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Typesetting “The Empire Strikes Back” (my fool’s errand)


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The Empire Strikes Back is probably my favorite score and I have always wanted to study it in depth. The sketches are floating around but are cryptic and difficult to read due to extremely small hand

Dear Karelm, Thank you so much for your educated post. I am not a musician but this is wonderful information and offers great insight even for the layman. Thanks also to everyone else who contributed.

I just have to say excellent work and a big thank you for taking on this monumental job, karelm. Absolutely right about the parallel chords. Funny thing, they're almost always minor chords - why is th

Detailed sketches are what it's all about - the only detail you mention that I'd say is overdoing it would be string bowings. Good players generally know what you're after from the way you phrase things. In fact, most of the string players I've worked with get a bit miffed if you try to do their job for them, heh, though of course if you want something counterintuitive you have to mark it.

Overall though, that's an admirable undertaking.

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Detailed sketches are what it's all about - the only detail you mention that I'd say is overdoing it would be string bowings. Good players generally know what you're after from the way you phrase things. In fact, most of the string players I've worked with get a bit miffed if you try to do their job for them, heh, though of course if you want something counterintuitive you have to mark it.

Overall though, that's an admirable undertaking.

Another example of overdoing it is restating a pattern. For example, the buzzing high strings near the end, he could have been just as clear and simplified it somewhat. My conclusion: I think he doesn't have a lazy bone in his body. You can just indicate its repeated but he frequently would rewrite the repetition. The bowings are interpretative gestures I would say. He indicates a sound with his bowings. For example, the repeated down bows late in the cue.

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What F are you talking about?

I had noticed something else.

In the sketch (Darth Vader's theme) there is a D in the bass at bar 11, 3rd beat.

From what I remember in the original recording it's also D.

But in the Signature edition and in subsequent recordings, that D is a D#.

So, i am not sure if it is an error originally, or a subsequent alteration...

I think it might be an error, because all the rest Ds in that bar are D#!

Unless he wanted to stress that dissonance.

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A few details about ESTB and the cue you've transcribed:

- For the strings, Williams had 26 violins (14 1sts and 12 2nds), 10 violas, 10 cellos and 8 basses. There were also 4 flutes (not 3) all doubling on piccolos, 4 trombones, 2 harps, 2 pianos (one doubles on celeste and the other on electric piano), 5-6 percussion, 4 bassoons only for Boba Fett's motif (3 bassoons and one contra), 5 oboes only for the Battle in the Snow, and the 6 horns doubling on 6 tuben in some of the earlier cues (like the unused second half of Luke's Escape).

- The violins in bar 4 should be D-G to Eb-F# until the last beat, when they go D-G to D5-G#6).

More to come, but in the mean time - great job!

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A few details about ESTB and the cue you've transcribed:

- For the strings, Williams had 26 violins (14 1sts and 12 2nds), 10 violas, 10 cellos and 8 basses. There were also 4 flutes (not 3) all doubling on piccolos, 4 trombones, 2 harps, 2 pianos (one doubles on celeste and the other on electric piano), 5-6 percussion, 4 bassoons only for Boba Fett's motif (3 bassoons and one contra), 5 oboes only for the Battle in the Snow, and the 6 horns doubling on 6 tuben in some of the earlier cues (like the unused second half of Luke's Escape).

- The violins in bar 4 should be D-G to Eb-F# until the last beat, when they go D-G to D5-G#6).

More to come, but in the mean time - great job!

Hey, that's all very interesting! I saw 2 picc and have it in the sketch that way. Do tell more. I saw the note for the e. piano but never noticed hearing it. Great ears to have caught the error on bar 4. I will fix later. Now I need fresh air.

What F are you talking about?

I had noticed something else.

In the sketch (Darth Vader's theme) there is a D in the bass at bar 11, 3rd beat.

From what I remember in the original recording it's also D.

But in the Signature edition and in subsequent recordings, that D is a D#.

So, i am not sure if it is an error originally, or a subsequent alteration...

I think it might be an error, because all the rest Ds in that bar are D#!

Unless he wanted to stress that dissonance.

I will look later for the exact spot I was referring to. It might not have been an F, I was just using that as an example that there was a missing accidental but I'll track it down later. It is seriously impressive that there were so few issues at all. Part of the problem is the handwriting is so small that it really takes a very keen eye to extrapolate.

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I saw 2 picc and have it in the sketch that way.

I know, it's confusing. He writes 2 piccs twice in bar 28, presumably meaning 4. He also puts in Tuba + IV Tromb in bar 13 for the Vader theme statement.

That said, most of my knowledge comes from having half a dozen full scores from ESTB, in the handwriting of Herb Spencer, Al Woodbury and Angela Morley.

Now I need fresh air.

Fresh air is for pussies!

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I just have to say excellent work and a big thank you for taking on this monumental job, karelm.

Absolutely right about the parallel chords. Funny thing, they're almost always minor chords - why is that? Perhaps they're better for creating a feeling of suspense or action?

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4. I used to hear a pretty big style evolution between “Star Wars” and “Empire Strikes Back” but see that “Empire” is more of a direct evolution than I previously thought. The strange music at the start after Luke looses his hand and before Vader says "I am your father" reminds me of the music when Ben Kenobi was deactivating the tractor beam.

Good point. Also reminds me of 'The Indianapolis Story' from JAWS.

Is this strange music (the ESB cue) octatonic in nature? Williams seems to like his 6ths (both major and minor) and tritones for these Bartokian, muted string moments.

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Thank you all! It is a lot of effort so I appreciate the positive feedback.

Mr. Shark, I forgot the "Indianapolis Story" so I will revisit it sometime. Can you please elaborate on this? Some of us (ok, me) haven't heard this in a very long time so need it to be further explained.

I must say, the deeper one gets in JW's music, the greater his genius is exposed.

Personally, there are so many gems in these few minutes. This is mostly freely composed where each bar deviates from the previous measure in slight ways. Yet it all is connected...this is truly brilliant, people!

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...each bar deviates from the previous measure in slight ways. Yet it all is connected...

This to me is what binds Williams' music together regardless of style or genre. It always makes his music feel like a unified whole, even though we often end up on quite a different emotional level from where we began without realizing exactly how we got there.

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4. I used to hear a pretty big style evolution between “Star Wars” and “Empire Strikes Back” but see that “Empire” is more of a direct evolution than I previously thought. The strange music at the start after Luke looses his hand and before Vader says "I am your father" reminds me of the music when Ben Kenobi was deactivating the tractor beam.

Good point. Also reminds me of 'The Indianapolis Story' from JAWS.

Is this strange music (the ESB cue) octatonic in nature? Williams seems to like his 6ths (both major and minor) and tritones for these Bartokian, muted string moments.

Yeah it's one of my favourite Williams devices, also used to good effect in 'Uncovering the Ark' from Raiders.

Regarding its usage in 'Losing a Hand', I remembered something I wrote about that a few years back in a thread here.

(forgive the copy & paste ha)

Another thing I find fascinating at how Vader's character is given more depth in Empire is how Williams seems to represent his twisted desperation and need of finding Luke and the posibility of having a relationship with him.

Listen to the music from the scene where Vader and the Emperor communicate and then the music just after Luke's hand is cut off.

For me it's no coincidence in how Williams scored these 2 scenes, I feel that each are from Vader's perspective, it's almost a terrified, twisted excitement.

The rising and falling high strings are struggling so much to make sense of themselves and perfectly represent Vader's obsession with Luke.

Unfortunately, no words I can write will do justice to how I feel this to be the case.

Just listen to the music instead ....also, not only do I think this perfectly underscores Vader's twisted obsession but it actually evokes feelings of pity for him, I think it's another Williams masterstroke.

At the start of the film it mentions Vader obsessed with finding Luke but when he speaks to the Emperor, the Emperor says there is a great disturbance in the force and that they have a new enemy ....not 'new' to Vader though and it's Vader's suggestion to 'turn' Luke and have him as a powerful ally.

The same later when Vader asks Luke to join him. It's so clear that Vader's feeling towards Luke go way beyond his duty to the Emperor and it's these feelings I feel Williams has scored so well.

What kind of screws this up a little is the altered Emperor dialogue in the newer versions of Empire.

http://www.jwfan.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=18758

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Few more things -

- In measure 1 there should be a harmonic gliss in divisi 1st violins. E6-G#6 to G6-C7. Most likely touch 4 harmonics - look to measure 54 from 7m2-8m1 from E.T. as a reference point. There's also three flutes and one picc doing 16th note sextuplet figures - flutes do a chromatic run on Ab6-G6-Ab6-A6-Bb6 to B6, while picc tap out C7 six times (check out the brackets on each of these figures, 4 then 2 from the flutes, while 2 then 4 for the piccolo). There's also a xylophone hitting a middle C (bottom stave of the sketch).

- The four trumpets should be playing C-F-Ab-C and so on from the planing minor chords. Horns 1, 2 and 3 play top C, Ab and F, while horns 4, 5 and 6 play low C. Trombones should also be 1 2, 3 4, though obviously tacet here.

- You transposed the violins and cellos to the wrong clef - they should both be in the treble clef. Eb4-C5, G4-A4, Ab4-F5 etc.

- Final chord before the famous line (bar 12) should be C#5-A5 in divisi violas, and D5-Bb5-E6 in violins. Also looks like violins 2 play a double stop (D-C#) in the second half of bar 11).


Mr. Shark, I forgot the "Indianapolis Story" so I will revisit it sometime. Can you please elaborate on this? Some of us (ok, me) haven't heard this in a very long time so need it to be further explained.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zmwTFggQ850

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the primary theme in this pivotal scene is an elaboration of the Death Star theme from Star Wars!

The Death Star fanfare? or the Imperial Motif?

The Dear Star fanfare.

I was trying to figure out the horn melody that starts at bar 44 of "Losing A Hand" and have a theory that it is based on the Death Star motif from Star Wars.

Sheet Music: https://www.dropbox.com/s/w9dxt7t0nc86m6t/Imperial.jpg

MP3: https://www.dropbox.com/s/bjnj3oc0grknmb5/Imperial.mp3

So the idea is in the Star Wars "Death Star" motif, you have this rising Aminmaj7 that goes up an octave with two C augmented sixteenth note chords bridging to the AminMaj7 an octave above where the phrase started. In Empire, you have the F minor going up an octave but with two double militaristic passing notes where the rhythm has additional 32nd notes playing the F minor in second then first inversion until we hit the octave up F minor but here the militaristic rhythm has the added 16th note rest which I believe hits at the cadence of the Imperial March (the Empire theme) which has a similar rhythmic pattern at its close. Basically, it seems that the theme from Star Wars might not have been thrown away in Empire but evolved and incorporated.

It seems that the "Death Star" motif might be more of an "Imperial Power" motif instead that in Star Wars was reflected each time the Death Star appeared (and also in ROTJ) but in Empire, this was further incorporated and developed into something more like the end of a phrase at the empire's power.

Thoughts?

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The Death Star motif is basically Bm to Cm/B. The minorMaj sound is provide by the polytonality of the Cm chord of the B pedal.

I'm not sure the ESB motif is for the empire. Doesn't it play when Leia and Lando are rescuing Luke in the Falcon, long before any TIE Fighters arrive on the scene?

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Shark beat me to it by a split second, but the Death Star motif you quote is the same as the one from that site on the relationships of Star Wars and Wagner themes. Unfortunately it's wrong. The Death Star motif is polytonal, starting as an arpeggio of B minor on its first three melody notes, then shifting a semitone up to C minor while B is retained as a bass pedal.

That said, I like the idea of the Death Star motif as an Imperial Power motif. It makes sense because there is a scene in SW where we see the Imperial fleet, not the Death Star, yet we still hear the motif.

Also, there may be a veiled relationship between this and the Luke's hand arpeggio you cite. It would really clinch it if it was polytonal. Is there any of that at that spot or anywhere near it?

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The Death Star motif is basically Bm to Cm/B. The minorMaj sound is provide by the polytonality of the Cm chord of the B pedal.

I'm not sure the ESB motif is for the empire. Doesn't it play when Leia and Lando are rescuing Luke in the Falcon, long before any TIE Fighters arrive on the scene?

Hmm, I might be off on this. I thought it plays throughout the scene because it was a very dark moment in the drama - luke and han at their lowest points so the empire at its strongest.

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The Death Star motif is basically Bm to Cm/B. The minorMaj sound is provide by the polytonality of the Cm chord of the B pedal.

I'm not sure the ESB motif is for the empire. Doesn't it play when Leia and Lando are rescuing Luke in the Falcon, long before any TIE Fighters arrive on the scene?

Hmm, I might be off on this. I thought it plays throughout the scene because it was a very dark moment in the drama - luke and han at their lowest points so the empire at its strongest.

That's a good point - didn't think of it like that.

What's the hand arpeggio?

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Shark beat me to it by a split second, but the Death Star motif you quote is the same as the one from that site on the relationships of Star Wars and Wagner themes. Unfortunately it's wrong. The Death Star motif is polytonal, starting as an arpeggio of B minor on its first three melody notes, then shifting a semitone up to C minor while B is retained as a bass pedal.

That said, I like the idea of the Death Star motif as an Imperial Power motif. It makes sense because there is a scene in SW where we see the Imperial fleet, not the Death Star, yet we still hear the motif.

Also, there may be a veiled relationship between this and the Luke's hand arpeggio you cite. It would really clinch it if it was polytonal. Is there any of that at that spot or anywhere near it?

Right, I got it from that site. Will revise the analysis and sketch later.

My conclusion: it sure would be nice to have a Douglas Adams "Lord the Rings" treatment of the Star Wars music. There are just so many primary and secondary ideas and not always clear if there is a connection.

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I have just completed the full score and MP3 for CLASH OF THE LIGHTSABERS (aka: R11m1 - Through The Window).

Full score: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2sygtln0dtp19yr/JW-EmpireStrikesBack-R11m1ThroughTheWindow-Full%20Score.pdf

MP3 audio dump: https://www.dropbox.com/s/qs21kl2io40inqx/JW-ESB_R11m1_ThroughTheWindow.mp3

I have absolutely loved typesetting this and getting into the nitty gritty details. It is such a thrilling and effectively conceived piece. Such grand gestures and utter brilliance! I loved seeing this come together to be the cue I've known and loved for 34 years. Maestro was firing on cylinders for sure!

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Much better. One thing I'd change though is have the two tubas play Bb-Bb in octaves, while have trombones 1-2 on the top Db and 3-4 on the bottom. 4th trombone should be on tenor trombone. This would give a much stronger, more balanced sound, since tubas in 3rds in that register sound too muddy for the desired effect, and you've got equal numbers on each dyad (1-2 and 1-2).

Edit: just relistened to that cue. I was wrong, it's definitely two tubas on the bottom Bb-Db and four trombones on the top Bb-Db (2 on each).

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Much better. One thing I'd change though is have the two tubas play Bb-Bb in octaves, while have trombones 1-2 on the top Db and 3-4 on the bottom. 4th trombone should be on tenor trombone. This would give a much stronger, more balanced sound, since tubas in 3rds in that register sound too muddy for the desired effect, and you've got equal numbers on each dyad (1-2 and 1-2).

Edit: just relistened to that cue. I was wrong, it's definitely two tubas on the bottom Bb-Db and four trombones on the top Bb-Db (2 on each).

Thanks. What bars are you referring to?

nice....wonderful job

t

Thank you!

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Much better. One thing I'd change though is have the two tubas play Bb-Bb in octaves, while have trombones 1-2 on the top Db and 3-4 on the bottom. 4th trombone should be on tenor trombone. This would give a much stronger, more balanced sound, since tubas in 3rds in that register sound too muddy for the desired effect, and you've got equal numbers on each dyad (1-2 and 1-2).

Edit: just relistened to that cue. I was wrong, it's definitely two tubas on the bottom Bb-Db and four trombones on the top Bb-Db (2 on each).

Thanks. What bars are you referring to?

9-10.

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Much better. One thing I'd change though is have the two tubas play Bb-Bb in octaves, while have trombones 1-2 on the top Db and 3-4 on the bottom. 4th trombone should be on tenor trombone. This would give a much stronger, more balanced sound, since tubas in 3rds in that register sound too muddy for the desired effect, and you've got equal numbers on each dyad (1-2 and 1-2).

Edit: just relistened to that cue. I was wrong, it's definitely two tubas on the bottom Bb-Db and four trombones on the top Bb-Db (2 on each).

Thanks. What bars are you referring to?

9-10.

Thanks, Mr. Shark. I updated the voicings in 9 and 10 but will leave the bass trombone as player 4 for no reason other than I'm a frickin bass trombonist and if I were playing this, there would be no doubt of who is playing the strong fundamentals. Otherwise thanks! Also forgot to put the word "The" before "Empire Strikes Back".

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well......it's wonderfull. And the string cluster that opens and closes is it is gorgeous . I find the whole cue shows us JW's love of "concerto for orchestra" . Check out the woodwind jaunty line at 5;54 ( in the bartok ). But it's Bela's Brass Fugato at 7;51 which is so reminiscent of JW's cue at Bar 70 ( in the JW score ).

t

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well things I have spotted so far. I'm a jedi youngling at this....not even a padawan. Think of a toddler with a lightsabre and your not far wrong!

the strings at bar 11 are basically playing a gmaj tetrachord whilst the "imperial march" motif is in B minor above. Lot's of (0,1,4) set in the woodwinds at bar 29. Harp and Piano alternate E maj and C aug Chords whilst the high strings add a b over celli playing the e. Lot's of clashes.

really excellent job doing this. Incredibly useful

T

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well things I have spotted so far. I'm a jedi youngling at this....not even a padawan. Think of a toddler with a lightsabre and your not far wrong!

the strings at bar 11 are basically playing a gmaj tetrachord whilst the "imperial march" motif is in B minor above. Lot's of (0,1,4) set in the woodwinds at bar 29. Harp and Piano alternate E maj and C aug Chords whilst the high strings add a b over celli playing the e. Lot's of clashes.

really excellent job doing this. Incredibly useful

T

Those are some good points, tedfud. I thought bar 11 seemed like a transparent voicing and not necessarily a chord. Articulating the notes of the scale (B Phrygian) but bitonality to what the rest of the orchestra is doing (b minor) and then it modulates at bar 14 to G minor then back again at bar 15. That is how I heard it.

Regarding bar 29, the piano and harp are both playing an arpeggio based on the major minor scale (5th jazz mode) in a sci-fi/mystical scale. E, F#, G#, A, B, C, D, E. I am not sure about the winds on top but it is possibly a whole tone scale with a chromatic passing G natural?

When was the last time we had to struggle to understand the mystery of what was happening in film music? Long live JW!!! Additionally, my sister, who knows nothing about music, was brought to tears by this music. It made me question - what is it about these very powerful and moving sequences that makes both musicians and non-musicians have such an emotional response? I am not afraid to admit the same response to this powerful music but do not fully understand why.

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