Careers in Music: They are real and important to our society

imagesMusic as a career has always had misconceptions and stereotypes.  It has been known that music does not lead to a steady flow of income or a structured career for a living.  However these are extreme misconceptions.  My favorite expressions are “majoring in music, how the hell are you going to earn a living?” or “Well music is one of those jobs either you make it or you don’t.”  Here is my ultimate favorite expression that is said after hearing a performance, “That was good but what about a real job?”

A career in music is not “let’s go and put a band together and get a record deal.”  That is the “artistic” end of music, which can lead to something big or not, but ultimately that is not a career in music.  A career in music is no different than any other career.  You go to college with a major and then find a job in that field.  Simple and easy.  A degree in music can lead to many types of jobs that bring in a regular paycheck.  Some of these jobs are an audio engineer, music librarian, music teacher, secondary school and college, music critic, and even to the administration of an arts organization.

Many of these jobs require a musical background.  The website http://www.careersinmusic.com lists countless jobs in music.  Where does this begin?  It begins with music lessons and the choir and band in Elementary, Middle and High school.  These classes are now getting cut from school.  So where are we going to have trained professionals to record music in the studio?  If you speak to any audio engineer they all have learned a musical instrument and have taken band in school.  The foundation of the skills needed to do their work.  Of course what does their work bring?  It brings us music when we listen to the radio, watch a movie, go grocery shopping, and listen to music at the office.  Imagine yourself at work and not listening to music all day or going to the grocery store and not hearing music.  How about watching a motion picture that has no music?  Well this will become a reality if we do not have music in schools.  It’s just like taking away English or Math from school.  They are taking away the chance for a good career for something that is required for the survival of human kind.

Now let’s take a look at other careers.  Many of the music students who have decided to focus their attention on playing become performers.  They get a regular job playing in an orchestra or in the studio.  They go to it like any typical job.  They perform on stage a symphonic work, not for the artistic reason, but fact they are trained musicians who do their job and bringing home the pay.  The studio musician plays the music you listen to while watching Harry Potter and other motion pictures.  I guess we’re no longer going to have motion pictures with music since the option of playing in band is no longer there.  So let’s get use to it, turn the volume off of your film and turn on the close capture to read the script.

Performance is not the only career in music.  There are tons of background jobs that require a music education.  A composer can’t compose music unless he or she is musically trained.  A songwriter can’t write the next hit song unless he or she knows how to play the piano.  How about that wonderful musical Wicked and Beauty and the Best that everyone loved so much.  A composer wrote the music and a lyricist wrote the words.  A conductor directed it and the musicians performed the music while the singers sang on stage.  All these jobs are stemmed from learning how to play a musical instrument in grade school.  It does not happen over night.  These are trained jobs and they do it as a job.  They punch a time clock just like everyone else.

There is even a union for musicians.  I know because I am in the union myself.  My last job was being the librarian for an orchestra.  It is a union position and requires a lot of musical training.  The job is the second most important job of an orchestra.  The librarian puts together the music for the concerts.  They order, purchase, and rent the music from various publishers.  Then they put them in the folders and place the bow markings as indicated by the principal string players in each part.  Oh and sometimes re-orchestration is needed in order to fit the budget of the orchestra.  Not many can do this; only a trained composer can do it.  I don’t think anyone off the street can be a music librarian.  Only someone who has learned to play a musical instrument the studied music in college can do such a job.

So do you think learning music from k- 12 should be optional or required?  Why take away an education that can lead to a career?  As to music being a real career, well let’s see.  Is music an option in the survival of our race?  Take one day out of your life and do not listen to music at all.  Do not plug in your ipod, do not watch a movie, and do not listen to music on your drive home from work.  See how that works out.  Oh and remember to plug your ears when you are at the next football came when the band starts playing music.  I don’t think many can do this.  Music is a part of our lives and as long as the human race exists music will be a viable profession like Law, Medicine, and many other service oriented career.

 

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The Pros and Cons of Modern Music Technology for the Composer

IMG_3140Tools have have advanced drastically in the past decade than any other time period in history for composing music.  There once a time that a working composer had only their piano, writing materials and music paper.  Since the early 1990s MIDI sequencing and music notation software have become a major part of composing tools for the working composer.

In the last decade music software, such as Logic Pro,  have come into the market.  The software makes it very easy for a composer to work.  They can use MIDI Software instruments to compose and attach to a MIDI keyboard controller.  A film composer can add video to the software.  Applications have time codes installed so when the video is added the composer can view and synchronize the music to the video.  With the use of the MIDI Controller, composers can create musical phrases to MIDI sounds that are similar to orchestral instruments.   After this part is done, the music can be exported as Standard MIDI files and imported into a music notation application.  At this point, the composer can now create music that will be prepared for live performance of the music.  This process has aided many composers to do their work fast and easy.

Logic Pro includes a collection of precomposed audio and MIDI files known as loops.  They are short musical phrases that can be put together to create a musical composition.  Many feel that this is cheating and that the composer is not actually composing.  The concept of composing is in general taking preexisting knowledge and putting them together, much like taking these loops and putting them together to create music.  In many respects, these loops can be an aid and tool for the composer.  These loops also when put into the software are put nicely into a key and time signature.  Therefore a piece of music can quickly sound good.  The benefits of these loops can be a tool or aid in constructing musical compositions.

This then leads to the cons of the technology.  Anyone who has no musical background can buy Logic Pro and put all these loops together and create musical compositions.  Many have claimed to be composers.  This has become a growing problem in the musical world.  Many people who have no training and background in the structure of musical composition are trying to become composers.  One needs to remember that these loops are only there as a tool, NOT a replacement of musical training.  Musical training includes the knowledge of music theory, musical form and structure, knowing how to create a musical phrase and putting them together to create an organized sense of continuity.  The only way to be able to have this ability is to have musical training, either at an accredited college/ university or private training.  Many of those who have no musical background are trying to compete and “land the same gigs” as the composer who has studied and build their craft for many years.  At the end it can be seen from the results of the musical composition.  If the music is created in traditional harmony with no concept of what has occurred in music in the past 100 years then it will be transparent that the musical composition is resting and living in the past with no evolution.  Ignoring how music has evolved since 1900 and creating music with traditional harmony (which is how music is created in the loops) means that the composer has not done their job in understanding the development of musical composition.

Technology has certainly helped the composer in aide of composer, but with all positives are the negatives.  I personally don’t think it’s going to be very challenging for the trained composer.  It does not matter how much a software is used for composing, at the end, the knowledge and skill (or the lack of it) will show no matter how advanced technology continues to grow.  If someone who has no musical background or training wants to become a composer they simply need to start at the beginning and work their way up instead of taking the quick and fast path.  We all know that the quick and fast path never leads towards development of knowledge.

John Williams: A Great American Composer of Film & Classical Music

thFor the past 4 decades, John Williams has been a household name as a composer for films.  His music can be heard on the loved Star Wars Saga Series, Jaws, ET, Harry Potter, Memoirs of a Geisha, Superman, Munich, and many many others.  However there is a larger picture that most are not aware about John Williams. He composes music of the Classical Genre (or Music for the Concert Stage; the true name of the genre).

John Williams is a classically trained and well rounded musician who studied at UCLA and the Juilliard School with a degree in Bachelor and Masters of Music respectively.  He had gained much knowledge of music of all ages, which is the foundation of his musical output.  He mainly studied piano, but went on to becoming a composer rather than a performer for the duration of his life’s work.

Most of his classical music are Concerti ranging from a Violin Concerto, a Flute Concerto, and several others.  A noted concerto he composed is for the bassoon and orchestra, a commission for the New York Philharmonic for their 100 year anniversary.  The musical composition is titled The Five Sacred Trees.  It has five movements where the bassoon is represented by a different tree in each movement.  The story is inspired by Robert Graves’ book The White Goddess, also a well known book among the Neo- Pagan Community.  He composed a Cello Concerto for notable cellist Yo yo Ma and a Violin concerto called Treesong for Gil Shaham.  Additionally, He composed solo violin and cello pieces for both these performers.

Williams is a true composer in the realms of American Music.  Much of his works has the “American Sound” that was defined by Aaron Copland.  Williams was the conductor for two of the recent Olympic journeys to the USA.  He was commissioned to compose music for the events.  One of  which became the “official” music for the Olympics, Summon the Heroes for the Atlantic 1996 Summer Games and Call of the Champions for the Salt Lake City 2002 Winter Games.  These also triggered several other “American Sounds” in his music including American Journey, Jubilee 350, and Celebrate Discovery.  These were also composed in relation to the Olympic Games and can be heard in the two Olympic Sony Records  Summon the Heroes and American Journey, both of which can be downloaded from iTunes.

Very recently, Williams was commissioned to compose music for Obama’s Inauguration.  That morning, after Aretha Franklin’s amazing performance of the American Anthem, was the premiere of Air and Simple Gifts for Chamber Ensemble.  Simple Gifts is an American Folk Song which has the “true” deep rich sounds of American music.  The first time this folk song was used in a musical composition was by Aaron Copland in Appalachian Spring.

John Williams is a true American Composer.  He is both an accomplished Film Composer and an accomplished composer of the music for the concert stage.  The music mentioned in this blog are those that can be found on iTunes or at a local record store.  There are still many others that he has composed that have never been recorded.  When I was an undergraduate at Cal State Northridge one of my professors had found several scores to some compositions by Williams in the style of Schoenberg, a technique called  the 12 tone row.  It is not a surprise that Williams has composed and studied that style of music as he was trained not only in the university, but the university that Arnold Schoenberg himself taught.  He will be one composer that will be among those remembered centuries from now.  I would highly recommend for anyone to listen to his musical compositions for the concert stage.  They are integrate and passionate, full of life and magic.
List of Musical Works

Orchestral
Summon the Heroes
The Olympic Spirit
Call of the Champions
American Journey
Happy Birthday Variations
Midway March
Olympic Fanfare and Theme
The Cowboys Overture
Liberty Fanfare
The Mission Theme (From NBC News)
The Star Spangled Banner
Song for World Peace
Jubilee 350
For New York (variations on a theme by Bernstein)
Sound the Bells
Hymn to New England
Celebrate Discovery

Concerto
Violin Concerto
Flute Concerto
The Five Sacred Trees (Concerto for bassoon and Orchestra)
Treesong for violin and Orchestra
Cello Concerto
Elegy for Cello and Orchestra
Concerto for Viola and Orchestra
Concerto for Tuba and Orchestra
Clarinet Concerto
Tango (Por Una Cabeza) for solo Violin and orchestra
Concerto for Horn and Orchestra
On Willows and Birches (Concerto for Harp and Orchestra)
Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra
Vocal
Seven for Luck (Song Cycle)
Chamber
Rosewood for Solo Cello
Air and Simple Gifts for Violin, Cello, Clarinet and Piano
Three pieces for Solo Cello
Duo Concertante for Violin and Viola

 

Classical Music Vs. Film Music: The Differences between the Two Art Forms

imagesAs a composer, I have been approached by many people for many years with the same questions regarding musical composition.  These questions arise from lack of knowledge and misunderstanding.  Not that it’s their fault, but rather they have never been given the knowledge.  This I personally blame in the weakness of the modern Public Education System.   A question that has been asked many times by many is “What film has a certain composer done?”  A composer does not have to be scoring for film to be a composer, but yet many think that modern classical music is film music so they totally feel that is the only type of music a composer does work.  This is a myth to say the least.  Another question that arises is “Why don’t you compose for films?”  Many composers do not work in the film genre, thus they would not have anything to their credit.

 

The truth of the matter is that both Classical and Film music are totally different styles of music.  Both are valid and both are an art form of their own right.  Classical Music includes a vast portion of genres including Symphonic works, Chamber Works, Concerti, and functional music (Religious Music, Opera, Ballet, Dance, and Theatre).  Film Music is a type of functional music that stems and comes from Classical Music, as the composers of the Golden Age of Hollywood were actually classical composers.
A bit of history on Film Music. Max Steiner, known as the Father of Film Music, invented the genre.  He composed the very first original film soundtrack in 1933 for King Kong.  He was a classically trained composer who happened to work in Hollywood.  When “talkies” appeared in Hollywood he found that composing original music to the work was a crucial part of the overall film.  He was the first of the composers to use a technique known as leitmotif, a recurring theme that represents a character, thing or event.  This is a technique from Opera and noted to be used for the first time by Richard Wagner.  Erich Wolfgang Korngold, a classical composer who has composed may Operas, became a film composer as well.  He called Film Music as “An Opera without words.”  This being said now let’s look at the differences between the two.
Classical Music, a poorly given title by the Record Industry, is music for the concert stage.  It is music that stands on its own.  The musical context is created for listening,enjoyment, and analysis.  The concept of most of the music is a serious large form of thematic materials interwoven as an artistic expression, much like a painting.  The musical composition is the themes, phrases, and melodic lines.  The actual orchestration is a different element that the composer uses in order to express this musical composition.  The orchestration can be for solo piano, small ensemble, or a large orchestra.  No matter what the arrangement or genre holds, all of the work is done by one composer.  There is no collaboration in the creation of the work.  It is the sole art form of a single man or woman.  There might be a musical phrase by another composer or a folk tune in the composition, but this is another part of the style of the music.  It is where the composer takes a preexisting theme and creates something new out of it, an old technique that goes back to the Middle Ages.  Therefore, classical music can be understood as the same thing as a painting or a sculpture of one artist.
Classical Music is a style of music that continues to be composed to this very day.  Many feel it is a style that no longer exists or think that Film Music is the modern version of it.   However, there are 1000’s of composers who continue to work in this genre, including many composers who create film music.  Some classical composers have also composed in the Film Music genre.  This is because there is such a subtle line of difference between the two, many composers who love musical art forms have worked in them.

Now let’s look at Film Music.  Historically it stems from Classical Music.  The first Film composers where Eurocentric in style.   Over the decades it evolved into an art form of its own right.  Anyone who feels that it is not an art form needs to reevaluate that Film is an art form and therefore the music composed for it is part of the package.  Much like Classical Music, Film Scores have melodic lines that are orchestrated for a large ensemble or full orchestra. Since Hollywood Music has become a commodity like all other departments of film production, there is a composer who creates the melodies, thematic materials and phrases, then it is orchestrated or arranged by another musician or composer.  Unlike Classical Music, it is collaborative work.  Many times this is due to the fact of several reasons 1) The Composer does not have time to orchestrate or 2) The Composer does not know how to orchestrate.  Whatever the reason is, the music is an artistic style and expression of several people working together.  Yet one important element to remember is that many of the film composers may not be orchestrating the music but rather using “short hand” orchestration as to let the orchestrator know what they want.  This again depends on the composer and the collaboration of others in the music department.

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Anther important aspect to remember on Film Music is that it so not always the “genre” of classical music.  Orchestral music does not mean it’s classical in style.  Orchestral just means “larger than life” sound.  You can orchestrate any genre of music, and many film music after the 1950’s has explored in different genres.  Jazz and Rock style has been used in film music, therefore the orchestral music now is not the “classical” sound but the genre of the musical composition.  As film music evolved so did the styles.  The Classical style still remains in film music, but you can have any other styles.  You can even orchestrate Rap Music to have the Orchestral sound.
So here are the reasons why both Classical Music and Film Music are not the same genre as many understand.  They are both wonderful expressions of art.   Both are different styles; Film music stemming from Classical but have their own right as artistic forms.  We can’t judge one or the other and we can’t say a composer is a film composer when they say they are classical composers.  We also can’t assume a film composer does not work in the classical genre.  It is probably better to research into the credits of individual composers and see what they have composed.  I bet that if Mozart was alive today he would be composing for films as much as working with Opera, Concerti, and Symphonic Works.

Where does the name Pasha come from?

10012789_10152411698399851_3424987905103808312_oPasha Music was named after Alfred Surenyan’s nickname Pasha. Pasha is a military/ officer rank in the Middle East, mostly Turkish but also other cultures. The Pasha does not exist as a title anymore however it is used as a nickname for the youngest son of a family. Alfred’s parents do not call him Alfred, Alf or any of his other nicknames, they have and continue to call him Pasha.

When he got his first car he got the personalized plates QT PASHA. This goes back to his nickname that he was still being called by his Parents. When He was creating his music business he wanted to create a name that is unique and also personal to him so Pasha Music was born. QT Pasha Publishing is the sub-brand of his business for music publishing.

Pasha Music carries the personal and emotional connection that Alfred has with his parents and their support of his musical journey.

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The Story of Pasha Music

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Alfred Surenyan has been passionate with music all his life. He comes from a musical family with his father playing the Accordion and his uncle playing the violin. His only passion as a child was to learn to play the piano, but as immigrants his family had too many financial burdens, and he was unable to start lessons at an early age. Rather than have lessons, Alfred had a toy piano that he used to play and held to his heart dearly. This was his life until he was able to take music lessons. Music was very important to his soul. In 1977, The release of Star Wars became a huge part of his life. He fell in love with the music and looked up to the composer John Williams as a hero. He wanted to one day compose good music too.

By the time he was in Middle School he was learning music, but he was being held back due to difficulty in being able to practice regularly and have intense music lessons. By the time he was at the end of Middle School years, he had stopped pursuing music and he kept his passions in as an inner desire and yearned to have an opportunity to practice music. It was not until is 10th grade year in High School when Marsha Lynn Taylor, the school’s music teacher stopped him in the hall and said “you look like a musician.” She encouraged him to take music classes and the following semester he was at it again with music. This path then lead him to becoming a music major in college where it all began.

He learned to be a composer, improved his piano skills and learned music technology. In 1997, during the later part of his college education he founded Pasha Music.. This company was his title as a music teacher and for the promoting of his musical compositions. His goals from then forward is to teach music, work as a professional composer. He wanted to share his passions to the future generations. This is what he has done for over 20 years. He has taught students of all ages from Elementary all the way to the college level.

Since then it has grown to be a service for music prep, music recording, and rental and purchase for the music of Alfred Surenyan.

Pasha Music is now growing to include music rentals other than just the music of Alfred Surenyan. QT Pasha Publishing will also take submissions for publications of composers, music educational materials, orchestration and arrangements. If you have something to submit for QT Pasha Publishing or for rental through Pasha Music please contact us.

Pasha Music has been serving the Los Angeles area for 19 years and the mission of Pasha music is to continue to serve quality music both in the Los Angeles area and all parts of the United States.

 

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A Very Different John Williams

John Williams as we know is one of the most successful composers of film music in the history of Hollywood. He is also known for composing music for the concert state. However, there is also a very different side to his concert music. In the 1960s, while he was still working in music for TV he was also composing concert music in styles totally unknown to most.

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His piece Sinfonietta for Wind Ensemble in 3 Movements was composed in 1968 for no reason or commission. This piece is atonal with themes and harmonies that do not resolve in the traditional sense. Many people have disliked atonal music, both in the academic world and in the audience. This maybe true, but some atonal works are powerful and brilliant. It really depends on the composer. Here in this piece John Williams examples his own unique expression in the surroundings of atonality. The piece has a climax of tremendous dissonance, not as rich in harmony as his film music, but yet still as expressive. He demonstrates that his capabilities as a composer extends further into other reaches. This piece is among on the top brilliant atonal works that I have ever heard.

It was recorded in 1970 by The Eastman Wind Ensemble and conducted by Donald Hunsberger. Among the other pieces in this recording are Penderecki: Pittsburgh Overture and Mayuzumi: Music with Sculpture. It’s long out of print and never went to CD, however copies can still be found on eBay.

Stan Kenton conducts the Los Angeles Neophonic Orchestra

Another piece at this time period by John Williams is his Prelude and Fugue for Orchestra. This piece is not atonal, but among the other major influence of Williams’ musical output: Jazz. It has a huge flavor of Jazz harmony set to a trditional orchestration with a drum set. It is a Fugue which is a style from the Classical genre of music, but yet expresses this Jazz style. A combination of both worlds in the highest level. It really brings out the side of John Williams that most are not aware and it’s a must to listen. The recording was done by Stan Kenton with the Los Angeles Neophobic Orchestra and first released on Vinyl but later reissued in the 1990s on CD. This is also out of print but copies can be found on eBay.

I have listed links to YouTube videos of both pieces and I highly recommend a listen. It’s worth your time.

John Williams- The Olympic Champion

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John Williams has not only had a successful career in Film scoring and music for the concert stage, but he is also known as the official composer for the Olympic Games. He has composed for four of the Olympic games ranging from 1984- 2002. These pieces to this day are still performed and celebrated for the Olympics.

In 1984, John Williams had already become a household name. He had just completed scoring for the Star Wars Original Trilogy. He’s done the first of the Indiana Jones installments, The Superman motion picture, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Jaws (which started his career in the spotlight). The Olympic committee for the Los Angeles Games decided to choose a local composer to create the official music. Who else would be the better choice than John Williams? He composed a piece titled Olympic Fanfare and Theme. There are also two recordings of the piece. One of which was recorded with the Los Angeles Studio Orchestra and the second with the Boston Pops Orchestra. The second continues to be available both on CD and Digital Downloads.

NBC covered the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea. John Williams was called upon again and commissioned to compose the official music for these Olympic Games. The pieces titled Olympic Spirit was created for the event. It was recorded by Williams with a television studio orchestra for the official Olympics CD and later recorded with the Boston Pops for the Summon The Heroes CD recording on Sony Classical.

willms_b1996 marked the Centennial Anniversary of the Olympic Games and once again held in the United States. For the Atlanta games in 1996, John Williams was committed to once again compose an original piece. Summon The Heroes was composed and performed at the Summer Olympics. As this was a huge anniversary for the Olympic Games with celebrations. Opera singer, Jennifer Larmore, a local of Atlanta, was joined in on the closing ceremonies along with John Williams. The piece was recored on the Sony Classical label of the same name. The first several 100 recordings were sold at Tower Records with a souvenir T-Shirt for the celebration. During the beginning of that summer seasons, John Williams and Jennifer Larmore also performed in celebration for the Olympics at the Hollywood Bowl.

 

MI0001052523in 2002, John Williams was once again called in to compose for the Olympics. This time it was for the Winter Games held once again in the United States in Salt Lake City, Utah. The piece he composed for these games was titled Call of the Champions and was once again recorded under the Sony Classical label. The recording also has a second performance of Summon The Heroes along with many of other John Williams’ Fanfares and March themes.

John Williams is a true composer of many facets. His style of composing ranges in all aspects. The Olympic music shines in brilliance in his biggest strength, the brass instruments. In particular the French Horn. He loves to compose for these instruments which makes a true Olympic sound world. There was no other choice than John Williams to compose for these games. All of these pieces are still available to listen on the internet, purchase as a digital download or as a CD. I highly recommend them to those who would be interested in knowing more about his music outside of the film world.

 

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The Music of Star Wars: Traditional Classic Hollywood Sounds

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During the 1950s and 1960s much of the Science Fiction films and
TV Shows used the means of modern musical techniques and musical instruments. The Theremin became a popular instrument that evoked futuristic sounds, so therefore it was used extensively in the underscore of many films. Modern musical composition such as atonality and electronic sounds were also used to express this futuristic sounds. However, Star Wars is not about the future. As explained by Lucas both at the beginning of each film with the phrase “A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away” and in interviews, he was creating an adventure story and a mythology. Star Wars is more about the past. He was creating a story that had taken place perhaps centuries ago, maybe longer. The space ships, the blasters, the droids, and anything that seems futuristic to our minds is a mere part of the society that this story was taking place. When watching any of the Star Wars films, one needs to take out the expectations of a Science Fiction film and look at it at a different point of view. One needs to look at it as if they are watching an old Hollywood Classic Film. This is where Lucas was inspired for Star Wars. He wanted to evoke the elements of the old adventure films such as Robin Hood and Sea Hawk.

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Not so long before Lucas was working on Star Wars was Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Schaffner’s The Planet of the Apes. Both these films went away from the modern electronic sounds and went back to traditional orchestral sounds. However, Kubrick rejected Alex North’s original score in replacing with pre-existing music. This to me is very weak because there is no leitmotif, but rather music that was created for the concert stage. The Planet of the Apes did use an original score composed by Jerry Goldsmith, however he was using modern atonal and extended techniques for the score. Even though these were using the traditional orchestra, Lucas wanted a more “classic” sound in his work. He was then lead to meeting John Williams by Steven Spielberg. John Williams was the best choice in composing the music for Star Wars as he has the influence of the classic Hollywood sound that Lucas was seeking.

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Rather than the use of mood to the underscore of Star Wars, John Williams created leitmotifs to describe each character and event. This was a technique in film created by Max Steiner, known as the father of film music, with the 1933 original King Kong. This concept then went on to be used by other composers of the era, including Enrich Korngold. Each of the classic Hollywood films has this technique of a leitmotif embedded into the music. If Star Was was going to be a film that goes back to the old adventure films of Hollywood then this is what John Williams was going to do in creating the music. This makes logical sense because the music needs to cater to the film. Williams also references to older composers in his work, this is intentional. As many composers before him, including J.S. Bach, Williams has used the music of other composers and influences to evoke the mood and spirit of the music. Some of the leitmotifs in Star Wars are recognizable and others are not. When listening to the music there is a lot going on. In many ways this is similar to Max Steiner’s score to Gone with the Wind. In that score, Steiner used strings of leitmotifs one after the other, evoking an Epic mood.
At the surface, Star Wars seems to be a Science Fiction film, but going to the deep core it is far from Science Fiction. It is an adventure film series with stories, mythologies, and a soap opera among a family known as the Skywalkers. John Williams follows in the same thinking pattern as George Lucas and catered the films exactly how it should be. If there is anything outside of this feel and mood it would the the source music from Return of the Jedi with the song Lepti Nek, which is more of a disco feel of the late 1970s, however this is another story.

 

 

Comparing the Anakin and the Darth Vader Theme from Star Wars

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Anakin Skywalker (Darth Vader) is one of the most iconic characters in the Star Wars franchise. John Williams created the leitmotif(s) for him very carefully as to express the character and nature of his personality. A leitmotif is a reoccurring theme that resembles or exemplifies the character in the deepest of all aspects. John Williams is a master at the craft of creating the best possible themes for characters in films. For Anakin/ Darth Vader he has done just that. It is clear that he had to create two separate themes for this one individual since when he became Darth Vader he was no longer that Jedi he once was.  Let’s take a look at each of these themes at the musical level.

Anakin Skywalker was an unstable character. He was always conflicted but yet had desires. The leitmotif is structured in the key of E major. A major key makes sense as Anakin was basically a good person, however never stable. Therefore Williams created the melodic line with an unstable harmonic progression. It seems to change key, but yet it does not. It is chromatic in nature and with a hint of the Darth Vader theme in the basic melodic structure. Perhaps this is how he shows that anger inside of Anakin (the Vader in him). At the final 3 measures of the theme there is more than a hint of the Vader Theme. It is melodically , rhythmically and harmonically familiar to the Darth Vader theme, expressing his destiny.
The Darth Vader Theme (also known as the Imperial March Theme) is a total opposite of the Anakin theme. The tonal center is G minor and even though it is chromatic in nature, the theme is much more stable harmonically. There is a clear goal in the thematic material. We know where it’s headed and we know there is a clear and stable stride in the march like theme. Even though we know that Vader was still as conflicted as he was when he was Anakin, he still had a clear vision of what he wanted. He had hate in his heart and through this hate he went to gain what he wanted. The theme sounds very dark and a minor key was clearly the best choice.

Of course we know that the Vader theme was composed 20 or so years prior to the Anakin theme, but still if you look at them both the Vader theme is sprung organically from the Anakin theme. The Anakin theme is in E major and the Vader theme is in G minor. Traditionally the iii of E Major is G# minor, but that is not far off from G minor (the actual iii of E major).  Therefore a key change from the Tonic (I) to the mediant (iii) seems to be happening.  I am not sure if Williams was thinking of a modulation or not, but it can viewed that the Darth Vader theme is the iii of the tonic of the Anakin theme. Major as to the light side and minor to the dark side.