Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Audio Evidence: Other Composers Who Could Score Star Wars

So this post has been sitting in "draft" status for several months, but with the interview with John Williams recently posted by Zap2it, it's becoming more and more certain that Mr. Williams is going to be involved with the upcoming STAR WARS movie in some fashion.

So, while there yet remains a sliver of relevance, I wanted to get "something" out of the research I did in coming up with some alternative composers who might be a good fit to score Episode 7 ... or one of the other spin-off movies.

The Youtube playlist above will take you through, one track at a time, those that could make a good fit for the franchise.  Now, my criteria is pretty simple.  These composers have already shown the ability to write music in that unforgettable style that Williams brought to the STAR WARS ORIGINAL TRILOGY.  It is very possible that the spin-off films go in a different musical direction.  In that case, the doors would fling wide open for all sorts of possibilities.

There are a TON of great composers out there and so to keep this list manageable, I'm only listing some of those who have already written music that is in that John Williams-wheel-house.  Please keep that in mind as you listen and read through.

So go with me on this brief journey.  If John Williams DID NOT end up scoring the next Star Wars film, which was my prediction in episode #51 of The Soundcast, I think, we, the audience would be just fine...provided J.J. Abrams and company did their due diligence and hired the right person to continue this musical tradition.

I've included a few more obvious choices, just so I don't get a flood of emails or comments asking me why I didn't include those more obvious choices.  So let's take a look at them...one at a time...

(If you haven't already, you might want to click the PLAY button above now)

Listen to that brass!  Listen to those strings!  Joel McNeely's under-appreciated score for the video game SHADOWS OF THE EMPIRE has long caused members of the film music community to bring up his name whenever the idea of a musical-successor to John Williams has been discussed.  The track, "The Destruction of Xixor's Palace" is fine evidence of McNeely's range and ability to capture the "essence of Star Wars" without simply re-arranging or regurgitating Williams previous works.

The always amazing French film composer, Frederic Talgorn, with his soaring brass, and beautiful string melodies, would be a truly scintillating choice.  No doubt many fans of the Star Wars would suddenly cry out in ignorance, but would quickly be silenced as soon as they Googled his name and this track from ROBOT JOX came up.  If that title didn't convince, then HEAVY METAL 2000 should do the trick.  Still not convinced he's deserving?  Well, he did write music for the YOUNG INDIANA JONES television series.  By now, I'm sure you've listened to enough of the track from Robot Jox, where I don't even need to bother bringing up these other reasons.  Right?

Here's one for you lovers of the STAR WARS PREQUEL TRILOGY...or at least it's music.  As you can hear, they've taken hold of John Williams prequel-sound, yet manage to nudge it sideways just a bit.  While it's clear from this track that Bergerson could replicate Williams' sound, it's the breadth of his other works which demonstrate that he clearly has his own voice and could move the music of Star Wars along in a new direction while remaining faithful to its roots.

How many of you remember the video game OUTCAST?  That's what I thought.  Just before Michael Giacchino's work for Medal of Honor started turning ears with it's big, symphonic score, MOORE crafted this amazing game score that never received it's due.  It was most certainly a game-changer...it's just that not enough people knew the game.  In this track, "Watch Out," we get a nice bit of sinister brass and menacing percussion that should ring some reminder-bells from John Williams score from Star Wars: A New Hope.  Moore would go on to contribute music to STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC as well.  So there you go.

If Abrams really wanted to set the Star Wars galaxy on fire, he'd hire the likes of Goldenthal.  For pure symphonic gravitas there are few who can provide more of it than he.  Just listen to this track, "The Zeus Cannon" from FINAL FANTASY: THE SPIRITS WITHIN.  Powerful, beautiful, mysterious, thrilling.  These are the words that should describe every Star Wars score.

Yes...of course his name must appear on this list.  If John Williams ended up not doing the next Star Wars, it would seem that Giacchino would be a shoe-in.  If not for his pre-existing relationship with Abrams, we'd have to consider him because of the Williams-esque work of his early career found in games such as MEDAL OF HONOR and CALL OF DUTY.  Sadly, as he continues to establish his own sound, the more familiar style of Williams seems to be evaporating from his compositions.  Who knows what the future holds, but I have to believe the stuff of Medal of Honor is still buried within and just waiting for an excuse to be unleashed!

In the midst of the sci-fi/action frenzy that the original STAR WARS created in the late 70s and early 80s, came THE LAST STARFIGHTER.  While the film was no Star Wars, one thing the director and producers got right was hiring composer Craig Safan.  Clearly, Safan can handle heroic brass and also provide softer, emotional themes to compliment them.  Despite scoring dozens of feature films, outside of The Last Starfighter, Safan's name is hardly known, but what an unexpected joy it would be to see his name attached...and likely an unexpected joy for everyone to hear in the end.

I've said it a thousand times already, but I'll say it again here...in writing.  While Banjo Kazooie might be his initial claim to fame, Kirkhope showed what he could do with an expansive palette when he scored the ill-fated video game, KINGDOMS OF AMALUR: RECKONING.  What better hands to have a Star Wars film score in than a talented composer who has long loved and studied the work of John Williams?  Just listen to this track, "Balor," close your eyes, and tell me you can't see some sort of action-space-chase happening here.

Not a name you were expecting. Were you?  We don't get to hear much from Mr. Shearmur these days, but my thoughts about his music changed forever with the release of SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW.  This was a truly groundbreaking film that did not get the credit it has always been due and neither has Shearmur's score.  While the main theme is intentionally on the kitsch-side of things, it's only just this side of it.  It could be argued that some of Star Wars' main themes are just on the other side of that line.  Just listen to this amazing suite in full and try to convince yourself that Shearmur couldn't do the job.  He most certainly could!

Little further evidence beyond his work on the video game, STAR WARS: THE FORCE UNLEASHED, is needed to show that Griskey is well suited to fill the worlds of Coruscant, Naboo, Kashyyyk, Cato Nemoidia or Felucia with the just right music - faithful to the tradition started by Williams.  Ok...if you insist, there's also STAR WARS: THE FORCE UNLEASHED II.  Still not satisfied?  STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC. Griskey is yet another composer who has loved and studied the works of John Williams and would treasure the opportunity to continue Williams' musical legacy but, this time, in the world of the Hollywood feature film.

McCreary remains one of the busiest composers in Hollywood...especially when it comes to delivering big, bold scores for television and video games.  He's taken on Battlestar Galactica, The Terminator (Sarah Connor Chronicles, Dark Void,  The Cape, and, most recently, Defiance and DaVinci's Demons.  Just listen to his propulsive, yet melodic work for HUMAN TARGET and you'll be convinced that a Star Wars film is none to big for his scoring-chops.

Ok.  We haven't gotten much along the lines of LAIR in some time, but Debney made it clear that if a director ever wanted him to go all "fantastic," he could do the job with the best of them.  Just revisit his original score for the video game and you'll be quickly reminded.  In "Battle for Asylia" we definitely get a good dose of "prequelized" John Williams, but not to go unnoticed is the driving, simplified, original trilogy-like percussive backbone.  Such a combination might just be what Abrams is looking for.

Following in the footsteps of Michael Giacchino, Lennertz continued to deliver stunningly emotional and memorable themes for the MEDAL OF HONOR series.  No better example of this can be found than his "Dogs of War" track from Medal of Honor: European Assault.  Lennertz has gone on to show off his writing skills across many genre's of film and television since, but if he were called upon to deliver a score for a Star Wars film, there's little doubt he could deliver the goods.

Talk about diverse composers...Christophe Beck routinely writes for romantic comedies, indie-dramas, but also for fantasy.  You might have taken note of his name for his playfully romantic score for the Oscar winning short, PAPERMAN, but there are a few earlier titles that'll make you feel comfortable if you ever saw his name attached to a Star Wars film, namely: PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTENING THIEF and THE SEEKER.

So there you have it.  Fourteen composers that, if given the chance, could do the STAR WARS franchise justice.  You've heard the evidence for yourself.  So what do you think?  Could you abide not having John Williams score the next Star Wars and one of these fine chaps doing so instead?  Let us know in the comments!

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