John Williams 'not sure' if he will score Star Wars Episode VIII
9 May 2016, 16:12 | Updated: 6 January 2017, 14:45
All the latest news about the new Star Wars soundtracks, as it happens: there's confusion about whether John Williams will score Star Wars Episode VIII.
John Williams might not be writing the score for Episode VIII
According to a fan forum, John Williams told the audience at a recent concert performance of his music from The Force Awakens with the Philadelphia Orchestra:
‘When he took the stage, and before he started conducting the Scherzo, he said "I told the producers I wasn't sure if I wanted to do the next one, but told them I didn't want anyone else doing it either." It was certainly meant as a joke, and got a great laugh.’
So basically it’s too early to say exactly what’s happening. But on the other hand, production on Episode VIII is already very much underway, so this is going to become an issue quite soon.
And much as we absolutely hate to even contemplate the end of John Williams’ career, he is 84 years old and basically cranking out a score every year or two. He’s down to take care of Steven Spielberg’s version of The BFG, but Episode VIII might just be too much for him to handle at this stage.
Alexandre Desplat, who is scoring the Star Wars anthology movie Rogue One, could be the man to step into the breach, in that case.
Harrison Ford felt 'blessed' when he heard the new soundtrack
And who are we to argue? Our very own Andrew Collins sat down with Han Solo to talk about the impact of John Williams' music in The Force Awakens and in the original trilogy.
John Williams conducts music from The Force Awakens
This is what we've been waiting for. The opening track from the new Star Wars soundtrack, conducted live by John Williams:
Thanks to 60 Minutes, we've now got concrete footage of John Williams at work, recording what looks/sounds like an epic action scene. And there's J.J. Abrams, filming the whole thing on his phone like an unashamed fanboy.
The tracklisting has been revealed!
There's still some weeks to go before the soundtrack will be released, but the pre-order on Amazon France has revealed the crucial tracklisting. You can have a look at the whole lot here, but the salient track names are as follows (translated from French):
'Finn's Confession' - a confession of what? Presumably something to do with his shady past as an Imperial Stormtrooper... maybe something that changes the nature of his alliance with his new friends?
'Kylo Ren Arrives at the Battle' - OK, so a bad guy arrives at a battle. Big whoop. But it suggests Kylo Ren is an up-front, 'let's-actually-do-some-damage kind of guy', not simply a 'sit and simmer in my massive throne where no-one can get me' kind of guy.
'Snoke' - Judging by the 3rd-act placing of this track in the running order, it seems we can conclude that Andy Serkis' villain won't be arriving until late in the proceedings.
'The Jedi Steps' - What, like learning steps? Or physical steps that you climb? A confusing final track title. Is one of our new heroes to learn the ways of The Force, or simply go up some stairs?
Another TV spot has the strongest hint at new music yet
What's that delicate, curvy little flute theme? It certainly hasn't cropped up in The Force Awakens' promo material so far, and it's not from the other trilogies... Our hysterical conclusion is that we've got some new John Williams material on our hands. Can we start calling it 'Rey's Theme', do you think?
Listen to how it gently morphs into an evil brass-led version when Kylo Ren comes on screen - this can only fuel speculation that the two characters are somehow related...
An alternative Asian trailer has dropped
A Force Awakens trailer for Asian territories has landed on YouTube, which means - you've guessed it - more wild soundtrack speculation!
So, things to watch out for here: inamongst all the rather lovely-looking new footage, there's something that could be a new John Williams theme. Listen at 0:51. Two chords, one simple melody - could it be something direct from the quill of Williams? Even on event movies like this, trailers do tend to feature 'library' music or something written by someone else, simply to fill the gap left by the actual score.
But we know that John Williams has now recorded at least some of the score for The Force Awakens (see below), so is it too fanciful to think that this might be a very early glimpse of the movie's music? Given how relatively simple it is, our guess is that it's not a Williams theme - unless he's played the whole thing very broadly.
John Boyega was at the Force Awakens recording sessions, and he's heard 'Finn's Theme'
Boyega was interviewed on the red carpet in London, where he confirmed that he'd heard the music John Williams has composed for his character, Finn. He didn't let anything on about what it sounds like, but he said "It's crazy having your own theme," and did a weird conducting mime.
Here's the proof that it happened at all:
Boyega is one of the new stars of the Star Wars universe, playing Finn in The Force Awakens. We're not jealous of him hanging out with maestro John Williams though. NOT JEALOUS AT ALL.
The final trailer is here
Watch it here and revel in the majesty of John Williams' themes:
So, let's take this apart.
We open with a shot of a new character, Rey, with her face covered and in scavenger mode. Appropriately, it's accompanied by a relatively new instrument for Star Wars, the humble piano. There's no discernible theme (which leads us to suspect this might've been penned by a hired hand rather than Williams himself), just some ominous chords way up in the high registers.
The chords go down an octave as we continue to be introduced properly to new characters Rey and Finn, who are expected to take up the lion's share of screen time in The Force Awakens. "I've got nothing to fight for," says Finn, as the desolate chords die down.
BAM! DRUMS! EVIL CHARACTER! The orchestra (not the LSO but an LA scratch orchestra, as we previously established) is opened up and those chords just become richer. Kylo Ren's worship of Darth Vader and possible torture of Poe Dameron is given a resolutely major chord as we bleed into... The Millennium Falcon and, for the first time in the whole Force Awakens promotional campaign, Han and Leia's Love Theme from the original trilogy. It is glorious.
A beleaguered-looking Harrison Ford reminds us of the heritage on display here and, matched with Williams' darkly mushy themes, it's a spine-tingler. Does the romance between Ford's Han Solo and Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia still have the same spark and drama? The music says yes.
Then for the trailer's final rush, we're back into safe Williams territory, but with a fresh twist. The Force Theme, one of the most recognisable from the whole franchise, is sprinkled across a slightly different set of chords than we're used to - a perfect mix of old and new, once again. There's a wailing choir reminiscent of the closing battle scenes in Return of the Jedi, too, but we end on a dramatically quiet major chord. This is Star Wars, after all.
Throughout all this, we're still wondering: why haven't we heard any concrete new themes? Was that descending horn line over the titles a hint at something new? Will John Williams' existing themes be used to delineate good and evil as clearly as they have done before? And why haven't we actually heard the main Star Wars theme yet?!
The second trailer has more music
After an aching build-up, we finally were treated to a second trailer and, thankfully, some more John Williams music. That familiar, mournful Force theme from the original trilogy remains. Other themes from the original trilogy remain too. Strangely, there's nothing from the prequel trilogy. The only discernible new Williams material serves to bridge old themes together and, dare we say, they're quite impressionistic... the clues are there, but we're just not sure what they mean.
We're expecting music soon
So, everyone now knows that there will be three new Star Wars films, beginning with The Force Awakens in December 2015. Series composer and all-round legend John Williams has composed the music for this first instalment, and we're happy about it:
The trailer has clues
As we previously reported, the first trailer for The Force Awakens has given little away about the Williams soundtrack, but there are hints to a certain chord progression first heard in Return Of The Jedi, suggesting there will be at least some cross-referencing of scores.
The London Symphony Orchestra will not be featuring on the soundtrack for The Force Awakens. It'll be the first time the legendary orchestra hasn't performed the soundtrack to a major Star Wars release.
Instead, the soundtrack will be recorded by a 'freelance orchestra' in Los Angeles. Diplomatically, Williams had the following to say about the change in personnel:
"The London Symphony Orchestra has consistently performed with great artistry on all six of the prior films in the Star Wars saga, and I will be forever grateful for their commitment and dedication. Equally, it has been my honor to have worked with my brilliant colleagues in Los Angeles, and always appreciate the invaluable contribution they’ve made to my scores and to those of other composers."