Star Wars: A New Hope (Original Motion Picture Score)

Star Wars: A New Hope (Original Motion Picture Score)

John Williams said the challenge of scoring 1977’s Star Wars wasn’t just that it had to be big, but that it had to be clear. After all, there would be kids watching this movie—if he couldn’t conjure the menace of Darth Vader within a few bars, he wasn’t doing his job. He’d managed it before, of course: His shark-attack theme for Jaws is one of the most famous in film history—and that was just two notes. This time, though, it wasn’t just crowd panic he had to cut through, but roaring spaceships and blazing laser cannons and the kind of sustained, blockbuster noise that didn’t just threaten his compositional stamina, but the stamina of the orchestra itself. The soundtrack didn’t just become inextricably linked to the reception and understanding of the movie (“Main Theme,” “Imperial Attack”), it helped bring legitimacy to a discipline—film music—often considered to be disposable, or, at the very least, secondary to the cultural primacy of orchestral and so-called “classical” music. (At least, that is, until you get to the “Cantina Band,” which needs legitimacy bestowed by no one.) In 2020, Williams conceded the main theme may have been overwritten; nobody’s complaining.

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