My Favourite Track: The Force Awakens (2015)

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Welcome to my favourite track, a new series of blog posts dedicated to a piece of film music that has moved me enough to get off the proverbial couch and madly type at the keyboard. From snappy songs to stupendous scores, the sky is the limit on the discussion. However, my knowledge of music theory is about as good as a cat’s knowledge of the innermost workings of the human psyche. So, I do hope you bear with me as I attempt to make my way through the exciting world of Film Music.

John Williams’s return to the Star Wars franchise in 2015 with The Force Awakens was equally as miraculous and exciting as the series itself. Williams’ score proved to be captivating with its exciting assortment of new themes and retooling of vintage ones.

There are many tracks that I could cite as my favourite. The mysteriousness and eventual budding of Rey’s theme (via the chimes of bells) make The Scavenger a blissful listening experience. The gentle use of strings in Jedi Steps illustrate the humbleness of Rey’s journey. And there’s just a tragic beauty in the track- The Starkiller Base.

However, my favourite track of The Force Awakens is Finn’s Confession. Though it’s shorter compared to a lot of the tracks on the soundtrack, it says so much in that time. At first listen, it has a striking resemblance to Anakin’s Theme from The Phantom Menace. That theme was a pure embodiment of innocence and a jubilant testament to Anakin’s  boyhood dreams of adventure.

In Finn’s Confession, Williams takes that strand of innocence but injects it with a measured and melancholic tinge (via the use of strings at a slow tempo).  It greatly illustrates Finn’s strife in telling Rey about his Stormtrooper past. I think Williams chose to evoke Anakin’s theme because it’s his way of telling the audience that despite Finn’s angst, he’s innocent and his heart is in the right place. It’s musical judgement through the referencing of a pre-established theme.

The next important part of the track starts at 0.55 seconds. This stretch of music is played in the movie when the Millennium Falcon is making its approach to Takodana and Rey remarks while seeing the planet’s surface for the first time- “I didn’t know there was this much green in the galaxy.” The music is soaring and uplifting, conveying Rey’s awe at that moment.

In the context of the track, it seems like a response to Finn’s attempt to reach out to Rey. It’s akin to a reward for being honest and sincere. But with its use in the movie in mind, the track is much more applicable to Rey. For choosing to go on the adventure and helping BB8, she’s opened herself to a much larger world via stunning green pastures.

One excellent aspect of the the Force Awakens score is Williams’s choices in the track inclusions. He’s not only going for what sounds good for the audience insofar as a 70 minute soundtrack experience is concerned. But he’s also choosing music based on emotion and theme.

An instance of this comes from “That Girl with the Staff.” In that track, Williams musically depicts three instances of how Rey is viewed through the narrative. The first is warm and familiar with the use of a light statement of Rey’s theme as she introduces herself to Finn. The second is when Finn encounters Rey while she is running towards him with her staff (via a brisk tempo). The final employs the brass section in an ominous manner to evoke Kylo Ren’s first encounter with Rey.

In the same vein, Finn’s Confession feels as though Williams is paralleling Rey and Finn. They’re both attempting to open up in some way and are in a sense rewarded for their efforts, whether it’s through understanding (in the case of Williams’ homaging Anakin’s theme with Finn’s plight) or Rey seeing much more of the galaxy.

In contrast to the proceeding music, the last minute of the track feels quite playful and fun. The music is used to accompany Finn’s, Rey’s, BB8’s and Han Solo’s walk through the entrance of Maz Kanata’s castle. As the camera pans up, the audience is treated to many flags and a statue of Kanata. I love the swell of the string section as the characters pass these sights, particularly as it’s edited exactly in time when the audience see the statue for the first time.

It echos the moment in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring when the remaining members of the Fellowship look up at the giant Argonath statues. In that scene, there’s grandiosity to the music as the camera pans up and sweeps around to show the ancient monuments. Equally, Williams is illustrating ancient grandness as Han alludes to the age of Maz’s castle. The final moments have a calming reassurance to tell the audience that our characters are in safe hands.

Overall, Finn’s Confession is a track that for me encapsulates one of the major themes of the franchise. It’s about reaching out, whether that’s to another person or beyond the parameters of your every day existence. The track is like a warm embrace (in musical terms) for that mind set.

What do you think of Finn’s Confession? What’s your favourite track from The Force Awakens soundtrack? Let me know in the comments below. Happy Star Wars Day. May the 4th be with you.

About Sartaj Govind Singh

Notes from a distant observer: “Sartaj is a very eccentric fellow with a penchant for hats. He likes watching films and writes about them in great analytical detail. He has an MA degree in Philosophy and has been known to wear Mickey Mouse ears on his birthday.”
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