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TheMagicFlute

Star Wars - Theme Music

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Hello All:

 

I am a first year film student and new to the forum.

 

I just watched Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope. Did John Williams used the same theme music on other Star War films or did he varied the theme music?

 

Thanks.

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Hello @TheMagicFlute!  Welcome to the board!  A fellow Texan too!

John has composed a total of eight complete Star Wars scores so far, and each one is its own composition, distinct in style, much like individual operas, complete with leitmotifs that tie the series together.

 

But, if you are just asking if he used the same music for each film's Main Titles, then yes, you could say that each film shares a common "overture," with minimal variation.

Cheers!

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Welcome to the forums @TheMagicFlute!

 

As Steve has noted, there are number of ways to answer and interpret this question.

 

I'll echo Steve in saying that John Williams has reprised the main title music with each of the main titles in each of the eight Star Wars films he's scored thus far, and naturally Episode IX this coming Christmas will follow suit.

 

In terms of the scores and their themes on a whole, each builds on the previous themes whilst introducing completely new ones. This is is done in a number of variations. Star Wars has a catalogue of approximately 40 themes/leitmotifs, if I recall correctly. 

 

If if you are asking if the same recording of the Main Title was used in each film, that is not the case. I believe every Star Wars film save The Last Jedi, which reused the Gustavo Dudamel conducted Main Title from The Force Awakens, has had the Main Title recorded again for the specific film. The main title has always been the same. I cannot speak for minor orchestration changes, but overall it has not changed. Once the titles are over, however, Willaims opens up his themes in a number of different ways which we all have come to love very much.

 

Hope these replies can help to answer your questions.

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The main title melody itself is exactly the same for each film.

 

However, there is at least one instrumentational change between the main title played for A New Hope, and the other main titles. Listen to the timpani from 1:02 here, but especially at 1:04 (DUN dun dun dun dun dun...)

 

Now listen to any other main title, and you will not hear that timpani run. In fact, it is not present in the official released score.

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There are noticeable performance differences as well. The most stark between SW and Empire, right in the opening notes - in layman's terms, daaaaaaa-dadadadaaaaa vs daaa da da da daaaa.

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There are also differences that stem from the forces involved, of course, with Empire Strikes Back and most of the entries that followed using quite a larger ensemble than the original Star Wars.

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@TheMagicFlute, I envy you in your first discovery of enjoyment from Star Wars and Williams' music.

 

Have you been to any of the Star Wars Live-to-Projection concerts?

 

There is one for Star Wars: A New Hope coming to Houston this weekend by the Houston Symphony Orchestra from Friday into Sunday.

 

This same orchestra will also be doing Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back this November.

 

Our forum has more details about the Star Wars Live-to-Projection concerts.  Just click here.

 

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Hm. I wasn't aware of that.

1 hour ago, SyncMan said:

@TheMagicFlute, I envy you in your first discovery of enjoyment from Star Wars and Williams' music.

 

Have you been to any of the Star Wars Live-to-Projection concerts?

 

There is one for Star Wars: A New Hope coming to Houston this weekend by the Houston Symphony Orchestra from Friday into Sunday.

 

This same orchestra will also be doing Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back this November.

 

Our forum has more details about the Star Wars Live-to-Projection concerts.  Just click here.

Oh yeah. The Toronto Symphony has been going through Star Wars in live-to-projection. I've been meaning to go see them.

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@Loert Ah, I’ve always loved that little timpani bit and have always wished I could see the score for that!

 

There’s a few other small differences in that first recording: all other versions add three graces notes on timpani leading into the first downbeat, but it’s just a single note in the first recording. Several notes in the bass line are tied over the bar, where the ties were removed and the notes repeated instead in all later recordings.

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2 hours ago, artguy360 said:

The prequels all used the same recording of the main titles as well, I believe.

Yes, they are all the same. It's disappointing, but understandable from a thematic standpoint. I think each of the three main title performances in the original trilogy signified the mood of Luke's adventures -- and the film in general -- but with the prequel trilogy did not have Luke in them, so no point in making many changes to the performance. It's also sad that the new trilogy didn't try to do different things to "Force Awakens" and "Last Jedi," since Luke appeared in both of them.

 

Welcome to the forum @TheMagicFlute, and I hope you enjoy your discovery of the music of John Williams!

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3 hours ago, TheMagicFlute said:

@SyncMan I would love to but I have never been to Live-to-projection concerts. Thanks for the link. I will check it out.

 

 

Oh @TheMagicFlute, if you want to catch SW:ESB sooner, The Dallas Symphony Orchestra will be doing it this August, but you are going to have to wait until April 17th to buy tickets if you are not a subscriber to that orchestra.

 

 

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If I remember correctly Williams himself stated that whenever he re-recorded the main title for the subsequent films he tweaked the orchestration a bit but those are very small changes. All the three original films, 1977, 1980 and 1983 had unique recording of the main title with those orchestrational changes but like others have said above, the prequel trilogy uses the same main title recording from the Phantom Menace. The Force Awakens is a new recording done specifically for the film and there is actually footage of Williams recording the main title for The Last Jedi found at ScoringSessions.com. I do not know whether this recording was used in the film.

 

I see the use of Luke's theme as the main title having a sort of formal heraldic function which is almost like the common opening of Once upon a time at the start of a fairy tale or in this case A Long Time Ago in Galaxy Far Far Away. The theme became the Star Wars theme and has become the unchanging musical announcement that a Star Wars story is about to begin whenever you hear it in theater. After using it the second time in The Empire Strikes Back it must have been felt by the film makers that they were obliged to use it and indeed there is something in the attention grabbing jolt of the beginning of the piece that doesn't quite have an equal.

 

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On ‎3‎/‎19‎/‎2019 at 5:48 AM, SteveMc said:

But, if you are just asking if he used the same music for each film's Main Titles, then yes, you could say that each film shares a common "overture," with minimal variation.

 

And the newer the film, the more occurences of the Force Theme*. :)

 

*The theme found in The Throne Room and Binary Sunset in ep. IV.

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1 hour ago, Incanus said:

I see the use of Luke's theme as the main title having a sort of formal heraldic function which is almost like the common opening of Once upon a time at the start of a fairy tale or in this case A Long Time Ago in Galaxy Far Far Away

 

I think originally Williams used it more in the manner of an overture, being that it was the main theme of the original film. It was such a succesful piece that they stuck with it through the two sequels.

 

I do know that going back to score the prequels, Lucas and Williams considered scoring the opening crawl differently, but the piece became such an iconic opening that they "felt it was obligatory."

 

6 hours ago, TheMagicFlute said:

I have never been to Live-to-projection concerts.

 

You should. Depending on the venue, it can be like watching the film in IMAX.

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2 minutes ago, Chen G. said:

I do know that going back to score the prequels, Lucas and Williams considered scoring the opening credits differently, but the piece became such an iconic opening that they "felt it was obligatory."

 

Yeah I seem to remember some article or other back in the day that reported that Williams had indeed considered writing something entirely new to herald the new trilogy for the main title but in the end the original main title is so iconic and established, they just couldn't abandon it. It is a bit like the original Star Wars which was such a surprise hit Williams had never considered it would have a sequel let alone eight so he just focused making the score memorable and Romantic and accessible in contrast with the alien landscapes and space.  And then the success and the subsequent films allowed for heaps of expansion possibilities in the music but the main title sort of stuck, being a logical choice for the first three films with the same hero and then it was just inseparable from the franchise so it had to stay.

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And, of course, the theme itself - as so many themes in Williams lexicon often do - changed its meaning as it was being used more and more often with no direct connection to Luke.

 

Already in the liner notes to The Empire Strikes Back, Williams refers to it as the "Star Wars theme", although it clearly remains very much attached to Luke over the course of that film. It only really started go gain a broader meaning during Return of the Jedi.

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4 hours ago, Incanus said:

If I remember correctly Williams himself stated that whenever he re-recorded the main title for the subsequent films he tweaked the orchestration a bit but those are very small changes. All the three original films, 1977, 1980 and 1983 had unique recording of the main title with those orchestrational changes but like others have said above, the prequel trilogy uses the same main title recording from the Phantom Menace. The Force Awakens is a new recording done specifically for the film and there is actually footage of Williams recording the main title for The Last Jedi found at ScoringSessions.com. I do not know whether this recording was used in the film.

Were there not Main Titles recorded for the each of the Prequels, even if they went unused in film?

 

Didn't we get confirmation from Rian Johnson that the The Force Awakens recorded main title was the one used in film for The Last Jedi?

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4 hours ago, karelm said:

 

Don Williams (timpani player and brother of John) actually mentioned this very passage as not a good use of timpani and that performers solve the problems with that passage in different ways.  He himself who's played this a thousand times does not do the chromatic line the timpani has in concert.  In a studio, they might use twelve timpani's so they can have them chromatically tuned but in concert, that isn't practical.  Image is Don Williams' personal timpani set used from a Star Wars session.

 

 

Screenshot-2017-12-14 Instagram(1).png

 

It was added back for the live-to-projection version, though I’m not convinced this is what Williams actually wrote. It really sounds like the full scale in the original version, and this version is actually harder to play than that is.

9B4BD8AE-6F31-4B8B-A1F3-57F0FE814505.jpeg

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On 20 March 2019 at 1:18 PM, Chen G. said:

 

Already in the liner notes to The Empire Strikes Back, Williams refers to it as the "Star Wars theme", although it clearly remains very much attached to Luke over the course of that film. It only really started go gain a broader meaning during Return of the Jedi.

However, in this revised broader meaning, it nonetheless still describes a sense of adventure that was embodied originally by Luke in the first film, both as an audience avatar and in terms of character motivations. Much of his initial motivation is based on wanting to escape his boring farm life for something more exciting, implicit desire for revenge over his aunt and uncle, living up to the false image he's fed about his "heroic" father, as well as a general wish to be a heroic figure, as is reflected in his "looking for a great warrior" statement to Yoda, who in turn is reluctant to train the "reckless" Luke. He misunderstands the Jedi path as being a process of becoming a "better hero/warrior", more or less.

 

However, when Luke grows closer to truly embodying the Jedi teachings, the theme gets for the most part replaced by the Force Theme. When he throws his light saber away at the end of ROTJ, the choice of playing the Force Theme instead of Luke's original theme is very much deliberate. A case of "musical ego-sublimation", if you will.

 

In retrospect, it's more like a theme for that adventure-seeking early phase in Luke's character arc, rather than precisely "his theme". Or to be more exact, it's a "Spirit of Adventure Theme" that happens to be initially attached to Luke, since he indeed embodies that spirit in his initial "state" or modus operandi. When he no longer does, it stops being attached to him.

 

Indeed, in the sequel trilogy, he's primarily represented by the Force Theme and his other (new) theme, while the original title crawl music is still heard in adventurous contexts, but almost solely in scenes involving other characters. This communicates that the "spirit of adventure" is still an extant thing in the SW universe, with Luke being past that state of existence. The only time it's heard with Luke is in the reunion scene with R2, but there the context is indeed about rememberance of their previous "fun adventures".

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