Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope Soundtrack by John Williams (1977)
Get it: If you like the early classic Star Wars themes combined with a sense of loneliness in space
Don’t get it: If you prefer a space opera score that relies heavily on action.
We’ve come a long way since that first release of Star Wars, as it was called for the initial release (without the added subtitles), and the soundtracks have evolved as the movies themselves have. This, however, is the point of origin. The first time that anyone had ever heard that magnificent theme was with this soundtrack. It isn’t all about the glory, however.
Part of what makes this score so special and different from the other five is the sense of loneliness in space that it captures in addition to the bigger moments. The score matches what is happening on the screen. In the beginning, when you have those huge words ‘Star Wars’ appear, the score is equally as big. After, once the text starts to crawl up, the score climbs with it. Then it goes straight to the action as the Imperial Star Destroyer chases down and fires upon the Tantive IV, aka Leia’s ship. But once they hit Tatooine, it all changes. There is one family occupying the vast emptiness, and the score matches that feel accordingly. It feels lonely, but strong — just like the newly introduced main character. This is partially encompassed by the legendary cue “Binary Sunset”.
As the story progresses to introduce new elements to both the characters and the audience, the OST parallels. It produces a feel of surprise with a little bit of wonder. The action element continues to build as the characters grow more and more into the hero’s roles. When it comes time for the attack on the Death Star, the score changes to a combination of anxiety in action and serenity, once again matching what the character is experiencing. Finally, when the film is closing, we get that triumphant theme known as “The Throne Room/End Title.” It is so powerfully grand with the solid brass and so celebratory at the same time.
The cantina music deserves it’s own side note, but not just because of it’s iconic status. It feels like a special insight to John Williams, since his background is jazz based. Even though this isn’t your typical jazz track, when comparing it to the rest of the score, it’s pretty close. It is a little musical gem where Williams was able to get down to his roots with the required space twist.
Imagine, if you are willing, a Star Wars Universe without the music of John Williams. It’s been done on YouTube, look it up. It would be so incredibly different. Why did Williams work with George Lucas on this? Because Williams’ collaborator, Steven Spielberg, recommended him to work on the film, and he was excited to work with the London Symphony Orchestra. Of all Lucas’ friends he shared the early film with, Spielberg was the only one to encourage him to keep going. Even Steven King wasn’t impressed. It’s a great thing that Spielberg was happy, because if he wasn’t impressed either, who knows what the soundtrack would be like.
The next reviews are for The Empire Strikes Back, which will feature such familiar themes as “The Imperial March” and “Yoda’s Theme,” before getting to Return of the Jedi, and then finally, The Force Awakens in this coming December.