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'Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens': Ten things we know about the music

'Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens' poster Lucasfilm

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens may be the most anticipated movie of the century — even more so, yes, than George Lucas's own prequels, released 1999 - 2005. Everything about the movie is being kept under tight wraps — including the score. Here's what we know, so far, about the music for the new movie.

1. John Williams is back

Along with key members of the original cast — Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher, who haven't appeared in a Star Wars movie since 1983 — John Williams, 83, is returning as composer. Williams, easily the most popular and widely-acclaimed film composer living today, also wrote the score for the prequels; the 2013 announcement that he would return for Force Awakens was greeted with jubilation by fans.

2. We'll hear some familiar themes — and some new ones

Williams will reprise, revise, and extend the leitmotifs he developed for characters and themes in the first six films — as well as present new music for the movie's new characters. "It's a bit like adding paragraphs to a letter that's been going on for a number of years," Williams told Vanity Fair.

3. The new music in the trailer may not appear in the movie

The music in the trailers was reworked from earlier Williams compositions — and includes new material by other composers, though the final score will be Williams's. The trailer draws on Han and Leia's love theme and even includes whispered Sanskrit words from the Phantom Menace music "Duel of the Fates," but a trailer is just a trailer, and all bets are off when it comes to how the final score will actually sound.

4. J.J. Abrams takes a Lucas-like approach to music

In the Vanity Fair interview, Williams said that working with Force Awakens director J.J. Abrams is "very similar" to working with Lucas. Williams seems much impressed by Abrams, and says Abrams has given the composer as much creative freedom as Lucas did.

5. The new movie has a lot of music

The final score for The Force Awakens is over two hours long, Variety reports — nearly as long as the movie. 175 minutes of music was recorded, but about an hour of that was later discarded.

6. There will be choral music in the new score

Choral music has been an important part of the Star Wars sound since Williams introduced a men's choir to seen the ominous Emperor's theme in Return of the Jedi; a chorus later took center stage for the stirring "Duel of the Fates" in Episode I. The new movie, Williams says, will feature a 24-voice men's chorus singing part of the theme for the new character Snope.

7. This will be the first Star Wars score recorded in America.

The first six films' scores were recorded in London, but Williams and a 90-piece freelance orchestra recorded the Force Awakens score in Los Angeles. While that might disappoint some purists, the change was made for an important reason: it allowed the score to be recorded over what Williams calls a "very luxurious" five-month period as the film was edited. For Lucas's films, Williams recorded each score in just two weeks.

8. Lin-Manuel Miranda and J.J. Abrams wrote the film's cantina music.

Williams wrote the jazzy cantina music for Episode IV, but he told Abrams that this time around, he wanted to focus on the orchestral score. Abrams says that Miranda pitched the idea of writing cantina music during an intermission meeting at Miranda's wildly popular musical Hamilton. (In this Tonight Show interview, we also learn that Williams addresses Abrams as "J.J., baby.")

9. There will be a soundtrack.

The Force Awakens soundtrack will be released on Dec. 18, along with the film. A track list has been leaked -- peep it if you don't mind spoilers. The soundtrack will just be a single-disc release, though, meaning that it will only include about half the music from the film.

10. It's gonna be awesome.

Obviously.


With anticipation for The Force Awakens running high, I've explored the musical world of Star Wars in a series of five features. Previously, I traced John Williams's classical influences, told the story of how Star Wars music hit the top of the pop charts, explored some of the films' most important musical motifs, and wrote about the music of the prequel trilogy.

'Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens' poster Lucasfilm

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