'The Music of Star Wars' - Potential Book

Discussion in 'Star Wars And Film Music' started by TheMusicOfStarWars, Apr 23, 2009.

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  1. TheMusicOfStarWars Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Apr 23, 2009
    Hi all,

    Let me introduce myself. My name is Matt Lawson. I'm a soon-to-be postgraduate music student at the University of Liverpool in England. I will be specializing in film music under one of the leading world film music scholars.

    Now that I am on the path to becoming a film music scholar myself, I thought about options which would really propel me onto the market so to speak.

    I've been a massive Star Wars fan since the age of 10, so I have 11 years of the brilliant John Williams soundtracks playing in my mind.

    I am asking you good Star Wars fans out there whether you'd be interested in a book all about the music. It would include musicological analyses but would not be bogged down in purely academic research.

    I have set up a website at The Music of Star Wars.

    There's not a lot on there yet, but that's where all the latest news will be posted.

    What d'ya think guys? Is this something you'd be interested in?
  2. Cerrabore Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 17, 2004
    star 4
    That's certainly ambitious. Doug Adams is actually working on a book about the Lord of the Rings scores by Howard Shore, so there just may be a market for such works. I know there are a number of serious theses on this subject by music students. The Wikipedia article is a nice springboard for research, but I certainly wouldn't vouch for its accuracy. Check the section on Dies Irae, though (my addition). Nobody else seems to catch that component of the scores.
  3. TheMusicOfStarWars Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Apr 23, 2009
    I attended Doug Adams' pre concert talk in London last week. He has certainly been an inspiration.

    I have been studying film music for four years so most of the research would be original. I am in talks with LucasFilm about making the product official as we speak.

    I must emphasise that it is only in a preliminary stage, but I feel that this is the 'right' book for me to produce.
  4. Aiwendil42 Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jul 16, 2008
    star 1
    I for one would be extremely interested in such a book. Even if it were 'bogged down in purely academic research'! I've long had a highly nerdish in the music of Star Wars(in fact a few months ago I compiled a spreadsheet listing each instance of every leitmotif in the scores - actually it strikes me that this could possibly be of some use to you, and I could share it if you like).

    Cerrabore: I've read your discussion of the 'Dies Irae' in the Wikipedia article before and I have to confess I can't quite hear it, other than perhaps a hint in the alternate 'Binary Sunset' Can you tell me where exactly in the episodes II and III scores you hear it?
  5. TheMusicOfStarWars Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Apr 23, 2009
    Hi there,

    Thanks for your reply to my post regarding the book.

    Please could you email me at themusicofstarwars AT googlemail.com with more information please.

    Many thanks,

    Matt Lawson
  6. oierem Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 18, 2009
    star 3
    Hi! I'd be really interested in your (potential) book. I love music, I love John Williams, and I love the Star Wars scores.

    About Dies Irae: i'm not postivie about the use of the theme in Episode IV. There are similarities but are not actual lifts from Dies Irae, (such as the ones in Close Encounters, Jurassic Park, or Episodes II and III)

    Regarding the prequels, this Dies Irae/Anakin's Fall motif (F E F D G E F D) can be heard in the following cues at least: Ep.II, "Anakin and Padme", and "Anakin's Confession" , and in a more disguised form in "Shmi's Funeral" and "The Clone Wars" (Finale). In Ep.III the motif is more prominent, in "Palpatine's seduction" "Lament" (which is a very clever variation on both Dies Irae and Across the Stars), "Security Recordings" and the instrumental reprise of Lament.


    Btw, I'm new to this forum :)

    I'm actually making a list of every single statement of all the themes appearing in all six movies, if anyone's interested. I may post it here soon, for corrections.
  7. Aiwendil42 Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jul 16, 2008
    star 1
    This is exactly what I've done. We should compare our results!

    I think I finally hear the 'Dies Irae' motif now, thanks. I'll go through the scores and add it to my list.
  8. Cerrabore Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 17, 2004
    star 4
    It's the same four notes in Star Wars. Yes, without the full eight note melody it's hard to prove that Williams meant to reference Dies Irae, but I feel given the context it's unmistakable. For example, Bernard Herrmann quoted only the first four notes in his score to Citizen Kane, but the reference was clear (it's used as foreshadowing). Williams was influenced a great deal by Herrmann and used the Dies Irae motive in many other scores (I forgot to mention Jurassic Park), so he must have been aware of the connotations of those four notes when he wrote Star Wars. Here are some specific track times:

    "Tales of a Jedi Knight / Learn About the Force" - 1:21, 3:30
    "Burning Homestead" - 1:42
    "Binary Sunset (Alternative)" - This entire track is basically a riff on the four-note motive. You can especially hear it (sometimes chromatically altered) at 0:20, 0:44, and 1:21.

    Williams essentially removed Dies Irae from the film version of "Binary Sunset," but there's sort of major key variation of it on the harp at 3:18. As for the prequels:

    Attack of the Clones - just the scene where Anakin in which Anakin confesses to Padme that he slaughtered the Tusken Raiders. Unreleased on CD, although you can catch some of it in The Force Unleashed.

    Revenge of the Sith:
    "Anakin's Betrayal" - 0:02, 0:10, 0:45, 1:17, 1:25, 1:38, 1:59
    "Padme's Visit" - Unreleased. Dies Irae is heard in the reprise of material from "Anakin's Betrayal."
    "The Immolation Scene" - 1:12

    Side note: wow, these scores are great! I often feel that modern Williams is so dull and uninspired compared to the Williams of the seventies and eighties, but he can still work a lot of magic. Revenge of the Sith is more than just going through the motions.
  9. oierem Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 18, 2009
    star 3
    You're probably right about Episode IV, though the reference of Dies Irae doesn't work in a thematic way (well, if you watch the saga in chronological order it echoes Anakin's fate).

    In Episodes II and III there are more instances of Dies Irae, especially "Anakin and Padme" (sorry, i can't give the timings at the moment) in a clarinet solo, "Shmi's funeral" (more ambiguous , especially because descending thirds are a Williams trademark) and in th Finale, just before the Imperial March starts, as we see the clones (a really great version).

    Episode III, in "Palpatine's Seduction" (very shortened in the film version, but it is there, only the first four notes, when Palpatine says "Are you going to kill me?"), and in "Security Recordings" (when Obi-Wan watches the hologram), and of course, "Anakin's Betrayal" and its reprise. I never noticed it "Inmolation Scene", but you're probably correct.

    The thing is that the first four Dies Irae notes is basically a descending motif, which uses a descending third, which is a Williams trademark. That's why he employs variations on Dies Irae in a lot of his scores. Furthermore, it could be argued that this "Anakin's Fall" motif from the prequels actually comes from "Across the Stars" (which employs a lot of descending thirds). That's why "Lament/Anakin's Betrayal" is a variation on both the love theme and Dies Irae.
  10. halibut Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Aug 27, 2000
    star 8
    Which "Dies Irae" are we talking about?
  11. oierem Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 18, 2009
    star 3
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dies_irae

    Williams uses the first four notes in several scores (and permutations of those notes).

    btw, Battle of the Heroes is also a variation on the first eight notes.
  12. Aiwendil42 Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jul 16, 2008
    star 1
    I think you're talking about the clarinet passage at 2:54. I have to say, this doesn't sound like the Dies Irae motif to me, though I do hear it in the strings at 1:30 in the same track.
  13. Aiwendil42 Jedi Knight

    Member Since:
    Jul 16, 2008
    star 1
    For anyone who's interested, I put my database of every instance (that I could find) of each theme here as an Excel spreadsheet. Note that, of course, there are non-trivial judgements to be made in compiling such a list, and I don't doubt that some places where I hear a given motif another person will disagree, and vice versa. Also note that some of the names are just my own convention.

    Track numbers and times refer to the special editions for episodes IV-VI and the 'ultimate edition' for TPM. For AotC and RotS, I list the track and time on the original sound track where possible and the time on the DVD where not. Also, a small amount of music that can be heard in RotS bootlegs doesn't seem to appear on the OST or in the movie; for these I just mention what cue they're from.
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