Perhaps the music for Episode VII is fine in its unremarkability.
By Luke D. Rosen
NOTE: There are no real spoilers here, but if you'd like to listen to the "Star Wars: Episode VII" score with fresh ears, stop reading now and come back and comment after you've experienced the movie.
|Wagner in 1871|
When Wagner set out to write his Ring Cycle, he had a luxury that "Star Wars" does not: he could write it in chronological order. When dealing with the use of leitmotif, chronology is important because that's how we get to experience it as listeners. In the same way that the characters and story fit together chronologically, so too does the musical material get presented and developed. We meet characters, make connections with those characters, and follow those characters throughout the story; we are introduced to musical themes, associate those themes with characters and events, and listen as those themes are developed in narrative and psychological ways.
The original John Williams scores for Episodes IV-VI were brilliant, because Williams is a consummate Wagnerian. In the middle three episodes, Williams introduces, explains, and develops each of the themes.
Perhaps the music for Episode VII is fine in its unremarkability: we really didn't get much in the way of new ideas or even new people in this episode, so maybe it's fine that most of the music hovers around unnoticed except when familiar themes appear for characters we have already met. Or is the score lacking in musical invention and completely reliant upon the leitmotifs handed to it in the middle three episodes? I don't think that anyone in the history of cinema has ever set out to write an unremarkable score for a movie, so my fear is that it is the latter.
I am looking forward to having a fourth listen. And fifth. And sixth. And first. And second. And third. And seventh.
Listen to the full score via Spotify:
Luke D. Rosen is a professional composer and teacher based in Toledo, Ohio.