We have all come a long way from the first time we learned about the stories that happened “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” but now, with the just-released The Rise of Skywalker, the four-decade-long saga ends. Since 1977, our introduction to the galactic stories of Star Wars have shaped and revolutionized the worlds of movies, music, special effects, science, and our imaginations. Not only becoming one of the most, if not the most, successful movie franchises in the history of cinema, but Star Wars has also carved in a well-deserved spot in global pop culture with the “force,” “lightsabers,” “Darth Vader,” “Luke Skywalker,” “Millenium Falcon,” and many others. However, even with the incredible stories, characters, and locations that have made these movies famous, the element that has made it a timeless franchise has been its music by John Williams.
John Williams is an American composer, conductor, and pianist, born in the state of New York. From his most popular and critically acclaimed film scores, we can highlight Indiana Jones, Schindler’s List, E.T, Home Alone, Jurassic Park, Harry Potter, and of course, Star Wars.
For five decades, the name John Williams has been a synonym of musical greatness. He started in music learning composition, and later graduated from The Juilliard School, where he studied piano. During those times, he would play around New York City as a jazz pianist for live gigs and studio sessions. After graduating, he returned to Los Angeles to begin his career in the film industry.
In addition to film scoring, Williams’ career has also covered concert stages. He has served as music director and conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra, Boston Symphony Orchestra, the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He has composed numerous works for the concert stage and filled commissions by the world’s leading orchestras like his Cello concerto: commissioned by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and premiered by the one and only Yo-Yo Ma in 1994.
John Williams in Star Wars
His involvement in Star Wars dates back to 1977 when Steven Spielberg recommended him to George Lucas. Williams then scored the world-renowned Star Wars’ Theme, the Force Theme, and many others. He continued to score the next two movies in 1980 and 1983 – known as the original trilogy. In 1999, George Lucas brought Williams back to score the Prequels in ‘99, 2002, 2005, and also the Sequel trilogy in 2015, ‘17, and ‘19.
In total, Williams scored all nine movies of the Skywalker Saga, and he has reportedly said that The Rise of Skywalker would be his last involvement with the franchise. Through decades of work, John Williams composed approximately fifty themes for the whole Saga.
For the original trilogy, the music was recorded in London and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra. There are many music styles across the scores, and experts argue that Williams’ pays homage to Holst, William Walton, and Igor Stravinsky.
Williams’ compositions for Star Wars are known for his recurring use of the Leitmotif – or repetition of a melodic idea – to associate the music with the most famous characters, places, and feelings in the films. “The Imperial March” for Darth Vader, “Luke’s Theme” (also the Star Wars theme), “Darth Maul’s Theme,” to name a few, are examples of his most famous ones through the years. This use of leitmotifs comes from the operas of the German composer and theatre director Richard Wagner.
The Force Theme
The Imperial March Theme
The Rise of Skywalker
This past year, to close the Skywalker Saga, and his part in the franchise, Williams decided to bring it full circle and mix old themes, with new ones for The Rise of Skywalker.
To the movie that tells us the fates of Rey, Chewbacca, BB-8, and Kylo Ren, John Williams brought back “Luke’s Theme,” “The Rebel Fanfare,” “The Force Theme,” “Han Solo and the Princess theme,” the “Imperial March, “Luke and Leia,” to name a few. He also composed 15 new pieces featured throughout the movie.
Also, the directors of the latest movie gave Williams a brief cameo to appear in the fantastic world he helped to build. John Williams is a bartender by the name of “Oma Tres,” an anagram of Maestro – a small but meaningful homage.
Throughout the years of this extraordinary movie franchise, we have seen how stories, characters, and settings have changed in this “galaxy far, far away…” Also, at the film production level, fans have been witnesses of how special effects have changed thanks to incredible advancements in technology. However, in between all these evolutions, there has been one constant: the music. And we owe it to John Williams the fact that we can all easily recognize the sounds, places, and characters inside the world. The music he did, still inspires us to this day, excites us, frightens us, and will surely live forever.