At his keyboard, Collins demonstrated how Williams’ iconic original trilogy scores, the Force theme and the “Imperial March,” are subtly incorporated into “Duel of the Fates.” Similar chord structures and even the same melodies are layered into the climactic score. All one has to do is listen closely and compare.
Collins’ describes this technique as “prequel writing,” where the composer — working backwards in the storyline — establishes a continuity that is present across the entire saga. He stressed that much of this “backwards writing” was not completely deliberate on Williams’ part, but was derived from his adoption of the same vocabulary of sounds used in the original trilogy.
If “Duel of the Fates” gets most of the attention to this day, “Anakin’s Theme” is an equally important albeit lesser appreciated selection from the Episode I soundtrack. This “wonderfully complicated” theme, as Collins put it, tells the whole story of Anakin’s modest origin, hopeful journey, and ultimate doom.
Thematically, it’s “all over the place,” and “not hummable” in the way more recognizable Star Wars themes are. But don’t allow its complexity to be misleading. This “poetic conceit,” as Collins described, combines most of the essential musical components of all the succeeding Star Wars scores.
Fragments of the “Imperial March,” for example, are quite noticeable, and oh-so-foreboding, at the theme’s conclusion. Other rhythms and intervals from the Force theme and Yoda’s theme among others are layered within.
Another poignant note was that Williams and Lucas chose to conclude the end credits of The Phantom Menace with this soft, subtle rendition in contrast to the typical, bombastic finales of the other Star Wars features. It all hints at the myth that is to play out. It’s that “prequel writing,” or writing backwards that Collins so keenly identifies.
“Great melodies tell great stories,” said Collins. To him, “Anakin’s Theme” is “a Star Wars musical big bang.”
An ironic conclusion
Collins fittingly ended by addressing the score’s finale of the grand parade march and celebration on Naboo. Amazingly, and appropriately, this iconic march takes the same rhythmic shape as the Emperor’s theme from Return of the Jedi, only in a different key. The “phantom menace” himself has the last musical word, and as Collins jokingly colored in, “You think it’s a victory, but it’s not… Enjoy the wonder and the humor because you won’t get it this way again.”
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Lucas O. Seastrom is a publicity writer at Lucasfilm. He grew up on a farm in California’s Central Valley and is a lifelong Star Wars and Indiana Jones fan.
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