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Ludwig

Analysis - Duel of the Fates

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Nicely done as per usual! :)

As a small note Darth Maul has his own threatening brass motif separate from the chanted whisper of the lyrics of Duel of the Fates. If I have understood correctly from the comments of JWFan members who have more deeply delved into this music, the idea of associating the chant with Darth Maul seems to have been an editing decision made by the composer and Lucas as Williams' original compositions often do not have the whispered choral element to them at all apart from the death of Qui-Gon Jinn scene. So the whispers became a thematic element after the fact but do foreshadow the actual final duel very well in my opinion, as much as the small snippets of the theme Williams himself planted here and there throughout the score before we hear it in earnest in the finale.

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Thanks, Inky! Yes, I am aware of the likely editing decision that brought the whispered chant into the score. I try to stay away from statements of who did what in these scores and focus more on the final product and how a viewer could interpret the score regardless of the process it went through to get there. (But I do appreciate the information, just in case I miss something!)

But what is the brass motif you speak of that represents Maul? Could you give a YouTube clip with timestamp?

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In this video at 0:37-end on woodwinds and brass.

Here 0:51-0:58 on woodwinds.

Again here at 0:24-0:37 in the lowe brass under the chant.

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While some people bemoan Williams's "simplified" musical approach as years went on - I can't tell you how many people I know who enjoy his work bemoan the ostinato-driven material of his more recent years - I always found it more interesting since it often functioned like Bernard Herrmann's concept of "cells" in music. One idea, played over and over obsessively - but then worked into Williams's own creative pattern.

I'm not a musical person and struggle to even play chopsticks on the piano, but Williams was definitely changing his musical grammar to something that I'd say was more "primal" than "simplistic". The nervousness of the DotF ostinato threads in and out of the score as a reminder, sort of like a percolating idea just under the surface - which again reminds me of Herrmann's approach to music (within the Hitchcock vein and not the Welles) where agitation of the audience is key to what is going on psychologically.

Great write-up in any case.

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Thanks, Inky, for those citations. You are a gentleman and a scholar!

Now one question that arises from this is, is Maul's instrumental theme more important than the chant that is laid overtop? What I mean is, if someone was going to refer to Darth Maul's theme, would you think they meant the instrumental thing or the chant (I know some refer to the latter as the Sith chant, but still...).

The question gets into whether we believe the composer's "untainted" version (instrumental) as being more important because it is what JW thought it should be, or whether what really matters in terms of how to interpret a character's theme is how it ends up in the final score. Obviously, I took the latter approach in writing this, but it would be interesting to hear others' thoughts. I'm all ears...

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Now one question that arises from this is, is Maul's instrumental theme more important than the chant that is laid overtop? What I mean is, if someone was going to refer to Darth Maul's theme, would you think they meant the instrumental thing or the chant (I know some refer to the latter as the Sith chant, but still...).

The question gets into whether we believe the composer's "untainted" version (instrumental) as being more important because it is what JW thought it should be, or whether what really matters in terms of how to interpret a character's theme is how it ends up in the final score. Obviously, I took the latter approach in writing this, but it would be interesting to hear others' thoughts. I'm all ears...

I wish I could corroborate this better than an old memory - but I specifically remember a radio interview with John on NPR before The Phantom Menace came out. In it, he mentioned how Lucas had (what would be) Duel Of The Fates as an overarching theme used between all the prequel films and how it was going to be used. (Basically, I got the feeling it would be used ala Episode III's Yoda / Palpatine duel or some other major battle scene).

To me, that means that "Darth Maul's Theme" is more of an instrumental version / motif for the Sith and not so much for the character exactly.

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Now one question that arises from this is, is Maul's instrumental theme more important than the chant that is laid overtop? What I mean is, if someone was going to refer to Darth Maul's theme, would you think they meant the instrumental thing or the chant (I know some refer to the latter as the Sith chant, but still...).

The question gets into whether we believe the composer's "untainted" version (instrumental) as being more important because it is what JW thought it should be, or whether what really matters in terms of how to interpret a character's theme is how it ends up in the final score. Obviously, I took the latter approach in writing this, but it would be interesting to hear others' thoughts. I'm all ears...

I wish I could corroborate this better than an old memory - but I specifically remember a radio interview with John on NPR before The Phantom Menace came out. In it, he mentioned how Lucas had (what would be) Duel Of The Fates as an overarching theme used between all the prequel films and how it was going to be used. (Basically, I got the feeling it would be used ala Episode III's Yoda / Palpatine duel or some other major battle scene).

To me, that means that "Darth Maul's Theme" is more of an instrumental version / motif for the Sith and not so much for the character exactly.

I think you might be refering to the comments JW made how Lucas after hearing The Duel of the Fates for the first time was very excited and decided there and then it would underscore a pivotal scene meant for the RotS. That doesn't necessarily mean that DotF would have been meant as an overarching theme for the Prequels. Yes it tied some moments together but it was to my mind hardly used in extensive way to establish it as a binding theme for anything but those duels between good and evil. Williams had that one moment in Episode II where the theme got a more of that "fate of doom" as Lucas put it when Anakin is searching for Shmi but alas it was a singular passage. I would have loved personally if JW had had the chance to incorporate the theme more extensively to the overall arc of the tale. The elements were there, the choral part and whispers, the ostinato and then the long lined melody. I think he could have mined some excellent stuft there but I think Williams himself saw that theme very much tied to the first film's finale.

Darth Maul's motif, which does appear in conjuction with him in all instances it is used, is more of a dun-dun-DUn type of bad guy music made to enhance his menace and presence in a few scenes before his battle with the Jedi was underscored entirely by DotF. Lucas (or Williams or both) thought to use the whispered chants as another thematic recurring element for him as well, which cleverly ties to the Duel fo the Fates and in a way presages it from very early on in a rather classic JW fashion where he introduces his theme gradually through the movie.

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Who would we say Williams was drawing on for Duel of the Fates and Battle of the Heroes? Orff and neoclassical Stravinsky are the most obvious answers, but I wonder if there any other (perhaps overlooked) composers who combined the old with the new in this fashion.

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