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Saxman717

Essay on SW Music for College Writing Course!

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Hello all! This is a rough draft of a paper I recently wrote for a college writing course I'm taking now. It lacks significant depth in some areas, and I could have gone on for at least 5 more pages, but this assignment was only a 4-5 pager, so I kept it relatively minimal. I'd appreciate your comments/suggestions and any info I missed in my paper that you think might help it! Thanks!

-Steve :-)

The lights dim?.the room goes silent?.10 words in a mesmerizing blue font fade onto the screen, ?A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away?? As the words fade, a short pause follows, leaving just enough time to eagerly anticipate the next screen?.and then?..POW!, the widely renowned Star Wars ?Main Theme? bursts out of the theatre speakers as the movie?s main title flashes brightly onto the screen. Without a doubt, the music that John Williams scored for the Star Wars movies has been an incredibly powerful element in the series and has played a key part in its extraordinary success. Just how intimidating would Darth Vader seem without his Imperial March rumbling profoundly as he traversed the screen? How exciting would the Star Wars main title and opening text scroll be without its famous orchestral fanfare? Up until about the early 1980?s, the most successful films tended to be those that treated film music with the utmost respect. Along with Star Wars, such classics as Indiana Jones, E.T., Gone with the Wind, Ben Hur, and Dr. Zhivago all combined an intense mixture of wonderful storytelling, stunning camerawork, and rich musical scoring to create an incredibly memorable experience for their audiences. In recent years, however, Star Wars film music has sadly become the unfortunate casualty of the way the series? creator and director, George Lucas, has combined technological advancements in filmmaking with his film-editing obsession.

Over the past decade, George Lucas and his film technology powerhouse, Industrial Light & Magic, had been developing a new, advanced filming technique. In April of 2000, IL&M succeeded in creating a state-of-the-art digital camera, the Sony HDW-F900, and with this new quarter-million dollar toy, Lucas was able to film Star Wars Episode II completely in digital format, using no tangible film. Lucas has been quite exuberant about his new camera, claiming ?It?s an exciting step that we are taking, and with Sony and Panavision, we plan to further advance this system over the coming years. Star Wars Episode II is our first giant step.? Indeed it was, but with regard to the music that accompanies the movie, it turned out to be a giant step backwards.

With his new digital camera that wasted no film, Lucas could record countless takes on his scenes and could even view the scenes immediately after the takes were finished. Not only did this technology cut Lucas? work time in half, but it also empowered him to edit the movie well after Williams wrote and recorded the score. Williams started scoring the music to Episode II in November 2001, working off of detailed storyboards and suggestions from Lucas. In late January, he recorded the music with the London Symphony Orchestra to a rough cut of the film. Typically, scenes for the final version of the film would rarely be changed if they fit the recorded score well. However, film-editing is widely known as being one of Lucas? obsessive passions. Over the 4 months prior to the movie?s release, Lucas spent much of his post-production efforts editing scenes over and over again to his liking, cutting out a line of dialogue here and a scenery shot there, meanwhile completely failing to consider about how disjointed Williams? score would become.

For much of the first act of Episode II, Williams? wonderful score was left in a relatively pure form, only edited on occasion and spliced together rather inconspicuously. However, the 2nd act of the film was a score-editing nightmare. From about an hour and 40 minutes into the film, until about 2 hours and 15 minutes, over 35 minutes of the film?s music was rehashed material from Episode I. Pulling musical cues from all over the Episode I score and splicing them shabbily together, it truly sounded as though the sound editors for Episode II had little to no knowledge of Star Wars music and had especially little skill in mixing together musical clips in an unobtrusive way.

The original Star Wars trilogy, and even much of Episode I, utilized musical themes to a great extent. Many characters, and even some important scenes, had a theme associated with them and if an audience knew the themes well, they could know what was occurring on the screen even if their eyes were closed. Even George Lucas was recently quoted as stating, ?Star Wars films are basically silent movies. And they're designed as silent movies, therefore the music carries a -- has a very large role in carrying the story, more than it would in a normal movie.? However, this successful tradition apparently was forgotten for the 2nd half of Episode II. Random uses of ?The Force? theme were spliced into the movie at times when neither the Force nor the Jedi Masters who used its powers were anywhere on the screen. At one point, the beautiful and powerful theme to the little, green Jedi Master Yoda was spliced into a scene that merely showed Anakin Skywalker twirling his lightsaber on a conveyor belt. This ridiculous usage of such treasured themes was truly a metaphorical slap to the face to all serious fans of Star Wars music.

The tarnishing of Williams? new Star Wars score was not confined to just the highly computer-generated cinematic scenes of the film, however. On the Episode II soundtrack, released one month prior to the movie?s premiere, the final minute of the end credits music included one of the most beautiful and foreboding passages of the entire Star Wars music collection. A gentle, smooth rendition of Anakin?s childhood theme segues into the love theme for Anakin and his lover, Padme, as the low-strings stir up a quiet, yet dominant version of the Imperial March under it. A lone flute plays a beautiful, concluding solo, starting off in a major key, full of happiness and hope, and yet ending with a few very unexpectedly dark, minor key notes. Finally, the low strings surface again as the flute fades away, ending the movie?s beautiful score with a soft, haunting rendition of the Imperial March. This final minute of the movie?s score thematically tells the entire story of Episodes 1-3 to the keen listeners who are familiar with the movie?s melodies. It has been known since the original trilogy that Anakin Skywalker must eventually transform from the loving, heroic Jedi into the evil, machine-like Darth Vader. Episodes 1-3 detail this transition that Anakin makes to the ?Dark Side?, beginning with him as a caring, adventurous child and ending with his metamorphosis into Darth Vader. Within this short phrase of music, Williams whispers little hints of this story in our ears, foreshadowing what will ultimately happen in Episode 3. By hearing just that final minute of music, we can realize that Anakin?s boyhood innocence has been lost forever, that his relationship with his love is doomed to failure, and that it will most likely be this hopeless love that will ultimately bring about Anakin?s downfall to the Dark Side. However, despite its intense foreshadowing and importance, this segment of music was completely cut out of the movie?s end credits for no apparent reason. There were no scenes to be edited, no special effects to complicate a scene?s timing. Aside from the music, all that the editors needed to worry about for this final segment was getting the list of cast and crew members to scroll across the screen properly. It is extremely disappointing, yet not surprising that this piece of music was cut. Since Lucas and his team butchered Williams? score all throughout the cinematic scenes of the movie, why should they stop and leave the end credits music in its masterful form?

Rick McCallum, the main producer of Episodes 1, 2, and 3 of the Star Wars series, commented on digital filmmaking as ?the exciting dawn in a new era of filmmaking? and that by utilizing digital technology, ?Lucasfilm is breaking new ground in proving that data acquisition empowers the creative process.? In reality, while this digital technology did indeed aid in the filming process, it ultimately ended up empowering an unfortunate, deconstructive process with regard to the film?s music when it was left in the irresponsible hands of Lucas and his editing teams. Film scores are arguably the most critical part of a film?s success. The music accompanying the film?s images emphasizes emotions and excitement and truly draws the audience into the story. Soundtracks are especially critical to intense action/adventure movies, such as those of the Star Wars series, since those films are always packed with drama and excitement. Unfortunately, George Lucas has become distracted by his expensive filming toys and has failed to remember this fact. As a result of this, the music of his Star Wars series, and indeed the movies themselves, have been irrecoverably blemished.

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I'm somewhat sympathetic because I too am currently taking a college English class. They're a real drag to Engineers!

Great opening/intro. Your paper flows really well too, which is important.

I don't know how picky your teacher is, but sometimes they get antsy if you don't devote a paragraph to an opening and conclusion. You've got a great attention grabber, but you might need these to present a solid thesis statement and go over the main points of the paper. It would be nice to know what exactly your paper is trying to say right off the bat. I imagine your thesis to be something like, the importance of music to the starwars filmmakers has diminished, or something to that effect.

You might want to mention that the same sort of thing happened in Episode I if you can fit it in anywhere. You could maybe say how the edits in the music disrupt the flow of the movie, and immediately jolt you out of the experience. I find there's no sense of continuity in the scenes because of the edits personally. Maybe discuss how George is too controlling over the movies to the point of changing performances, scene, editing, and "trying" to control the music.

Good Luck. Hope this helps!

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You might want to have a title.

Make sure you tab or space, each time you start a new paragraph.

If you don't, your reader will get tired having a bunch of letters all spaced together.

Who is your audience, what was your prompt?

Is this paper meant for someone who knows about music, or not?

By reading this paper, I am guessing that you're trying to say:

Williams's music is marred by Lucas + special effects?

Is that correct?

Overall, it's a good analysis/critique paper

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Thanks for the feedback, whoever you are :-) Yep, I have a Word file that looks much nicer than this copy-and-pasted version, I can send it to you if you like.....I even indented the new paragraphs w/ spaces on here but it deleted them when i submitted....weird. Anyway, this is for a general audience, so it doesn't assume that the audience has much musical experience.

Thanks for the feedback...I'd appreciate more! I can send the Word file to anyone who would like to read a better copy!

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Saxman:

I agree with Wickenstein that a thesis right off the bat might give the paper a sense of direction and strenghthen its cohesiveness. A strong conclusion, perhaps regarding the future of SW music might be in order.

Regarding content, however, I have the following to suggest: Filmmaking is an evolving art form; it therefore follows that film music must also evolve. Although I particularly liked the way films were scored in the 80s, they quite simply cannot be scored the same way these days.

The developments in digital filmmaking, and especially editing, have brought about a serious change in the way Hollywood makes, and the public appreciates, films. Two examples immeadiately jump to mind:

1. The new editing computers allow filmmakers to put together different cuts in order to experiment, which seems to be the main criticism of Lucas nowadays. When film was edited using a moviola, editing was a slow and painstaking process, so major changes were difficult to achieve without going over budget or over schedule. This meant that more careful decisions and planning had to be made, but it also allowed the composer to see a fairly accurate version of the final cut early on, so he/she could compose with a nearly finished product.

That era is now over. Easier editing means more experimenting and, regretfully, less planning. It also means that changes can be made even after the film has been scored, so the score mus now be reedited extensively to fit the new cut. So this has meant that composers have opted to make music that is easier to move around; "sonic wallpaper" that can be cut and pasted around (keep in mind this new filmmaking term: "Hans Zimmer").

A way around this, which I hope Hollywood someday comes to realize, is what Ennio Morricone sometimes did: he wrote some of his scores as musical cues that weren't made for specific scenes, but which helped express specific emotions. This allowed editors to play around with his cues, while retaining the composer's intention. This seems to me the best solution for the time being.

2. The other major change is what is called "hyper-editing". This refers to really quick cuts that jump around and pound on the viewer's senses (ever see a Martin Scorsese or Tony Scott film?). Since the moviegoer has gotten used to this new rythm, films have grown considerably faster and hence, some story development (particularly in plot and character) has been sacrificed.

I remember some criticism on "Episode I" stating that the Tatooine sequence was too slow (and this is actually the character-development sequence). Since I live in Mexico, I haven't been able to see "Episode II" yet, but I've heard the same criticism about its first half, which I believe is the plot-driving part of the film. Now take a look at "A New Hope". Its first 30 minutes are centered around a couple of droids wandering aimlessly around a desert. How would this sequence be evaluated in this "hyper-editing" age? People might actually fing it boring.

How does this quicker rythm affect a composer? His/her music must now try to equal the rythm of the image, which means more beats and possibly less development. So the music must also be different than twenty or thirty years ago.

These are some of the reasons why I believe film scoring has been evolving the way it has in the past decade or so. I'm sure you can find others, but I hope this point of view helps you out.

Best of luck with the paper,

Alejandro

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Thanks for some great ideas, Alejandro, I might toy with a few of them. You're quite right about film evolution and the how the modern-day styles tend to conflict with the old-style composing. It's unfortunate to me 'cause I personally loved the old style so much more, with the catchy leitmotifs and character themes...

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You know, I was just watching The Patriot, and holy cow, the film was cut to the music so well! There were incredibly few edits and the music definitely carried the emotion through each scene..........and the cinematics of The Patriot for the most part differed very little from Episode II! Why was the music editing so much uglier for it, then? Especially considering the great ways the music JW wrote was spliced into the previous 4 movies.....*shaking head*....soooo confused :-)

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3 hours ago, Holko said:

There was a fantastic new adbot post he was replying to, now deleted.

There is no such thing as a fantastic adbot!

Kuvahaun tulos haulle there is no such thing as magic

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5 hours ago, John said:

Do you realize you’re replying to a discussion from 17 years ago?

What motivated us to start posting again?

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On 6/10/2002 at 9:27 PM, Saxman717 said:

any thoughts at all? :?:

 

On 6/11/2002 at 3:03 PM, Saxman717 said:

Nothing else? :?

 

On 6/11/2002 at 4:45 PM, Saxman717 said:

:)

I kinda feel sorry for the guy.  Only one member helped him.  Yeah.  And only now we start posting again.

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