Leitmotif’s of John Williams
The lights dim, a soft snare roll begins, and the screen turns to what looks like a lit up sky at night. Slowly as the snare gets louder, a yellow title begins from the bottom, it says Star Wars! With a loud crash of a cymbal the theme song starts off with a hard hit from the horns and the rest of the Boston Orchestra to fill in and complete the legendary song written, composed, and conducted by John Williams. Although many people might not know the name or the face John Williams, most people do know the uplifting intro/theme song originally named Overture. This is easily the most recognized song to the saga that is actually in the beginning of every episode. That’s one of the things that strikes me, coming from the first movie release of Episode IV: A New Hope from 1977 to the most recent cartoon movie “Clone Wars” that came out in 2008, uses the same theme song. You might ask why? Because it works. At least for me the Overture gives me the feeling that I am about to embark on a space odyssey and it leaves me with anxious feelings that fixes my eyes and ears to the screen. If you don’t believe me than I think you should look at Academy, Golden Globe, and Grammy awards for best score.
On a darker note the song “Imperial March” or as many see it as Darth Vader’s song, makes you grip your seat because of the insinuating minor tones that leads to an evil entity. John Williams focuses on the Minor tones of the song to make you feel like there is a dark disturbance in the force. These minor tones insinuate to the audience that a conflict is arising. The songs and how they are written are a huge part to the emotion and feel that is encouraged by both the director George Lucas and Composer John Williams. Without John Williams Star Wars would be known but not one of the legendary scores of the 20th century.
John Williams is more than just an advocate of the Star Wars Saga. He is responsible for creating the leitmotif’s of the 20th Century, from Jaws, to saving “Private Ryan”, “Indiana Jones”, and to one of my favorite legendary score’s “Harry Potter and the Sorceress Stone”. With over 200 Albums in his Discography, whether you know it or not you probably have heard some of his music. At least I can say for myself unconsciously I have been a huge fan of John Williams because I loved the scores in his films without realizing there was a person responsible. Listening to these scores specifically star wars and harry potter as a child has influenced me to favor a certain neoromanticism style of music that John Williams has been known for. It is also partially because of John William’s quick scores that I picked up an instrument. Anytime I heard the leitmotif’s John wrote I’ve noticed at times the violins or piano can be very fast, and as a youngster I questioned how that was even possible for a person to move their hands that fast! So as a striving youngster I picked up a guitar and played until I was as quick as John’s scores.
As an aspiring musician hearing John’s scores has made me a more conscious listener and player. So I can now understand and respect the choices of notes that a composer has to make to make to create a legendary song like the “Imperial March”. From the very first time I heard “Overture” I knew it was a special song not to be forgotten. I think I can speak for the many fans that enjoy john’s work, but I’d like thank John for making a masterpiece out of “Star Wars” and creating a healthy path for me to start my musical endeavor.