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Susannah’s Film Facts: A Study in Soundtrack from Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens

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***WARNING*** SPOILER ALERT!!!! READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.

Well, good morning and Happy New Year’s everyone! What better way to start 2016 with some more STAR WARS?! *cheesy grin* Good, I’m so glad you agree.

Last month I saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It was a brilliantly done movie with fantastic characters, new and old with a retro feel to it. J. J. Abrams did a wonderful job keeping it in line with the original trilogy, with the right nostalgia and drama and yet adding newer themes and a newer story.

This also goes for the music, and that is the topic in this post. So feel free to listen to the whole soundtrack while you read about it, here on YouTube.

 

The Composer

John Williams is 83 years old and has composed for The Force Awakens, with The BFG as his next big assignment. He’s composed for well over a hundred films and other pieces of classical style music and has composed for the earlier six Star Wars Episodes. He has received 5 Academy Awards, 49 Oscar Nominations, 4 Golden Globes, and 22 Grammys. And he’s still going, folks! 

On composing for Force: “I felt a renewed energy, and a vitality.”

John Williams’s musical style is quite different from other contemporary film score composers, such as Hans Zimmer, Steve Jablonsky, James Newton Howard and others. While some contemporaries use more electronic elements in their scores, Williams uses the full orchestra to convey those raw emotions and feelings to the audience through the movie with “an indelible sonic dimension.”

As far as the soundtrack for Force goes, John Williams notes in an interview that around three hours was recorded for the soundtrack. He likes J. J. Abrams and appreciates the rejuvenation and refreshening of Star Wars in the new film. “To continue to work, to continue to love what you do, is certainly a contributing element to one’s longevity and health. And I am so lucky to be working in a field that you never grow tired of.”

If you’d like to read more of John Williams’s interview, you can click the link here.

 

My Personal Opinion

For years I have been captivated by the six Star Wars movies. They not only fueled my passion for sci-fi and fantasy, but also helped me discover my favorite ever music genre upon first hearing the Main Theme. Listening to Star Wars soundtrack very often has led me to memorize every track name and every hummable tune by heart; If I am a fan of anyone, it would be John Williams. You can imagine, therefore, how excited I was, not only upon hearing that a new Star Wars was to be released, but also upon hearing that Williams would be composing.

Having gone into the theater with high expectations on the whole movie, I was mildly disappointed. I hear you saying, “Search your Feelings,” and I have, friends, but they are mixed feelings … I suppose I’ll know once I see the movie again.

Overall, the soundtrack was excellent and well done. Williams’s style is one of a kind, particularly with Star Wars. However, as this is the first of a new trilogy for a new generation, the music was new, as was the whole movie. There were some moments of nostalgia, but these moments were used very little as there was not enough of the older themes heard, as I hoped, throughout the movie. The Main Titles and the End Credits, of course, were enough, but it wasn’t quite the same watching the movie without hearing a lot of the memorable themes.

The new themes I was hearing were great, and I will mention them in the next section below. Of course, I was a little critical, knowing that there would be different characters, story, and music, a movie produced by Disney on top, but high expectations overruled my slight doubt, for it all led me to disappointment in being disappointed.

 

 

Tracks Worthy of Mention

So here we’re going to analyze several tracks from the movie now. Here is the whole list of all 23 tracks from Star Wars: The Force Awakens:

  1. Main Title and the Attack on the Jakku Village
    2. The Scavenger
    3. I Can Fly Anything
    4. Rey Meets BB-8
    5. Follow Me
    6. Rey’s Theme
    7. The Falcon
    8. That Girl with the Staff
    9. The Rathtars!
    10. Finn’s Confession
    11. Maz’s Counsel
    12. The Starkiller
    13. Kylo Ren Arrives at the Battle
    14. The Abduction
    15. Han and Leia
    16. March of the Resistance
    17. Snoke
    18. On the Inside
    19. Torn Apart
    20. The Ways of the Force
    21. Scherzo for X-Wings
    22. Farewell and the Trip
    23. The Jedi Steps and Finale

 

  • “Main Theme.” I do believe that the Main Theme and the “Fanfare” at the end (“End Credits”) are the two most familiar tunes that were used in the movie. I think it is genius that Williams doesn’t plaster the same old Main Theme on every Star Wars movie; in fact, he rewrites each Main Theme/Main Titles for every Star Wars movie, with recognizable variation in each. Try listening to all seven Main Themes from all seven movies in a row (you can listen to that playlist here) and notice the difference in each one. For example, the Main Titles from Return of the Jedi has a drum blast in the very beginning, whereas the Main Titles from New Hope and Empire Strikes Back did not. Some are more slurred in the beginning, and others are more clear.
  • “Rey’s Theme.” What’s interesting about Rey is that she is the first female main character in a Star Wars movie … not only that, the Force is strong with her. John Williams says, “It’s an interesting challenge with her, because it doesn’t suggest a love theme in any way. It suggests a female adventurer, but with great strength. She’s a fighter, she’s infused with the Force, and it needed to be something that was strong but thoughtful.” This song sounds very similar to “Going to School” from the John Williams’s soundtrack from Memoirs of a Geisha, beginning with the flute and the celesta, and “Rey’s Theme” is interwoven with “The Force Theme” in the End Credits, as mentioned later.

This is undoubtedly my favorite new theme in Force Awakens because it almost has that nostalgic feel that reminds me of something else … the chimes and the tune make me feel closer to Rey for reasons unknown … music does Strange and Wonderful things.

  • I Can Fly Anything.” This is the scene where Finn and Poe help each other escape the First Order base. A high-strung track, Williams expertly, as always, reverts back to beautiful flowing sounds and then to a tense feel. This song sounds like it could be replaced with the track “The Death Star/ The Stormtroopers” from A New Hope, but it has more variety than the track “I can Fly Anything.”
  • Rey Meets BB-8.” With a Harry Potter-ish feel, the song starts out with the celesta (also used in “Hedwig’s Theme” from Harry Potter: The Sorcerer’s Stone). This track is short and nicely fits the scene for when Rey meets the adorablest droid in the galaxy, not knowing his duty that later drags her into the rest of the movie. I like to think of this as BB-8’s Theme, because BB-8 does deserve a theme of his own after all.
  • “Follow Me.” I do believe this is one of the rare times in the movie when we hear a familiar tune from A New Hope. About 10 seconds of this track and scene was used as a sneak peak before the movie was released.
  • “Han and Leia.” I’m not quite sure what I think of this track. I was hoping very badly that this would at least have elements from Han and Leia’s Love Theme from Empire Strikes Back, though using the whole Love Theme wouldn’t have best fit the moment in Force Awakens. I think it would have been top-notch if the old Love Theme played here though! Agh! It would have been perfection! Oh well, Williams knows what he was doing; moving on.
  • “March of the Resistance.” Yes! We needed a new March for the new movie. “March of the “Resistance” matches that of “Flag Parade” from Phantom Menace and “Imperial March,” though not as catchy, but is one of my favorite tracks.
  • “Snoke.” J. J. Abrams thought Gollum would be a good replacement for Emperor Palpatine … whoever Snoke is and wherever he came from. This track should be listened alongside “Palpatine’s Teachings” from Revenge of the Sith. It’s amazing how similar these two tracks are; obviously, Snoke’s character in this scene is “teaching” Kylo Ren in his throne room, and “Palpatine’s Teachings” is when Palpatine is “teaching” Anakin before Anakin becomes Darth Vader. Okay, this is too awesome.
  • “Torn Apart.” Oh, my worst part of the movie, but one of the most heart wrenching ones. About a minute and half into this track you can hear Kylo Ren’s theme (you can listen to the Medley for Kylo Ren’s theme here). John Williams says this about Kylo Ren’s theme: “There’s a more ruminative part that is usually done softly. I don’t think it portrays any particular weakness, but possibly hesitancy. But then there’s the motif that’s often strong, that seems to be the embodiment of evil. I thought that it should be a relative of Darth Vader, but also something entirely different in terms of melody.” Of course, this cannot replace “Imperial March,” the theme for Darth Vader. “Imperial March” does actually play here and there throughout Force Awakens, which I was happy about. Kylo Ren and his track is cool, but Darth Vader and his epic theme song already holds a special place in my heart.
  • “Scherzo for X-Wings.” Does the title of this track remind you of a similar track? No? How about “Scherzo for Motorcycle?” I’ll let you guess who composed that and from what movie it is from. Come on, Indy anyone? The word scherzo stands for a Western piece of classical music, or a movement from a larger orchestral piece such as a sonata. This is basically the theme for X-Wing starfighters and can be heard in that one scene where they blow up yet another Death Star.
  • “The Jedi Steps and the Finale.” First of all, this is the scene where we see Luke for the first time and when that theory about Rey possibly being his daughter kicks in. Did anyone else notice that the Force Theme (played throughout New Hope) played when Rey held out the lightsaber to Luke? Listen to the song and you can hear it start at 1:38. This tune was also used during the binary sunset scene in Revenge of the Sith when Obi-Wan brings baby Luke to his aunt and uncle. It is used again in 7:29, but Rey’s Theme can be heard in the background … now that’s what I call new and old A. K. A. genius! Kudos and more to John Williams.

When the Finale starts … well let’s just say it was a very emotional conjuration. Listening to it again, it may be my favorite Finale/End Credits out of all the Star Wars movies; this one was very clear and sounded refreshing in a way. If you want to buy only one song from this album (and why would you only want to buy one?), buy “Jedi Steps and Finale” because, like all the other End Titles songs of Star Wars, the different themes throughout the movie play all in that one song right after the main Finale: in this one we hear “Rey’s Theme,” Kylo Ren’s Theme, the Force Theme, “March of the Resistance,” and more. It is amazing. But I suggest you buy the whole album.

 

So, that’s it for the Study in Soundtrack for Force Awakens. I hope you’ve enjoyed the post. It’s been a treat to write and share about this new Star Wars soundtrack. Have a good start to the New Year and … oh, yeah. May the Force be with you!

S. M. Metzler – Tea with Tumnus

 

 

 

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S. M. Metzler View All

I'm a Christian writer of science fiction and fantasy. I'm also a book dragon, who consumes large amounts of tea and black licorice. Also aiming to publish a book and take over a couple planets while I'm at it.

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