If film school has taught me anything on audio it is that an environment is given it’s mood by three things: Imagery, Lighting and MUSIC.
New York city in the morning is a pretty grueling sight. Workers rush to and from public transportation stops to get to work as coffee induced energy fuel their desire to read newspaper stories from the free daily papers (AMNy?) with little interest but just so that you may something to do during the short trip to the city. This is a daily routine for me and i am used to the subway performers too from kids breakdancing and doing backflips to barber shop quartets singing it up as they shake a gift bag in front of you for a donation: It’s all cool. This afternoon however on my way home, a young man with flute in hand came into the subway cart i rode in and began playing the main theme to Star Wars. As soon as i noticed this i quickly pulled my mandatory “I wish to be left alone” earbuds which were at the moment playing nothing and i turned my full attention on him. I took a few seconds to glance around the car to see other people’s reactions, it astonished me to see just how many people for once were all eyes on him: The Performer. A small boy two seats away from me nudges his father and yells out “That’s Star Wars dad!”. “That is Star Wars indeed” i thought to myself. This leads me to today’s write up: Star Wars and it’s iconic music. When you consider movies and music there are only few that surpass the attention of their fanbase and become instantly recognizable by other people who may not be too pop culture savvy. Star Wars has become iconic in a variety of ways. Show a child a picture of Darth Vader and he is most likely to recognize it, shout out “No Luke I …” and someone will answer “am your father” (and a third person may even cry out “That’s not true!” it’s happened once or twice), blast out the imperial march and you recognize the intensity of a situation and i’ll be damned if you do not know where that music is from.
Going back to my introduction: The mood of that subway cart lit up the minute the Star Wars theme was played, why? honestly i couldn’t really tell you the full list of reasons, for me it was because it’s never not appropriate for some Wars, for others it may have been a highlight of their day or simply an unexpected surprise. A few years ago, during my senior year in high school there was a journal entry my creative writing class was to do, the question was; “How do you measure the success of your work?” back then i wrote that the target audience was the most important part for any piece of work to please. While in many ways still agree; i now also see what happens when it goes beyond that. I as a film student can hear many tracks from different films and can name them on command; this obviously isn’t your typical person. Even my friends who have no connections to film or Star Wars know exactly what the main Star Wars theme is; How?. Well i strongly believe that Star Wars is an example of modern day mythology. Just as the Greek Myths of the past and the tales woven of the 12 mighty gods of olympus; Star Wars is itself a new myth from which we can all draw moral and life lessons. Music has provided us with a way to further cement stories into our brains. I personally believe that music and sound design are very under appreciated in our time. They are both time consuming work that people fail to recognize upon playback of a film. I can play James Bond’s music to you and you’ll likely picture the gun barrel roll intro seen in every Bond film. I play the Star Wars theme and what do you picture? is it the opening crawl sending yellow text to the depths of space? is it Vader extending his hand out in a force choke position? is it the clash of a green and red saber in front of a smiling emperor? whatever your answer may be they are images of fond memories brought back to your present thoughts by a piece of audio. I am a prequel child and will always hold them as my originals since they were my into to the world of Star Wars. Having said that, themes like the Naboo celebration, duel of the fates, across the stars and the General Grievous theme are just as recognizable to me as the original trilogy soundtrack is to their generation. I can and have listened to Star Wars music on my Ipod outside and it brings a level of uplifting intensity to my surrounding. The music has become iconic and is one thing i’m sure will at the very least be paid homage to in the coming sequel trilogy.
If you are one to enjoy a good radio show or audio entertainment at it’e best i must recommend RebelForce Radio Podcast. It is hosted by ForceCast veterans Jason Swank and Jimmy Mac. (Link below)
Link to RebelForce Radio: