A Star Wars Story
May the fourth be with you! What better day to talk about how an eight-year-old boy discovered a love for Star Wars and developed an appreciation for John Williams' music.
A LONG TIME AGO
Well, perhaps not that long ago. It's 1997 and mum has taken myself and my brother to the cinema to see the 20th anniversary viewing of A New Hope. I honestly cannot remember why since it is the last thing mum would have wanted to do and she fell asleep during the viewing. I enjoyed the film but (and please don't hate me), at six-years-old, I don't remember being blown away by how amazing it was. This could have been because neither my brother or mother were overly bothered about the film.
Fast-forward two years and in that time, we've moved from the Isle Of Wight to the Chew Valley (just south of Bristol) and have settled in to our new home in East Harptree. My new best friend is absolutely obsessed with Star Wars and, in preparation for the release of Phantom Menace, sits me down to watch the original trilogy on a rainy saturday. It must have been his enthusiasm because, this time, I fall in love with the fantastical space-opera epic story of light versus dark, good versus evil and, before long, I've already mastered a lightsaber sound impression (vvvvmmm vvvvmmm).
From that moment on, every stick found in the woods was no longer a sword but a lightsaber; every dead reed in the woods was no longer a dragon but a stormtrooper (or, after 1999, a droid). After the release of Phantom Menace which, for an eight-year-old, was an amazing film (not so much now), I was asking for all the lego, toys, and comics relating to the film. In fact, a vivid memory I have is of winning £50 in a competition and going to the toy shop in Wells with Dad to buy the lego Gungan submarine for exactly £50.
As I got older and discovered my passion for video games, my love of Star Wars began to move from the films to the stories developed in some of the video games that tie in to the universe. For example, I really enjoyed the Jedi Knight games and remember cranking up the volume on my computer just so that I could hear John Williams' music in all its glory. The best series of games I came across, however, were the Knights Of The Old Republic games, which blended the classic Star Wars action with RPG mechanics (a winning combo for me). It also helped that the storyline in the first game was one of the best twists I had the pleasure of discovering in a video game.
Initially, it hadn't taken me long to learn all the musical themes of Star Wars on the clarinet (and then the saxophone a few years later) but, along with Howard Shore's Lord Of The Rings trilogy soundtrack (which can still bring me to tears with it's emotional prowess), John Williams' scores for the Star Wars films, as well as his other work, became the first examples of music that influenced me to head in the composition direction with their rich harmonic texture and expressive motivic development. Though I've experimented with creating similar music, you wouldn't notice the influence they've had on me as my go-to writing style is very different to either of these fantastic composers.
My passion for Star Wars has matured with time. When Disney bought the franchise, I dived into a lot of the reading material but with the release of the new trilogy, my enthusiasm for the franchise began to fade and I stopped reading so much. I still have a secret love for Revenge Of The Sith despite believing Empire Strikes Back to be the best of the film series and every time a video game comes out, I will check it out to see if it's worth adding to my ever-growing list of games to play.
Despite not enjoying the recent trilogy of films (though Rogue One was good), I like how well The Mandalorian is doing, am eager to see the Obi-Wan series, and look forward to the Knights Of The Old Republic remaster that was announced last week. I have to admit though, the enthusiasm that eight-year-old had has gone from an obsession to an appreciation.
Looking back, if this were a world where Star Wars didn't exist, I have to question whether my imagination would be as strong; my childhood would have been as fun; if I'd have had such enthusiasm for film music and whether I'd have headed in that direction after school; and since Star Wars can be such a conversation starter, would I have met and made as many friends as I did over the years? Thank you for being such a big part of my childhood, Star Wars.