Star Wars is a cultural icon and so is the music that John Williams has written for not only this edition of the franchise, but all previous major Star Wars films. I dare say that there wouldn’t be many people who have not heard a chord that John Williams has written. He is synonymous with the motion picture industry and is one of the most accomplished composers of our time.
For as long as I can remember, I have always enjoyed music in films. I strongly believe that a good soundtrack can make or break a movie. For me, it certainly is 50% of the film experience. Perhaps that is why I can’t understand film loving individuals purchasing incredibly large and expensive televisions, but refusing to place the same investment into the accompanying audio system.
Yes, some companies have tried to improve the sound from their television sets, Bose entered the market a couple of years ago with their Bose VideoWave. They were certainly impressive units, but the price was just too steep for many people, including myself. Hence, they no longer manufacture this range and have instead focused on their independent speaker systems.
If all you listen to movies through is your television speakers, then please consider at least adding a decent quality sound bar to your television. I can personally recommend the Bose Solo range as good starting point.
Back to the soundtrack and one of the reasons why I chose to listen to the latest Star Wars soundtrack was that I was going to see the film. I thought it would be interesting to listen to the soundtrack, watch the film, and then re-listen to the soundtrack as a post film experience.
The first listen, prior to watching the film, was met with familiar Star Wars sounds. It certainly wasn’t a replica of past soundtracks, but it paid homage to them. The first thing I noticed as I was listening is, even if you’re not a Star Wars fan, you could enjoy this soundtrack. The orchestration is beautifully relaxing and I’ve no doubt those of you with classical tastes will enjoy the experience.
One problem that I have is the lack of recognition for the orchestra. It is certainly not unique to this album as I noted this same concern when I took a look at the 007 SPECTRE soundtrack. Now unless Thomas Newman, or in this case John Williams, is playing every instrument, then I want to know which orchestra undertook the recording. This acknowledgement should be on the album cover and while I respect these composers, it is the orchestra that makes them sound good. Therefore, they deserve recognition.
What I do know for certain is The Force Awakens was the first Star Wars soundtrack to not be recorded by the London Symphony Orchestra in Abbey Road Studios. That information was in the official press release, but when it came to naming the orchestra that was used, the press release merely mentions “Williams worked with members of the highly regarded freelance orchestra with which he's recorded numerous film scores over the years”.
I guess I shouldn’t be surprised but it bothers me as every single person involved in the film making process is listed in the end credits. Yet, the masterful musicians are omitted on the associated soundtrack. Perhaps the orchestra used was named correctly in the film credits, but I didn’t take note at the time.
I should also add that they are not mentioned in the liner notes that appear with the album on TIDAL Hi-Fi, or Apple Music. Perhaps they are named in the CD liner notes, but after performing a 15-minute Google search, I couldn’t find any detail regarding the name of the orchestra or even who the principal musicians were. If anyone has this information, please let me know in the comments.
The non-classical music listeners may be wondering what the big deal is, but classical fans will likely agree that we search for principal musicians, conductors, orchestras, and composers. I can honestly say that compositions by the likes of Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Chopin, and Tchaikovsky, sound different depending on the chosen orchestra and their interpretation. Hence, the importance of knowing specific details, especially when a score is as well recorded as The Force Awakens.
Despite the beautiful recording, there is one track that I just didn’t like. That song is called Snoke. It is akin to a Gregorian chant and is simply out of place with the rest of the score.
This is probably a good time to talk about the soundtrack integration in the film. Certainly Snoke, while disruptive to the soundtrack, did appeal to the scene it was attached to in the film. That said, it would have been nice if the song was left off this album, or at least be presented out of chronological order as the album’s final track.
Regardless, I enjoyed the sonic familiarity with the film, as a result of listening to the soundtrack prior to seeing it. It didn’t detract from the film experience and I feel that I was able to further appreciate the intricate nature of the soundtrack and how it was applied to specific scenes.
Based on this experience, I think I will listen to classically scored soundtracks before seeing films in the future. It was a wonderful experiment and one that I would recommend to anyone.
Listening to the soundtrack, post film experience, now refreshes my memory of the film. I have a terrible memory when it comes to experiences and I think that is one reason why I gravitate to music. I seem to be able to remember elements of my life and experiences based on the music that I associate with that moment in time.
For example, last night I was vividly taken back to my teenage years, an era I don’t think of often, when I was listening to Metallica’s Load album from 1996. I don’t know how it works, but music has the ability to unlock memories so vividly that it is akin to actually re-living the experience.
Listening to Star Wars: The Force Awakens certainly reminds me of experiencing the film with my family and as it was my son’s first experience of seeing a Star Wars movie at the cinema, it was a father/son memory that I never want to forget.
With that said, I will likely purchase the vinyl edition of the soundtrack when it is released in 2016. Until then I will listen to the album via TIDAL Hi-Fi. The soundtrack is also available on CD, iTunes, and Apple Music. Although, after a cursory comparison with Apple Music, I would strongly recommend you try and source the CD or TIDAL Hi-Fi edition as this is an incredibly atmospheric album that is truly worth listening to in a non-lossy format.