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Incanus

The Themes of TPM

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Well, after the generally good reception of my analysis on the themes of AOTC I think I will continue by going backwards and try to analyze the themes and motifs of the Phantom Menace.

I have to say I was very disappointed when I first saw TPM in theatre, because then I realised it contained so much great music excluded from the album. I generally like the way John Williams arranges his music for the album but the music of Star Wars lends itself so gratifyingly to chronological representation that the original album just did not do justice to the music. As many other fans, I wanted more. Williams himself said recently in an interview about AOTC that if there was a format of audio recording that could hold 2+ hours of music these scores would have been released as whole but since that may be many years away our hopes of getting episode 3 in full form must almost certainly fall short :cry: .

Well, since the year 1999 we have got this UE of TPM and it proved to be Sony marketing plot that was inexperiently produced and flawed by editing. Many people had made their own more or less complete versions of the score prior to that using music available in SW computer games. UE completed many cues and offered better sound quality so some just expanded their older homemade version by certain cues.

Still I would want a solid 2 CD Michael Matessino/Nick Redman production and comprehensive analysis of this great score than the cheap UE.

One thing UE made available was some great cues featuring John Williams' new themes and motifs for this installment of the SW saga. Many were left out of the original album.

But here is the analysis of the major and some minor themes of the Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace:

Anakin's theme:

Lovely, youthful melody full of innocence and wonder. Innocence is the most descriptive word, for it was one of the qualities Lucas wanted to emphasize in him. (On the side note the novelization of the TPM shows the more temperamental dark side of Anakin as he gets into a fist fight after the podraces as some alien accuses him of cheating and he beats the sense out of him before Qui Gon stops him, so there is something dark in his persona) Williams de-composed (I know not a very good word, but Williams used it in Classic CD magazine :) ) it out of Imperial March going backwards to reflect the slow change of the character of Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader and to show the connection. By changing the structure and the interwals of the March he created something between benevolent and malicious as the theme start very inaucpiciously and ends in a hint of foreboding as the last strains on the theme quote the Imperial March as if to show the boy is dangerous.

Duel of the Fates:

This central choral theme composed for the climatic light saber fight between the Jedi and Darth Maul in the end of the movie is driven by the first 5 notes as a motoric figure that gives it a continuous kinetic push. The theme refers to the battle of the Jedi but also to the eventual fate of Anakin as he is between good and evil.

Theme is used on many occasions from the boarding on the Federation Battle ship to the climatic Duel and destruction of droid control ship. Williams himself said he saw the duel as something ritualistic, almost quasireligious and wanted a feeling that the duellists were in a kind of a temple performing some kind of ritual. The words are sung in Sanskrit (the old cultural language of India) and the text is from an old Celtic poemcycle The White Goddess and it is called Battle of the Trees translated by Robert Graves. From the poem only 2 lines are utilised and out of these two only few words are used:

"Under the tongue roots a fight most dread and another one behind in the head."

This might refer to the plot of the movie as the battle is fought on two different levels: Jedi vs the Sith and Naboo vs the Trade Federation. This may come as a shock to some but the lyrics are actually something of a psudosanskrit since it was translitterated to the choir so that it could pronounce the words more clearly, so the official lyrics are only poor interpretation of the classical Sanskrit. Williams tried different languages namely Latin and Ancient Greek but he liked the Sanskrit vowels best.

Often aggressive choral pieces like DOTF are associated and compared with Carl Orff's O Fortuna from Carmina Burana (songs from the monastery of Bura) but I find this analogy tiresome. Just because the choir is chanting in a loud voice does not mean it has something to do with Orff, though it is a good over all description of the style of the piece.

The Trade Federation March:

This Militaristic march in the old Williams tradition represents the massive droid armies of the Trade Federation and the oppressive element of their invasion of the Naboo. This piece resembles the Nazi march from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade but the similarity is superficial. It is sinister and dramatic in the style of Imperial March though not as complex and creates the feeling of threat and oppression. Used many times in the movie and has quite a few unreleased versions where the influence of the Imperial March is more evident.

Jar Jar Binks' theme:

this piece is a comic theme for a comic relief. Bumbling and often clumsy(in mood not in composition) it describes the character and his antics as he gets into trouble. Very mickey-mousy as it imitates and follows the physical movements of the character almost like in a cartoon.

Qui Gon Jinn's theme:

Very noble and dignified theme representing the wisdom and determination on the Jedi master. Williams uses this 24 note repeating phrase sparingly e.g. when Qui Gon goes to free Anakin and in Duel in the Desert where it rises into a wonderfully energetic fanfare. This could be also the thematic material used in the Talking of Podracing scene.

Darth Maul's theme(Aka the Sith Chant):

Threatning and dark theme for the Sith apprentice presents a short ominous brass motif with rhythmic percussion combined with the whispered chant that is a modified version of the sanskrit lyrics of the DOTF. Used on conjuction with the Probe droid motif.

The Probe droid motif: Short percussion and string motif depicting Darth Maul's Probe droids. Used twice plus there is an alternate version of this music featuring the Sith Chant and the percussion for the droids.

Shmi Skywalker's theme:

The thematic material for Shmi is hard to discern from the movie. It could be found in the scenes when Anakin, Qui Gon and the group is talking about Podracing and finally when Anakin leaves his mother. This tender and sad motif represents the caring of the mother for his son and the sorrow of letting him go. Shmi's short motivic phrase of 15 notes returns in the AOTC and is heard a couple of times in the beginning of the movie and finally just before she dies. This is actually a confirmation for her theme so to speak.

The Flag Parade: Fanfare for the Podrace celebration in the grand tradition of old Hollywood spectacles. The Parade could be described as a cross between Miklos Rozsa's Parade of Charioteers from Ben Hur and Williams's own Parade of the Slave Children from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It is a jubilant fanfare and has processional feeling as the flags are paraded in the arena before the race.

Queen Amidala's theme/motif:

Williams has said he composed some material for the queen but it was ultimately dropped and never used fully. Maybe some music in the scenes "Queen warns the Federation" or "Anakin and Group to Coruscant" belongs to her. It would seem the very airy and distant flute melody form her alledged motif . It reflects her persona as the role of the queen is detached, cold and austere.

The Underwater motif:

It is somewhat dubious, can this be counted as a motif, since Williams uses frequently choir to evoke the underwater atmosphere. This choir motif is used in the underwater scenes when Obi Wan and Qui Gon swim to Otoh Gunga and travel through the planet's core.

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Nice post Incanus. I like it when people go deep into cues and their place in a scene.

I really like Jar Jar's theme funnily enough..heheh. Nice and light. I've always loved that soft choral underwater motif too. I remember watching in the cinema , and noticing that right away. It has that mystical sound which i love in scores, like Goldsmith often uses. As for the constant comparisons between DOTF and Orff's 'O Fortuna' from Carmina Burana ...it's silly how people keep on taking the easy route and saying it's the same. Goldsmith had the same all the time with his Ave Satani from The Omen. People kept on (and keep on) sayings it's a copy of O Fortuna. I dont think they know what they are talking about. It has'nt got the slightest similarity at all. I used to adore the Flag Parade, but i think i've overplayed it. So now it just gets on my nerves..hehe. One of the motifs i love the most in TPM is the little short one used for the entrance of Jabba the Hutt at the races. The brooding rumbling brass underneath signifying (imo) the heavy mass of Jabbas bodyweight dragging along. On the original release its on Track 9 - 00:46 and begins with that incredible fanfare, with the underlying dragging of his weight. Simply wonderful (imo). A lot of the score i just find far too loud and overly noisy. Yet, some wonderful little bits are within it :)

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AOTC that if there was a format of audio recording that could hold 2+ hours of music these scores would have been released as whole but since that may be many years away our hopes of .

 

.

With formats merging and a lot of people buying DVD players to play regular c.d.'s,or cdr's,MP3 ect...maybe they could just start using DVD-Video disks to put music only,like an iso track but without the movie,even if it's not in the high-definition DVD-Audio format,it would still be in Dolby Digital.

Who knows maybe in a few years all players will be known as "Disk Players",so it's doesn't really matter to know what specific kind you actually put in.

K.M.

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I also like your theme analysis,you summed up well some past references that are available about the music,including speculations we were making here.

I think that Shmi's theme is best heard in "The Pod Roars to Life".And Maul's theme is best heard at the end of "Intro Darth Maul",it's an 8 note motif you then hear later under the percussions in "Arrival of Darth Maul on Tatooine",and somewhere in"The Dark Side Plots".

The "Escape from Naboo" theme could be considered a theme,at least in the movie and the U.E., it's re-used in the pod race,even if it's looped.

K.M.

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