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Ludwig

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Everything posted by Ludwig

  1. Hi all, Here's the second video in my series on John Williams themes, this one on the Star Wars main title. It argues that one of the reasons the cue is so powerful is that it's highly unified by melody, harmony, and rhythm. Enjoy, and if you like it, please subscribe!
  2. Hi all! Film Music Notes will now be offering videos of some of our most popular blog posts on our very own YouTube channel. Here is the first video, analyzing John Williams’ Force theme from the Star Wars saga. If you like the video and would like to see more of them, just click the YouTube logo on the video, then hit the Subscribe button in YouTube!
  3. I'm with you, @Jay, and @Falstaft. I don't think the Elegy theme is in those last 2 examples. Generally, I'd say when Williams wants to make reference to a theme, he's pretty darn clear about it. Sure, we've seen examples where he's not, like the use of Anthem of Evil in "Advice", but that's really the exception, one that seems tied to him "putting a bow" on his final SW score, as he himself said. And there wouldn't be much point in being really subtle in thematic references anyway since the whole point is for the audience to gain a better understanding of what's going on when we hear and recognize a theme. And we do that as we're bombarded with images, dialogue, and sound effects. Like Bernard Herrmann said, the best you get is the audience listening with "half an ear". So I think this is why Williams and film music in general isn't usually subtle when it comes to theme statements.
  4. The Ludlow motif is different from other themes because it lacks an explicit association. It's more of a basic outline, something like Horner's danger motif, that can be hammered into different but closely-related shapes for a generalized feeling of tension. Call this one a different name if you like. The point is that its notes follow the same outline as the other things we call the Ludlow motif. This one, being slower, is like the Desperation motif from TLJ, which is also Ludlow-based. And even with that theme, the association is much more vague than with other themes, following the pattern of Ludlow motifs throughout Williams' scores.
  5. Isn't this Williams' beloved Ludlow Motif, or what @Falstaft in his catalogue calls "Tension"? There, @Falstaft notes another instance of it in "Hallway Shooting" from TROS, so it's elsewhere in the score. It's kind of cool how at 2:05 and 2:22, it appears over a single chord like usual, but then at 2:32, it appears a third time, now each note of the motif harmonized with a different chord, sounding twisted and forced into a new mould.
  6. What impresses me the most about this theme in TROS is how expressively flexible it is. Yes, Falcon Flight is awesome. And it seems part of a larger approach to varying the emotional quality of the theme. So we get the expected old-time creepy statements and big climactic statement we heard with the original in ROTJ, and in Falcon Flight, we get it as an action theme, but there's more to it than even those. The scoring often has a quality of expressing the evil "from afar", meaning not by Palpatine himself because the low bassoon/cello/chorus combination is substituted with something lighter. In what that compilation calls "Rey Swears Revenge", we get it in this forlorn, emotionally wounded form in the oboe/English horn as Rey vows to track down Palpatine and destroy him, a statement that makes Finn question Rey's character. This scoring is very similar to that heard in "Boolio's Head", where Ren talks about the mole in the organization then about the new fleet of Star Destroyers on Exegol. But there, a slight but very important change makes all the difference - we hear dissonant chords in the high strings, making it now sound like the music of a madman. Evil, but not the head honcho of evil, kind of thing. And there's also the statement in "Hard to Get Rid Of", where Ren is telling Rey her backstory and how Palpatine was behind her parents' death. The scoring is in French horn, which gives it a quality of an old story about evil rather than evil in the here and now. It's these sorts of subtleties I appreciate with the Emperor's theme in TROS and in the score generally. We've seen on several other occasions how there is a kind of freshness in this score that keeps it from falling into a trap of simple regurgitation, which would have been easy with so much previous material. I think this is another example of that. But simple answer - Falcon Flight because it's so unexpected but so effective!
  7. Might it have sounded like this? "Sir Francis and the Unicorn" from Tintin works amazingly well (even with my couple of small edits)!
  8. What's incredible to me is that Williams wrote the score to ANH thinking this was going to be just a one-off adventure movie, and nevertheless was able to write not one but TWO themes that would become musical symbols of the saga as a whole - Luke's theme and the Force theme. In that sense, these themes became bigger than themselves. And even in the first film, this happens with Luke's theme pretty much immediately with its effectiveness as a bold, brassy main theme, and the Force theme through its malleability to take on a host of different, though related, meanings. And along the same lines, I think the mythology of Star Wars was able to take hold and grow over the decades in large part because of the strength of these themes both as musical shorthands for the saga and as the leitmotifs that, through their prominence and familiarity, led the multitude of other themes in each film, new or old. And all this with the understanding that the original film was a stand-alone film, not one that would form part of three trilogies, all of which he would score. This is why for me ANH is in a league of its own among the scores for the trilogy-starting films.
  9. Hi all. Thought you might be interested to read my latest blog post (the first in a while!). What makes Ennio Morricone's style of scoring for Sergio Leone's westerns so great? I take a crack at this in my new blog post series. Here's part 1: https://www.filmmusicnotes.com/ennio-morricones-dollars-scores-part-1-of-3-a-fistful-of-dollars/
  10. For me, one thing I love about this score is the way Williams develops not just the themes but melodic snippets that aren't necessarily leitmotifs. "Farewell" is a great demonstration of this. There, he introduces this tiny little rising semitone figure at the end of Kylo/Ben's leitmotif: 1:10-1:13: It seems like an unimportant detail at first, but then he uses it again and again (sometimes a rising whole tone instead of a semitone). I'd say it represents a kind of lamenting sound given we've just had the death of Rey and Ben coming over to grieve then try and revive her. It's one of these cues where Williams is sparing with the leitmotifs and instead relies on a musical motive that just sounds right for the scene - mournful, grieving, that sort of thing. I think it's better than it would have been to simply reiterate Rey and Ben's themes in various guises throughout this passage. Music as music rather than music as themes! Brilliant stuff. I repost the link so you can just click on it to get to the right timestamp: 1:46-1:49 1:52-1:55: 1:55-1:59 (in the inner voice): 2:11-2:17 (in the horns): 2:18-2:21: 2:24-2:31 - three times in a row, the last time becoming an altered start to Rey's theme:
  11. Haha, yes, NOT on the OST. Sorry for the typo on such a critical word! Anyway, I hope the Malone doc proves useful. At first it seemed like just another random online doc, but then I saw he actually interviewed Tomlinson and was blown away. The quote from Tomlinson about Willams not being able to hear a thing in Olympic studios is really telling because 1) I couldn't find that anecdote told anywhere else (by Tomlinson or anyone else) and 2) you almost never hear Williams complain about conditions while doing the job. That's how you know it must have been gawd awful!
  12. So I did a little digging to find out what the story was here... This is from a valuable document called Recording the Star Wars Saga by Chris Malone, who actually interviewed Eric Tomlinson about the OT: "Superstructure Chase" was included in the OST, as shown in Jay's spreadsheet, no doubt because of how Williams felt about the sound quality. Things were kind of rushed in post-production for ROTJ, and that's probably why this happened, as you say. Another factor may well have been that Anvil studios, where the first two scores were recorded, was not available for recording because it was sold and torn down mid-way through 1983.
  13. I'm hearing something like A-G-Bb-A-G-F#-F#-G, repeating. I can't make out an E in that run, but it sounds like there's more than that line going on, but it may be sound effects. In any case, even with the indistinct tones we're hearing, it seems that Williams is drawing on his trusted friend the octatonic scale here for this accompaniment, E-F#-G-A-Bb-C-Db-Eb-E. The melody is drawn from another scale, if you want to call it Phrygian or Hungarian minor (rotated to start on the 5th note). What I think is cool about this is that it doesn't rely on a single technique or scale, as we usually expect from most film music passages. Instead, it combines techniques and makes them hang together nicely. Williams generally does this by having melody and accompaniment do different things. And it kind of makes sense here - the swirling, menacing aerial shot is matched by the swirling, menacing accompaniment figure while the identity of the Knights is pounded out by the melody (itself related to Ren's aggressive theme). And while this theme is indeed somewhat generic as one of the film's new leitmotifs, I think the ST has shown us how good Williams is at taking a set of themes and running them through very different variations, notably Rey's theme and March of the Resistance over the trilogy, and now with this Knights of Ren theme in this film, which strangely does not adhere to a kind of Ur-form, but is quite varied with pretty much each statement.
  14. I hope Williams gets a cameo in TROS with a Star Warsy name like Mr. Oates or Astro Me.
  15. I thought this too at first. But I've since discovered (through sources that must remain anonymous at this point) that Williams originally wrote a complete statement of the theme in 1M8 Approaching the Nursery (which, notably, was originally titled "Approaching the Emperor") that was cut from the scene. While still uncertain at this point, it seems likely this was Williams' intended first statement of the theme in the film. It also seems to have been one of the first cues of a handful that he began scoring. And for it to occur in the scene where Kylo meets Palpatine, and in complete form, strongly suggests that his intention was to link the theme to Palpatine specifically, or perhaps the relationship between Kylo and Palpatine. But given Williams' predilection for writing character themes rather than relationship themes other than for love relationships, I'd say it's a new Palpatine theme, one for his new influence rather than just his character, as I said above. With this new information, I have a hard time believing it's just a generic evil theme. When Williams has new themes in SW films, he has a full statement at an important point in the narrative or at a time that makes the association clear, not the wishy-washy association we get in the final cut. I don't know what was happening exactly when Anthem of Evil appears to have been introduced but it was most likely where Kylo and Palpatine meet, and given this was probably the theme's first appearance, that it's given in full, and given its other important uses in the final film (destruction of Kijimi on Palpatine's orders, Rey discovering she is a Palpatine, the arrivals on Exegol), I'm led to believe it was primarily a Palpatine-specific theme. By the way, for whatever reason, the cut version of Anthem of Evil from 1M8 is on the OST in Join Me:
  16. An attractive theory, @crumbs! It makes a good deal of sense. I've just been trying to research what the facts are, or at least the things that we believe are facts at this point. There's the partial cue list of the Nov. 11 cut: The later appearance of Palpatine would depend on whether he was introduced in 2M04 The Emperor Lives or perhaps in 1M08 Approaching the Nursery. It's possible 2M04 may have been, say, the reveal that he is alive to the Resistance and that 1M08 was the reveal to the audience. Some tracking noted by yourself: And other tracking noted by @Smaug the iron: I think it would make sense that Williams was not so keen on using the old Emperor's theme for Palpatine, because when there's a central villain who's known to the good guys (in other words, a big baddie that is the source of the conflict), Williams has tended to write a big new theme for them (Vader in TESB, the Emperor in ROTJ). Yes, Palpatine is the same person here, but he's in a new context as the villain who was (apparently) in the shadows and has now been revealed to wreak his havoc on the Resistance. There's also the greater emphasis on the spiritual and supernatural nature of it, which is no doubt what inspired the a cappella version of Anthem of Evil. So it makes sense that Williams wrote Anthem of Evil for Palpatine in this new context. After all, with the exception of TLJ, where the temp track was used in lieu of spotting sessions and was almost certainly the reason for the fewer new themes than one would expect, Williams does seem to like characterizing each new Star Wars score with its new themes even when there are many old ones as well. Now what parts of ROTS were tracked that use the Emperor theme? I couldn't find it among those listed in the spoiler tags above.
  17. Of all the new themes in TROS, I think this is the one that has the most to reveal in an expanded soundtrack release. I say this because of all the leitmotifs in the saga according to @Falstaft's catalogue, which is over 50 (considering B sections and such to be part of a single leitmotif), Anthem of Evil is the only one not to get a full statement somewhere in the film proper (i.e., not including end credits). Considering how the theme appears in the film (even with the score having been butchered), that says to me that there was a full statement and it was simply cut, omitting a vital part of the score, especially with regard to its meaning. The meaning of this theme as it is presented in the film isn't very clear because of this. I mean, in ANH, when Luke is introduced by his aunt calling "Luke! Luke!", we hear his theme on the horn - voila, the meaning is instantly clear. Nevertheless, I'm fairly certain that this is primarily a new theme for Palpatine in TROS, perhaps something like his influence, relationships, surroundings - that sort of thing - as opposed to just signifying Palpatine, which is old Emperor theme does quite well. The main places this theme shows up in TROS are when: Kylo flies to Exegol (though may be tracked or recomposed from when Rey flies to Exegol?) - someone was going to Exegol! After Kylo tells Rey she is a Palpatine Kylo tells Rey that the Dark Side is in both their natures A new Star Destroyer blows up Kijimi on Palpatine's order Rey arrives on Exegol And we also have the variations of it in "Advice" as Kylo decides to turn to good, which could be interpreted as him shedding not just evil generally but the pact he has with Palpatine, which has been driving his actions in the film. If we can look at the 3rd one above as probably an instance of Williams slightly expanding the meaning of his leitmotifs (as he so often does), it becomes clearer that the statements focus on Palpatine, either through Exegol, his bloodline, or his direct orders. It's still a bit hazy, I know, but we know how sensitive Williams is to finding a film's core and scoring to that. Vader's larger role in TESB prompted him to (thank goodness!) write him a new theme. The Emperor's important role in ROTJ prompted him to write a new theme for him. And those are the big baddies of those films, in other words, they are the ones who are really in charge pulling all the strings. Now we get to TROS and we find that Kylo really isn't the big baddie, nor was Snoke, but Palpatine. And interestingly, in TFA and TLJ, there wasn't one central villain in the way that TESB and ROTJ have one because of the relationships among Kylo, Snoke and Hux. But in TROS, within the first few minutes of the film, we get that scene at the Resistance base with Poe telling everyone that "somehow Palpatine has returned", making him the central evil of the film. And this is the kind of thing Williams is so adept at, honing in on a core feature of the narrative like that and carving out the main leitmotifs around it. So this is why I really look forward to hopefully learning more about this score and what Williams' original intentions were and at least more-or-less what he was scoring to in an earlier version of the film. But I'm certain that Anthem of Evil had a larger and/or more important role than what we hear in the final cut.
  18. Let's try some more! (from Schubart's list) E.T. (C major): innocence, simplicity, naïvety, children's talk Star Wars (Luke's Theme) (Bb major): Cheerful love, clear conscience, hope aspiration for a better world Anakin's Theme (A major) - declarations of innocent love, satisfaction with one's state of affairs; hope of seeing one's beloved again when parting; youthful cheerfulness and trust in God Rey's Theme (A minor): Pious womanliness and tenderness of character Hmm, I think you may be on to something...
  19. So this is kind of a complicated topic...(!) These kinds of lists of key characteristics all date from centuries ago, and the biggest factor affecting these lists was the tuning system used. For the past couple of centuries or so, equal temperament has been the standard, meaning that the octave is divided into 12 equal semitones. But before that, most tuning systems were unequal temperaments, meaning that the semitones don't divide equally, so the intervals in every key literally sounded different even though they are written the same on paper. So each key lended itself to emotional interpretations due to the differences from the unequal tuning. Some tunings done in a chain of 5ths meant that the 5th going from the top of the chain to the bottom again sounded horribly out of tune and had acoustic "beats" in them that sounded to people like the howling of a wolf. So it was named the "wolf" interval. You can hear it here. This is why they say that some major keys sound "harsh" or full of "rage". Keys that stray far from C major will sound more out of tune, so these are generally ones with four or more sharps or flats that were not generally in common use, and these are the major keys that get negative descriptions: Ab, Db, B. Even E and F# describe fighting and struggling. This is actually quite a complicated topic, but there are other factors as well, like physical factors of instruments, e.g., open strings of string instruments resonating more than stopped ones, so sounding more "joyful". This is why you'll see major keys that can use many open strings have that description: D, A, E. Then there are psychological factors like the jagged nature of the sharp sign vs. the softer rounded nature of the flat sign (not kidding!). So keys with many sharps tended to be called energetic while those with many flats tended to be called calm. Other things too, like C major with no sharps or flats has a "purity" or "child-like simplicity". Or Eb major with its 3 flats is thought of as symbolic of the holy trinity, so you get descriptions about conversing with God, etc. As you can see, this is all pretty complicated, so much so that one academic devoted a whole book to it. One last thing, probably the most well-known list like this was by a guy named Schubart (not Schubert!) in the late-18th century. Here's a reproduction of his list. I only mention it because Beethoven saw the list and agreed with it, which is in many ways corroborated by many of his pieces (e.g., the Ode to Joy in D Major, the key of joy, or the Pastoral Symphony in the "calm" key of F major). But today, equal temperament has gotten rid of the tuning distinctions between keys, so one key sounds like another, just higher or lower.
  20. It's a thematic transformation (that's a proper term) rather than a straightforward thematic statement, meaning that it's been significantly altered, so it's going to sound different, to the point where you could easily miss it if you're not exactly listening for it. As @Falstaft pointed out, it's unusual for Williams to work this way, and I would agree, especially in Star Wars, where references to themes are usually made abundantly clear. But here's what I mean by the thematic transformation (or development, as I called it in the analysis). In "Advice", the original rhythm has been stripped away, the harmony is entirely different, and the tempo is slowed way down. BUT the intervals and contour (melodic shape) are much the same, so it retains some fundamental aspects of the original and is still recognizable. See below. The square bracketed sections all do this kind of thing. I show the original transposed to the same note as "Advice" for comparison. Hope that makes things clearer!
  21. The Morricone track is "The Transgression": I noticed this too and brought it up several years ago in one of the Williams "plagiarism" threads. As for a reason, the more I study Williams and his film scoring techniques, the more I'm convinced that moments like these, where an original shines through clearly, are simply the result of him following a temp track. I'd say that this probable temp was there because the situation is very similar: a main character crossing a dangerous terrain with a constant hidden threat of death. In Once Upon a Time in the West, Frank is crossing through the town with hidden gunmen trying to kill him at every turn and Harmonica killing the gunmen to keep Frank alive (so he can kill him himself!). In Empire of the Sun, Jim is trying to cross under the fence of a POW camp with armed guards watching everywhere. As to why this temp remained clear in Williams' score is beyond me. Maybe Spielberg just liked the temp!
  22. Great track! I took a crack at analyzing this overtop of @Falstaft's excellent transcription. Williams actually de-composes Anthem of Evil for the first half of the passage, as Kylo is deciding whether or not to give up his evil ways. It's done by passing the main developments of the theme from melody to bass and back to melody (the solid square brackets). There are smaller developments of the theme as well at the same time - shown in dotted brackets. This is just too good! When Kylo says "I know what I have to do but I don't know if I have the strength to do it", then we get a new motive (unrelated to other themes as far as I can tell) that is passed between the upper voices - a more positive, upward-striving motive. I see this as a musical representation of him giving up the evil and striving to climb out of the emotional hole he's dug himself into as Kylo. The developments of the Anthem of Evil, though, are pretty subtle and reward careful listening. It also leads nicely into the more obvious Anthem of Evil references just before the brass come in, making the cue really hang together well. To me, these are part of what makes this score top-notch and a great final musical entry in the saga, even as Williams is in his late 80s!
  23. Anthem of Evil is also unique in that, of all the leitmotifs in the saga (those shown on @Falstaft's list), it just blows me away that it's the only one not to have a full statement somewhere in the film proper (i.e., other than the end credits). It's second half never gets played in the film itself. And I'm talking about the A section of themes, the part that makes the theme the theme. Even themes in other films that don't appear very much like Luke and Leia, or Poe have a complete statement. Rose's theme as well, which is heard a lot, appears only single time in complete form during The Fathiers. I'm just saying that in his Star Wars scores, it seems important for Williams to have a complete form of each new leitmotif somewhere in the film, then to use the end credits as a summary of those complete statements, not as a place to reveal a full theme. So Anthem of Evil almost certainly had more to do in the film.
  24. A great assessment of the ST! I would agree with it as well. I think the most damaging aspect of the film to the score is how much the film must have changed in the month before release. It really seems that Williams wrote a score for a very different movie, so it seems that Williams' conception of the score remained scattered and fractured at best in the end. Things like the reordering of scenes, cutting of scenes, substantial edits to scenes, etc. make it very hard to hear Williams' intended arc for the score. And yet... the new themes, especially the three for the good guys (Friendship, Victory, Heroics) are all quite strong, the underscore for action scenes is top-notch (we even get an old-style thematic action cue in the Speeder Chase), and somehow, instead of feeling like the thematically-attractive-but-less-interesting-underscore-type score for TFA or the emotionally-exciting-but-low-density-of-new-themes-type score for TLJ, the score for TROS manages to be both attractive in its themes and exciting in its underscore and still hang together in the film. The prominence and frequency of the Friendship theme throughout certainly helps, as does seemingly not overdoing it on temp track references / old themes. Even so, an expanded score I think would be the most revealing of any in the ST because of how much the film seemed to have changed. The Anthem of Evil, for example, I would guess had a larger and/or more important role in the original film than it ended up having - was the choral bit ever part of the film, for example? And as @Falstaft pointed out when the film was released, the Speeder Chase motif is a kind of variant of the Heroics theme, and Ben Solo's theme (aka the Kylo Ren redeemed theme) was foreshadowed near the start of the film. So it seems that Williams had a more overarching conception of the score and how the themes would appear throughout, creating a more unified score than what we heard in the final film. But I love the score, too, even with its current frustrations, and likewise consider it the best of the ST for all the above reasons.
  25. That's because it's hidden in the main title too if you take the first note, the 2nd note of the B section, and the last note of the theme all together. Just kidding. It was just a mistake - I've fixed it now. Thanks, @crumbs!
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