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Celebration Orlando 2017: The Music Of Rogue One: An Analysis By David Collins
Posted by Adam on April 18, 2017 at 10:52 PM CST
The soundtrack for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was something of a landmark given that it was the first major score written by a composer other than John Williams for a live-action movie. In his panel, The Music of Rogue One: An Analysis, David Collins delved into the challenges met by Michael Giacchino and how he met them head on.



Starting with what music historian, Dr. Robert Greenberg described as the "gorilla in the room", the composer's conundrum is one that has been plaguing composers for centuries and it meant that future Star Wars scores could not be discussed without referring to John Williams' body of work for the Star Wars saga.

The three keys that need to be addressed are:
1. Incorporate and honor work
2. Be true to your own voice as a composer and/or creative
3. Be a master storyteller

In John Williams' original liner notes for Star Wars, he talks about the main title being Luke Skywalker's theme, and therefore the hero's journey, referring to the work of Joseph Campbell who defined the pillars of the journey to be:
1. Ordinary world
2. Call to action
3. Crossing the threshold
4. Tests
5. Ordeal/Transformation
6. Return

Michael Matessino provided the liner notes for the 1997 release of Star Wars: The Special Edition and stated that the melody itself is the hero's journey, which Collins demonstrated by showing how the main notes of the Star Wars theme follow the same graphical pattern as that of the journey that Luke takes in the movie.

Contrary to that however, is Rogue One, which tells a different story. Playing some scenes from Rogue One, Collins pointed out that hope is not the main biggest theme of the movie, prompting the question "What is?". The answer is Dies Irae, a Latin hymn, which has a literal translation of Day of Wrath, or Judgment Day and that is quoted commonly in film scores and is a musical shorthand or quote.

In Jyn's Theme, which Collins pointed out uses the same melodic interval as Across the Stars from the Attack of the Clones soundtrack, its major chord is also used in Rey's Theme. Further scenes from Rogue One were played, demonstrating the various uses of Jyn's Theme, followed by a brief discussion of the Guardians of the Whills Theme and then the scenes where Chirrut and Baze are first introduced and then appear a little later. A subsequent discussion pointed out that Krennic's Theme is a reversed version of Jyn's.

Dies Irae features in the movie several times, playing in the scenes showing the Death Star test on Jedha, the Battle on Scarif and Jyn & Cassian's climb to retrieve the Death Star plans.

Going back to the original trilogy briefly, Collins played a short clip from Star Wars, with Obi-Wan's admission that he was "getting too old for this kind of thing" being accompanied by dies irae, which brought an appreciative round of applause from the audience when they realised the significance.

Highlighting the continuity of the Rogue One score, the next clips, when Cassian realises that Bodhi Rook in the next cell is the pilot he is seeking, and R2-D2 played to Luke Skywalker the message from Princess Leia, Collins pointed out the mirroring of the use of flutes in both scenes.

Leaving a very emotionally-charged scene to the end, Collins commented on Giacchino's decision not to overplay the major beats in the sequence from the Battle of Scarif, starting with Jyn climbing back on the gantry through to her demise with Cassian, instead letting the melody drift unhindered.

Throughout the panel, Collins took to his keyboard to play portions of the themes being discussed, effectively highlighting the points he was making, also throwing-in a little Ghostbusters reference for anyone paying attention.

I enjoyed the soundtrack to Rogue One prior to this panel, but having David Collins describe Giacchino's brilliance in solving the composer's conundrum, I now have a new-found appreciation for it, along with a desire to listen to past episodes of Collin's Star Wars Oxygen to learn more about the music of Star Wars.
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