Although I completed Watch the Skies - both the album and the artwork - before I left for Florida (Art got the first copy), I have not yet had the chance to complete the liner notes, which I am working on in Semagic. Spending a week with Art and some recent conversations with melancthe had me availing myself of my DVD collection to watch The Empire Strikes Back once again on Monday. I actually watched it with headphones - while this was unneccesary (it was during the day, I could have blasted it at 11 if I had wanted), it is something that I do from time to time when I'm watching a film with particular attention to the music. And, of course, The Empire Strikes Back has one hell of a score.
What did this do? Well, it made me finally get down to the nitty-gritty and embarrassing work of correcting a big mistake. In February of last year I completely revised my original Star Wars mix. The first disc was made right when the films came out on DVD and it was (and remains) one of my favorite of my own creations. Yes, it is a Star Wars mix, and everybody and their brother has one, but of them all, I feel mine best captured not so much the best moments of the trilogy scores, but a unified listening experience representative of the whole... with special emphasis on fun.
The revision started out only being a clean-up job; I was hoping to smooth out a lot of the more primitive transitions of the original disc. However, I also started fiddling around a bit too much, and the result never quite had the same punch as the original. Conversely, at the point I made the revision to this trilogy mix, I also went to work on its companion album and completely redid my initial prequel trilogy mix, and in sharp contrast I was quite pleased with the results.
So I've opened the files again and have started reconstructing the original mix. I am aided in this task by the fact that I rather conveniently had made a DVD program out of it that had menu screens with track listings, and I had encoded the audio as linear PCM, and was able therefore to match as best as possible what made that disc work so well, but bring to it the smoothness of my more developed techniques. There were also some things I liked about the revised edition, however, including an extended opening that includes some of the battle on the Tantive IV, an excerpt from "The Emperor Arrives," and that the Prokofiev-esque Ewok theme be heard at least once on the album (I may not be a big fan of the little bastards in the movie, but their music is great fun - the new selection is the brief but colorful "Heroic Ewok"). However, by and large, the shape of the new album is the same as the original one, and I have to say that it is quite refreshing to hear it this way again.
If there was one thing about the original disc I didn't like, it was that I didn't feel "Approaching the Death Star" was the best initial appearance of the Imperial March for this project. For the revision, I tried "The Emperor Arrives," but it really didn't emphasize the March enough - but I liked introducing Palpatine's theme early in the disc, so I retained that excerpt. But how to introduce the March itself?
I decided to do something pretty radical: I would reconstruct the cue in The Empire Strikes Back that introduces this iconic theme... it is heard on the first appearance of The Executor, of course. The cue has never really been heard on an album before. Williams had written a different version of the Imperial March to introduce it, but in the film the opening of the concert arrangement he recorded for the album is heard instead. The music then cuts back to the piece Williams had written. The raw piece was made available for the first time when the Special Edition sets came out, and so I have the alternate version of the march and the cue itself. I only needed to place the relevant portion of "The Imperial March" at the head of it instead of the alternate.
The problem? The two pieces of music don't exactly match. In fact, they don't in the film either. I found the scene on YouTube, and you can hear where the edit is. It works fine in the film because the music cuts when the image cuts, but also owing as to an extra drum roll tracked in over the transition making it a little less jarring, but if you listen, you can hear the mismatch.
I'm really proud of this track, however, both in terms of how it sounds otherwise (I seque at the end of the track back to the alternate version of the Imperial March Williams had originally written for the scene to create a sort of miniature take on the concert arrangement) and how it introduces the Imperial March in its most authoritative and relentless form. That one cut just sticks out like such a sore thumb from the project in general, which is otherwise a polished edition of what I considered to be one of my most exciting creations. This is causing me to debate its inclusion.
What do you think?