- Rob Pincombe is a prolific television writer, recovering comedian and sometime comic artist/storyboard artist who just wasn't satisfied with a single blog. He writes about sci-fi and fandom at rebelalert.com, Canadian comics at comicanuck.com, and shares thoughts and insights on writing at starkravingadventure.com
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
John Williams: The Wind Beneath My Y-Wing
Welcome to the rebellion. In yet another post inspired by Spike TV's recent airing of all six Star Wars films for the summer, I have been thinking about the music of the original movie.
Let's take a moment to remember John Williams and his unforgettable score to the original Star Wars film, A New Hope. The incredible impact of the movie on the public consciousness owed much to his now-classic orchestration.
I was ten years-old the first time I heard the title "Star Wars". It was on my friend David Jackson's driveway. He and his family had just come from a film that had them very excited. He tried to explain the plot about two little robots lost in the desert and I grew more and more disinterested. It sounded like the lamest story I'd ever heard and yet he was getting more breathless as he described the climax. The dichotomy didn't add up.
I began to hear about Star Wars more and more and saw ads for it everywhere. Within a few weeks my oldest brother, also Dave, took me to see it at our local theatre. The line-up literally circled the building and continued around again! I had never seen a line so long. It seemed to confirm that I was about to see something truly special.
After two hours, we had reached the stairs leading down to the courtyard and I could finally see the ticket office! Being close enough to actually watch money being exchanged for tickets somehow confirmed that we would eventually be making that glorious exchange ourselves. We celebrated with Cokes and a small Pizza Delight pizza from next door... and moved a few feet closer.
By the time I was sitting in a crowded, darkened theatre next to Dave, we had waited through two full screenings to see a movie I knew very little about. Yet the very fact that we had to wait that long created a palpable anticipation in the audience. I was unaware my young world and imagination were about to be blown from 35 mm to wide-screen IMAX.
Was anyone in 1977 ready for the sudden surge of John William's opening fanfare? It exploded around us like a sonic boom, carrying us off in a swell of heroism to that galaxy far, far away that has stayed so very close to our hearts ever since.
We read the crawl telling us what had gone before (I'm glad we didn't know then what we know now. The mystery left us all wide open to be surprised and amazed) as the strings and horns swirled. Then the music turned menacing and the first, unforgettable shot changed the way we viewed science fiction film forever.
I can't begin to describe how very long it seemed to take for that Star Destroyer to pass by the camera as it pursued the fleeing rebel vessel. William's music is full of dread, as befits a vessel whose size and design is designed to spread awe and terror throughout the universe. The combination of his circling strings and horns with the overpowering throb of the engines and the laser fire created immediate tension. Our nerves were the real strings being played. The moment Star Destroyer finally passed, revealing it's colossal solar ionization reactor-powered engines, you could feel the audience let out a collective sigh. We'd all been holding our breath!
The recurring themes of John William's music buoyed the rest of the movie and the movies that followed. But that first few minutes will never be equaled.