Discussion in 'Star Wars And Film Music' started by jeykey, Jan 3, 2015.
What specifically makes it a flop?
I'm so pleased to read your post! I've unfortunately read things online that are negative in nature about the score and express disappointment in JW. I can tell you have some music theory education to back up your comments. Bravo! JW is the main reason I became a composer. Very thoughtful post!
TFA > ROTS > AOTC
I thought the TFA score is okay musically.. there aren't that many memorable themes (except maybe Rey's theme), but I agree with someone who posted here earlier that it is more complex, with the leitmotifs leaving room to play with. Still, I would have loved for the music to give more emotional impact to some of the dramatic scenes, just a bit. The themes from earlier films were nice. Or maybe Rey's theme could've been used more towards the end of the film, too.
Also, another thing is that the music from the final full trailer was epic, like exceptionally so. I built up the hype for this movie just by listening to that music, especially the 1st part of it with the simple piano harmonies and when it slowly builds up towards the middle ("Nothing will stand in our way"). I would've loved for this theme to have been used in the movie, too.
Finally, I wanna point out one thing that hugely disappointed me, and that is the sound / orchestral quality of the Main Tile theme in the soundtrack. Having listened to it the 1st time, I thought something was wrong with my speakers, only to discover that the mix is just awful. For me, it feels like the middle frequencies have this sort of synthy feel.. in the very first chord of the SW Main Title theme. It sounds horrible! I'm not sure, but I think they had a new orchestra record it? London Symphony Orchestra had done such a top notch job with all of the previous SW soundtracks, so that's why this is suddenly so low-par. Just compare the TFA opening theme to the one in AotC, for example.. I think if there's one thing Attack of the Clones did right, it's the quality and top-notch orchestral sound of the SW Main Title, which is etched in all of the fans' hearts and minds. Anyway, this really bothered me, I'm not sure if someone agrees or not.
The trailer music was fine though there wasn't much to it. It's little more than 3 chords capped off by "epic trailer (TM) renditions" of key Star Wars themes. The music in the film is far better.
This is just as good as JW's other SW work! My favorite tracks are (in no order):
- Jedi Steps
- Scherzo for X-Wings
- The Ways of the Force
- Han and Leia
- The Falcon
You couldn't be more wrong. Many of my friends, whether big Star Wars fans or not, have said they thought the music was wonderful. And these are mostly people who don't listen to film scores.
The new themes are excellent and the use of existing themes is exactly as it should have been. Not sure what you listened to, but I really think you should get the soundtrack and listen to it like 10 times before making up your mind.
I listened to the whole thing on Spotify and liked it a lot. Plan to buy the cd.
I liked it. But I wish they'd release complete scores already. Still waiting on 2 prequel complete scores to fill out the collection.
Got the CD today - it's thoroughly up to scratch, and although it's as derivative as hell for the most part, complaining about anything in the SW franchise being derivative at this stage would be like complaining about a porn film having too many sex scenes.
Rey's theme and its variations are the highlights for me - it's a genuinely new theme for an important new character, and I love the sad edge to it. It seems more reminiscent of some of JW's work on Harry Potter than SW, oddly enough.
The Jedi Steps has to be my favourite piece on the album - first one I went to. Chills down the spine.
I thought the same thing! The trumpets sounded synth like and compressed at the beginning of the Main Theme. It was not what I expected, and kind of threw me off for a second.
They had a freelance Los Angeles orchestra record the music in an LA studio. Even some parts of the music other than the main theme sounded very compressed, but it's since grown on me.
From an orchestral performance perspective, there is nothing here that is any different than the London Symphony. The L.A. based musicians used for this soundtrack are just as skillful and talented as the LSO. Their performance is not your issue. The only real differences here are where the musicians were seated, which affects where the sounds come from in the stereo field, and the new conductor, Gustavo Dudamel. Maybe he chose to have the trumpets play a little more subdued here or there. Overall, I think it just a minor variation, similar to the variations between the PT, ANH, TESB and ROTJ versions of the Main Title. I got used to the new recording very quickly and now love it. None of the Main Titles has ever had the huge crash like ANH in 1977. Considering that John Williams himself conducted all versions until TFA, we have to assume that this is how he preferred it to start.
As a side note, the prequels used the same recording of the main title for all three films. So AOTC used the one from TPM.
I didn't mean to imply that the L.A. musicians aren't as skilled or capable as the LSO, I was just answering the previous poster's question about the orchestra they used for this one. There are definite variations musically in the PT, ANH, TESB, ROTJ, and TFA, but sonically TFA sounds different than the rest. Since this soundtrack was recorded at a different studio than the others were (I believe the LSO recorded all of the previous soundtracks at Apple Studios in London) the acoustics of the room probably had a hand in this. It also could be the way it was mixed. I've since gotten used to it, and like I said have grown to really enjoy the soundtrack!
Wait what? Can you explain some of the examples you use because I disagree.
General Grievous's theme works tremendously well and is not just filler music.
Same with the Battle of Hoth music, it works to what visually happens.
I agree though that there are some battle/filler music in the sw films. And in most films.
The AOTC score for one is probably the worst in terms of new themes and mixes. The chase music doesn't quite work nor does it in the film- it is a mixed one for me- I like it especially the effects but it never really jigs. AOTC other failure is Obi Wan's look and anakin too-they just look silly.
The whole look of the film itself is incredibly odd compared to the others, the bright blue, silver and gold is rather well unpleasant. The characters themselves don't really look star warsy.
Anyway on topic.
I watched Indiana Jones The Last Crusade, amongst other things (some odd cgi/green screen scenes) the music also was very dull and just used as a filler.
It got me thinking about it-maybe it was never intended to be this great piece of hummable catchy tune, it was just used to compliment the visuals. It is because people have watched the films so many times that certain themes have become SO popular and big. The battle of hoth for example or the truck ark chase in raiders. As opposed to those stand out moments such as the map room dawn, binary sunset and the imperial march.
I'm really beginning to like this:
Feels like the most emotional track on the album.. more of similar stuff in Episode VIII would be awesome!
Haha the studios in London are called Abbey Road.
Having bought this album (and am listening to it right now) I believe this is the only star wars soundtrack you HAVE to buy. As personally it's forgettable and unnoticeable when watching the film however it's great when listening to it by itself. Could this have been a marketing tactic by Disney
Although I was initially underwhelmed by the score upon hearing it during my first viewing of the movie, having listened to it many times now (and seen the film a second time with the score in my memory), it's REALLY grown on me. Rey's theme was an instant winner, but I've also found I now really love the Resistance march (which is more interesting than the eponymous organization) and Kylo/FO's theme. With the latter, I love how you get those first two foreboding phrases that build up, and it pays off with the PAH-PAH pa-PAH-puhhhh (or in other words V - IV# - I - mIII - V). I also quite like Finn's/Poe's theme -- I can't tell who it belongs to. It goes VI - VII - V - III - II - VI and repeat (you hear it in "I Can Fly Anything").
And the non-thematic underscoring cues perfectly fit the tone of their respective scenes and are becoming quite memorable. Some of it evokes 80s JW, which only helps make it feel Star Wars-y.
There's certainly room for disagreement. But we might have some differences in the terms we are using. There is a "theme" for General Grievous that is sort of an extended melodic fragment that appears in various permutations, which is really more a "leitmotif" (in the sense of "a short, constantly recurring musical phrase"), and then there is the cue on the Revenge of the Sith soundtrack album that is called "General Grievous," which, in its entirety, is neither that character's theme or leitmotif. I personally find that piece of music to be pretty horrid, but not because of how it uses (or doesn't use) the leitmotif that is associated with the character of General Grievous. I'll grant that it fits with the film, in that the visuals that music accompanies are an overcooked stew of needless detail, which is reflected in what I perceive as Williams' resignation—when the images that his music is must support are completely overloaded, what can he do but set in motion an "undeveloping musical automaton" that basically just provides rhythms to propel the matter until the film returns to something more visually comprehensible?
There, I suppose, is another place where disagreement is reasonable, and some of the comments about Williams' age might be well-taken. One might argue that if George Lucas demonstrated any great innovations with the prequel trilogies, it was the amount of detail that can be crammed into the confines of a movie screen. But does that really deserve to be called an "innovation"? Or is it just evidence that what seemed like brilliance beyond his years in Lucas' youth was really no more than material constraints on a creative outlook that was, and remains, essentially characterized by a fixation on technical bravado? And it is surely worth observing that the heavy reliance on computer-generated imagery in the prequel trilogy coincided with an explosion of similar imagery in popular video games where, likewise, a kind of hyperrealism of detail has prevailed. For younger audiences, that might have made the prequel trilogy seem like a great feast. But for older audiences, or people who just prefer a different aesthetic in film, where the visual detail is no more or less than needed to accomplish the needs of the story, that sort of thing is just tiresome. It might be that when Williams went to score the prequel trilogy, he found himself, consciously or not, bewildered by what I've called "an overcooked stew of needless detail," and more frequently reverted to that lousy battle-bombast. And then, with The Force Awakens, finding himself with visuals that are more focused, he found a more comfortable place that allowed more interesting composition. (One of the things that made the original 1977 movie so exhilarating was the juxtaposition of the stark visuals with Williams' lush music. When the visuals take on hyperreal levels of detail, maybe more minimalist music would work better—but then it wouldn't be "Star Warsy," right?) I don't know. There's probably room for good arguments for or against every sentence I've written in this paragraph.
As for the General Grievous leitmotif, it is a pretty good example of how I think Williams' leitmotifs in the prequel trilogies are inferior to those in his score for The Force Awakens. That's because it is a relatively lengthy fragment, and relatively complex both rhythmically and melodically, which limits its flexibility. If you use too little of the melody, or change the rhythm too much, it's unrecognizable. And if you try to apply compositional techniques like inversion or transposition, they can just seem tiresome. Here is an analogy to architecture: there are a lot more interesting permutations you can get away without out losing freshness when you are working with a basic shape like, say, a pyramid, than you can with a more complex shape, like the Manhattan skyline.
Were there other things I said that you would disagree with, or are curious to have more explanation of my perspective? These are fun things to talk about, especially when people disagree.
There's one other explanation (other than JW's age) and that's JJ Abrams. This is the first Star Wars film where JW wasn't being directed by Lucas and this is the first Star Wars score thats (except for a couple of themes and brief moments) is fairly forgettable.
Did not love this score when I first heard it in context with the film. My first showing was in a very average theater, and I think it was hurt both by the presentation in that venue and its placement in the mix. Have since grown to love the score after repeated listening to the OST recording -- I think it's tremendous and those remarking on its economy are spot on.
I just have to throw in on the ensemble, though --
LA studio musicians are beasts. No question that player-for-player, they are the equal (or better) of anyone in the world. Most people have no idea what kind of skill it takes to function in the studio environment. These guys are expected to show up, sight-read tremendously difficult music, and get it right the first time and then keep getting it right, on every subsequent take. The pressure is tremendous.
But ensemble music-making is more than the sum of its parts. At the levels we're talking about, and believe me, some of us (including me) are being hyper-critical here, there is nothing in the world that sounds like a world-class symphony orchestra who plays together every day, for several hours a day. You hear it in the ensemble's precision, in its balance & blend, in its pitch, and in some cases, the colors of individual sections and principal players. I have IMMENSE respect for these LA cats, but to my ears, there is nothing that sounds like the LSO, particularly the LSO with Maurice Murphy. I didn't think I'd miss them, but I do.
(and if you're wondering how you climb higher from the top of the 100-ft pole that's the LSO, seek out the live recording of the Berlin Philharmonic playing the Imperial March)
TFA didn't have an abundance of "epic theme times" ala Duel of the Fates or Mustafar or anything like that, but then again neither did the OT much either. The prequels were probably noted most for their thematic prevalence, however outside of the Imperial March, the OT didn't have any kind of huge, major themes that uniquely set it apart from the PT beyond a few that were mainly "scene themes", and of those I can think of only one major recurring - TIE Fighter Attack (which was in RotJ as "Into The Death Star/Infrastructure Chase). However, the OT was primarily devoid of the kind of major, "duel" themes like Duel of the Fates, Across the Stars, and Anakin VS Obi-Wan that we became accustomed to. Again, the most prominent recurring themes had been Imperial March, the Force Theme, and the Emperor's Theme. All three of which also appeared within all three PT movies, making their uniqueness to the OT null and void.
The more I listen to the score, the more I love it, and it's not just because of moments where they reference stuff from the classic trilogy, like Han Solo and the Princess, or the Rebel Fanfare or whatever - it's genuinely a good, solid score. I absolutely adore Rey's Theme and March of the Resistance, and Torn Apart.......my god.....utterly wonderful. I don't know how John Williams does it, I really don't, but he is a total genius.
G-FETT always good to see you!! I would ask how many times have you listened to the TFA score away from the film? I really feel that other than Rey's theme, this score really grows on you. The more I listen, the more I love and appreciate what Williams is doing here.
Oakessteve!!!! Another oldie and one of my all time faves. I am so glad you love the score for TFA. I know I do as well. I already find myself wishing for a complete score release, as there are some seriously brilliant moments that are not on the CD, and not even on the "For Your Consideration" site that Disney put up.
Something sounds off to me about how the music is performed in TFA, although I can't put a finger on what it is. Even The Force Theme sounds wrong.