(Above: Composer John Williams with C3-PO from the film Star Wars, Ludwig Van Beethoven looks ominously on)
Listening to John Williams’ fantastic score for the ‘Star Wars’ franchise, one of the most amazing features of the score is his Wagnerian use of Leit motif to represent the different characters, including the ‘Force’. But, how many of these themes and musical motives have their origins in earlier examples of descriptive music? Well, one of the most obvious sources of inspiration is English composer Gustav Holst’s suite ‘The Planets’ written between 1914-16, this work has influenced a number of film composers and has certainly been on many a film directors first cut of a movie. The movement that has come under most scrutiny is ‘Mars’ the bringer of war, which despite it’s ‘Alien’ 5/4 time signature depicting an Army marching, contains dark, percussive string Ostinato writing, Where the players are asked to use the wood of their bows (Col Legno), alongside snarling lower brass, giving way to unison fanfare figures seemingly adopted by the whole orchestra. Stirring, dramatic Music worthy of any Sci-fi film written today.
Move forward 42 years to 1958 and we have English composer Leighton Lucas’s score from the Film ‘Ice cold in Alex’, the influence of Holst’s ‘Mars’ is very obvious here:
Of course, if you listen to that opening ‘Prelude’ from ‘Ice cold in Alex’ then you will all be recognising where John Williams had his inspiration from for the opening battle scene from ‘Star Wars, a new hope’ also, some of you may have picked out the tell tale perfect fourth/fifth intervals so familiar in Williams’ themes at 1.05 in the last video clip, perhaps Superman will fly in and put an end to World War two, before the end of the film.
Finally, just to remind ourselves of what this blog post is all about, here is the opening scene of ‘Star Wars’ Episode IV ‘A new hope’ music by Gustav Holst, I mean John Williams, Sorry…..