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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Soundtrack Review - Star Wars Episode 4 A New Hope - John Williams

I still have my Star Wars Vinyl Album, it looks just like this.

Star Wars A New Hope - Episode 4


The music of John Williams - Part 1

When I first saw Star Wars at the Drive-In Theater way back when I was, to say the least, mesmerized by the movie. It's action, the story, the music. Even though I was pulled in by the story and of course the Images. I mean, the Millenium Falcon flying through space or the X-Wings attacking the Death Star, it still takes me back to that 6 year old sitting in the back seat of my best friends car at the drive in, eyes wide open and so focused on the movie that I didn't even remember anyone else being with me until it was over.

But, it wasn't just the imagery. Looking back at this movie, the one thing that I really had to have was the soundtrack. I wanted to be able to play the music while I played with my Star Wars ACTION figures. It was important, the music was a must have in order to fully descend into the imagination and bring my ACTION figures to life. Music is the life blood of movies. It's the music that gives you that bone chilling, spine tingling, hair-on-the-back-of-your-neck-raising feelings. Psycho, Jaws, Blazing Saddles, Friday The 13th, just to name a few movies, all had those moments in them. Classic cinema moments that have given us all the thrills and chills we could have ever hoped for and John Williams is responsible for a good portion of those.

John Williams is one of those musicians that comes along once in a lifetime, that changes the face of the musical landscape. We always say this "once in a lifetime". In the past 44 years that I have been around, we have seen some of the greatest musical composers to have ever walked the planet, so let me rephrase that first sentence. John Williams is a man that has changed the face of the film score landscape. As with each generation of artists, the new people that come on the scene breathe fresh new air into the works of the previous generation, hopefully taking what they have learned and practiced, adding their own unique spin to the music and building upon this to create what is essentially their voice.

With John Williams, this voice is the sound of multiple generations of music, there isn't a movie that has come out since Jaws, that doesn't owe something to John Williams. His music is powerful and emotional and without his music, it's just plastic being run at 24 frames per second past a lightbulb to flicker to life on a giant white screen.

When Star Wars came out in 1977, everybody that has seen it remembers the farm boy from Tatooine, the rogue smuggler and his co-pilot, the droids, the old man and of course Darth Vader (we're not forgetting Leia and Grand Moff Tarkin), but it wasn't just the movie that took everyone's breath away. John Williams soundtrack to Star Wars was the perfect match to that movie.

Call it fate or destiny or whatever you want, when Steven Spielberg recommended John Williams to George Lucas because Spielberg thought that Williams would be the perfect fit for the movie, he wasn't messing around. After working with Williams on Jaws, Spielberg knew that he had found a diamond in the rough and only wanted to share him with his friends. Keep it a secret for the time being.

Which is hard to do when your movie about a shark killing people rockets up the summer blockbuster "must see" list and the man himself creates one of the most memorable lines of music in film history next to the opening fanfare of Star Wars.

As the Star Wars logo appears on the screen and we get that opening sequence, the Main Title and of course it transitions into Leia's theme (and Vader's theme or Imperial Theme), which is weaved into the theme where the blockade runner is being chased by the Star Destroyer. The emotion conveyed in each of these pieces shows John Williams understanding of not only film but character and character development. It also doesn't end there. Each piece is constructed to move into the next scene with out it being a distraction. Subtle layers of music to let us know that the scene we are watching is either going to be filled with tension or light-hearted, sad, happy or even introducing new characters.

The genius of John Williams isn't just with writing and composing the main themes of Star Wars. He is also able to create localized music, such as the Cantina Band playing their "hit" song and make us believe that it's rooted in the real world while being fantastically other worldly.

I can honestly say that my first real introduction, as far as I can remember, to music that I really enjoyed (screw you "Wild Fire" and Michael Martin Murphey) was this movie. I'm sure that I was bebopping around the house to Zeppelin and Woodstock and Bob Seger and Aerosmith, as that was the music my parents and uncles loved, but that wasn't what I was into at that point in my life. John Williams' music is what has consistently inspired me, whatever passions I pursue. As I write this, I am in fact listening to Star Wars - Episode 4 A New Hope, as the Cantina Band plays through their second song from the movie.

When I write, I write to John Williams's soundtracks, it relaxes me, it allows me to find my inner writer and it helps to focus my thoughts when I'm struggling for what to say. The reason I write to the music is because it can convey emotions from anxiety to relief and victory (and loss). His music, in just this one soundtrack crosses over all of these emotions and, if you're like me, you can feel it in each track and you probably sat on the floor with the record on in the background, flipping through the booklet in the LP, replaying each scene as the needle bounced over every groove in the record. And what happened when it was over? We put it right back at the beginning, or flipped the record over, or even scrolled through the track listing, searching for our favorite parts and then listened to that.


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