Star Wars: The Force Awakens opens this week. My son is now right about the age that I was when what is now called “Episode IV: A New Hope” opened in 1977. (Back then we just called it “Star Wars” and left it at that.) I was a fan, and my younger 7-year-old brother was an even bigger one, with all the action figures and play sets. We’re still fans, even in adulthood. (Somehow Facebook knows this about me, and recently suggested that I purchase a Darth Vader Hello Kitty helmet.)
A few years ago when our son was between about the ages of 6 and 8, we bought him a complete set of creatures too, many of them unfamiliar to me because they were denizens of the Clone Wars, an animated series set between the two live-action film trilogies.
I myself never really warmed to most of the characters that weren’t part of the original trilogy. My son played with them for those few years, but by the time we moved to CA this past summer, Anakin, young Obi-Wan, Darth Sidious, Ahsoka, the clone troopers, and other assorted Dookus had all taken up residence in a closed shoebox, and made a good gift for the younger children of a friend. I was sorry to see them go, but glad that they were getting played with again.
Once you get to be about 12 (especially if you’re a girl), it stops being so cool to play with Star Wars action figures. What really got me into Star Wars was the musical score by John Williams. Although this too is not completely cool for a classically trained violinist, I see Williams as the musical heir of Beethoven, Wagner, and Holst. I believe his music will still be played in 200 years. In this blog for violinist.com, Laurie Niles interviews violinist Bruce Dukov about what it was like to be in the orchestra recording the score for The Force Awakens: The Orchestra Awakens: Inside the Star Wars Recording Sessions.
On the Monday Music Medicine Show, the Quantum Hermit asks, “what instrumental theme from a movie captivates you, brings back vividly, the scenes, as you listen, and relive the pathos therein?” It turns out that the scene from Star Wars that has stayed with me all this time, and still gives me chills, has a name: “Binary Sunset.” In it, Luke Skywalker pauses, looks heavenward, and implicitly dreams of a better life.
The violins are perfect, sublime, as they swell, briefly soar, and then fold back up into the mundane chores of a Tatooine moisture farm.
Before I read Joseph Campbell, before I had heard of the “Hero of a Thousand Faces,” this scene, with its music, was about my own as-yet-unfulfilled hopes and dreams. Luke Skywalker was Everyman in this 20th century morality play.
That they chose this theme for at least some of the soundtrack to The Force Awakens gives me hope that this time, for this movie, they might get it right.