Star Wars is a timeless story that crosses generations… well, the OG trilogy at least. Those who didn’t wait in lines for hours back in the day, either passed the folklore down via DVDs or VHS (Google it) or dragged their own kids to go see them when they were re-released in theaters.
By now, we’ve all seen George Lucas’ epic space opera franchise, but there are still new ways to re-live the thrill. For the first time ever in Los Angeles (and the whole West Coast), the original A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back films will be shown in full with a live orchestra playing John Williams’ legendary scores.
Celebrated music movie composer David Newman will conduct the world famous Los Angeles Philharmonic in performing the live-to-picture scores of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (Aug. 7 and 10) and Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (Aug. 9 and 11) at the Hollywood Bowl.
I had a chance to geek out with Newman over the phone about the upcoming shows, his love of Star Wars, and what’s up with Bill and Ted’s 3?
Mandatory: John Williams’ Star Wars scores are as iconic as the Skywalker family, space creatures, or light saber battles. What about the music makes it so great and timeless?
Newman: That’s a tough one. There’s so much nuance in the score. So many themes that depict characters, symbols and ideas.
Williams was able to personify each major character with their own theme music.
Darth Vader is brilliant. That breathing and that beautiful voice of James Earl Jones. And, the way it plays itself out in Return of the Jedi is completely unexpected. He’s just a tired little man. The antithesis of evil. Luke defeats him, but really liberates him at the end of Jedi. John (Williams) uses that Vader motif and changes it at the end into a father smiling at his son as he’s dying. Great stuff.
What section of the Star Wars music canon is the most challenging?
Newman: It’s all hard. There’s constant music. Twists and turns just like the movies. You have to stealthily change textures on a dime. The most compelling part is The Force. It’s in a minor key, then straddles major and minor. It sounds ancient and mysterious, compelling to both religious and non-religious people.
Everyone seems to have a personal connection with Star Wars. What was yours?
Newman: I was in my 20s. Standing on Wilshire near UCLA waiting in line for three hours. We sat down and that THX Dolby logo came across the screen and it was so overwhelming that there was a spontaneous scream across the theater. Then, John Williams used the Fox logo theme, which was done by my father (Alfred Newman) as a preamble to his Star Wars theme which are both B-flat chords. The first shot was that Star Cruiser coming across the screen and we were blown away. You were immersed in space. The whole movie works so well together. It’s so young… funny… dangerous.
You will be doing Star Wars: A New Hope. Is there a moment in it that stands out?
That scene with Luke and the two suns when the music swells with him looking off longing to be in space.
What about Empire Strikes Back? It’s by far the darkest and deepest and a lot of the diehard fans’ favorite in the series.
The end of that movie with him an Leia is one of the greatest sequences. The whole descent into darkness. Han (Solo) is being frozen and the music is very Wagner-ian funeral, doom (music) which is always very effective with an orchestra. Luke is desperate, at his lowest point and his friends come and save him. That is all very compelling fodder for music.
You’ve composed music for over 100 movies, including some modern classics which have a place in everyone’s DVD collection. Do movies like The Sandlot, Tommy Boy, and Bill & Ted’s share anything in common?
Newman: They’re all funny, but there’s pathos and heart in them. Those movies are the hardest to do because you can’t go too far one way.
Self-indulgent segue, but please say there’s going to be another Bill & Ted’s?
Newman: That’s what they’re saying, but you know how that goes…
All you Jedis can still get tickets for all the live t0 picture shows at the Hollywood Bowl for Star Wars: A New Hope on Aug. 7 and 10 at 8pm (HERE) and Empire Strikes Back on Aug. 9 and 11 at 8pm (HERE)