Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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Revenge of the Fish

There's something especially amusing about watching a newborn be burped. They're not happy about having to do it, but on the other hand they're not totally pissed either. It's the first moment in their lives that they're not dealing with extremes. They are learning to be annoyed. Given that is a state I tend to spend most of my waking life in, I sympathize.

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Sixth Level of Hell - The City of Dis!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Very Low
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)High
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Very High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Moderate
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very High
Level 7 (Violent)High
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Low
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

Take the Dante's Inferno Hell Test

Revenge of the Sith
(not a review)

When The Phantom Menace CD came out, I avoided listening to the album before I saw the film. Afterwards, I felt that this was a silly restraint for two reasons. The first of which is that John Williams has a tendency to take his film scores and turn them into a pointless mishmash on the albums, of which TPM was a prime example of. The second is because I have since found that it is pretty difficult to get spoilers from a soundtrack album, save for the stupidly obvious track title (i.e. "Qui-Gon's Noble End" does not refer to his stately bum).

While the CD for Revenge of the Sith will be released May 3 (with a bonus DVD of nonsense), it is already available for download in certain places. I jumped the gun a bit and last night I listened to it for the first time.

Now, this album has been getting unanimously good reviews from all around the film music community. This is the main reason why this particular post is appearing only in my personal LiveJournal; the CD is being discussed to death in all the forums and what I have to get off my chest are my personal feelings about it.

"Personal feelings?" you ask, "But you've just heard it for the first time!"

Ah, but the rub is that, just as the Star Wars films effected (infected?) a generation, so were the scores a similar breakthrough in the film music community. Any film music collector of my generation understands intrinsically what I'm talking about. It was Star Wars scores, more than any other single influence, that made me take note not just of film music, but of music in general. One of the reasons why my original trilogy mix was such a quick production from beginning to end was because I had most of the music memorized before I even knew that soundtrack albums existed. The Star Wars scores are as close to "home" as you can get for me, psychologically.

Of course, I've grown and matured since then, and while I still love the music, I can acknowledge the fact that it is not particularly deep. It is pretty damn nifty, though, and I so enjoy those blazes of brass and the cornucopia of themes that Williams created.

The prequel trilogy have been very different scores, however. While the music from the original trilogy was primarily thematically based, the new trilogy is mostly ambient with themes showing up here and there as sort of punctuation. The album presentation of TPM was particularly dull, with plenty of the meandering filler without the dramatic sinews to hold it together (Qui-Gon Jin's dramatic theme doesn't even appear on the original CD). Happily, a two disc edition of the isolated score was released, which, while imperfect, was a much better representation of the score. Attack of the Clones was a superior album to TPM, but a somewhat less interesting score. It's only real new theme was "Across the Stars," which I found pleasant but a little too derivative of Williams' 1970 Jane Eyre score (which is strongly recommended, by the way), and while some of the chases were interesting, it lacked anything to really pull it together.

ROTS, however, has to serve two separate purposes. One is (obviously) to bring the prequel trilogy to its conclusion, the other is to tie the musical approach of the prequel trilogy to that of the original trilogy. Because of the disparity of styles, this would sound like a daunting task, but Williams seems to be hitting yet another creative peak with the Spielberg projects A.I. (lousy movie, great score) Minority Report and Catch Me If You Can, the delicious Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (which I've discussed here ad nauseum) and now ROTS. Yes, this new score is satisfying on all counts, as a sequel score, as a prequel score, and on its own. I don't mind saying right here and now that it is definitely the best of the prequel score albums. How the music plays in the film is a different story (the formerly brilliant Ben Burtt now no longer knows what the fuck he's doing and had dipped the music in AOTC to nearly inaudible levels and he and George Lucas hacked and slashed their way through the music tracks at climax of the film), but judging from the album one can tell roughly what Williams is going for.

First of all, this score is very clearly action-oriented. The single track, "Battle of the Heroes," which features the adaptation of Dies Irae, is only the tip of the iceberg. There are also some relentless pieces that seem to be associated with General Grievous (who made his debut in the animated Clone Wars series) and the much-discussed space battle that opens the film. That Dies Irae motif is the only recognizably new theme on this album, but the energy of the score and its momentum keeps it engaging throughout.

For anther thing, this is a very grand, operatic score. It would be nice to think that Hayden Christiansen's and Natalie Portman's talents could ever possibly live up to the powerful sturm und drang of the music, but we know the chances of that. At least Ewan McGregor will be able to handle his end. Lucas has inadvertently been building up to this chapter from the beginning. "When I left you, I was but a learner. Now I am the master," Darth Vader taunts Obi-Wan when they meet in A New Hope. The lightsaber duel between Obi-Wan and Anakin (which reportedly takes up about 25 minutes of screen time) is the stuff of myth for a generation, and Williams pulls out all the stops. He even directly quotes some of the more dramatic readings of the Imperial March from The Empire Strikes Back.

Williams scares the bejeezus
out of an innocent violinist!

This brings us to the finale. Okay, Leia and Luke's themes are heard briefly, which makes a lot of sense (although the "Brother and Sister" theme from Return of the Jedi is nowhere to be found on the record), and everything is all fine and dandy, and then the end credits start. I'd heard enough about the end credits to know that something odd was going on there, but not enough to know what people were talking about. Now that I've heard them...

Well, the thing is that the end credits consist of the de riguer intro, followed by an excerpt of the album arrangement of Leia's theme for the original Star Wars LP, an excerpt from "Battle of the Heroes," and the arrangement of "The Throne Room" Williams wrote for concert performances back in 1977. He then finishes it off with the same finale he used for ROTJ in 1983. This has been causing some stir online, as with the exception of "Battle of the Heroes," the end titles look entirely forward to ANH. And I say...


On a personal, naval-gazing note, I've always felt that the Obi-Wan/Force theme was always given short shrift in the Star Wars end title suites. I mean, it really is the main theme holding the trilogy (both trilogies, now) together, and it never appeared in any of the credit sequences.

Well, here it is.

And it makes sense that when it finally gets its due, it is as "The Throne Room," a form that represents its proudest moment. And why not!?! This is Williams' farewell to this universe, and he goes out the way he came in. If this is a tribute to himself, then he deserves it by now. I've long held that much of the success of Star Wars in 1977 was attributable to the fact that the music was the opposite of what one might have expected from a science-fiction film score, but was perfect for a swashbuckling fantasy adventure... which is what Star Wars really has always been.

Tags: film music, john williams, memes

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