Star Wars Music Up Close

Star Wars music was composed by John Williams for all the six Star Wars films, both in the original Trilogy from 1977 up to 1983, and in the Prequel Trilogy from 1999 to 2005. Star Wars Universe includes the music for all Star Wars video games and other Star Wars media. In this, John Williams scoring has gained fame and become a popular contribution to contemporary film music.

All Star Wars soundtracks are certified platinum in the Recording Industry Association of America. They have been shipped across the world to the tune of over a million units in volume sales. The album, ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and also ‘Attack of the Clones’ have achieved Gold certification for having sold over 500,000 units each.

The double trilogy’s success has greatly relied on advanced visual innovativeness, a simple emotional appeal in the plot, amazing characters, and most importantly, the Star Wars music. It is the Star Wars films that are credited for heralding a revival of scores in grand symphony during the 1970s. This feat can be single-handedly be accredited to Williams, especially for his use of the leitmotiv technique, famously associated with Richard Wagner’s operas. A leitmotif basically is the melodic cell or phrase that in a film signifies a particular character, setting, plot element, idea, mood, relationship, or any other specific element of that film. Such is the Star Wars Music trait – no wonder the popularity and effectiveness as soundtracks.

The Star Wars major theme in all the six episodes is an anthem today. Its melody is easy and recognizable, and has by large been associated with the three elements of the film namely heroism, adventure and Luke. This theme is heard during the opening crawl of all the six films and also forms the soundtrack during the end-titles. Episode IV of Star Wars, which is the most beloved of them all, features a strong brass concoction with Luke’s fanfare. In all the subsequent films the theme appears with even a greater impact, though as fragments throughout each film.

The 1977 Star Wars title song scoring by John Williams attained many awards such as an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, a Golden Globe, a Grammy Award and a Saturn Award. Again, the scoring for ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ album won a BAFTA Award and a nomination for an Academy Award. It had a double nomination for the Grammy Awards between which the score won one Grammy. Further, ‘The Return of the Jedi’ score and those of ‘Revenge of the Sith’ and ‘The Phantom Menace’ each received a nomination for an Academy Award and a Grammy Award in their respective years.

Star Wars soundtracks have also been a phenomenal success. The most notable, as judged by popularity and performance, include the Star Wars first episode of 1999, in which the soundtrack was ‘The Phantom Menace’. Star Wars episode two in 2002 had the ‘Attack of the Clones’ soundtrack. Star Wars episode three in 2005 had a distinct soundtrack, ‘Revenge of the Sith’, Star Wars episode four of 1977 starred with ‘A New Hope’. The other two, Star Wars episode five of 1980 and Star Wars episode six of 1983, had the soundtracks, ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ and ‘Return of the Jedi’ respectively.

On the overall effect, the Star Wars music becomes a major pillar of the films’ success. John Williams succeeded where George Lucas failed. Rarely are scoring and lyrics duplicated across the original trilogy. The music belongs, to a certain extent, in an entirely distinct and new register that can only be called the Star Wars music. It is stunning, beautiful, and intelligently harmonized to bear the tempo and pace of the films accurately.

Most cues and lyrics that were recorded by Williams as Star Wars title songs were however not always used in the films in his original forms. For instance, when a particular scene was re-edited when the recording process had already been done, even the music was re-edited to reflect such changes. In Star Wars, the music edits usually carried over even into the soundtracks. Even Williams himself could record a particular cue several times during the recording and then the different recordings would then be assembled together for that one most ideal cue heard in the film upon release.

Other songs in the Star Wars episodes include ‘Leia’s Nightmare’, ‘The Battle of Gall’, ‘Imperial City’, ‘Beggar’s Canyon Chase’, ‘The Southern Underground’, ‘The Seduction of Princess Leia’, ‘Night Skies’, ‘Into the Sewers’ and ‘The Destruction of Xizor’s Palace’.