The Week In ‘Star Wars’ News: Real Excitement, Fake Outrage, And A Spoiler …

24 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Star Wars: The Force Awakens – a sound fetishist’s guide to the trailer and beyond.

Following the premiere of a new “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” trailer during the Eagles-Giants “Monday Night Football” game, pre-sale tickets on Imax grossed $6.5 million, while Fandango, AMC and all saw record highs.

Star Wars fans around the world are daring to hope that new film The Force Awakens will be as good as its promo clip makes it look – or at least better than The Phantom Menace. Movie ticketing websites have collapsed under the weight of advance sales, and – as the first instalment to arrive in the fully developed social media age – fan frenzy has entered the realm of hyperspace. For all the speculative commentary as to what the trailer reveals plot-wise, the true “force” of the trailer is surely located in the various sounds that infuse this perfectly constructed teaser. We first reported on these stamps last month when they were available to pre-order, but this week they finally went on sale in UK post offices and online. Wisely tapping into the raw power of orchestral score and sound design that anchored the original Star Wars trilogy, director JJ Abrams aims for our ears in finding the surest route to an emotional reaction.

Unfortunately for user marstevrobe, a quick check at Fandango shows tickets available for that exact showing, which will only set you back $32.14 for two: The trailer opens with the understated novelty of solo piano, a rarity in the Star Wars soundworld – four intimately enigmatic chords, poised above a shimmering acoustic spaciousness, musically matching the cavernous vault of the mysterious visual setting. When the action and dialogue turns to the past, the music follows, as Han and Leia’s Love Theme from the original trilogy surfaces, followed by a magisterial arrangement of the portentous Force Theme (which has here acquired a soaring choral accompaniment). Abrams makes sure we get a healthy dose of iconic Star Wars sound effects along the way – tie fighters especially, but also lightsabers, a hyperspace leap, and a hint of droid. This is the most recent Star Wars game for mobile devices, made by movie specialist Kabam – which previously turned The Hobbit, The Lord of The Rings and Fast & Furious into popular games.

After the gorgeous excesses of Hollywood’s lush musical scores through the 1930s and 40s, overly grand orchestral scoring took a back seat until Williams revitalised the neoromantic approach in the 70s. It’s another RPG that plugs the gap between episodes VI and VII of Star Wars, as you create a character and set out to make your fortune with a mix of solo and online co-operative play. This is a marvellous creative app for young Star Wars fans, helping them to create scenes from the film franchise with their favourite characters and music – and to supply the voice dialogue themselves.

Most famously used by Richard Wagner in his late 19th century gesamtkunstwerk (“total art work”) operas, leitmotif had subsequently and ostensibly been a favourite tool of Hollywood composers throughout the 20th century. Leitmotif, insofar as classic Hollywood tended to use it, involves a shortish but distinctive and consistent melodic idea that can be called on repeatedly throughout a soundtrack to signify a person, place, thing, idea or emotion. Wagner’s use of leitmotif was significantly more complex than was generally the case in 20th-century Hollywood, but Williams’ use of it came close to Wagner’s more texturally organic and mutable approach. Most importantly, both Wagner and Williams weave leitomotif into the musical texture as a means not only of storytelling, but of giving the story mythological proportions – suggesting a world of ideas and emotions beyond the corporeal.

It’s true that its blend of base-building and raiding is very reminiscent of that game, but with plenty of iconic characters and vehicles to root this firmly in Star Wars territory. Famous melodic and harmonic ideas such as the Love Theme, the Force Theme, Luke’s Theme – all are capable of subtle and relatively sophisticated manifestations and variations throughout the films. Lucas’ desire to delve into the past for musical inspiration fits well with the overall narrative of the trilogy – a hearkening to pre-modernity, a rebellion against the Death Star as the ultimate manifestation of coldly inhuman technological supremacy.

The desire to preserve a natural order, despite the inevitability of progress, is also observable in the way in which Lucas asked the Academy Award-winning sound designer Ben Burtt to create sound effects “organically”. Burtt’s mission was to generate organic sound effects by prioritising the natural, physical, (non-electronic) world as the source for the vast majority of effects.

Angry Birds’ star may have waned a little over the last two years, but it’s worth remembering the excellent job that developer Rovio did with both of its official Star Wars tie-ins. Chewbacca’s expressive groans are a carefully composed mix, courtesy of a Walrus, bears and a number of other animals, some sick at the time of recording. The massive caveat here is that you’ll need to spend £135 on Sphero’s BB-8 drone toy to use this app, so it’s one for fans with deep pockets only. Surely this fastidious commitment to the sourcing of “organic” sounds partially underpins the successful sound design – a faint sense of familiarity or recognition grounding the effects in the viewers’ subconscious. Williams’ Force Theme, for example, acts not only as a calling card for the idea of The Force, but also fills the mythic void that religious themes occupy in other origin stories.

R2D2’s bips and bleeps not only communicate the droid’s thoughts and feelings at any given moment within the story, but also engender inexplicable emotional reactions in many viewers. The “music” of those sounds hints at a mythic child figure – playful, slightly mischievous, vulnerably diminuitive, yet central to the action in so many origin stories. If you’re a fan of the card-battler game genre, check out Konami’s Star Wars: Force Collection, while tower defence fans (if not sticklers for English spelling) will prefer DeNA’s Star Wars: Galactic Defense.

Similarly, the sounds of R2, Chewbacca, lightsabers, tie-fighters and countless other creatures and objects are some of the first things that spring to mind when we think about Star Wars, deeply embedded in our psychological relationship with the story as they are. So let’s watch and re-watch this tantalising and stirring trailer, accept our geeky devotion to this mythic Space Opera, and acknowledge the role music and sound plays in reaching something fundamentally human inside of us, even as it helps tell such an improbable story. Daniel Craig has backed off earlier comments that he would rather slash his wrists than do another Bond movie, saying he just doesn’t know at this stage. The film ticks all the Bond film boxes in terms of action, romance, humour, exotic locations, twists and a casually sinister villain played by Christoph Waltz.

Ralph Fiennes takes over from Judi Dench as M, Ben Whishaw plays Q, Naomie Harris plays Moneypenny and Lea Seydoux plays Bond’s main romantic interest.

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