I worked quite a bit extra this week to make up for missed time from vacations. Dr. Moser and I met early in the week, and he offered suggestions for my pieces, the most important of which I have outlined here:
Droids for Sale - Less predictable, remove random downbeats or other beats, just to throw the listener slightly off kilter
Lost in the Desert - Needs something for the transition in the middle of the scene
“Your Father’s Lightsaber” - Needs a change of timbre when Leia’s message first turns on (maybe just take out droid theme)
The Millennium Falcon - Once ship takes off, lose tension, then regain it when they realize they’re being chased
Since I worked so much this week, I completed many more cues than I normally have: “That’s No Moon,” “Lost in the Desert,” “Meeting Old Ben,” “Planning the Escape,” “Mos Eisley Cantina,” “Jabba the Hutt,” “Wookiee Prisoner,” “Rescuing the Princess,” “Obi-Wan vs. Vader,” “Vader senses Obi-Wan,” and “Into the Garbage Chute.” I have included my thoughts on some of the cues.
"Into the Garbage Chute" was influenced by Mussorgsky's orchestration in "Night on Bald Mountain." Since the group is falling down the garbage chute, I was particularly inspired by Mussorgsky's "falling" pattern of orchestrating, moving down with flurries of notes, and passing off the note pattern to different instrument groups. As a side note, I enjoyed the film's cut to C3PO, I completely changed keys, tempos, and used a "humorous" rhythm, which Totally altered the mood of the scene. Then, when it cuts back to the gunfight with Luke and Han, the original key and tempo resumes, with the serious action music. I think this was an important moment of relief, due to the grave nature of some of the previous scenes, and the comedic music helps this moment tremendously.
"Obi-Wan vs Vader" might be my favorite cue I've written to this point. I was really proud of the complex harmonies I used as they fought, and I am also fond of my use of slow dramatic music here, even though fight scenes typically have fast, driven music. It adds to the gravitas of the fight, and brings out the emotion behind the scene so much more than standard action music would.
For most of the movie, I wanted to use traditional orchestral instruments, but for a few select scenes, I created my own. For "Lost in the Desert," I engineered a "reverse piano" instrument that makes for a dry, abandoned sound, which is exactly what I wanted for the scene. The chord progression is not anything traditionally tonal, and it fits the foreign planet very well (I also bring this progression back when Luke encounters the Sandpeople).
For "Planning the Escape," I incorporated a humorous rendition combining the themes of the heroes. It works off the playful bickering of Han and Luke's arguments, and shows a more fun side to the characters. Before this playful section, I used musical foreshadowing (perhaps too much, but oh well) to hint at Obi-Wan's fate. I wrote a mixture of his Force theme with the death/sorrow theme that was previously used for Luke's ain't and uncle, and for Alderaan's destruction. I don't think this gives away Too much to the audience upon first viewing. After multiple viewings of the film, I think this would be noticed as a brilliant indication of what is to come.
For "Wookiee Prisoner," I used a rhythmic ostinato as the group puts their plan into action. It drives the otherwise boring scene (lots of walking around) and makes it much more dramatic.
For "Jabba the Hutt," I wrote a wonderfully catchy tuba solo. I think it's perfect for representing the slimy, fat character, and it's a fun little piece that even allowed me to hint at Han's theme (which I had previously thought was not a possibility). This scene was not in the original Star Wars film, which provides an interesting discussion topic, writing for additional/unused scenes. Since this is an atypical process (writing 40 years after the movie was made), I have the luxury of knowing exactly what is in the film. However, when I work on films in the future, I won't know what scenes will be used and what scenes will be cut. I ultimately decided to include this scene, because even though it wasn't in the original release, the director found it to be important enough to later include, and it allowed me to explore musical ideas that were impossible without this scene.
On that note, I have scheduled Stewart Hall in the Tucker Student Center on December 8, 2016, for a showing of Star Wars with my music. The music department has agreed to sponsor the event, and I am treating it as my Summer Scholar presentation. My only problem currently is the fact that I can't show the film without Lucasfilm/Disney's approval, and since I have yet to hear from them, this showing is unfortunately controlled by their answer.
I also plan to present a more scholarly look at my findings through a LOTS presentation and hopefully at the Alpha Chi national convention. Showing film clips at these events will not be a problem, since showing small portions of a film fall under the "Fair Use" agreement.