Monday, 11 April 2005

A Cosmic Copland

My first vinyl album was the original Star Wars (1977) soundtrack. Last evening I had the unbridled pleasure of listening to the Revenge of the Sith CD prior to its May 2nd release. What follows is the raw and unrefined first impression of a fan bereft of any objectivity.

01 - Star Wars and The Revenge Of The Sith (7:31)

The signature theme (taken from an existing recording) ambitiously segues early into the battle above Coruscant, and the daring rescue of Senator Palpatine from the clutches of Count Dooku. This is the most compelling transition since The Empire Strikes Back (1980).

02 - Anakin's Dream (4:46)

Anakin’s fate is unknown. In shades of Schindler's List (1993), Across The Stars is performed underneath a viola and harp solo. Portentous strings interrupt this harmonious (and enigmatic) moment and the suite takes a darker direction as an embattled Force Theme struggles to emerge from beneath dissonant orchestrations.

03 - Battle Of The Heroes (3:42)

An emotional and sweeping choral/waltz punctuated by an incomplete rendition of the Force Theme. The opening evokes Danny Elfman’s score for Batman (1989), which was in itself gloriously derivative. A quodlibet to The Phantom Menace's (1999) Duel Of The Fates.

04 - Anakin's Betrayal (4:04)

The balance of the force is in flux.

05 - General Grievous (4:07)

Obi-Wan buys a single day pass to Jurassic Park!

06 - Palpatine's Teachings (5:25)

In a style reminiscent of Trevor Jones’ composition for The Dark Crystal (1982), Williams explores the seduction/deception of Anakin by the Master of the dark side.

07 - Grievous and the Droids (3:28)

Drawn from TPM's Trade Federation leitmotivs.

08 - Padme's Ruminations (3:17)

The Return of the Jedi’s (1983) darkest moments are revisited within the framework of Minority Report's (2002) ethereal female vocals.

09 - Anakin vs. Obi-Wan (3:57)

Starting with a blustering reprise of Battle Of The Heroes, the score reintroduces Darth Vader’s theme (as performed during the Bespin duel). Elements from ESB are interwoven into the new material with chilling and startling results - sonic flourishes shadowing the action.

10 - Anakin's Dark Deeds (4:05)

John Williams joins forces with Howard Shore.

11 - Enter Lord Vader (4:14)

A reflective montage; from the pomp and circumstance of Naboo to Across The Stars, Anakin’s Theme and… Lyrical poetry.

12 - The Immolation Scene (2:42)

Haunting. Williams conjures the atmosphere of the main themes from A New Hope (1977).

13 - Grievous Speaks to Lord Sidious (2:49)

Harry Potter at play.

14 - The Birth Of The Twins and Padme's Destiny (3:37)

Across The Stars is followed by a majestic reprise of Qui-Gon’s Funeral Theme.

15 - A New Hope and End Credits (13:06)

Luke and Leia breathtakingly usher us towards the end of the beginning.

In conclusion. This is, at times, a mildly jarring composition (editorial haste?). John Williams’ ROTS soundtrack lacks the ‘analog magic’ of the original trilogy recording sessions, favoring flawless digital brush strokes inherent in the production of the prequels. But none of this ultimately detracts from what is highly emotive listening.

During the CD listening session (JBL monitors) I referenced a copy of The Making of Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith -- The Final Chapter. The diary recording of John Williams' ideological approach to movie scoring informed the listening experience immeasurably.

The sonic saga is complete and will be long remembered. Thank you John (and Mum for buying me that vinyl album a long, long time ago).