Iconic. Rousing. Pure fucking geek magic. Such are some of the choice adjectives we’d use to describe John Williams‘ immortal “Star Wars” theme, a piece of music that sends fanboys into a collective spasm of joyous exuberance upon its very first notes. With the internet positively abuzz from that scintillating first teaser for J.J. Abrams‘ upcoming ‘The Force Awakens‘—which George Lucas still claims not to have seen—many have chosen to look back at the original “Star Wars” films and their enduring influence on today’s pop culture (indeed, something like “Guardians of the Galaxy” would be impossible to imagine without the original trilogy). Love them or hate them—and unlike the newer, decidedly digital episodes that Lucas directed from the late ’90’s to the early 2000’s, which were more or less unanimously derided, there is a bit of a divide here—the “Star Wars” films are important pop cultural artifacts, with an entire generation engorged on their dizzying, imaginative mythology, eye-popping visuals, and yes, the signature music of renowned film composing legend John Williams. As we dig through the crates of the “Star Wars” of yore, it’s time to take a glimpse at a vintage, behind-the-scenes look at Williams’ score for the bleakest—and some say best—of the original trilogy, “The Empire Strikes Back.”
This featurette, originally from 1980, takes an in-depth, step-by-step look at Williams’ technique and execution. From when we first see the composer, sitting in the editing room with director Irvin Kershner, producer Gary Kurtz, and writer Lucas, it’s readily apparent that Williams possesses an innate sense of how the emotional component of music can best serve a film. Williams speaks—eloquently and dryly—about how one must adapt his or her own personal style of making music to the particular needs of the picture, and also about the incredible solitude that film composers experience when immersed in their work. We alternate between interviews with Williams, wherein he shares his philosophical take on the art of making music for a film, and excerpts from his recording sessions with an 80-piece orchestra.
“Star Wars” die-hards will be tickled to see the methodical precision with which Williams—who was originally recommended to “Star Wars” maestro George Lucas by Steven Speilberg after working with him on “Jaws”—takes in bringing to life the shattering climax of ‘Empire,’ where Han Solo is handed over to Boba Fett. Seeing the music that accompanies this powerful moment juxtaposed with Williams’ brilliant, in-the-moment creation of it, practically from scratch, is truly inspiring—and that’s comin’ to you from a professed non-“Star Wars” fan.
Dig the moody music of John Williams and check out the whole thing below. [Eyes On Cinema]