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Everything posted by Ludwig

  1. Getting back to some specifics on the OST, I thought the statement of Leia's theme when she and Kylo Force-sense each other in battle was exquisite (the later harp statement is truly poignant, but this one's good too!): The thing I most like about it is how differently it is treated from more typical Leia statements, even ones in battles, where it tends to be involved in creating a very dissonant polytonal setting, the accompaniment doing something in one key, Leia's theme doing another. Overall, these are so harmonically disconnected from the accompaniment that they create a feeling of beauty amid surrounding chaos. In this track from TLJ, we still get something polytonal, but now the two keys are as closely related as one can get. Leia's theme is in a major key as usual (here, Db major), but the bass note against it is the tonic of its relative minor (Bb). Not only this, but there's a mid-range cluster chord against it as well. Major against minor is a musically fitting way of representing the conflict in Kylo at this point - will he come down on the good side here and not take the shot on Leia, or will he treat her as he did Han and go ahead with it? The cluster chord adds that haze of dissonance that provides a clear tension between these two sides as well, making it musically even more nail-biting at this crucial moment. It's these sorts of scorings of old themes that I really enjoy in TLJ. This is just one example among many.
  2. I must admit, I don't hear it as connected to the Force theme, though it may look like it is on paper. The Force theme has never been played in a major key, but more importantly, shifting its first note to the strong beat rather than the pickup distorts its identity virtually beyond recognition. And the triplet rhythm in Rose's theme I hear as part of a larger pattern in Star Wars themes of ending opening ideas with an ornament of some kind in a faster rhythm as it occurs not just here and in the Force theme, but in March of the Resistance, Anakin's theme, Leia's theme, the Rebel Fanfare, etc. I'm more in the camp of hearing it as an analog to Anakin's theme since the major key and first three notes are rhythmically exactly the same way, and to the same harmony, so the relationship strikes one immediately. I agree. The Ahch-To scenes of course parallel those on Degobah. The Force theme in the Degobah scenes is scored for woodwind combinations with the tremolo strings as accompaniment. There it makes sense because the Force is being described as something mystical, positive, a source of hope. In TLJ, Luke has entirely soured on everything to do with the Force and the Jedi, so I rather like the horn statements, well-trod as they may be, since they add that forlorn and negative quality into the mix. And as I said before, these Ahch-To statements are harmonically varied as well. So when Leia tells the group to follow Poe instead of her near the end, and we hear the Force theme end its first half with its original harmony, it shines through like the beacon of hope it is portrayed as being.
  3. I agree that, from a purely musical point of view, it would have been nice to have much more of Luke's theme than we get in this score or TFA. But it seems Williams is retaining the theme's association from the prequels, where it generally accompanies a heroic (and usually aggressive) moment for the good guys (and not necessarily the Jedi) - I'm thinking of it accompanying one of BB8's heroic actions in TLJ, though there are a couple of other statements IIRC. The only time it actually accompanies Luke in the PT is of course at the end of ROTS, where we see baby Luke being given a new home. There, though, it's functioning more like a subtitle, reinforcing who the little one is. If we ask why Williams may have decided to avoid using Luke's theme to accompany discussion of, or scenes with, Luke in these new films, we can only speculate, and my guess is because Luke is no longer the hero in these new films. Though he does do something heroic, he was more of a catalyst to allow Rey - the real hero - to shine. And to me, though musically it is disappointing not to have more of Luke's theme, in terms of the narrative I feel that decision is spot on. Minor-key versions of Luke's theme in the saga are pretty exclusively associated with Luke, since they generally appear only in ANH and TESB, where Luke is struggling to learn and apply the ways of the Force. Maybe the association still sticks with Williams and that's why we don't get any minor-key Luke themes. Or maybe they just weren't in the temp track.
  4. Yes, this is definitely true, because...
  5. I agree with Jay, that's a great observation. And there's actually a parallel between Williams' use of Rey's theme in moving from TFA to TLJ, and Luke's in moving from ANH to TESB. In ANH, Luke's theme reaches the end of its first phrase plenty of times in the film, but in TESB (aside from the main title and end credits), there is only one time it reaches that far into the theme - when Luke is arriving at Cloud City to rescue his friends, possibly suggesting his determination at this point (doomed though he is). Incredibly, all other statements of Luke's theme don't make it that far, stopping before reaching the distinctive cadence, and many are played slowly and in minor keys. Both of these features suggest Luke's struggle in trying to become the Jedi he is supposedly destined to be. Much like Karol's observation of Rey's theme suggesting something of that character's growth, the change in Luke's from Episode IV to V seems to suggest Luke's difficulties with transitioning from an impetuous adolescent to a responsible adult. The difference, of course, is that Rey's transition seems to be going smoothly while Luke's certainly was not. Still, there is a nice symmetry between the more abbreviated use of each main character's theme in moving into the second film of the trilogy. What's most interesting is that Williams has retained a similar response to growth in Star Wars protagonists even almost 40 years later.
  6. Agreed. The interviewer's question just rubs me (and obviously Lehman) the wrong way. One could probably get more out such study just by not trying to make historical connections in the first place (as was the interviewer's suggestion). Instead, it would probably be more enlightening for students to study film music in its own right and discuss some of the techniques that are endemic to it. Its immediacy, for example, rather than the goal-directed sort of development that is a linchpin of so much classical music. Personally, I find film music to be a great pedagogical tool not only because of its stylistic variety (you can access almost any concept you want) but, most importantly, because for the better film music, it demonstrates very directly some of the emotional meaning behind certain techniques, which I find just about everyone can understand, if not relate to.
  7. Lehman's response to the question of whether studying Williams in the classroom perhaps is a motivator to study related classical artists like Wagner is great: Indeed! It makes more sense anyway from a historical point of view and, most importantly, doesn't cheapen the value of studying film music.
  8. I thought this was a great score. Because Williams' music captures so well the moment-to-moment emotional and situational changes in a film, so much of a film's tone and style tends to get imprinted on his scores. Johnson's approach to the plot was also, I think, quite different from the OT Star Wars films the new trilogy is modeled on in that he was more interested in following up on the leads of TFA than introducing new ones. The OT films tended to be more self-sufficient than this, and Williams' score always follows suit: TESB changes the whole direction of the saga as it suddenly becomes focused on Vader's personal quest for Luke (and thus makes the film focused on the Skywalker family), so he needed the Imperial March for this. ROTJ spends a lot of time introducing the new characters of the Emperor and the Ewoks, so he wrote new themes for them. New characters in TLJ are essentially confined to minor roles, so we get secondary themes for them. But since Johnson seemed most interested in character development, I feel it was the right move musically to construct a score based primarily on existing material. I agree with others here that TFA themes sounded terrific in this film in terms of effectiveness. I also feel the same about the OT themes. And although many here seem disappointed by the use of the Force theme several times in the film (the one at the end I can understand, but that's surely a directorial decision), I felt they were also effective for a couple of reasons. First, as Steef mentioned, the Force theme is the real main theme of the saga. Luke's theme will always adorn the main title but usually has little place outside the OT, where Luke was the hero. Second, Williams shows that he's still sensitive to the varying uses of harmony in the theme. There is a way of ending the theme's first phrase that is darker than the usual chord we get there (on the so called "Neapolitan" or flat II), one that was frequent only in ROTS, which of course was darker in tone than all the other films. Interestingly, we get this same setting of the theme twice in "The Sacred Jedi Texts", where Luke is perhaps at his lowest, feeling so disillusioned by the whole Jedi philosophy that he is about to destroy the sacred texts and symbolically disown his own past and any connections to new potential Jedi like Rey. Those settings have the dark end to the Force theme's first phrase. I would also point out that there is a subtle use of dissonance in these two statements of the theme, where the end of the first short idea (the theme's 6th and/or 7th notes) is supported by an accompaniment in which the 5th degree of the minor scale rises up to scale degree 6, which clashes with another 5 that's still sounding. It's a minute detail, but one I'm prone to hear and one that traditionally takes on connotations of the funereal, lamenting, or otherwise deep sadness. I can't help but hear these as perfect accompaniment to the scene. And by my count, up to TLJ, there have been 114 statements of the Force theme in the saga, and I'm still not sick of it because of the subtlety with which the maestro is still able to handle it. So while this score may not introduce much that's new in the way of thematic material, I think it shows an overwhelming wealth of skill in the way it takes established material and carves it out emotionally to perfectly match what we see on screen. In short, there's no one thing I can point to that shows its genius. It is simply content to be masterfully done.
  9. Before TFA was released, I went through the six previous films and soundtracks and catalogued the themes, giving them names if ones didn't seem to exist already. This one I called "Rebels Struggle" because it only appears once Luke is hanging from those bars beneath Cloud City and is consistently associated with Luke and the Rebels as they make their final escape of the film. I did not hear it as a derivation of any other theme in the score, though like a few other themes, it brings in several aspects of a funeral march - the slow four-beat pulse, the minor key, the "lamenting" melody of scale degrees 5-6-5. Similarly funereal themes include one I call "Empire in Control" and another I call "Vader Succeeding", this last one obviously based on the Imperial March.) When trying to make sense of why a theme would or wouldn't be derived from another, I think we always have to remember that, to a greater extent than his contemporaries, Williams' music is tightly knit to the ever-changing emotional implications of the film. So in this case, having this new theme appear only after Luke has lost the saber fight points up the direness of the situation: the Rebels just lost Han to the enemy, and now Luke has not only lost, he has barely made it out alive. The new theme we hear at this point acts as a kind of concluding theme that ends the film on a dark and somewhat hopeless note. Had the theme instead been another form of the Imperial March to show Vader's dominance over the situation, I think it would have been less effective since something new near the end of the film can signal conclusion far better - cadences in music, for example, are usually based on a different melody and different harmony that what precedes them to distinguish endings from beginnings. And with the emotional qualities of the theme, that sense of conclusion comes with feelings of gravity and hopelessness that are a perfect match for the drama at this point. In short, it's a subtle but brilliantly effective tactic to stir up just the right emotions at this point in the film.
  10. It has these little details that make it interesting, even if it is treading over much of the Imperial March's ground. I especially like the weird things going on in the rhythm and meter. The second bar of accompaniment actually has five beats rather than the four of the first bar, so it throws us off when the melody comes in a beat later. The first short idea then overlaps with its repetition, so again it comes as a surprise since it sounds like the end of the first then suddenly becomes the beginning of the second. At the end of the first phrase, the last bar has only three beats, making the repeat of the melody an unexpected entrance. Then there's that ending - who knows what's going on there, but it really sounds like half a beat goes missing somewhere. Awesome. If this is the real deal, then it's nice to see Williams delving into these kinds of oddities in rhythm and meter since not many of his themes do this, at least the big ones in Star Wars. And if not, well, good for whoever wrote it!
  11. Most of these uses of musical spelling limit themselves to the notes A-G (with B standing for Bb) and add two other notes: H (for B-natural, the "hard" B rather than the "soft" Bb) and S (for Eb since in German, when you add the letter "s" to a letter, it means flat, so "S" actually means "Es" or Eb). This is why you get a lot of "sch" or "ch" in these monograms. They're some of the only combinations that work. The idea for the whole alphabet I got from the Debussy "Hadyn" piece. You'll see that he kind of mixes systems together, having H for the note B, but then Y and N by continuing the notes after G the way I do. With the whole alphabet, H should be A, not B. But I guess having the B worked better, so he used that. But probably the best thing I know about all this comes from a personal story. When one of my composition teachers did his doctorate, he of course wrote an extensive piece, as one does for the thesis. When it came to coming up with the material for it, he (in his wonderfully subversive way) noticed that "thesis" sounded kind of like "faeces", which can be written musically using the more limited German-based notes. And that became the main motif for the work. And no one ever noticed! So with 100% accuracy, you could say that what he wrote was a piece of shit.
  12. There's kind of a tradition of this kind of musical spelling in classical music. Of course, they're all far better than my trite exercise here, but they are based on essentially the same idea. The main difference is that these composers all use very short names or abbreviations of names to get a motif rather than the long-lined melody I present here. Obviously, the short motif is more useful if you're going to base a whole piece on it, but since I'm writing just a few bars, I go for the whole sha-bang. Anyway, the first famous example comes from Bach, who wrote a prelude and fugue on his name: This B-A-C-H motif became a favourite of composers in the Romantic period and thereafter, probably the best-known examples being Schumann's six fugues on the motif. Schumann himself had a fascination with this kind of "musical cryptography", and famously wrote several of the pieces from his Carnaval using motifs he called "Sphinxes" that were derived from the letters of the town his fiancee of the time was from (Asch) and the musically translatable letters of his own last name: SCHumAnn. Then there is Debussy's "Hommage a Haydn": And my personal favourite, Shostakovich's monogram, similar to Schumann's in that it's derived mainly from the translatable letters of his first and last names:
  13. I figured we could use some diversion while waiting to pore over new JW music, so here's another musical spelling of a composer I wrote as a melody in their style. Ennio works rather well since his full name starts and ends on E, and the repetition of letters in each name helps to create a kind of motive in the first two bars, so his name was made for this! Because the first bar happens to give us an E minor chord, I gave an E minor key signature, making all the Fs into F#s. Enjoy! http://picosong.com/wFXTz
  14. How do I show my appreciation? Make a melody out of his name using a musical "alphabet" and make it into a theme that has CE3K vibes (in honor of today's release!): Audio here: http://picosong.com/wFCHw
  15. I agree. I never hear a cue of his he conducted and think, for example, that it was too slow or too fast. The way he conducts, he seems to find just the perfect tempo (among other things) for everything, and that is no mean feat!
  16. "When 85 years you reach, be as productive, you will not. Hmm?"
  17. I was just going to say as much. The plot seems very focused on the kind of morality, politics, and patriotism that characterize Stone's films, and with courtroom scenes included as well, it seems most like JFK. Perhaps we'll get a similar theme to JFK, which has a do-the-right-thing kind of vibe. But somehow I sense the main theme will be much darker and less "heroic" than the JFK main theme. Which is cool. I'm always down with darker.
  18. Apologies to TGP for changing one note and adding another. The opening scale degrees, 5-4-5, were a cool challenge to work with. I figured it was best if the solution was not an orthodox one.
  19. Uh oh... We may already have a future candidate for the homage/plagiarism thread.
  20. And stranger still, the three films you list were not distributed by Columbia but rather (in the order you list them) Fox, Paramount, and United Artists. If there is any credence to the story with Stoloff, could you go down the list of Columbia films during those years and check the IMDb for each? It's not an airtight method, but might be worth a shot.
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