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Revenge of the Sith


Episode III related stuff

An interview with John Williams

"In Revenge of the Sith there are three or four pieces of new material. A couple of them have to do with lamentations in a way. They accompany some very dark turns in the action of Anakin's turn from the light to the dark, so to speak.

Also, a kind of fun piece with a lot of percussion for Grievous, who is a new character in the film. But in this film more than any of the other five, there are references to earlier themes, which seem to me and to George to be part of the way we want to tell the story musically. There's a reference to what we call the "Force theme," which is the positive side of the Force, which is referred to more and more in this film. And there are even some references to Princess Leia's forthcoming arrival and we hear her theme for the first time in several films. And there are quotations of what we call "The Imperial March," but it's actually Darth Vader's theme, the arch-baddie, the arch-villain of all time.

As Anakin is going through his process of change and becoming Darth Vader - we have more and more need in this film to refer to earlier melodic references. And so it's a combination of new material and old material.

It's quite a musical tapestry. It's orchestral, and there are some choral sections in it also. And for Darth Maul we've had this "Duel of the Fates." You know people always ask me what the text of what the chorus is singing [is]. We have the chorus singing with the orchestra in "Duel of the Fates" and then also in Revenge of the Sith. And people have asked me what the text is and what you're hearing are Sanskrit words that are translations of an English translation of an old Keltic poem. And the poem is a famous poem to people who know about Keltic antiquity; it's called The Battle of the Trees. The English translation that I'm referring to was delivered to us by Robert Graves, who was a famous poet. And in thinking about what to write for that sequence - we didn't have a text and I always loved The Battle of the Trees - and I found a couple lines in there and the lines are - and I'm quoting exactly correctly there:

Under the tongue root a fight most dread
While another rages behind and ahead.

And this is the Sanskrit translation. You're going to hear a new choral piece, which does contain some references to Duel of the Fates, but most of them is entirely new. And again, it's Sanskrit and it's a translation of a very simple line, which is just:

Grievous of the crimes of the Empire

and that's what they sing. We will not know that, but we will understand what the message is."

Williams: 'Star Wars' Score a Challenge
by Martin Steinberg, Associated Press Writer

Break out the lightsabers — the gallant theme is back. This time, however, the brassy fanfare leads us down the abyss.

Like many aspects of the epic "Star Wars" saga, the music John Williams made for the films has become an icon - one of many he has created for more than 100 movies, including "Jaws," "E.T." "Superman" and "Schindler's List." Williams' latest sonic-action-packed soundtrack, released this month by Sony Classical, includes a DVD with a 70-minute video and music from all six "Star Wars" movies. It debuted this week on Billboard's top 200 album chart as No. 6.

When Williams started working with producer George Lucas on "Star Wars," America was celebrating its bicentennial. The composer was 44, balding with dark hair around the sides and graying beard. The five-time Oscar winner is now 73, with white hair and beard — but the force is still with him.

He's currently working on Steven Spielberg's "War of the Worlds," which is being released in June. During a recent trip to Washington, D.C., where he was conducting the National Symphony Orchestra, Williams spoke by telephone with The Associated Press.

AP: "Revenge of the Sith" tells how Anakin Skywalker turns evil and becomes Darth Vader. How do you illustrate this musically?

JW: I've had a little musical fun with Anakin's theme, which appeared in one of the earlier films. ... I've had to work (the music) to accompany the scenes of where he's turning (from) the honorable ways of the Jedi and is becoming lost in this imperial dark side of things. So it's been a nice musical exercise. As with most of the "Star Wars" material, it's more like an operatic musical function than perhaps most film scores.

AP: Was it difficult?

JW: The thematic material is always hard for me. ... Once we have the themes established, even if they are very simple, sometimes we want them to be made up of five, six, seven signal notes that carry the right message. Then things are worked out harmonically and contrapunctally and textural aspects and all that comes. ... The most difficult thing is to try to get thematic material that resonates in the right way and themes that can find their way into the listeners' (imagination). (The way humans) were set up audio-visually ... is that we will be made deaf by brilliant visual stimulation. ... We may not notice the details of what we hear. And so, a lot of thought behind film composition, the creation of themes ... has to do with the management of the amount of attention we're going to get and the kind of, if not competition (then) hopefully cooperation with a lot of heavy sound effects and other materials that compete for the audience's attention.

AP: Do you read the script before composing?

JW: I prefer not to. I'd rather just see the film with a clean slate. It's very important in my job to be able to sit in the room and see the film as a pristine viewer in the sense that I'm not exactly certain what's going to happen next. I'm free to be surprised or free to be bored or whatever.

AP: You've written music for more than 100 movies. How do you find the time?

JW: All that's been done over a period of a lot of years. So I do it by just focusing on what's in front of me this particular day, week or month.

AP: Do you have to compose everyday?

JW: It's usually a six-day week. ... I'll begin around 9 in the morning and finish some time in the afternoon. ... I can produce, maximum, probably a couple of minutes of music a day, depending on how dense it is and how much detail there is.

AP: How long did you spend on this "Star Wars" episode?

JW: We recorded 2 hours and 10 minutes of music and I think I began writing this in ... late September of '04, and we recorded this in the early part of February of '05. ... Ten or 12 weeks.

AP: That's fast.

JW: It is fast. It's a very difficult schedule.

AP: You were trained at the Juilliard School and you've written a cello concerto for Yo-Yo Ma and two symphonies. Do you think your identification with Hollywood has meant that you are not perceived as a composer of serious music?

JW: That's probably true. ... Most of my work is film and that's what people probably know, and so I can be grateful for that.

AP: Any regrets?

JW: No, not at all.

Scoring Episode III
by Ian Freer, Empire Magazine

It’s early February 2005 and Empire has infiltrated the inner sanctum of the Episode III production, a pastel-coloured lounge down on the main scoring stage at Abbey Road Studios, today acting as a makeshift Episode III production base. If this is the nerve centre of A) a $115 million summer blockbuster in a franchise currently worth $1.8 billion in ticket sales and B) arguably the most anticipated film ever made, you would never know. The atmosphere is relaxed and easy-going, with Rick McCallum picking at grapes while holding court and an open-house policy as friends of the Lucasfilm family – Hayden Christensen and Anthony Daniels, to name only two – swing by to give their ears a treat.

The reason for all the TV-watching is that Lucas, for the first time, is watching the scene with music that composer John Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra have laid down moments ago. Said scene occurs during the midst of the extermination of the Jedi: Anakin Skywalker, with a face like thunder, incontrovertibly turned to the Dark Side, enters the Jedi Council chamber to discover the infant Padawans cowering behind the vacant chairs as one of the Jedi moves forward, seemingly relieved to see the older Jedi, Skywalker draws back his lightsaber and…

Even without the dialogue and sound effects, the scene is undeniably powerful and primal. The director is visibly pleased with the results. “This is Star Wars,” Lucas announces, getting up to return to the scoring stage. “The tearjerker version….”

In all the heartbreak involved in the making of ‘A New Hope’ – the droids that wouldn’t function, the aliens that initially looked like Beatrix Potter rejects, the English crew who rigidly quit for tea at 4pm – perhaps the only thing that surprised Lucas’ expectations was John Williams’ score. In fact, so bowled over was the young director with his composer’s stirring symphonic stylings that he reputedly called his buddy Steven Spielberg in Los Angeles from the recording sessions at Anvil Studios and played him 30 minutes’ worth of music down the phone.

Thirty years on and the whole sense of grace and gravitas, confidence and class that Williams lends Star Wars is still evident today. Presiding over a full orchestra – 109 members of the LSO who have played every note of the Star Wars score – and choir – 90 members of the London voices – Williams, wearing a black polo-neck and grey slacks, brings the whole studio to attention. Directly facing him is a cinema-sized screen reading ’00:07:09:08’ (not the title of a Lucas short, but actually a timecode) and a paused image of a clone trooper emblazoned with the motto, ‘Property of Lucasfilm’.

While the screen enables Williams to constantly gauge the speed of the music against the film’s images, it also allows cast members a rare chance to see footage being enhanced by the world’s greatest orchestra. “That was an experience,” recalls Hayden Christensen about his Abbey Road visit. “We actually went out at one point and sat in the little balcony area in the actual room – that’s really where you have the music reverberating through your body.”

Taking Christensen’s advice, Empire has now moved out into the balcony that overlooks the parqueted scoring studio. With the choir booked in for the next two days of the two-week recording session, work will concentrate on the darker end of Sith’s musical spectrum. The sequence currently under review is from two-thirds of the way through and features a montage of shots planet-hopping across the last stand of the falling Republic: from the carnage on Courascent to massacres on Mygeeto. These dispatches from the front line of the Clone Wars are part-finished film shots, part-work-in-progress FX shots and part-animatics. Musically, the scene is down on today’s cue sheet as 5M3 or, more poetically, Lament – a “gorgeous” (Lucas phrase) if downbeat elegy for dying Jedi.

Without the images, Williams leads the orchestra in a run-through. For the orchestra and choir, this is the first time they have clapped eyes on the music and their ability to pick up and interpret Williams’ score with zero prep or rehearsal is nothing short of astonishing. Working in tandem with choir director Terry Edwards and engineer Shawn Murphy, Williams consults with every section of the orchestra – currently the violins are being coached in “separation of the F’s” – tweaking and honing to the nth degree before going for an actual take. The music comes alive again, until Williams and Murphy disappear into a control room to assess the take. “If sound is 50% of the experience, music is the other 50%,” says McCallum in the hiatus. “It’s a beautiful time when you’re making a movie, especially here with that orchestra and watch the magic happen.”

Frank Oz is the latest Star Wars-ian to take a gander at the goings-on. Lucas and McCallum are keen to invite him to review the Lament sequence with them, so Oz, decked out in a crisp white shirt and black keks, takes his place before the huge screen. The paused image of the clone trooper once again kicks into life. “That’s great,” says Oz, entranced, marvelling in particular at some Yoda action on Kashyyyk.

As the music track is now too long for the scene as it currently exists, it will be turned over to music editor Ken Wannberg to make sure the score conforms to the current cut. Wannberg is a stalwart of the previous five Star Wars flicks and Lucas proudly tells Oz that the legendary music editor has come out of retirement especially for Revenge of the Sith. Judging by Oz’s expression, the Lament cue has once again worked its magic, orchestral turbulence giving way to the elegiac balm of the choir.
“He brings so much to what he’s doing,” says Oz about Williams. “He has a deeper sense of what’s going on and this score has melancholy, a very powerful melancholy that’s beautiful.”

For Episode III, Williams has created over 40 distinct cues, some brand new, others with more than a hint of familiarity. During out visit, we hear variations to Qui-Gon’s funeral from The Phantom Menace, the hair-raising Force theme and, of course, Vader’s theme, with Williams painstakingly putting the cellos and double basses through their paces. That Star Wars represents a rich musical tapestry unique in the history of cinema is not lost on anybody.

“I was watching the scoring,” says Anthony Daniels, who as C-3PO has guest-conducted the LSO on many occasions. “They were doing the last five minutes of the piece and I promise you that will have tears in your eyes when you see it. The combination of George’s imagery and the music is so beautiful and so genuinely heart-tugging that I become very emotional. The woman next to me was crying her eyes out.”

With the Lament now done and dusted, Williams leads the orchestra onto the next cue – 7M4, the real-world title of which is the spoiler to end all spoilers. Lucas settles down with particular relish, “I just love the dark stuff.”

Sony Press Kit