On May 10, 2018, Solo, the second Star Wars anthology movie was released. This movie answers many of the questions Star Wars fans have about Han Solo, and also provides a new take on the way these films feel. This film is also only the second out of ten canon Star Wars movies not scored by John Williams—the first being Rogue One, scored by Michael Giacchino.
As someone studying all aspects of music composition, here are my thoughts and reactions to Solo.
Star Wars music is known for its vast, Holstian orchestrations. The films feature trumpet fanfares, heroic french horns and driving string ostinatos. This style of music is used to enhance the expansive Star Wars universe and give a sense of grandeur to the films. Although Solo uses the same vast orchestra, composer John Powell takes his score in a different direction.
John Powell is known for his scores to How To Train Your Dragon, Ferdinand, Ice Age and many more. He was brought on to the film by director Ron Howard to add a new spin to the Star Wars universe. Powell’s score dips into the old themes by Williams’s, but also uses the new Han Solo theme composed by Williams for the film.
Along with these themes and motifs is Powell’s own spin on the orchestration of the score. Powell incorporates a more modern soundtrack, using an array of percussive elements and harmonies found in many of his other scores. You can hear a constant beat throughout the music, incorporating brushed drums, taikos, toms and many others. Percussion is seen less in many of Williams’s scores, so it is nice to have a change in feel for this particular Star Wars film.
Powell also uses a unique choir for the Marauders theme. Choir is heard in cues in previous Star Wars films, but the choir Powell uses in Solo is much different. Powell often uses choir in unique ways in his scores. In previous films, you can hear how Powell has pitch-shifted, layered and executed crazy vocal cues not seen or heard in many other composers' works. The choir for the Marauders theme is harsh and almost scary. It captures the feeling of these pirates very well and right away you will say to yourself “I have a bad feeling about this.”
Like Williams’s scores, Powell is able to seamlessly transition between themes and motifs to fit the texture of the cue. Every musical idea is thematically placed and nothing is random. Throughout the film, themes come and go, including the famous Death Star motif that we all know and love. This motif opens the cue “Reminiscence Therapy," an entire cue composed of Star Wars themes and motifs heard throughout the eight main films. Powell even gives us a new Mos Eisley Cantina theme, “Chicken in the Pot”.
Everything we love about Star Wars music is seen (and heard) in this film. You can find the soundtrack on almost every music platform and I encourage you to give it a listen, regardless if you are studying music. You won't be disappointed.
Lead Image Credit: Unsplash