Reverse Engineering Star Wars Music

First of all, happy holidays to anyone reading this! You didn't think I was going to let Christmas / Grav-mass go by without a post did you? Well I absolutely would have if I didn't have this post ready in time. Spreading the spirit of the season can be done in a small number of words - and all of the posts I write have to be long. No exceptions!

Anyway, like many people who have a piano at home, I sometimes hear a great piece of orchestral music in a movie and try to play an approximation to it on the piano. Usually what I try to play is full of mistakes and I lose interest after half an hour. However, my approximations to two Star Wars songs have evolved into fairly well defined pieces that I can play from start to finish. Want to guess which ones?

The first measure of music that plays for a set of Star Wars end credits.

Both pieces are ending themes so they have to merge into this music that plays during the black and blue credits of every Star Wars movie. That should narrow it down significantly. Anyway, in the rest of this post you can find audio files and sheet music. Learning to play this was satisfying enough. But then I realized that this was a perfect opportunity to learn the music TeX packages so it's a win-win situation.

The first one I put together was Throne Room And Finale, the theme that plays at the end of Episode IV when Luke and Han get their medals. The second one done fairly recently was Across The Stars, the romantic Anikan / Padmé theme that plays at the end of Episode II when they get married (I tell everyone that the Star Wars prequels are worth watching if only for the music).

The throne room theme has the exact same sections as the one in the movie. You can do a side-by-side comparison here but I must warn you. If you are anything like me, listen to this once and you'll be humming it for the next hour. They sound pretty similar don't they?...
Me (download):

London symphony orchestra (download):

Yeah I know... the original is still infinitely better. I made the sheet music for anyone who wants to learn it. If some parts of the score look bad, feel free to correct them in the source. An actual musician can probably find a mistake on every line but I was just glad I got MusiXTeX to work at all. A lot of functions in it are needlessly complicated.

My adaptation of the star-crossed theme was necessarily different from the one in the wedding scene. That version is too short. Conversely, the one on the soundtrack is too long and not ideal for the piano. The piece I played below combines the two. It has the ending of the movie version but incorporates other sections from the soundtrack version. In the orchestral piece below, I tried to merge the soundtrack version into the movie version.
Me (download):

London symphony orchestra (download):

Naturally this one has sheet music and source too. I chuckled at the fact that Across The Stars ended up being only one measure longer than Throne Room And Finale. This was completely unintended.

Now might be a good time to mention that the recordings above are not completely genuine. You hear clicking from time to time because my microphone sucks. There used to be much more clicking but I got rid of it with a low pass filter. The frequency has also been artificially shifted so that the version I recorded ends in the same key as the version conducted by John Williams. The sheet music will show you that Throne Room And Finale and Across The Stars end in the same key when my arrangements are not frequency shifted. I made sure this would be the case as I was figuring out how to play them. Even though this took a long time, I will probably reverse engineer more music in the future as long as I find something easier than MusiXTeX.

Comments

Lilypond

Did you try lilypond (http://lilypond.org/) ?
When I see the syntax of MusiXTeX it looks quite horrible to me. Lilypond files look easier to write and sheet music produced by lilypond are beautiful too.

I will next time

I kind of ignored the complaints about MusiXTex syntax. I thought I'd pick it up easily because I've used other TeX packages for years. But you're right, it really is too awkward. By the time I realized that, I was far enough along that I insisted on finishing the files I started.

how to play piano

As I play the music I remember something, that I can't forget in my whole life. I learn my first piano lesson and I don't know how to play piano, I'll very thankful to my teacher because she gives me a lot of time to let me know how to play it.

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