Star Wars, The Sistine Music Chapel

As George Lucas once said, “there would be no Star Wars without the music of John Williams”. On May 4, Walt Disney Records released the first six soundtracks of the entirely remastered saga

The title of this article-tribute to one of the giants of film music , John Williams , and to the most famous sci-fi saga of the globe (thanks to his music), Star Wars , is taken from a quote by the film music critic Roberto Pugliese : some time ago he declared that the compositions of Star Wars are the “Music Sistine Chapel” of John Williams for the science-fiction story created by George Lucas. And the latter kept telling us, in an interview released “a long time ago in a distant far galaxy” (pass us the quote quote), that “there would be no Star Wars without the music of John Williams”. Sacrosanct truth.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi


On May 4, Walt Disney Records released the first six soundtracks of the space saga, entirely remastered , with a new look and a mini-poster collector. The “Original Soundtracks” have been “rebuilt” with new high resolution transfers (24 bit / 192 kHz), supervised by Shawn Murphy (sound engineer and Oscar winner) and Skywalker Sound (Lucas Digital).

Prequel scores – Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (1999), Episode 2: The Attack of the Clones (2002) and Episode 3: The Revenge of the Sith (2005) – and of the most important films born from the mind of Lucas – Episode 4: A New Hope (1977), Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Again (1980) and Episode 6: The Return of the Jedi (1983) – represent John Williams’ cine-musical opera.

Film franchise that goes to complete with the new trilogy, started in 2015 with Episode 7: The Force Awakens and continued with Episode 8: The Last Jedi in 2017, which will end with Episode 9 , still untitled, next year (first date expected exit, December 20, 2019 in the United States). Williams has already said that he will not dedicate himself to the umpteenth new trilogy that will be put in place since 2020 , after the official one of the nine chapters mentioned above, because, besides the venerable age (86 years), what he wanted to compose for Star Wars already done. He repeatedly stressed that he loves his compositional talent for the Lucas saga and above all – jokingly but with a touch of jealousy – no one else could write the theme of Rey (Daisy Ridley), the female character of the new trilogy, for which proves a considerable admiration. So the current generations of fellow composers are responsible for creating a new sound imprinting, logically always starting from the unavoidable original Williamsian material. Chicca: Williams has just written the new theme of Han Solo for the spin-off cycle A Star Wars Story , after Rogue One with Michael Giacchino score , Solo for the note, directed by his friend Ron Howard, with the original music by John Powell.

Now let’s take a look at the numbers : John Towner Williams won 5 Academy Awards ( The Roofing Violinist , The Shark , Star Wars , ET and Schindler’s List ), 4 Golden Globes, 7 British Academy Film Awards, 5 Emmys and 23 Grammy Awards, plus a multitude of other awards. With 51 Oscar nominations, the New York composer (Floral Park, 8 February 1932) is the most successful living person in the history of the Academy Awards and the second most nominated, only after Walt Disney. In 2005, the American Film Institute asserted that the music of the first episode of Star Wars (1977) is “the greatest American soundtrack of all time”. In fact the scores containing the complete composition of Episode 4: A New Hope are kept by the Library of Congress in the National Recording Registry, because they are considered “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”. Williams was included in the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame in 2000, received the Kennedy Center Honors in 2004, the National Medal of Arts in 2009 and the AFI Life Achievement Award in 2016. He wrote scores for 8 of the 20 films higher income at the American box office. Is the father of stunning and memorable scores, immensely iconic, such as those already mentioned for The Shark , ET the extraterrestere , as well as the saga of Indiana Jones, Superman , Close Encounters of the third type , the first three films of another saga of enormous success, (that of Harry Potter), Jurassic Park and the sequel The Lost World . His association with the great American director Steven Spielberg (29 films together with various TV productions) is one of the most relevant in the history of cinema, like those of Alfred Hitchcock and Bernard Herrmann, Federico Fellini and Nino Rota, Robert Zemeckis and Alan Silvestri, Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone, Hayao Miyazaki and Joe Hisaishi. Let’s not forget that he has collaborated and wrote equally remarkable scores in the Seventh Art for directors such as Alfred Hitchcock ( Family Construct ), Robert Altman ( Images , The Long Goodbye ), Clint Eastwood ( Assassination on the Eiger ), Oliver Stone ( Born on July 4th , JFK – A case still open ), Ron Howard ( Hearts rebels ), Brian De Palma ( Fury ), Sydney Pollack ( Sabrina ) and Chris Columbus ( Mom I lost the plane , Enemies friends ).

His compositional style that travels between epic and intimism, inspired by the symphonic textures of authors such as C’aikovskij, Wagner, Holst, Prokofiev, Rimsky-Korsakov and Strauss, has an intricate and sometimes unattainable architecture, notoriously difficult to perform in concert and during his sessions if not by virtuous musicians and orchestral bands of high artistic level (see the famous London Symphony Orchestra or the Boston Pops).

For the eight Star Wars films, Williams, in over 40 years of career, has composed and directed a myriad of themes, ideas and impressions


– remember that the OSTs of the first historical trilogy and the first two of the current one have been nominated for the Oscar award, on the other hand, those of the prequels are totally ignored – creating a branched and solid musical framework. With his scores he becomes the co-author of the sci-fi cinematic universe of George Lucas and of all his correlations (videogames, animated TV series and video fan service ). None of the composers who had to deal with the Lucasian galaxy in all its forms was able to separate himself from his poetic cine-music. Because Williams is Star Wars and Star Wars is Williams.

Again quoting Pugliese and his dossier Star Wars: The Myth (and the Music) continues! , we can only agree with what he asserted: “One can not go with the mind to the inevitable parallelism with the Wagnerian enterprise of the Ring of the Nibelungo , both for the role of the Leitmotives and for the narrative assonances, but above all for the striking analogy between the chronological non-linearity of the two sagas: made in a creative arc of very long time and without following the chronological order of events “.

Leitmotives that have entered full merit in the collective imagination, including the neophytes of the Star Wars saga: the heraldic theme of Luke or fanfare of the rebellion; the loving motive of Leia; the evocative theme of the Force; the militaristic and obscure Imperial March (well known as the theme of Darth Vader); the touching and energetic Love Theme at the same time by Padme and Anakin titled Across the Stars . And off by listing.

“In the twentieth century, cinema took on the same degree of popularity that in the nineteenth century had the melodrama and we, composers of music for films, have an enormous opportunity and responsibility, knowing that our music will reach millions of people “. This is the consideration that John Williams made over thirty years ago about his work. We can say without a doubt that his music for Star Wars has reached this milestone fully. On the other hand the soundtrack of the first Star Wars is the only album of symphonic music that still today has sold more than 4 million copies. What Williams is with you!

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