By Joseph Walter
I'd love to hear your favorite moments as well, so don't be afraid to sound off below!
But first off, an honorable mention:
The Force Awakens (Trailer Ver.)
Each one has an air of uncertainty, sort of like seeing an old friend for the first time in years. But then there's the "Force Theme," which takes the tone of the trailer in a dramatically different direction.
Starting at 1:12, we hear a commanding version of this theme, which sounds as though it is heralding the return of something great (and it was!)
5. The Throne Room, A New Hope
That's a surefire way to get me into a deeply nostalgic state, and feel the same wonderment and fascination I did as a kid seeing it for the first time, and then going to Pizza Hut where they were giving out little R2-D2s and "Star Wars" posters.
But on the topic of this stand alone concept, the music of "A New Hope" reflects this as it wasn't a guarantee that there would be more to come.
The "Force Theme" is a major element in Episode IV, seemingly representing Luke's journey and destiny rather than the Force, so it's only fitting that the celebratory anthem following victory at the end of the film be "The Throne Room," a triumphantly regal culmination of the idea.
Its proud brass and awe-inspiring orchestral backing (especially those sharp strings and potent timpani!) are one heck of a way to punctuate the film, and this versatile theme.
4. The Emperor is OverThrown, Return of the Jedi
Of course, being the culmination of many, many musical ideas, its only proper that a theme as integral as the Force's gets its fair share of evolution and story-telling spotlight.
Although brief, the sequence from 9:07 to 9:31 is an excellent example of Williams' mastery of musical story-telling.
When Darth Vader finally decides to turn against the Dark Side and regain a grasp on his humanity by destroying the Emperor that made him and enslaved him, a decisive, even angry, version of the "Force Theme" accompanies this act of soulful defiance.
Disconcerting piccolo, swirling strings, and oppressive horns embody the inner battle that Vader undergoes, yet betray the air of destiny that this theme is famous for as the decision is made, once and for all.
This is the embodiment of the Force's will.
3. Binary Sunset, A New Hope
The look on Luke's face as he watches the two suns of Tatooine set, knowing that his destiny is out there somewhere, is one of the most iconic moments in cinematic history, helped exponentially by this exceptional piece of music.
This is a marvelous piece all around, featuring many of the motifs that make-up the musical genetics of "A New Hope," including the "Main Titles" and the "Rebel Fanfare."
On a personal note, I have tremendous nostalgia for this sequence, and it has captivated since my first viewing of it, a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far way...
2. The Funeral Pyre, Return of the Jedi
And while the "Imperial March," "Rebel Fanfare," and even the "Main Titles" receive fitting closures, its the "Force Theme" that outshines them all, delivered in a way that only John Williams' outstanding musical ethos can provide.
At the end of the film, after the Emperor has met his demise at the hands of the redeemed Darth Vader, and after the second Death Star is terminated, Luke provides a traditional Jedi funeral pyre for his father.
Starting at 1:18, solemn horns start the familiar theme, but are joined by almost mystical strings, and then the woodwinds perform a gentle reprise. The power of the rendition swirls into a storm of ever-growing power, with uncharacteristic staccato, before a sweeping climax takes center stage.
After that storm dissipates, a lone horn dares the reprise once more, quickly accompanied by mournful yet peaceful strings who build up the theme, then elongate the movement in a display of serenity.
Through the sounds of the Force incarnate, the motif takes us through a proud ferver and then dissipates into the next life through a peaceful resolution, both concluding the theme and showing us the journey of Darth Vader, who is now both redeemed and truly at peace.
All is as the Force wills it.
1. Night Skies, Shadows of the Empire
The CD was not the soundtrack to the game, but moreso the book. It was meant to tell the story entirely through music. Composed by Joel McNeely, the score easily rivals John Williams, and has recieved universal praise. And rightfully so. The work is tremendous, and the Scottish orchestra and chorus don't disappoint.
It also happens to feature the best rendition of the "Force Theme," bar none.
Representing one of the most powerful sequences in the book, where Luke, Lando and Dash are deep within the Imperial City on Coruscant attempting to rescue Leia from the Black Sun crime boss, Prince Xizor, Darth Vader feels his son's presence and, using the Force, attempts to contact him.
While the whole piece is awesome, 3:04 to the conclusion is what we're specifically dealing with. The rendition starts so gently, with forlorn brass representing Vader's hesitance. Right after this, the Dark Lord of the Sith conjures the Force to it full potential, swinging the orchestra into full power, including a chorus backing the tremendous crescendo.
The somber "Imperial March," with its choral flailing and dissonant chimes that follow is just icing on the cake.
What sets this particular rendition apart from the rest is the tremendous spirit involved. The theme itself has never been presented with such force (heh) and when considering the context of the moment, particularly Darth Vader's tortured psyche, it puts the complicated orchestrations and haunting choruses into a tangible, empathetic perspective.
It's my vote that, should John Williams be unable to complete his tenure for Episodes VIII and IX, that Joel McNeely take over. He understands the emotional weight needed for the musical demands of "Star Wars," and "Night Skies" is the proof.