battle in the Snow, Into the Trap, Final Duel and all that other stuff is completely superior to anything Williams has composed since??

Now you're pushing it.

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No, I would go along with that for the most part. The action music in the OT is amongst the best ever composed by JW. The Prequel action music has occasional moments of genius and ingenuity, but it's no where near as masterful.

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On 10/02/2014 at 1:33 AM, Prerecorded Briefing said:

Can you point out which cues those appear in?

 

Didn't realise I necer responded to this. So nearly 3 years on...

 

"Fate" motif - Be Careful of Your Friend, Palpatine's Big Pitch, Palpatine Instructs Anakin, Moving Things Along, Padmé's Visit, It Can't Be, Anakin Crawling, 

 

Sith motif - Palpatine's Big Pitch, It Can't Be

 

Mustafar theme - Moving Things Along

 

 

 

 

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