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 Posted:   Mar 9, 2013 - 6:18 PM   
 By:   Ludwig van   (Member)

Apologies for re-posting - I realize now that announcements like this should really be a new thread. Anyway, in case you haven't seen it, here's my analysis of that golden oldie:

http://www.filmmusicnotes.com/john-williams-themes-part-2-star-wars-main-title/

I try to get at what makes this thing really "work" so well. I don't pretend to have all the answers, but it's a start. Any other ideas? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 9, 2013 - 11:51 PM   
 By:   Mike West   (Member)

great analysis!
I think by looking at the parameters seperately it is easier to understand, and that's good, but to get more to the bottom of his writing you need to look with a multi-dimensional eye

Based on my experience and perspection on Williams' thematic constructions it is essential that the parameters including the secondary ones like orchestration are tightly integrated into each other, that integral writing using all parameters in dependence to each other is a hallmark of his writing as opposed to most of the other composers in the last 30 years, for example someone like Ottman who is or maybe was a paramter-after-parameter composer or even someone like Jerry Goldsmith who is dealing with the parameters more isolated than Williams.

And I would add the Williams' signature poly-rhythmic-approach which is everywhere in his writing, using divisions in two and three in all facets here and there closely behind each other. That's very essential to the Star Wars main title rhythm.

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 10, 2013 - 8:35 AM   
 By:   Ludwig van   (Member)

great analysis!
I think by looking at the parameters seperately it is easier to understand, and that's good, but to get more to the bottom of his writing you need to look with a multi-dimensional eye

Based on my experience and perspection on Williams' thematic constructions it is essential that the parameters including the secondary ones like orchestration are tightly integrated into each other, that integral writing using all parameters in dependence to each other is a hallmark of his writing as opposed to most of the other composers in the last 30 years, for example someone like Ottman who is or maybe was a paramter-after-parameter composer or even someone like Jerry Goldsmith who is dealing with the parameters more isolated than Williams.

And I would add the Williams' signature poly-rhythmic-approach which is everywhere in his writing, using divisions in two and three in all facets here and there closely behind each other. That's very essential to the Star Wars main title rhythm.


I would agree that the parameters are woven tightly together in Williams. I do try to incorporate these things a little even in discussing separate parameters, but I found it becomes very repetitive to read if I discuss melody, harmony, rhythm, orchestration in these couple of bars, then melody, harmony, rhythm, orchestration in those couple of bars, etc. You see what I mean. I just have to assume that by going over the same theme with each separate parameter that it's understood that the music incorporates these together.

Yes, and there is certainly more to say about rhythm. Just about the whole main title of STAR WARS could be beat in threes rather than twos. For example, try counting two groups of three on the first note of the "big tune", and continue counting in threes for the rest of the theme. It seems to work pretty well, largely because the accompaniment in pounding away in triplets almost throughout. It's almost like the SUPERMAN march in that respect.

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 10, 2013 - 10:13 AM   
 By:   Mike West   (Member)



I would agree that the parameters are woven tightly together in Williams. I do try to incorporate these things a little even in discussing separate parameters, but I found it becomes very repetitive to read if I discuss melody, harmony, rhythm, orchestration in these couple of bars, then melody, harmony, rhythm, orchestration in those couple of bars, etc. You see what I mean. I just have to assume that by going over the same theme with each separate parameter that it's understood that the music incorporates these together.

Yes, and there is certainly more to say about rhythm. Just about the whole main title of STAR WARS could be beat in threes rather than twos. For example, try counting two groups of three on the first note of the "big tune", and continue counting in threes for the rest of the theme. It seems to work pretty well, largely because the accompaniment in pounding away in triplets almost throughout. It's almost like the SUPERMAN march in that respect.


well, I did not say a bar by bar analysis is what does hit it, every theme or piece needs a more or less different analytical approach and what you observed is a good fundament to base a profound integral look on the construction which emphasizes not everything.

The division in two and three is essential to the accompagnement of the theme in the beginning and also in the concert main titles second half - I conducted that several times. Every now and then there is a bar "MMM Bah MMM Bah" which is very prominently in two - though it's basically in three - that mixture of two- and three-division is a signature element in all of Williams writing.

Anyway, good analysis which is also easily comprehensible.

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 10, 2013 - 11:27 AM   
 By:   Ludwig van   (Member)

The division in two and three is essential to the accompagnement of the theme in the beginning and also in the concert main titles second half - I conducted that several times. Every now and then there is a bar "MMM Bah MMM Bah" which is very prominently in two - though it's basically in three - that mixture of two- and three-division is a signature element in all of Williams writing.

Anyway, good analysis which is also easily comprehensible.


Thanks, Mike!

About the "MMM Bah" - do you mean in the melody or accompaniment? Or is it a play against the two?

I love the polyrhythm we hear in the Raiders March in the B section, just before the return of the main theme. It's on those melodic drops of a fifth, which are grouped in three eighths but the beats of the piece are in two eighths. I've always found it to be one of the catchiest parts of the piece.

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 10, 2013 - 12:41 PM   
 By:   Mike West   (Member)

The division in two and three is essential to the accompagnement of the theme in the beginning and also in the concert main titles second half - I conducted that several times. Every now and then there is a bar "MMM Bah MMM Bah" which is very prominently in two - though it's basically in three - that mixture of two- and three-division is a signature element in all of Williams writing.

Anyway, good analysis which is also easily comprehensible.


Thanks, Mike!

About the "MMM Bah" - do you mean in the melody or accompaniment? Or is it a play against the two?

I love the polyrhythm we hear in the Raiders March in the B section, just before the return of the main theme. It's on those melodic drops of a fifth, which are grouped in three eighths but the beats of the piece are in two eighths. I've always found it to be one of the catchiest parts of the piece.


I like that segment as well, but that is not what you would call polyrhythm, it is syncopation or phrase shifting
smile mr professor!

the MMM Bah MMM Bah is a single "duolic" bar in the accompaning music (the bar with the stepwise falling triplet in the melody), but later in the concert setting after the "the planets" chords, is also there all the time alternating with triplet rhythms

 
 Posted:   Mar 10, 2013 - 1:16 PM   
 By:   Loren   (Member)

good work.

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 10, 2013 - 2:20 PM   
 By:   Ludwig van   (Member)

good work.

Cheers, Loren!

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 10, 2013 - 2:22 PM   
 By:   Ludwig van   (Member)

I love the polyrhythm we hear in the Raiders March in the B section, just before the return of the main theme. It's on those melodic drops of a fifth, which are grouped in three eighths but the beats of the piece are in two eighths. I've always found it to be one of the catchiest parts of the piece.

I like that segment as well, but that is not what you would call polyrhythm, it is syncopation or phrase shifting
smile mr professor!


LOL - quite right! Cross-rhythm, maybe?

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 10, 2013 - 2:39 PM   
 By:   Mike West   (Member)

I love the polyrhythm we hear in the Raiders March in the B section, just before the return of the main theme. It's on those melodic drops of a fifth, which are grouped in three eighths but the beats of the piece are in two eighths. I've always found it to be one of the catchiest parts of the piece.

I like that segment as well, but that is not what you would call polyrhythm, it is syncopation or phrase shifting
smile mr professor!


LOL - quite right! Cross-rhythm, maybe?


We are on the same track! Would like to discuss things like that with you having a few drinks, there are only a dew guys around here with that kind of background

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 10, 2013 - 4:58 PM   
 By:   Ludwig van   (Member)

We are on the same track! Would like to discuss things like that with you having a few drinks, there are only a dew guys around here with that kind of background

We can continue the conversation here if you like.

"dew guys"? Sounds like you've already had one too many drinks! wink

 
 Posted:   Mar 11, 2013 - 12:42 AM   
 By:   Gunnar   (Member)

We can continue the conversation here if you like.

Please do so!
Mike, could you also provide an example and description of those tightly interwoven parameters you were writing about?
I may have nothing to contribute, but I greatly enjoy your discussion.

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 11, 2013 - 3:16 PM   
 By:   Ludwig van   (Member)

We can continue the conversation here if you like.

Please do so!
Mike, could you also provide an example and description of those tightly interwoven parameters you were writing about?
I may have nothing to contribute, but I greatly enjoy your discussion.


I think what he means is that Williams tries to get as many parameters in a passage to align in expression so what we end up with is a clear and rich musical meaning that isn't dependent on any single parameter.

Take the fanfare that starts the STAR WARS main title. You've got a major key suggesting a positive emotion, brass instruments suggesting majesty, the high register of those brass instruments suggesting intensity or importance, the predominance of intervals of a fourth suggesting heroism, and you've also got a shimmering effect (tremolo) in the high violins which adds a sheen to the music that suggests something heavenly, god-like, or even mythical.

Add all this up and we get a very rich musical picture of what STAR WARS is all about - larger-than-life heroes like something out of a myth.

Williams has such a keen musical intuition that he is able to direct these parameters toward the same expression and give us an incredibly powerful musical picture of what we see onscreen. You could describe a whole lot of his music this way. I think it's one of the reasons he's so famous, quite honestly.

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 11, 2013 - 4:43 PM   
 By:   Mike West   (Member)

We can continue the conversation here if you like.

Please do so!
Mike, could you also provide an example and description of those tightly interwoven parameters you were writing about?
I may have nothing to contribute, but I greatly enjoy your discussion.


I think what he means is that Williams tries to get as many parameters in a passage to align in expression so what we end up with is a clear and rich musical meaning that isn't dependent on any single parameter.

Take the fanfare that starts the STAR WARS main title. You've got a major key suggesting a positive emotion, brass instruments suggesting majesty, the high register of those brass instruments suggesting intensity or importance, the predominance of intervals of a fourth suggesting heroism, and you've also got a shimmering effect (tremolo) in the high violins which adds a sheen to the music that suggests something heavenly, god-like, or even mythical.

Add all this up and we get a very rich musical picture of what STAR WARS is all about - larger-than-life heroes like something out of a myth.

Williams has such a keen musical intuition that he is able to direct these parameters toward the same expression and give us an incredibly powerful musical picture of what we see onscreen. You could describe a whole lot of his music this way. I think it's one of the reasons he's so famous, quite honestly.



Yes, that's in the right direction.

Well, being also a composer I know that the music is altered if you change one single bit of it, so you need to change another thing, and aagain another thing, and another thing, until everything feels inevitable. With Williams every parameter is balanced. I 'll try to verbalize about it in particular moments of his writing soon!

 
 Posted:   Mar 11, 2013 - 4:56 PM   
 By:   Gunnar   (Member)

Thanks for the clarification, Mark! And Mike, I'm looking forward to read more from you as well!

 
 Posted:   Jun 19, 2014 - 8:34 AM   
 By:   Grecchus   (Member)

I don't mean to hijack this thread, especially if this has come up before, but having just viewed Psycho after a long gap since the previous visit to that memorable film, I couldn't help but notice there are three notes used in the film in a motific sense to highlight ominous goings-on. There's nowhere else to squeeze in this topic, other than the generation of a new thread which may or may not be worth the space.

Those same three notes appear in the Star Wars score. Only once, mind you. Herrmann uses these notes several times in Psycho. You can hear them right at the end when Marion Crane's car is being dredged up from the swamp. Williams applied a heavy drum beat to the final note with his application. He uses them when Luke, Han and Chewie run amok in the Death Star to support an altogether different kind of suspense. I think this is the common ground with those three notes - suspense. It may only be three notes, but the really interesting thing is they have a great sense of weight behind them and they are very memorable in context. Anyone know what I'm getting at?

Edit: The first instance of those notes in Psycho is around 53:30 (Norman places Marion's wrapped body in the trunk of the car then enters room 1, at which point the cue enters.) They are only heard in Star Wars when the imperial scan crew departs the Millennium Falcon and the camera pans down to the floor at the moment the floor panels pop up to reveal the trio and Kenobi. Ford quips that he never imagined he'd be smuggling himself in the hidden space, or words to that effect.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 19, 2014 - 9:34 AM   
 By:   jenkwombat   (Member)

Edit: The first instance of those notes in Psycho is around 53:53. They are only heard in Star Wars when the imperial scan crew departs the Millennium Falcon and the camera pans down to the floor at the moment the floor panels pop up to reveal the trio and Kenobi. Ford quips that he never imagined he'd be smuggling himself in the hidden space, or words to that effect.

Yes. The cue is called "The Stormtroopers" and appears on the the 2-CD Special Edition soundtrack (disc 2, track 4).

 
 Posted:   Jun 19, 2014 - 9:55 AM   
 By:   Grecchus   (Member)

There's the scene in Psycho which precedes the appearance of the trio. It's when Norman gets out his mop and bucket and wipes the floor tiles to eradicate evidence. The camera spends a while tracking the mop. Actually it really does linger down there for a while. I'd wondered if that was the trigger for Williams' use of them, since they appear when the floor boards in the Falcon come into scrutiny. The floor in Psycho is light in color, the floor in the Falcon is dark in color. It's probably nothing, yet, there must a link somewhere down the line?

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 19, 2014 - 12:40 PM   
 By:   Morricone   (Member)

Well you broke it down nicely but you seem to ignore the most obvious influence on it. All of us who knew anything about film music at the time recognized these titles as being pure Korngold. Williams was certainly having fun with that idea from the opening KING'S ROW type fanfare...


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJwa9mX0bxA

to Luke's theme which was a kind of reworking of a SEA HAWK type theme

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxbYAOoXyPE

...it was a wonderful throwback to old film music rethought it a very different context. But as Williams has said many a time, we must never forget the giants on whose shoulders we stand on.

 
 Posted:   Jun 19, 2014 - 1:30 PM   
 By:   Other Tallguy   (Member)

Well you broke it down nicely but you seem to ignore the most obvious influence on it. All of us who knew anything about film music at the time recognized these titles as being pure Korngold. Williams was certainly having fun with that idea from the opening KING'S ROW type fanfare...


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJwa9mX0bxA

to Luke's theme which was a kind of reworking of a SEA HAWK type theme

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxbYAOoXyPE

...it was a wonderful throwback to old film music rethought it a very different context. But as Williams has said many a time, we must never forget the giants on whose shoulders we stand on.


And yet the only name you ever hear in the general public about Star Wars is Holst. (Maybe Wagner.)

 
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